Hi everyone! I just got back from my long-awaited summer-ender trip. I must say that it is, by far, my best trip out of the country. And if the situation was different, I would have gladly stayed longer.
You see, a few months ago, my dad went to a travel expo and got us tickets to Japan. This was really sudden because back then, we all did not have our visas so we were pressured to get one. I would like to thank the parents of my friend, Janine, for making the necessary arrangements to get our documents to the Japanese embassy. Luckily, all of us were given multiple-entry visas and all that was left to do was to plan the itinerary!
In this entry, I will tell you all about my four nights and four days stay in Tokyo, Japan.
[Disclaimer: Long blog entry and image-heavy post ahead]
My family and I left Manila around 2:25PM via Japan Airlines. It was such a nice and spacious aircraft that offers free use of a pillow and blanket. What’s nicer is that I was also able to score my favourite seat – the window seat. During the trip, I managed to watch “The Town” and an episode of “Just for Laughs” before I took a nap. After a while, we were given our respective meals which included salad, rice and a viand, noodles, fruits, rice crackers, juice, water and ice cream.
The aircraft rose higher than the usual airbus giving me a spectacular view of the horizon just before sunset. It was not long after when the city lights of Japan came to view. Seeing this made me very, very, VERY excited! We landed at Narita International Airport at around 6:35PM, a total of four hours and ten minutes of travel.
Here we go Tokyo, Japan!
From the airport, we were fetched by my uncle and my baby cousin (who I mentioned in my old post last February). We all took the “Skyliner Express” train from the airport to Nishi-Kawaguchi where my other cousin lives and where we were going to stay for the entire trip. It was convenient because the train station is just a short 5-min walk from my cousin’s apartment. After putting down our things, we immediately headed out to eat at a nearby ramen place.
Note (a): the Japanese standard time is ahead by one-hour from the Philippine standard time
The ramen place is like those I see in shows and experiencing it firsthand really made me giddy! What I did not expect though is the way they order the ramen. The store has this vendo-like machine where we dropped our money and pressed what kind of ramen we wanted. Afterwards, the machine ejected a piece of paper with the details of the order which we then gave to the cook to prepare. The taste of ramen in Japan is really different from here in the Philippines – it’s richer, tastier, better!
After we got our fix of ramen, our cousin brought us to a famous store in Japan, Don Quixote (or Donqui for short). This is like a convenience/discount store that has almost everything ranging from food, make-up, electronics, clothing, house wares, etc. It was overwhelming to see all the things the store offered because Japanese discounts stores in the Philippines such as Daiso, are nowhere near those kinds of stores in Japan.
We ended up not buying anything so we returned to my cousin’s apartment to finally get some rest. Imagine my excitement when I found out that we were going to sleep in a futon! I can’t really explain how immensely happy I become when I get to experience the things I see in the shows I watch.
(Will use Japanese standard time from here on)
We left my cousin’s apartment at around 8:30AM and headed for Shibuya. Here, we visited the famous statue of Hachiko (an Akita that always waited for its owner at the train station until it died and is therefore known for its loyalty).
Note (b): The Japanese are used to walking so when in Japan, be prepared to do a lot, and I mean it, of walking
We also passed by Shibuya crossing which is also famous for having a lot of pedestrians from all directions of Shibuya.
My cousin directed us to “Loft” which is like a department store and bookstore in one. In here, I found pen-heaven! Did I mention my love for Pilot 0.3 pens? If not, then let me tell you that I am a sucker for those. Unfortunately, the store doesn’t sell the set of Pilot Hi-Tec C Maica 0.3 pens that I was looking for and they only sell it by piece so I had to get one of each color instead. And as if the pens I got weren’t enough, I also bought myself the Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto 0.3 pen body and its 10-pack refill. I know I bought so much but I only did so because those pens are not available anywhere in the Philippines.
We then walked to Takeshita Street which is said to be quite famous as well. There are so many shops along the street and we decided to drop by Daiso. It was a big store with five floors! Again, I was so overwhelmed because the Daiso stores in the Philippines are quite small as compared to the legitimate ones in Japan.
