So I had a wonderful holiday in Tokyo. It was a bit more bustling with people than I would have liked, but otherwise it was amazing. (It was spring break, so many people from other parts of Japan were also in Tokyo.) Next time I will plan my trip outside of this spring break.
We arrived at Haneda Airport and collected a pocket wifi. I highly recommend ordering online before arriving to Japan. Some allow you to collect at the airport. It becomes a great help if you are navigating the roads and avoid getting lost. Some people may want to rent a mobile phone, but if you have pocket wifi, or have free wifi at your hotel, then I recommend using the LINE app to make phone calls. You just need to make sure that the other person also has the same app. I called back to London using this method. It also has a messaging function and I find it operates much faster than WhatsApp.
We had about 5 hours to kill before checking in to our apartment, so we made a trip to Tokyo Station. The good thing at this station is that there is a luggage storing facility ran by The JR East Service Centre, Marunouchi side. ¥500 or ¥600 per item. Left it there for a couple of hours. Very convenient if you don't want to drag your luggage around the area. When leaving the area, we catched a taxi to our apartment. You can find taxi stands by the Marunouchi side or the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station.
It is always useful to have the address of your destination. Taxi drivers in Tokyo seem to have a gprs system to enter in your destination. (They didn't have this when I went to Osaka...) For example Dai Ichi Hotel Ryogoku address is 1-6-1 Yokoami, Sumida, 130-0015. Give them the following information. Sumida-ku Yokoami ichi chōme Roku no ichi 墨田区 横網１丁目 6 の 1 (ku at the end of Sumida is just stating that it is a ward.) (the first number of the 3 numbers 1-6-1 is the chōme. So in this case ichi chōme meaning district one.) (then give the remaining numbers but remember to seperate them by saying 'no' 'の'. Otherwise they may think 61 instead of 6 and 1.) And no need to worry about giving the 7 digit number.
If you are only staying in Tokyo, I highly recommended purchasing a Suica or Pasmo card. You can by this at Haneda Airport by the Monorail gates. I lasted a week with about ¥5,000 cash on it. The amount required does depend where you are going to within Tokyo. You can of course put less and top up as and when you require. The cards are at first daunting, but trust me, it is so much more convenient than buying tickets each and everytime you want to travel on public transport.
So just to summarise the areas I went to in the order visited:
Sumida Park and Sumida River. It was peak time for the sakura blossoms. So very pretty and lively. Skytree can be seen as well.
Meiji Jingu Shrine. We were lucky to see the Tsukinami as well as a traditional Japanese wedding.
Harajuku, extremely busy even on the weekday. (Spring break I guess).
Omotesando, less busy than Harajuku, I recommend the Oriental Bazaar for some cool souvenirs. I manage to purchase a 'grow your own sakura pot' and 'grow your own momiji pot' from there.
Kotori Cafe, a short walk away from Omotesando. The cutest bird cafe where you can handle the tame birds (for a fee of course).
Shibuya. The crossing was ever so fun! (There was also a strange man who just jump out in front of me giving the 'thumbs up' and wanted to shake my hand... (O_O) I jumped out of the way and ran off...)
Ghibli Museum, which you need to book in advance outside of Japan. Absolutely magical and the exclusive short film they show was brilliant.
Kanda Myojin, impressive and beautiful with sakura petals falling around.
Akihabara, where I found rare Yugioh God cards.
Chidorigafuchi park, completely jammed packed with people. But very beautiful.
Asakusa, Sensoji Temple.
Skytree, unfortunately it was foggy so we couldn't see Fuji san. (T_T)
Ninja Akasaka, best to book online in advance. It is expensive, but the experience is priceless. Great food too.
Yanesen area, Nezu Jinja, Sakuradori in Yanaka Cemetery. Beautiful place to also see sakura blossoms. This area is lovely to walk around if you want to escape tall skyscrapers. There are many small temples and shrines scattered everywhere too.
Ginza, walking around on the weekend is great! Roads are closed for pedestrian only.
Shinjuku, crazy busy as expected.
The one week was a packed schedule and I had injured my sholders from carrying too much shopping. I'm very thankful for my friends in Tokyo helping me out and finding the time to come out to join in on our adventure.
I can't wait to go back again soon. Next year, maybe Sapporo.
Thank you Japanesepod101. Your lessons really helped me to communicate.
Ohoho, this sounded great! I can't wait till i go in July! Assuming you never really used your Japanese before you went to Tokyo, how did you find the conversations over there? Was it easy to pick up and reply back?
Depending on the simplicity of their questions, it's pretty easy to pick up on what people are saying. Obviously questions which are not the norm can be a bit baffling. For example when I was in the kotori cafe (bird cafe), they asked me how many tame birds I wanted to handle for my session, but I didn't understand that at all, to the point they just went ahead with the session and asked me if I wanted to hold a different bird. I only realised what they were asking about once I returned to London.
I found that listening to store clerks are generally harder than listening to friends speaking in Japanese. I was lucky enough to already have a couple of friends in Tokyo to practice proper conversational Japanese. When speaking to store clerks and people in the service industry, you really only get to respond with yes, no and thank you etc. So not really much of a conversation.
At first you may find it a bit hard to find the words to reply, i.e taking a bit of time to remember the correct words. But after a day it does get easier to reply. Just get the pronunciation correct and you'll be fine.
I went to Osaka last year and I can confirm that the language is easier to pick up in Tokyo. In Osaka they speak pretty fast, and I think they thought I was Japanese rather than a foreigner.
Hope you have a great time in Tokyo. If you have any other questions let me know and I may be able to help.