Japan: Day 20-26 - Exploring Tokyo - Tattoos, views, raw chicken and trainers!

It's not every day that you see a meerkat chilling in a Donald Duck outfit ... but hey, that's Japan for you!

So after 20 days, 1 Ryokan, 2 guest houses, 7 hotels, 2 apartments and over 3,000 kilometers travelled by train (bullet, Shinkansen, JR, Kankou, Kintetsu, Thunderbird and Metro), bus, ferry, taxi, tram, coach, cable car but remarkably no rickshaws, I find myself back in Tokyo. These 20 days have flown by, but I return to the capital far more knowledgeable and with such a better understanding of the Japanese way of life. But this isn’t the end … far from it. I return more excited than ever because I get to spend the next 6 days exploring this crazy city. I’m not going to break down my itinerary day by day, as I have done so far. Instead I’m going to compile my experience of Tokyo in this one blog

I decided to spend my first day back in Tokyo relaxing and making the most of having a base for the next 6 days. It’s definitely been an experience living out of a rucksack and having to pack up my stuff pretty much every day, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m glad that part of the trip has come to an end. I like to get comfortable wherever I stay, and for me that involves totally unpacking, which has been a bit of a nuisance up until now.

The hotel that InsideJapan booked for me in Tokyo is pretty amazing. The Sunroute Plaza Hotel is a 4-star hotel located seconds away from the neon lights of Shinjuku and only about 200 meters from Shinjuku station with a fantastic breakfast on offer, which was included with the room (the best and only way to start off the day), plus Shinjuku only being 2 stops away from Shibuya, I knew this week was going to be pretty fantastic. 

After a well-needed day of rest that involved me checking out the local area, InsideJapan had arranged a full day with a personal guide to take me wherever I fancied around Tokyo. We met at 9am in the lobby of my hotel and got straight into planning the day. Her name was Ayano Endo and she has been a guide in Tokyo for over 10 years. Her English was great and her knowledge was extensive. I had covered off quite a lot of the tourist side of Tokyo during my 1-day stay at the beginning of the trip with Mieke; one of Japan Experiences Tokyo Travel Angels, but Ayano had a lot of options that I was interested in taking her up on.

Our first stop was the Meiji Jingu, or more commonly known as the Meiji Shrine. This shrine is located in Shibuya, which is only 3 stops from Shinjuku. It‘s the Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.
The Meiji Shrine is located in a forest that covers an area of 170 acres. This area is covered by an evergreen forest that consists of 120,000 trees of 365 different species, which were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established. The forest is visited by many as a recreation and relaxation area in the center of Tokyo. Thousands of city workers flock to it during their lunch breaks to get away from the stress of the office and to reconnect within the peaceful gardens. It is pretty tranquil and definitely doesn't feel like you’re in the centre of one of the busiest, most built up cities in the world.

The shrine was built in the traditional nagare-zukuri style, using primarily Japanese cypress and copper. The original building was destroyed during the Tokyo air raids of World War II. The present iteration of the shrine was funded through a public fund raising effort and completed in October 1958. The shrine was impressive, but I preferred roaming around the beautiful gardens.

After a few hours exploring the gardens we made our way to the Tokyo Imperial Palace. We got there by jumping back on the train at Shibuya and getting off at Tokyo station, which is one of quite a few stations close to the Palaces gardens. The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo and contains several buildings including the main palace, the private residences of the imperial family, an archive, museum and administrative offices. The Palace was built on the site of the old Edo Castle

Edo Castle also known as Chiyoda Castle is a flatland castle that was built in 1457 by Ōta Dōkan. It was the residence of the shogun and location of the shogunate, and also functioned as the military capital during the Edo period of Japanese history. After the resignation of the shogun and the Meiji Restoration, it became the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Some of the moats, walls and ramparts of the castle survive to this day. However, the grounds were more extensive during the Edo period, with Tokyo Station and the Marunouchi section of the city lying within the outermost moat. It also encompassed Kitanomaru Park, the Nippon Budokan Hall and other landmarks of the surrounding area.
A fire consumed the old Edo Castle on the night of May 5, 1873. The area around the old donjon, which burned in the 1657 Meireki fire became the site of the new imperial Palace Castle built in 1888. Some Tokugawa era buildings, which were still standing were destroyed to make space for new structures for the imperial government. The imperial palace building itself, however, was not constructed on the same location as the shogun's palace.
The site suffered substantial damage during World War II, and the destruction of Tokyo, in 1945. Today the site is part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The government declared the area an historic site and has undertaken steps to restore and preserve the remaining structures of Edo Castle.
There’s been talks over the years to try and rebuild Edo Castle, with some people thinking it would benefit Japanese tourism if it were built in time for the 2020 Olympics. To rebuild the castle it would cost billions so will probably not happen in the next few decades … if ever. 

