Louise and Rob: Day One

We wake up after barely sleeping at all, Rob is anxious and excited as this is his first flight, and Louise is really nervous and excited because, well just because we’re finally going to Japan!


Bento is a single-portion meal that can be either homemade or takeout. Basically it's a pack-up, but Japanese style.

Louise and Rob: Day Two

We wake up jetlagged, but pleased we didn’t draw the blinds, the view is still amazing, and we can watch ant-sized Japanese people rushing to work while we feast on Milk Pocky, Koala’s March biscuits and odd textured buns masquerading as donuts, all washed down with cold coffee and grape Fanta.

Train Stations

No doubt you've heard all about Tokyo train stations. The horror stories of how busy they are, how confusing the maps are, how people get pushed onto rush hour trains. Forget all of your preconceptions - Tokyo has possibly the most efficient train station in the world

Louise and Rob: Day Three

We wake up super early again – a combination of jet lag and excitement, we’re going to Ueno Zoo today! This is one of the things we planned immediately when we decided to go to Tokyo, so we’re really looking forward to it, particularly because this will be the first time either of us have ever seen a panda.


Asakusa (浅草) is a district in Taitō, most famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple. Asakusa is Tokyo's oldest geisha district and a former entertainment district. Asakusa's main attractions are a number of shrines and temples, including the Sensō-ji, a small carnival complex called Hanayashiki and traditional activities such as river cruises and rickshaw rides.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Louise: Day Two

I wake up feeling terrible - I have a super-strength mutant type of cold that's making my head gooey and my stomach turn, and it's making me feel homesick and tired. But, I'm in Tokyo, and I'm determined not to waste the day. I pluck up the courage to attempt the 15-minute walk to the train station, despite the fact it's baking hot, a confusing route and I feel mildly like I'm dying.

photo by Tradewinds
I get really lost amongst the elevated walkways and alleyways and eventually give in and use my basic Japanese language skills to ask for directions. A kind man not only gives me directions, but walks me to the station when he notices my blank, sick-looking face. I was literally about 20 steps away, but the overpasses makes everything so confusing.

I'm thrown by being lost, and feeling increasingly homesick, so I decide to head somewhere familiar and set out for Shinjuku to tread the same area that I stayed in 2008. I take the train to Ueno before joining the Yamanote line, and feel a massive lump rise in my throat when I hear the familiar station jingles. I miss Rob so much.

photo by destination360

I wander around Kabukicho, and feel comforted by the familiarity of the area, but also a little more homesick for being alone. I manage to find the 7-11 and withdraw some money from the cash machine, which plays me a friendly little tune, before presenting me with my money in a magician-like flourish.

I play in a few arcades, but the games are much harder than I remembered, and everything I do seems to remind me that Rob is many miles away, and I haven't seen him in three months. It feels wrong to be here without him. I head to the 100 Yen store in the Shinjuku Prince hotel, but being in lobby and lift of the hotel I stayed in with Rob is agony. I make a concious decision to spend lots of money to cheer myself up, and then to avoid areas that 'belong' to me and Rob.

After buying a months worth of ramune-flavoured sweets, lemon juice and Pocky, I eat dinner in a rough-and-ready counter restaurant among tired-looking businessmen. I eat greasy, but delicious gyoza and hot, salty edamame.

It's starting to get dark and my head is throbbing, and Tokyo feels like the loneliest place in the world at this moment in time. I head back to Minami-Senju station, I then get epically lost trying to find my hostel and resort to hailing a Batman-taxi again, which costs me 710JPY (about £5) on a 5 minute taxi ride. GRR.

I go to bed feeling sad and tired. Surely tomorrow will be better...

Monday, 28 May 2012

Louise: Day One

Today is the day! I'm returning to Tokyo! Although, this time I'm missing something vital - Rob. I've been volunteering in Thailand for just over two months, and I decided to round off my trip by returning to my home-away-from-home. I'm pretty nervous about heading there all by myself, but I'm certain I'll find my feet and there's nowhere I'd rather be going that Tokyo.