After a little bit of shopping, we then walked to Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine) which is said to be a shrine dedicated to the “defiled” spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. Abundant trees surround the way going to the shrine which made it even more beautiful. Sadly, my parents were already tired from all the walking so we had to go back even before we reached the shrine. By 2:30PM, we all decided to go our separate ways (my parents and uncle & my cousin, sister and I) and just meet back at the apartment because we still wanted to explore and our parents wanted to relax. From Shibuya, we rode the train going to Ikebukuro where Sunshine City is located.
Before heading to Sunshine City, we all ate lunch at a small store along Ikebukuro. We all ordered Japanese curry and let me say this again, the “authentic” Japanese curry is way better than the Japanese curry here in the Philippines.
Our real purpose in Sunshine City is no other than the Pokemon Center where all the Pokemon merchandises are located! Again, I got extremely giddy and without hesitation, I bought things to bring home to my friends.
After our visit to Sunshine City, we went to one of the largest anime stores in Ikebukuro, Animate, which is nine floors high. Here, I also bought anime goodies to bring back home to my friends. Because it was getting late and our feet were getting tired, we all decided to go back to my cousin’s apartment.
My cousin wanted to cook dinner for us so as soon as we got back to his apartment, we put our stuff down and biked to the nearest grocery store.
Note (c): Aside from being used to walking, the Japanese are also used to biking
My cousin cooked steamed pink salmon in a magical sauce – I’m saying magical because it was a taste that was new to me and it was really yummy!
We left the apartment at around 8:10AM and headed to the famous Tokyo Skytree – an observation tower that stands at 634 meters. It was drizzling that day so we each had to bring one umbrella.
Note (d): Umbrellas in Japanese households are so abundant that losing one, two or even three is not a big deal The ticket to the Skytree is a bit expensive at Y2,060 per person. We rode the elevator going up to the 350th floor at 600m/min so we got to the top in less than a minute. Amazing! Since it was raining, the view from the top was not as clear; nonetheless, we took our time to observe Tokyo from all sides of the tower.
Because we were not able to finish the road to Meiji Jingu, my cousin suggested that we go to another famous temple in Asakusa, Senso-ji. Surrounding the temple are different kinds of stalls for food, merchandises, etc. It was the kind of temple I see in shows too (i.e. Sailormoon – Sailor Mars’ home). I regret not being able to buy a fortune from the temple and not being able to ring the “bell” and clap my hands (although I did not see a bell anywhere).
Of course, a trip in Japan wouldn’t be complete without a side trip to Akihabara, the place to satisfy electrical gadget needs, Otaku cravings maid cafe curiosities. We did not enter an anime store anymore because we already bought anime stuff in Ikebukuro the previous day. Instead, we accompanied our parents to the electrical gadgets part of Akihabara before finally going to a maid cafe. We did not expect it to be very expensive at a minimum of Y1,500 per person so we did not push through with it. I enjoyed hearing the “maid” call my sister “princess” though.
It was just 3:00PM and we still had a lot of time in our hands to explore so we headed to Odaiba, a large artificial island where the famous life-sized Gundam is located. To get here, we rode the subway train. The island is not crowded with buildings and is very spacious with a lot of flowers and trees, making it very nice to look at. We first went to “Palette Town” where we found outlet stores of different brands. Even though they were outlet stores, the price range were still a bit high and my dad was the only one who bought from there.
After looking at the outlet stores, it was time to visit the life-sized Gundam! We immediately headed to where it was and it got me excited for my brother who is fond of gundams. The RX-78-2 Gundam stands at a height of 18m and is in front of the Tokyo Driver City Plaza. We all took photos with it before entering the plaza for more shopping.
The plaza was where I found my shopping heaven. Almost all the brands were on sale up to 50% off. I decided to shop in Uniqlo and H&M and I was surprised to find really good clothing at really affordable prices. Score! I bought clothing for myself and for my friends as well.
Satisfied with all the goodies we got, we headed back to my cousin’s apartment to freshen up before heading to dinner.
This probably was the best dinner of the trip because it was an “eat-all-you-can” shabu-shabu! Now, I only had shabu-shabu once or twice in the Philippines so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into in Japan. However, Japan’s shabu-shabu is a bit different. We were presented with three kinds of dips (soy sauce-based, sesame/mayo-based, raw egg) for the thinly sliced meat (pork and beef) which we can cook in either plain, hot water or sukiyaki. The raw egg sauce is good for the beef that is cooked in sukiyaki and not in plain, hot water. And because it was eat-all-you-can, we kept on ordering meat; first both pork and beef until eventually, we ordered purely beef. It was really good that I forgot how many carts we finished!