By now we’d walked at least 10 kilometres and had worked up quite an appetite, so Ayano took me to her favourite noodle bar in Tokyo. It was a small place just outside of the station and did a delicious duck and leek ramen. It is customary to pay for your guide’s meal if you sit down and eat together as a thank you for their company. And at about £6 per head it doesn't really break the bank balance so I was more than happy to oblige! 

After refueling we ventured to the Tokyo Central Post Office, or as known in Japan - Kitte (Japanese for postal stamp) which opened in 2013. It’s a shopping and dining complex on the lower floors of the JP Tower next to Tokyo Station. The first four floors feature shops, mostly selling some pretty quirky interior goods, while the top two floors contain restaurants and a rooftop garden with views out over Tokyo Station. The Tokyo Central Post Office is located on the ground floor with its facade preserved from the previous building, and I must say, for a shopping centre the building really is beautiful, both inside and out. The view of central Tokyo from the rooftop garden is pretty great. 

From here we made our way west to Nakano to check out a place that I had actually heard quite a lot about before travelling to Japan – The Nakano Broadway.

Nakano Broadway is a shopping complex in Tokyo famous for its many stores selling anime items and idol goods, including more than a dozen small Mandarake stores which specialize in manga and anime related collectibles. The shopping complex is a short walk from Nakano Station, which is a five-minute train ride from Shinjuku via the JR Chuo Line. I’m not into anime, but it’s a massive part of Japanese culture, which makes it an important place for me to experience whilst in Japan. I also hear there are a load of stores within the complex selling vintage clothing and 80’s toys … which I really am into! 

Leading to the Nakano Broadway from Nakano Station is the Nakano Sunmall, a 225 meter long covered shopping street with a wide variety of shops, including food joints, cafes, watch dealers, jewelers, fashion boutiques, pharmacies, game centers, book stores and others. We walked through here on our way to Broadway, but there wasn't anything that caught my eye … I was just too excited to get to our final destination. I tell a lie … there was one store which sold some pretty funky socks that I was tempted by.
On the side streets branching off from the shopping street there are food alleys with various restaurants, including many izakaya (Japanese style pub/eatery), that serve all different kinds of food. 

There are four levels of shopping at the Nakano Broadway. The second and third levels are where the many anime and Japanese idol related shops are located. Here, you can find manga, magazines, collectors' items, animation character figurines, idol merchandise, game consoles, video games, animation/CDs etc.
The ground level of the Nakano Broadway has shops selling clothes, shoes, tidbits and second hand goods. The basement level is a marketplace, where the locals shop for their groceries. Products on sale range from fruits and vegetables to meat and seafood. You find in Japan that nearly all basements levels within shopping complex’s are a marketplace of some sort.

It’s a fact that the Japanese LOVE the western culture; mainly the American style ranging from 1950 up to the late 90’s. This place is full of Michael Jackson, Goonies, Gremlins, Star Wars, Turtles and old movie sticker bubblegum packs (which came with a warning – DO NOT EAT THE BUBBLEGUM!) It was like stepping back in time! And the price of these items compared to how much they sell for back in the UK was a lot less! I was tempted by quite a lot of items, but I only treated myself to a few sticker packs and managed to stay away from the toys!

Within the complex there are stores full of display cases and cabinets, which locals can rent on a monthly basis to showcase and sell their prized possessions. These display cases cost about the same as it does to rent a room for the month, so aren’t cheap! 

