As I was writing this and reviewing my photos, receipts, and emails to get the specifics, I realized we did A LOT in only 10 days in Japan! Therefore, I've decided to break this trip down into separate posts.
Japan had been my #1 bucket list travel destination for many years due to its history, culture, influence in the modern world, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift might have added a *little* bit to my obsession.
*My brother and I used to watch this on repeat, along with Anger Management and Zoolander, before the age of Netflix.*
In September 2017, my dream was finally realized (minus the drifting)! Although this was over three years ago, the memories came flooding back, photo by photo, and even now, I'm itching to return again. For anyone wanting to visit these cities, I hope these posts are helpful!
Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Tokyo
(10 days/9 nights)
First, special thanks to my cousin for extending the invite to me to join her and her college friends for this amazing trip! *P.S. She's also a well-seasoned travel blogger - Lady Jetsetter
Prepping for the big trip:
Getting there: 22 hrs via China Eastern Airlines from NYC --> Shanghai --> Narita Airport (NRT) for a total of $710 (with insurance) the week of Labor Day. It's worth noting NRT is an hour from Tokyo, and there is a closer airport to Tokyo - Haneda (HND). However, there are several convenient connections from NRT to Tokyo that may definitely be worth the savings!
Converted USD to JPY beforehand for best rates - I always opt for a Currency Exchange rather than my bank.
Purchased 7-day Japan Rail pass to travel via bullet train between cities (can purchase in advance and pick up in a station in Japan or purchase when there)
Brought an outlet adapter to use electronic devices in Japan. (Perhaps you can buy them in Japan, but why risk it?) I have a universal one that covers 150+ countries.
Learned some common Japanese phrases to get around such as "hello," "goodbye," "please," "thank you," "how much", and "where is". Try an intro course for travelers to Japan! If you're in NYC, I did mine through Japan Society.
First stop, Tokyo!
We arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed despite our exhaustion after traveling for over 24 hours!
Needless to say, our first night in Tokyo, we absolutely had to see the famous Shibuya Crossing. TBH, coming from NYC, the Crossing dimmed in comparison, but this hindered not my excitement! We finished off the night with some ramen ordered via a ticket vending machine.
Tsukiji Fish Market
We awoke bright and early the next morning to go to the must-see Tsukiji Fish Market (Note that in 2018, it was updated, moved, and is now called Toyosu Fish Market). We all know sushi and ramen are Japanese staples, but have you had:
Otoro - most desirable, fatty part of tuna - very expensive outside of Japan. Here it was ~$4 and definitely lived up to the hype that I had no idea about until then!
Tamagoyaki - rolled omelet on a stick - comes savory or sweet! Obviously I tried sweet because where else would I get this?
Takoyaki - fried octopus balls that were, dare I say, AMAZE-BALLS!
While I'm here, I'll also hype up the McDonald's teriyaki burger (after this, I made it a mission to try McDonald's in every country I visit) and their KFC chicken (I was shook at how good this chicken was...but I also had not had KFC since Popeye's stole the spotlight).
Shrines and Temples
There are no shortages of temples and shrines in Tokyo. Walk down any street, and you can stumble upon one. Before approaching a shrine, you should purify yourself at a fountain through a very specific ritual called Chozu. We also visited Tokyo's oldest ancient Buddhist temple, Sensoji Temple.
When you see Tokyo Tower, it's easy to guess what inspired this architect. It is definitely a whimsical experience - even the elevator ride up was tricked out with an emcee and flashing lights and music. This was a nice spot to get a great view of Tokyo and pop into the One Piece installation that was there at the time (I'm no anime fiend, but I know it's a popular one).
And this was only the beginning, as we took off to our next city, Kyoto! More on that soon!
For more awesome photos and videos from this trip, visit my Japanese Excursion album!
Questions on my experience in Tokyo? Suggestions for when I return? Leave a comment! Please and thank you!!