I fly via Taipei and almost die of thirst, because 1. it's blazing hot in Taipei and 2. nowhere in Taipei airport will accept British pounds, Thai baht or Japanese yen, and as I'm only going to be spending a few hours in Taiwan I didn't think it would be worth buying any currency. Oh, how wrong I was.

I'm also pretty annoyed, because my digital camera gave up working in Phuket, so I have absolutely no camera to take pictures with in Tokyo. GRR. Still, stay calm and carry on. Tokyo awaits!

I land in Tokyo in the evening, pass immigration quickly, withdraw some money and head out into the hot Tokyo air via the Keisei Line. I change to the Joban line in Ueno, to help me reach Minami-enju - the closest station to my hostel in Asakusa. When I arrive at the station it's really dark, and I'm wary of a heavy suitcase and a 15 minute walk to my hostel (which is Japan is considered REALLY far), so I hail a taxi. The white-gloved driver, fake flower decorations and magically open doors make me feel a bit like Batman, but sadly Batman with a cold. My head is full of gunk, so I don't manage to follow the route to the hostel (and will regret this later, when I get epically lost about five times).

I get to my hostel, (I stayed at Hostel Fukudaya - which I really, really do recommend. It's a bit ragged around the edges, but offers air conditioning, tatami floors and a really comfy futon for a really good price) and check into my room. I thrilled to be staying in a room with tatami mats and a big, fluffy futon. I feel like I'm dying of exhaustion, heat and head-goo. So I climb into my womb-like futon and fall asleep with the TV showing a terrible gameshow, the aircon quietly buzzing and the sweet smell of tatami floating in the air.

Louise and Rob: Day Ten

Today is our final day in Tokyo, so Louise begs Rob to add the Moomin Cafe into our itinerary once again, to which he agrees upon remembering how nice (and huge) the cakes are there. We also decide to head to Meiji Jingu in Harajuku.The day is boiling hot, so it seems like a good idea to wander around the leafy shrine gardens.

We sadly take the Yamanote line for what we know will be one of our last ever train rides in Tokyo and jump off a Harajuku. As soon as we begin to approach the park we notice buskers, cosplayers and people hawking art and music. We stop and buy a pair of paintings for about £7, before heading to the cool, shaded cafe standing to the entrance of the shrine. We refuel with chilled oolong tea and icecream and enjoy some people-watching before beginning the lovely shady walk to the shrine.

A lot of the wooded areas in Japan are so reminiscent of the scenery in Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke we half expect to see a kodama sitting amongst the bushes. We snap the obligatory pictures of sake bottles and the gigantic torii, and carry in tripping happily down the sun-dappled path to the shrine.

The shrine itself is beautiful, with lots of dark wood, gold and white - but it's baking hot in the courtyard, and the sun bleaches out most of the pictures - so we have a quick wander around before retreating to the cooler and less crowded gardens.

We pay around £6 to enter the shrine gardens, but are sadly told that we cannot visit Kiyomasa's Well, a powerful healing spot, as there is a problem with it that the ticket sellers limited English, and our even more limited Japanese can't quite translate. But the entry fee is still great value as the gardens are stunning.

We spend a long time sitting on a wooden platform over a greeny-brown pond full of golden, red, white and black koi swimming lazily around, and great big, blocky turtles gently drifting. We spot a kingfisher in the distance and bask in the sun while enjoying the peacefulness of nature. We both feel an overwhelming sadness about leaving Tokyo, but it's hard to feel sad in such beautiful surroundings.

We wander through beautiful sun-streaked paths of broad-leafed trees, stout bushes and the gentle sounds of a stream trickling. The irises aren't flowering, but there are signs of life in them, and big, black crows hop along the floor, crackling in the twigs. We spend hours in the gardens, before emerging to a sunny, and busy gift shop, where we pick up some incense and some ice cream from a vending machine. Our adventure is almost over.

We end our day in Korakuen's  Moomin Cafe with sweet non-alcoholic cocktails, before picking up a few Moomin souvenirs and some pumpkin-filled bread from the adjoining bakery to serve as breakfast the following day.

And then we say our goodbyes as we prepare for the long flight home.

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