After geeking out for a good 90 minutes we left Nakano and headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, also referred to as Tokyo City Hall or Tochō for short and houses the headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which governs not only the 23 wards, but also the cities, towns and villages that make up Tokyo as a whole.
Located in Shinjuku, the building consists of a complex of three structures, each taking up a city block. The tallest and most prominent of the three is Tokyo Metropolitan Main building No.1, a tower 48 stories tall that splits into two sections at the 33rd floor. The building also has three levels below ground. The design of the building (which was meant to resemble a computer chip), by architect Kenzo Tange, has many symbolic touches, most notably the aforementioned split which re-creates the look of a Gothic cathedral.
The other two buildings in the complex are the eight-story Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Building (including one underground floor) and Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No.2, which has 37 stories including three below ground.
Now this may sound like a strange set of buildings to visit, BUT what a lot of tourists don’t realise is that there are amazing views from the top!
The two panoramic observation decks, one in each tower on floor 45 (202 meters high) are free of charge to the public. On these floors there’s also a gift shop and a cafe. In comparison, the Skytree costs around 3100 yen (£17.20) for both observation decks and although quite a lot higher than the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building  (450 metres high), but you don’t actually get to see much more from this extra height so there isn’t much of a pay off if you ask me. Also, you can see Mt.Fuji from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building on a clear day (unfortunately it wasn't on view today).

This was the end of my day with Ayano, and after 8 hours together walking non-stop (except for a brief pit stop for ramen) she had completely worn me out! I had thoroughly enjoyed our day together and would once again recommend a guide if you have the time and budget to incorporate them in your trip to Japan. They took me to places that only locals would know about, which is definitely part of the fun.
Between Ayano and Mieke I had covered the majority of Tokyo and had experienced most of the sights which were on my list, which leaves the next 5 days for me to explore further, shop and just enjoy getting to know Tokyo a little better.

After such a busy day yesterday I thought I’d spend today going on a bit of a Hachi tour. Hachikō’s story is one that has always resonated with me. I spent the day visiting a series of Hachikō related places, but firstly, if you’re not familiar with the story … here it is:
Hachikō was an Akita dog born on a farm near the city of Ōdate in November 10, 1923 who is remembered in Japan for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, which continued for many years after his owner's death. Hachikō is known in Japanese as chūken Hachikō ("faithful dog Hachikō") — hachi meaning eight, and a suffix kō meaning affection.

In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo, took Hachikō, a golden brown Akita, as a pet. During his owner's life, Hachikō greeted him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died, never returning to the train station where Hachikō was waiting. Each day for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō awaited Ueno's return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station.
Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day. Initial reactions from the people, especially from those working at the station, were not necessarily friendly. However, after the first appearance of the article about him on October 4, 1932 in Asahi Shimbun, people started to bring Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait.

Hachikō has received a series of honours over the years:
- In April 1934, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya Station, and Hachikō himself was present at its unveiling. The statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II. In 1948 The Society for Recreating the Hachikō Statue commissioned Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist, to make a second statue. When the new statue appeared, a dedication ceremony occurred. The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is a popular meeting spot. 

- Since his death, Hachikō has been exhibited at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno. The museum is also next to the zoo and a very pretty park.

- The station entrance near this statue is named "Hachikō-guchi", meaning "The Hachikō Entrance/Exit", and is one of Shibuya Station's five exits.
- The exact spot where Hachikō waited in the train station is permanently marked with bronze paw-prints and text in Japanese explaining his loyalty.
- Earlier this year, the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Tokyo constructed a bronze statue, depicting Ueno returning to meet Hachikō and announced that it would be unveiled on the university campus. It was unveiled early in March 2015.

- There has been countless children’s books and songs written about Hachi and his loyalty to his owner.
- Back in 2014 Shibuya made Hachi the cartoon mascot of the area, selling Hachi merch within Shibuya station.
- Hachikō was the subject of the 1987 movie Hachi-kō ("The Tale of Hachiko"), which told the story of his life from his birth up until his death and imagined spiritual reunion with his master and was considered a blockbuster success.
- Hachi: A Dog's Tale, released in August 2009, is an American movie starring actor Richard Gere, about Hachikō and his relationship with an American professor and his family following the same basic story.

