72 Hours in Tokyo

This week started to take the "fun" out of "funemployment". I am starting to get stir crazy, studying for the GMAT is awful, and all of my friends are working. To pass the time, I decided to finish this video that I started after my insane trip to Tokyo at the beginning of the year (see below). After everything we did, I still can't believe we were only in Japan for 72 hours. 

The one word I would use to describe the way I travel is spontaneous. This crazy adventure to Japan was planned in about seven days time. When my mom told me she would be flying to Tokyo-Narita, Japan during the month of January I knew I had to tag along. I still had two weeks off until classes started and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to fly to Japan on my mom's flight.  I called up my travel bud, Jiji, and told her to ask off for work--because we were going to Japan. It didn't take much convincing, and on January 7th, we boarded American Airlines flight 154 and began our 14 hour flight to the incredible city of Tokyo (東京日本). 

I had no idea what to expect. I knew that Tokyo was the biggest city (by population) in the world, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer vastness of the city. I could write an entire post about the public transportation system--how clean it is, how fast it is, how efficient it is, how quiet it is, how crowded it could be. I honestly do not know how my mom, Jiji and I figured it out. Somehow we were able to navigate the immense 37+ million person city, and we did our best to see as much as we could. We only had one day with my mom before she had to fly back to Chicago. 

 My mom and I standing in the gardens of the Imperial Palace.

My mom and I standing in the gardens of the Imperial Palace.

Jiji and I stayed at the Anne Hostel in the neighborhood of Asakusabashi in Taito-ku. It was adorable, clean, comfortable, and the bathrooms had heated toilet seats. Actually, almost every bathroom I experienced in Tokyo had heated toilet seats. Let me tell you, the USA needs to jump on the heated-toilet-seat-bandwagon. It was luxurious. We met several other travelers whom we befriended and explored some of the city with -- we even tried out real Japanese karaoke (which is much different than karaoke in the US. Instead of embarrassing yourself in front of a drunken bar full of people, real karaoke takes place in private rooms that are rented out to groups. We were given a few microphones, bought several pitchers of beer and sang and danced in our own private lounge. The fun lasted until around 4am. Bohemian Rhapsody may have happened more than once.) 

My fitness tracker reported that we walked a grand total of 42 miles during the three days that we were there. We covered some serious ground. We also ate some of the most delicious food I have ever consumed. Sushi/sashimi in Tokyo was the freshest, tastiest, and most beautiful I have ever seen. It was also the cheapest. Our Japanese friends, Yumi and Eriko, took us to a sushi-go-round restaurant in the neighborhood of Ueno on our last day. I ate approximately 6 plates of sushi (about 12 pieces) for a grand total of $3.00. Ramen was another traditional dish that we ate while in Tokyo. Yes, ramen. No, not the kind that is ten cents a package. This ramen was straight up gourmet. I honestly do not know what was in it, as we placed our orders through a vending machine which gave us a ticket to take to our server. No one knew any English, and our Japanese was limited to "kawaii, kon'nichiwa, and sayonara". All I know, is that it was unbelievably good. 

 Fresh sushi and miso soup with mussels and clams in the Tsukiji fish market

Fresh sushi and miso soup with mussels and clams in the Tsukiji fish market

If I were to go in depth on each of the places we visited during my short time in Tokyo, this post would turn into a book (if you want to hear more I could talk about it in person for days). The one place I will focus on is our visit to the Skytree. The Tokyo Skytree is the world's tallest tower, and the second tallest structure in the world--second only to the Burj Khalifa. Jiji, our new friend Dani and I went on a perfect blue sky day. From the bottom the tower appeared massive, but we couldn't tell just how tall the structure was until we ascended to the top. The view from the top is indescribable. In the video below, the first few shots were all taken from the observation deck. Skyscrapers and buildings extend for as far as the eye can see in every direction. Mt. Fuji-san could be seen way off in the distance, hovering over the horizon. We must have walked around the observation deck about four times until the vastness of the city finally started to sink in. Similar to the glass platforms that the Sears/Willis Tower in Chicago has, there was a section of floor where visitors could stand on and look over 1,000ft. straight down to the ground. It was slightly unnerving, even though I am not afraid of heights. I felt so small while looking at the sprawling mass of buildings. The view from the Skytree is definitely one of the most incredible views I have ever experienced. 

 At 2,080 feet, the Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world. It is twice the size of the Eiffel Tower. 

At 2,080 feet, the Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world. It is twice the size of the Eiffel Tower. 

If you are planning a trip to Japan, I highly recommend staying in Tokyo for more than 72 hours. But, if three days is all you have, it is possible to see a good portion of the city. My favorite souvenir I brought home was the oracle, or fortune, I received at the Ueno temple. I was happy to be starting off 2015 with a good fortune: "Everything will go will in time as you wish. Try to reflect on yourself in the mirror of your mind and behave yourself. Especially, do not get absorbed in love." Not a bad way to begin 2015, and so far it has been a rather spectacular year. Enjoy the short video I made documenting my time in Japan. 

What can be seen in the above video (in order of appearance):

0:00 - View from the Tokyo Skytree 
0:30 - Anime store in Ueno
0:42 - Asakusa
0:50 - Meiji-Jingumae park and shrine
1:39 - Asakusa temple and pagoda
1:56 - Shibuya Crossing 
2:17 - Harajuku station 
2:28 - Ueno Park (receiving my oracle)
3:09 - Asakusa markets
3:15 - Sushi-Go-Round restaurant in Ueno
3:30 - Tokyo Tower