Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review of some of Tokyo's famous places

So about a month or two ago, November 2017 to be exact, I had the opportunity to visit Tokyo. It was more of a work trip actually, but I had a little time to spare (around a day) and since it was my first time in this famous place, I decided to go on a little solo sightseeing.

Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world, so finding the idea places to go can be quite intimidating. I combed through several travel blogs, Trip Advisor and Google Maps to figure out which place to go, and after much deliberation, these are the places that I visited. And I must say I am quite happy with the choices.

They are ranked from the must see to the don't see also okay.


1. Tsukiji Fish Market - 5/5


Review: Absolutely loved the experience here, where you can eat fresh live oysters for only 400 to 500 yen, or sample an assortment of other seafood like grilled squid and even crab, all freshly caught. There are also a whole loads of sushi restaurants and cafes, all at an affordable price, where you can try the food Japan is famous for.

Highly recommend to visit for breakfast or lunch (they're closed from 2pm onward). And there you can also shop for souvenirs here as well. My top spot for must-do in Tokyo.

Pro-tip: You don't have to go into the actual market to see the fishes (unless you want to catch the tuna auction) because the nearby outer market - with a collection of different sushi stalls, souvenir shops and fish stores - are more than enough to give you a taste of the awesomeness that is Tsukiji Fish Market.


2. Meiji Jingu Shrine - 5/5


Review: This is easily another of my top tourist attractions in Tokyo, despite me not being able to visit the main temple building due to renovation works. The entire area housing the shrine is huge, where guests need to walk past tall forest trees and gravel roads before reaching the shrine.

The entire area does not feel like the metropolitan Tokyo at all, with it being surrounded by nature. It felt like I was out in the countryside. Really enjoyed the serene and peaceful vibe given off by this place, as well as the fresh air. A good break from the hectic atmosphere of Tokyo where you can just stroll leisurely and admire the nature and historical building.

Just make sure to bring water, some snacks and dress comfortably as there is quite a bit of walking involved.


3. The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace - 4/5


Review: Visited this garden in autumn, which is located just next to the Imperial Palace. The garden itself is incredibly vast, with different sections and remnants from the Edo period. Took me almost two hours to cover the entire garden. Unlike the Imperial Palace that needs a registered guided tour, this garden is open to the public for free, you just have to let guards check your bag and take a visitor pass.

Quite a relaxing place to just walk and relax away from the busy life of Tokyo, admiring the scenery and just people watching. The entire place is serene and quiet, perfect if you enjoy the nature and want to take a step back into history. Imagine the place to look very different according to the seasons. Overall would recommend the place to soak in the Japanese air and nature. Just bring a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated.


4. Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street - 4/5


Review: These two places go together because they're just right next to each other in the Asakusa area. If this is your first time in Japan and you have never visited any Buddhist temples in Japan before, it is a very atmospheric place to experience what the traditional Japanese culture is like.

But if you're like me who have visited different Japanese temples and shrines before, Senso-ji is just like any other temple, albeit a little smaller and not that impressive. There is only one main temple building and garden that is accessible to the public.

The gates make for a good photo op and the shopping street is a good place to buy souvenirs, but otherwise nothing else really stands out. Would highly recommend the Meiji Shrine near Shinjuku instead if you're looking for religious sites and have limited time.


5. Other places

If you still have time, you can consider visiting well-known areas such as Shibuya, Akihabara and Shinjuku, though these places are like an entire area consisting of many shops for shopping, sightseeing or just to soak in the Tokyo atmosphere, rather than a specific place to visit.

The famous hachiko statue and intersection crossing is at Shibuya, though other than that there is not much to see. Akihabara is more for the otaku shopping places while Shinjuku is more for couple or family visit.

Of course, this post is incredibly short and does not cover all of the places in Tokyo like Disneyland or Odaiba, but should be enough if you only have a day or two to spare.


6. Pro-tips when traveling solo in Tokyo


  • The public transport in Tokyo can bring you to almost anywhere you want, though I recommend sticking strictly to the metro and train if you cannot read Japanese. Navigating the bus routes can be quite challenging
  • Buy yourself a Pasmo or Suica card at any train or metro stations. The two electronic cards (which is similar to Ez-Link cards in Singapore) allows you access to almost all public transport modes in Tokyo, and you can use it to purchase things from vending machines too!
  • Get yourself data connection on your phone. Carry a wifi router or buy a SIM card from the airport. Having Google Maps access while on the go helps tremendously
  • Carry a bag or plastic bag around for your trash. Japanese people are extremely clean and all their trash cans are well sorted. If you're confused of where to throw your trash, just keep them all and throw them when you're back in your hotel. If not, try to minimise buying things that generate trash.
  • Lastly, don't be shy! If you need any help, be sure to ask. Japanese people are more than happy to help, even if all you can do is point around and make gestures. I ordered my food several times just by pointing. 
  • PSA: Just don't be a Paul Logan.


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