After yesterdays Hachikō fun it was time to get a souvenir from Japan … a permanent one! One of the first things I started to research once booking my flights to Japan was tattoo artists. I always knew that I’d want to get a tattoo whilst out in Japan and my trip to Japan may have to be planned around a tattooist because of their availability. After lots of research I found the perfect artist and thankfully he was available during my time in Tokyo.
Because I have a lot of Japanese artwork by a western tattooist I thought it’d be fun to get a western style tattoo by a Japanese artist. I found UE on instagram and contacted the tattoo studio where he works, called The Parlour, which is run by Takeshi Hasegawa - this duo were awesome!  The studio is a 5-minute walk from Shibuya station and is going into its second year. UE is the solo tattoo artist of the studio and Takeshi runs the shop and manages all of the bookings. UE knows hardly any English so Takeshi deals with all the clients including requests. I was very specific about what I wanted and am rather particular, but between them they smashed it.

The tattoo I’d agreed with UE was a Japanese dagger in an old school western style incorporating new school bold lines, with “I would sacrifice myself for those important to me” in Japanese tattooed alongside it. 

Takeshi was such a good host; whilst we were waiting for UE to set up Takeshi took me around the area taking me to a few of his mates shops to introduce me as he thought we’d have things in common … which we did. He was also really interested in what I’d been up to since in Japan to see if there’s anything else he could think of that I should try. I explained that I had gone to visit all of the monuments for Hachikō the day before. These guys were also big fans of Hachi and brought to my attention that it was 80 years to the month since Hachi died in Shibuya. This couldn’t just be coincidence, could it? I asked UE if he’d have enough time to give me a Hachi tattoo (through Takeshi translating of course) after my dagger. He was honoured to do this for me, so after finishing my dagger we cracked on with my new Hachi souvenir tattoo!

My day spent with these two was a lot of fun … but it had only just begun! I happened to get tattooed on the day of their 1-year anniversary party, which they insisted I attended! How could I say no!? It was being held at Trump Room which is a club so hip that they don't even have a website! Trump Room has superseded Aoyama's Le Baron de Paris as the ne plus ultra of Tokyo cool.

I went back to the hotel after getting tattooed, prior to heading to the club to get cleaned up before catching the metro back to Shibuya. I was starting to learn my way around Tokyo by now and was relying on googlemaps less and less. It’s a great feeling when you’re in a foreign place and you start to get to grips with the local area because you feel less of a tourist and more like a local … especially when people stop you and ask for directions AND YOU CAN ACTUALLY HELP THEM (this happened today with an Aussie guy who asked me for directions to the Hachi monument … how apt!) 

It was now 8pm so was time to make my way back to Shibuya. Whilst walking to Yoyogi station I came across something that I was really hoping to see during my time in Tokyo. Guys who work long hours in the city are famously called ‘Salary Men’; they work really hard Monday to friday … but drink even harder when work ends for the weekend, and normally end up on a Friday night stumbling around Tokyo. Many don’t make it home Friday night, instead falling asleep in random positions in train stations, benches, steps and floors all around the city. I actually follow a facebook page called I Love"Salaryman" in TOKYO. On my walk to the station I came across two salary men; one struggling to walk in a straight line whilst dragging his blazer along the floor while another was trying to prop himself up against a railing next to the main road. It’s honestly a hilarious sight … but the locals walk past and don’t even notice, showing how much of a regular occurrence this is.  I hoped that I would experience more of this through the night and I didn't have to wait long until I got my request; at the station there was a fella completely out of it sat on a bench at the platform. After taking a quick shot (of course!) I jumped on the train and headed to Trump Room. 

Trump Room is in the heart of Shibuya and was pretty damn cool. Its old school décor reminded me of a pub called The Bridge in Hoxton, which wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Under a sea of chandeliers and glitterballs, the city's fashion leaders and victims alike schmooze, booze and boogie to music that feels almost like an afterthought … and tonight it was to celebrate UE and Takeshi and their 1-year old studio! 

I thought it was going to be pretty awkward seeing that I knew no-one, rocked up on my own and don’t speak any Japanese, but Takeshi was at the entrance as I walked in. He grabbed me and started to introduce me to his friends and colleagues as ‘my bro from London!’ I spent the next 5 hours working my way around the club being introduced to allsorts of characters, all of which were keen to get to know me and hear my story as to how I ended up in this funky venue. Everyone I’ve come across in Japan is so accommodating and after a 5 minute conversation is ready to call you their friend, which isn’t normally how it works in London … but it’s a refreshing change. The one negative I’d say is that everyone smokes and you’re allowed to smoke indoors, so the club ended up being covered in a thick haze – which is the only reason I left at 3.30am as my eyes were stinging from the smoke. 

