When we first arrived in Tokyo we were staying with our second ever couch-surfing host; a lovely Japanese guy called Koushi. From the very first moment he was nothing but kind and generous, his hospitality towards us was incredible. We had our first taste of Japanese food straight out of Koushi’s kitchen and he also cooked up plenty more tasty treats while we were with him, we felt so blessed to be staying with him!
On our first day after a brilliant nights’ sleep on Koushi’s futons he showed us around his local area which was fantastic; you can’t beat being shown around by a local to ease you into the different culture of a country! We had a look around Ueno Park and some beautiful shrines and temples around the area. We also went down Asukusa shopping street which was a stunning traditional Japanese street lined with quaint little shops and places to try some tasty street food! It was so interesting learning little titbits of information from Koushi about each little area as well! We walked down a lot of little alleyways and streets that we would not necessarily have chosen to walk down ourselves as they were residential area’s but it was really interesting to see how the Japanese community lived, especially in overpopulated Tokyo! However they seem to make really good use of the space and an apartment that should feel small and cramped actually ends up feeling very cosy!
In the afternoon we explored a little more of Tokyo on our own as Koushi had to work. We had our first glimpse of the neon lit-up Tokyo that we had come to imagine and it was fantastic! It’s almost a little overwhelming at first as the gaming arcades are blasting sound out so loud that they almost blow you over when you walk past, but once you get over the initial shock and let your eyes adjust to the bright lights it becomes pretty breath-taking in its own little way! Seeing the anime shops and the young girls scantily clad as anime girls was very strange as well! When we got back to Koushi’s we were treated to a Japanese twist of a western dish called Omerice, it was basically rice, meat and vegetables with an omelette on the top! It was absolutely delicious! Then to finish off our very Japanese day we watched one of Koushi’s favourite Anime movies!
Now one thing that I was very excited about in Tokyo was of course, Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea!! We were originally meant to spend 2 days to explore both parks but we decided to shorten it due to time and money restrictions. Koushi had very kindly gotten up early in the morning to send us off with rice balls which were lovely and it was a really cute start to our day! DisneySea itself was due to close early due to an event which was unfortunate, however because of this we had the opportunity to get discount entry into Disneyland as well; result!! I can honestly say that DisneySea was different to the other parks I have visited; it had some really original rides and even some bigger rides which Disney doesn’t usually do! As a result I really enjoyed it and I think even Liam did as well! I even managed to persuade him to come on one with a 360 loop! It made me remember why I love Disney so much, it takes me right back to childhood and makes me feel like a big kid again! Running around a life-size castle with Liam exploring every little nook and cranny and getting excited when you see a character walk past! Disneyland was the same as everywhere of course, it had all the classic rides and the same layout as the other parks but it was just as good as always and it was nice to see the night-time Electric Lights parade as well!! As it’s almost Halloween as well they had an extra theme added to the place which made a little extra special!
On our last morning with Koushi he went above and beyond just one last time for us by making us an amazing breakfast of pumpkin soup and breakfast rolls! Safe to say we were pretty sad to have to leave but we appreciated every kindness he showed us as it settled us into Japan very quickly! Our next place to stay was also a couch-surfing host called Shobhit; however he was Indian so he is also a foreigner in the country like us!
We had already planned to reunite with our Japanese friend from the Zuk Farm, Natsuhi, so we set off in search of our destination getting pretty lost in the process and arriving almost an hour late!! Luckily Nat had waited around for us and it was amazing to see a familiar face in this unfamiliar landscape! We also met up with a couple of Nat’s friends as she was only visiting home for a holiday and was catching up with her friends too! We had a wander around the Harajuku district which is a big shopping place, mainly where all the teenage girls hang out and shop! It was pretty cool to see though and because it was a Saturday of course it was rammed!! One of Nat’s friends is from the Hokkaido prefecture which looks like a stunning part of Japan, however we didn’t have time on our trip to visit that far north (plus it’s pretty cold!). Lucky for us there was a Hokkaido festival that weekend for us to explore! We got to try some Hokkaido brewed beer and some local dishes as well which were absolutely delicious! We also went and had a look at the Meiji shrine which is a really famous one in Japan. Slap bang in the middle of the huge metropolis was this quite peaceful place. We saw some traditional Japanese weddings as well which were amazing, so different to the western style weddings that we have but of course the brides still looked beautiful. They are so lucky too as Nat explained that most Japanese women have both a traditional wedding and a western style one!
