Tokyo Drift! A Fast and Furious Journey (Part 3)

I suddenly remembered that I have to write about the last leg of my quick Tokyo trip!

In case you missed out on the earlier posts, here’s Part 1 and Part 2

The last part of our trip covered most of Central and Western areas of Tokyo: Akihabara, Harajuku, and Shinjuku.  These are the busiest places in Tokyo (probably in Japan) and offer a lot in terms of things to do.

We started by visiting Tokyo Imperial Palace.  The palace grounds alone will take you about 30 – 45 minutes to circumnavigate.  One can really feel that this is the epicenter of the Japanese empire just by walking around.  The attention given to the plants, flowers, trees, and structures cordially dial in majesty.

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Behold!  The almighty castle walls!
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How big were horse-drawn carriages in Japan back then?  Because this street is so wide!
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The trees are just perfectly manicured.  Not a leaf out of line.
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We were really lucky because these were not supposed to be in bloom until 3 days later.

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From there, we took the subway bound for Yoyogi Park.  This is a massive and beautiful park that ends at Harajuku.  At the middle, you can drop by Meiji Jingu to get a breather.  It felt like a stretch of 2.5 kms. of gravel.IMG_1676

If you followed our route, this is what you should see:IMG_1678

We went crazy with all the shops from Harajuku to Roppongi.  There were a lot of foreigners living here too.  This area will gladly take your money.  Name a brand and chances are, a flagship store will be in this area.  So bring a lot of dough.  Or don’t.IMG_1679

If you go left from here, you will arrive at another famous shopping destination, Takeshita Street where you could get a shot at one of the graffiti-lined walls.  Each of us just had to take one.

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According to my sister, this street is mostly kawaii girls stuff.  But she was able to find this store, Monki.  There’s a cool dessert place beside it if ever you are a guy shopping with a female.

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The iconic Hachiko just near Shibuya Crossing!IMG_1689

Maybe it is just because off-season but I think Dotombori in Osaka is much busier than this one.  If you are thinking about getting a nice view from the Starbucks joint you see in this picture, good luck getting in.  The upper floors of the train station and malls are the best places to get a nice shot.  I just wished I was into time lapse photography when I went here.  IMG_1693

We had to double back to our hostel to get our bags and got lost.  All the subway-switching can get really confusing.  It really pays to know some kanji especially when the nearest map looks like this:

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We had a great bowl of Seaweed Shio ramen after an exhausting day.  Unfortunately, I forgot the name of this ramen place in Shinjuku.

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While waiting for our midnight bus back to Kyoto, we checked our watches and realized that we had about 4 hours to kill.  Luckily, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is still open!  It has 2 observation decks: North (9:30-23:00) and South (9:30-17:30).  It gives you a stunning 360-view of Tokyo for free!  The elevator line might be long during the day so going at night is better (the night view is better too, I think).  Oddly, the observation deck has a toy store and a coffee shop at the top.  It even has complimentary Wi-Fi! IMG_1702

That’s all, folks!  This series is done!  I can’t wait to go back to Tokyo!

Here’s a video of the entire trip!  I’m very sorry that the camera is shaky, the gimbal is broken. 😦

Tokyo Drift! A Fast and Furious Journey (Part 1)

First timers in Tokyo!

In the past, I had always wished to visit Tokyo.  I mean, hello, I live in Japan!

Anyway, I planned the trip for me and my sister who was visiting.  The plan involved visiting 4 cities (Kyoto-Tokyo-Nara-Osaka) in 9 days using the least amount of cash possible.

Tokyo from Kyoto?  How can that be cheap?

Bullet train? EEEEENK.  At around 25,000 Yen for a roundtrip ticket, this was out of the window.

Local train? EEEEEENK.  Waaaay too confusing and waaay too long.

Bus? TING NING NING!  But not just any ordinary bus.  An OVERNIGHT BUS!

Welcome to Willer Express.  At around 4,500 Yen (one-way) for a no-frills overnight bus ride to Tokyo from Kyoto, this was in the money.  We intended to visit only metropolitan Tokyo this time around and set aside 2 FULL DAYS for it.  They also offer premium coaches with sleeping pods and other creature comforts for around 7,000 Yen (one-way) which is still cheaper than the Shinkansen.  We were so happy with the experience that I am now blogging about it. If you are penny-pinching, not pressed for time, or both, then we highly recommend taking this route.

The Willer Express (not the one we took) looks like this:

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Inside, it looks like this (WHY ARE WE BROKE!!) and it is pretty awesome

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The good thing is they subcontract other buses for the cheapest trips and their buses look something like this (this is not the actual one)

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Inside it is still pretty comfortable and clean.

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Flow:

  1. Catch overnight bus at midnight at the bus stop near Kyoto Station (Hachijo side). The stop is very easy to locate and the directions and pictures from the website are very accurate.  Our only comment was the stop was not enclosed so we were freezing all the time we were waiting.
  2. As with all things in Japan, the bus arrived and left on time. The bus was clean and the seats were comfy, even though we opted for the dirt cheap ones.  Curtains enclosed the bus so in a matter of minutes, we were ZZZZZ…
  3. Around 7AM, we arrived in Shinjuku (you have the option of choosing either this or Ikebukuro) where we took the subway going to our hostel, SPACE (which was freakin’ awesome as well!)
  4. The trip back is pretty straightforward.  Just go from #3 to #1 and voila, you’re back in Kyoto.

You can plan and reserve seats online.  Their website takes some getting used to but i user-friendly enough for locals and tourists alike.

After sifting through various hostels prior to our trip, we ended up staying at SPACE Hostel.  The hostel was nicely sandwiched in between the Ueno and Asakusa areas and is a 5-minute walk from Subway Iriya station (Hibiya Line).  It had a Lawson 100 Yen store nearby that will solve all your personal needs. The location was perfect.

Website: SPACE Hostel

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Stefan, the one operating the concierge at that time, was very accommodating and understanding.  He fixed a system issue because apparently the system did not recognize the booking revision I made.  Otsukaresamadesu!

There was a common area with a dining table.  Coffee and tea were complementary and there was a fridge to store some of your food.  They can even keep your luggage on checkout day for free until 7PM!

Shower rooms and bathrooms were conveniently located on the 2nd floor.  No need to bring shampoo and soap.  You do need to bring your own towels and other personal effects such as (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.).  The dormitories were very nice and the temperature was kept at the perfect temperature (it was around 3-4 degs celsius outside).  As advertised, the beds were nicely crafted and were complete with covers and a duvet to keep you warm.  Everything was really, really clean as well.

Overall, we highly recommend this hostel to anyone visiting Tokyo!

Please drop a line if you have any comments or questions!

Now, on to the sights and sounds!

**disclaimer:  full credits go to the owners of the photos used in this post with the exception of the cover image which is mine