Meeting UE and Takeshi, getting tattooed and being accepted into their group of friends is definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far. I can see why Brits enjoy Tokyo so much when they move out here. I can also see why a lot  of them never make the return journey – it’s such a welcoming city. Before I left the studio they asked if they could take a picture with me, but I REALLY didn't expect this prop ... 

The only way to get back to Shinjuku from Shibuya at 4am is by taxi as the trains and buses stop around midnight, but with this amazing Pocket Wifi from Japan Experience I google mapped the journey to see if it was possible to take a casual quiet stroll back to the hotel. It was going to be a 45-minute walk, but it was a pretty straight route and seeing that it was a nice night I went for it - after all it’s probably my only chance to see a bit of Tokyo at this time of night before I leave. 

It was strange walking through areas I had only seen when absolutely rammed with people, but the city was still alive with teams of cleaners preparing the city for another busy day. I saw a few more Salary Men on my way home, one absolutely sparked out on the steps of a bridge … at least he attempted to get home. 

Today was a lot of fun and will stay with me for a long time … mainly because the tattoos are permanent, but also because I met some amazing people whom I will definitely try to stay in touch with.
With only a few days left I had some serious shopping to do! Along the way I had picked up a lot of treats and souvenirs for friends and family, but I’d given myself an allowance and after a little look around I’d realised that Levi’s, American Apparel, APC and Nikes in various outlets were cheaper out here than they are in the UK … so the SHOPPING COMMENCED! There are some really cool shopping districts in Tokyo which I was planning to explore. Over the course of the coming days I visited the following areas:

Ginza is the affluent shopping district in Tokyo – one look around Mitsukoshi will testify to this. But tucked in between some of the more imposing façades are simpler pleasures like fine papers and shelves full of ingenious toys. Shopping options here truly reflect the breadth and depth of the city’s consumer culture, which is equal parts high fashion glitz and down-to-earth dedication to craft.

Now decidedly relaxed, Asakusa was once the heart of Edo’s low city, home to artisans, merchants and prostitutes. Its small lanes and winding alleyways are still full of surprises, from venerable doll shops to virtuosic drum makers such as Taiko-kan. Nakamise-dōri is not bad for souvenir trinkets and the long stretch of Kappabashi-dōri also yields uniquely Japanese curiosities in its little culinary-supply shops.

Shibuya is the fountain of teen trendiness in Japan. If you’re over 35 you might feel way too old, but just cruise and amuse yourself in the madness. Music shops and cheap, outrageous apparel are everywhere, as are the hip kids who come to primp and pose. There are quite a few trainer shops and vintage stores in the area which are definitely worth checking out.

Home to the famed Harajuku girls, Takeshita-dōri and the alleys packed with small, independent designers’ shops and secondhand stores, Omote-sandō is the most eclectic, experimental neighbourhood in Tokyo and by far my favourite. High fashion rules the Aoyama end of Omote-sandō, where ‘fashionable’ has an entirely different meaning than it has for the hipsters of Harajuku layering haute couture with second-hand finds. It’s no wonder artistic designers and high fashion flagship stores have made this section of Tokyo their creative home. I ended up making 3 visits to this area because there was so much to see. It was also where I tried a chicken sushi kebab … and yes it was exactly how it sounds and it was delicious!! 

Shopping in Shinjuku can be a little overwhelming. From the moment you step out of the train station (ringed by malls and department stores), the lights and noise make the whole place seem like the interior of a bustling casino. But there are some great shops amid all the chaos, and you can find just about anything your heart desires here. 

All in all I purchased 6 pairs of Nikes, 2 pairs of levi’s, 3 t-shirts, 2 jackets and 3 sweaters from American Apparel, 1 necklace from APC and a few other bits and bobs from a few vintage stores across the capital … oh, and a new suitcase (because none of this would fit in my rucksack!) This meant that I had even more space for gifts so I got back out on the streets and bought the little bits I’d seen that at first I didn't think I could bring back with me.