After that we visited Shibuya with Nat and witnessed the busiest and most overwhelming pedestrian crossing I have ever seen! Looking across the road at the sheer amount of people that were about to come our way and also glancing backwards at the hoard that would push you forwards was pretty intimidating! Nat and her friends were amused by mine and Liam’s reaction of course as once it all got moving it we all just sort of moved fluidly through with no problems!
By that point we were all ready to sit down, grab some food and more importantly some drinks! Nat took us to an amazing place where you pay a set amount for all you can drink for 2 hours and then cheap food dishes as well! We tried all sorts of food which we wouldn’t have had usually including octopus, dried fish, chicken bones and strangest of all, chicken bum-hole. Yes we tried it all and apart from the slimy octopus it was all very tasty! We had some normal dishes as well like prawns and fish which oddly enough Liam wouldn’t try despite already eating the bum-hole of a hen! We made the most of our all you can drink of course and had a really good laugh with Nat and her friends, although we lost track of time and had to leave pretty abruptly as we had arranged to meet up with Shobhit!
Shobhit arranges a couch-surfing meet-up in Tokyo where both surfers and hosts meet up and swap stories over a few drinks! It turned out to be a really good night and luckily at the end of it we only had to walk across the street to get back to his place! While we were staying at Shobhit’s we were originally meant to be making a trip to Mt Fuji, however when we awoke in the morning the rain was blasting down from the heavens. We found out that a typhoon was right above the city and unfortunately it would be for the next day and a half which pretty much wrote off any plans we had of visiting Mount Fuji, it just means we will have to come back another time! We had to stay indoors, although Shobhit invited us to have lunch with him and his Indian friends who lived in the same building! Shobhit cooked an amazing Indian curry for us all which of course Liam was ecstatic about as it’s his favourite food. The Indian girls were so hospitable as well it was a beautiful meal all round! It was sort of strange having such an Indian experience while in Tokyo, however it actually made us really want to travel to India at some point a long our journey. We’ve heard horror stories about the country and about travelling around it but we’ve also heard people say that have had some amazing experiences there. I think we had always heard too much negativity about it which really scared us and put us off, but I think that if people are half as hospitable and kind as Shobhit and his friends then we will really love it! The culture and food is also a very magnetic factor!
We had to hold up in Shobhit’s apartment right through to the next day, even after Shobhit had left for work we had to stay until the rain stopped around lunchtime! Strangely enough after the Typhoon had gone the sky was bright blue and the sun was blazing in the sky!! We travelled across the city to get to our last accommodation in Tokyo for the night which was a beautiful traditional Ryokan which was actually recommended by Ritchie to us! It had beautiful old wooden floors that creaked when you walked on them and our room was a traditional Japanese room with a tatami floor and futons for us to sleep on! We absolutely loved it!
We spent our last afternoon just walking around the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. It was full of shops and little restaurants so we decided to try one of the restaurants on our own without the usual help of our Japanese friends and hosts! Most of the restaurants don’t have any translation they just have plastic models of the food which are quite realistic! We managed to order our food without any bother and it was really quickly! It was essentially Japanese equivalent of fast food! It was really tasty and wholesome though! Liam had some type of beef curry with rice and mine was noodles in a thick sauce with what I assume was pork! Now that we’ve braved it once we’ve decided that it’s definitely the way forward food wise! So much so that we did the same again that night in a little place near our Ryokan!
Even though we didn’t manage to venture out to Mt Fuji from Tokyo we did however get the next best thing! The typhoon seemed to have dragged all the clouds and pollution away from the city, which meant that when we went to the government observatory building and looked out upon the Tokyo skyline, we could see Mt Fuji in the distance! I think it’s pretty rare to be able to see it from the city as usually the weathers just not clear enough so we definitely got lucky!
Tokyo was sensational from beginning to end and I have to say that I was very sad to leave! I always thought that once we had been to Japan and experienced it we would feel satisfied but so far it just keeps us wanting more!