We had several desserts as well such as the green tea cake and the traditional Japanese dessert (I forgot what it was called but it was a sticky dessert much like mochi). We got back to the apartment at around 11:00PM already.
We were supposed to go to Tokyo Disneyland on this day. However, my parents did not want to do so much walking anymore so we had to cancel (That means I really have to go back to Japan for Disneyland yaay). This pretty much became the free day for us to do anything that we wanted.
My friend also flew to Tokyo that same week so we decided to meet up in Akihabara. Since my cousin and uncle were unavailable to accompany us due to their previous engagement, my sister and I decided to go to Akihabara by ourselves.
Note (e): There are a lot of train lines in Japan so it is possible to get lost. However, there is a website that functions as a guide that will tell which train lines to take from point A to point B, the schedule of the trains, etc. When taking the train from one point in Japan to another, do not forget to first visit: http://www.hyperdia.com/en/
I am really proud that we were able to go to Akihabara by ourselves although it was just one train ride away. Lol. We waited for my friend, Sassy, in front of the famous Gundam Cafe which is situated just outside the train station. When my friend finally arrived, we went to Animate store where she bought her otaku goodies.
My sister and I then went to Donqui in Akihabara to buy more goodies for our friends. It was fun buying goodies for our friends but it was not fun paying for them. Lol.
We proceeded to have lunch in Gundam Cafe before finally returning to my cousin’s apartment to fix our luggage. It was not long after that my cousin arrived with his two cute sons (my nephews) who only speak Nihonggo. Luckily, I took a semester of basic Japanese class so I was able to talk to them a little. They were such adorable and sweet boys that I wished I could speak fluent Nihonggo so I could converse with them more.
My aunt cooked dinner for us and we all ate at my cousin’s apartment. After dinner, my dad requested that we go to the Donqui nearby so he can buy his chocolates. It was fun to walk around the neighborhood with such sweet kids who held onto my hand for almost the entire walk.
I spent the night playing with my niece and nephews who I probably won’t see until I go back some time next year.
This was it. I did not want to leave Japan just yet but we had to. Our cousin and one of my nephews took us to the train station. We did not take the Skyliner train but took the local train straight to the airport. It took us an hour and ten minutes to get to the airport, just an hour and a half before our scheduled flight back to Manila. Nonetheless, we made it.
Note (f): Thankfully there are no bag inspections in any train stations in Japan so during our whole stay, we were not troubled with any inspections. The train fares are a bit expensive though. The cheapest is at Y140 (Php51)
This time around, none of us were seated in any window seat. As a matter of fact, we were all in different rows and I was seated in between two Japanese men. The flight back had a lot of turbulence but I was able to sleep nonetheless.
We landed in Manila at around 1:30PM and as soon as I got out of the airport and felt the heat in my skin, I uttered the words, “I’m back, Manila.”
Here is a short video summarizing some of our adventures in Tokyo:
Thank you to my uncle, tito Anton, for taking your time off from work to accompany us on our trip and letting us borrow your pocket WiFi.
Thank you to my cousin, kuya C-Jay, for welcoming us in your apartment, letting me use your computer and treating us to a lot of food!
Thank you to my aunt, tita Grace, for preparing delicious meals for us.
Thank you to my niece and nephews, Narumi, Ren and Niel, for entertaining us and teaching my parents the word: Yada!
I will be back for sure.
This has got to be one of the best summers of my life by far. I went to many escapades and spent a lot of money. But even though travelling left me financially “broke”, it made me rich in experiences and memories at the same time. All my trips have been nothing short of amazing and they helped me feel more positive about life. And I honestly think that my perspectives in many things have changed ever since I started travelling and I have no intent of stopping any time soon. I’m more than happy to be a travel buddy.
A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions
Thank you to my friends who invited me to join their summer escapades and to their friends who gave me a warm welcome and are now my friends too. Lastly, thank you to my friends who were always up for an adventure whenever I felt like going somewhere.
I will always say yes to new adventures.
Thank you for reading this long, summer-ender blog post!