Since I’ve been in Japan I’ve started to chat to one of my good mates friend called Ayano Fukuoka; she use to live in London but has lived back in Japan for the last few years. She offered to hang out with me and go for some food whilst I was in Tokyo … and that’s something I’m not going to turn down! We met at Shimokitazawa station at 7pm after Ayano finished work. It’s pretty easy getting around Tokyo on the trains … even if you can’t understand Japanese there’s enough signs that make things pretty clear. 
After meeting we decided where to eat. Ayano gave us quite a few options, but there was one that really stood out – Gokigen Dori is a Yakitori restaurant in Shimokitazawa. This place was amazing. Every time somebody walked in they shout "GOKIGEN de su ka?!" which means “How are you? / Are you happy?!” The yakitori was amazing and there was one thing on the menu that I was hoping to try whilst I was out here – raw chicken yakitori with ginger and wasabi. You can eat raw chicken in Japan at certain restaurants where the chicken is super fresh … as in killed on the same day. The waiter double checked that I knew it was raw because most westerners turn their noses up when they realise. The chicken is lightly grilled on the outside for a few seconds to seal in the flavour. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it – the texture was different to how I expected, not half as chewy as you think it would be. We also had basic grilled chicken, chicken wings and chicken neck (which is just a little sringier than normal chicken!)

After dinner Ayano asked if I wanted to go and take Purikura before we went our separate ways … which I said a massive YES to! Purikura refers to Japanese photo booths that snap heavily edited photos and prints an instant version of a perfect you on a sticker! It makes your eyes bigger, legs longer and chin narrower. There’s a whole floor dedicated to Purikura at MMLand in Shimokitazawa. This floor is only accessible to girls or couples … boys are strictly off limits unless they’re with a group of ladies. I’d looked into this before heading out to Japan and assumed I wouldn’t get to see what all of the fuss is about because of the rules … but being with Ayano made it acceptable. And I can see why they’re such a success. For only 400 yen (£2.20) it’s a good 15-20 minutes of fun and you get a print out of your images at the end. 

After taking 5 pictures in one of the many full length photobooths you then get to spend 10 minutes editing them … it’s pretty much Photoshop made easy, and you can get carried away. I was impressed with our final pics, but I have to admit that Ayano’s were better … but she has had more practice!

I had so much fun with Ayano, it was great to have a night out with a mate whilst in Tokyo, but we called it at about 11pm because I’m up early in the morning for something a little more fishy!

This morning I was up at 6am to go and check out the Tsukiji Market supervised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market of the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs … which yes, is a mouthful, but is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind.
The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo, between the Sumida River and the upmarket Ginza shopping district near the Tsukijishijō Station on the Toei Ōedo Line and Tsukiji Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, so I caught the early morning rush commute to work

There are two distinct sections of the market as a whole. The "inner market" (jōnai-shijō) is the licensed wholesale market, where approximately 900 licensed wholesale dealers operate small stalls and where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish takes place. The "outer market" (jōgai-shijō) is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood and many restaurants, especially sushi restaurants. Most of the shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon, and in the inner market even earlier.
The place was a mad rush of guys on bikes delivering fish to their clients. The size of the tuna was ridiculous … honestly I didn't know tuna could be that big!! 

InsideJapan booked breakfast for me at one of the best sushi restaurants within the jōgai-shijō and I must thank them because it was delicious. I’ve said it already on this trip but their sushi WAS. THE. BEST. Honestly it was tasty as hell! You can’t get sushi much fresher than this unless it’s served up to you on the boat that it’s plucked out of the sea from.

The Tsukiji fish market occupies valuable real estate close to the center of the city. Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara repeatedly called for moving the market to Toyosu. The long-anticipated move to the new market will take place in November 2016, in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. The new location has been criticized for being heavily polluted and in need of cleanup. There are plans to retain a retail market, roughly a quarter of the current operation, in Tsukiji. The remaining area of the market will be redeveloped.
On my way out I grabbed a load of random fishy treats for my family to ‘enjoy’ (secretly knowing that I don’t think they’ll enjoy at least half of them).


Somehow it’s already my last day in Japan and I’m going to go and spend it wondering around Shibuya; one of my favourite areas of Tokyo. Shibuya crossing really is a spectacle that has to be seen with ones own eyes to truly appreciate.
The crossing is located in front of the Shibuya Station Hachikō exit and stops vehicles in all directions to allow pedestrians to inundate the entire intersection.
During rush hour, as many as 2,500 pedestrians cross as the lights go green. Its heavy traffic and inundation of advertising has led to it being compared to the Times Square intersection in New York City. Tokyo-based architecture professor Julian Worrall has said Shibuya Crossing is "a great example of what Tokyo does best when it’s not trying." 

So that’s that … over the last week I’ve explored every area of Tokyo and it has not disappointed. This city really does not stop and there’s always something fun or quirky going on that you can get involved in. But now it’s time for me to leave this amazing country. I’ve come back to the hotel to pack my stuff up and get ready for the taxi to take me to the airport. I’m flying back via Paris but will be back in London tomorrow and this trip will soon become a distant memory … but boy what a memory to have. It’s gone by so quickly but at the same time has felt like forever. It seems like months ago when I was making my way across Lake Ashinoko and cycling my way through Arashiyama to get my nuts stolen by a monkey (a sentence I never thought I’d say). I’ve seen and done so much, and experienced things that I never thought I would. This country truly is beautiful and is full of genuine people who take pride in their country, work and family. I think a lot of countries could learn a lot from the Japanese way of life.

Before I sign off I’d like to say a huge thank you to a few who have made this trip better than I could have ever imagined with their knowledge and support:

Thank you to Kylie Clark at the JapaneseNational Tourist Office based in central London who was my first port of call when planning this trip. She not only sent me a massive bundle of city maps, tourist recommendation books but also put me in touch with InsideJapan.


Thanks to Thierry Maincent and Sarah Roff at Japan Experience. I met up with Sarah for a coffee while I was in the early stages of planning my trip. She was able to share her knowledge and experiences, which helped shape my trip. Japan Experience were also very generous by providing me with a Pocket WiFi. Now I have mentioned this A LOT throughout this blog, but it has become the most important accessory whilst out here. This little gem has given me constant WiFi throughout my month in Japan. I’ve had my phone on plane mode throughout the trip because the international charges are extortionate, but via this pocket WiFi I had internet access 24/7 with no limit or cut off point. This meant that I could stay in touch with everyone back in the UK, I could call my friends and family via Skype and Viber, I could upload pictures on instagram whilst at the summit of Miyajima Island in the middle of nowhere and could tweet around the clock! But one of the best things about the pocket WiFi is that I could use googlemaps whilst exploring and use google to find what was going on in areas that were off the beaten track. My trip wouldn't have been half as interesting if it wasn’t for this little beauty.
Japan Experience were also very generous by providing an apartment for one night in Tokyo and an apartment for two nights in Kyoto, along with a Travel Angel for the day in both Tokyo and Kyoto. Both Mieke and Saki were great guides and a lot of fun, showing me around their cities and being on hand to give me advice during my month long stay. 

My final thank you goes to James Mundy and Katrina Cordery at InsideJapan. After discussing my potential trip with James he assigned Katrina who is a travel consultant at InsideJapan to help plan my excursion. Over the course of the month Katrina and I had a series of discussions so that she could plan my whole trip, catering it to my interests. InsideJapan booked my travel (Japan Rail Card and additional tickets), hotels, they figured out my route, booked sumo tickets and the amazing breakfast at the Tsukiji Market. The support they give is fantastic, along with the advice and the info-pack, which includes all the information you need for your journey; from tips at each location to directions to your hotels plus suggested train times from location to location. I couldn’t fault their package or their recommendations. And a massive thank you for providing a guide whilst in both Kyoto and Tokyo. 

This trip has been more than I could have ever imagined and will stay with me for a long time. The respect the Japanese have for not only their country but for one another is admirable. This month has not only been about exploration but has also been a life long lesson - I will take back so much with me and hope to be back in this beautiful country as soon as possible.

Thank you Japan, you’ve been magical. Until next time … 


1 comment

  1. HI! So many shoes you got there! :)
    It looks like it is not cold in Tokyo based on the outfits of the locals.
    Do they sell grilled chicken intestines? :>

    Did you manage to get price for sending postcards internationally in Tokyo Grand Central Post office?



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