Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Travel Diaries: Tokyo

Above: Exterior building of the Imperial Palace grounds.

Click through for photos and some rambling paragraphs about my trip!

I am going to apologize in advance for the less-than-stellar photo quality.  My phone was not ideal...especially with all those purple camera spots and consistent rain!

I flew Delta into Tokyo Narita Airport.  The flight was okay...I can never sleep on planes. Also, I dropped my phone midway through the flight and couldn't find it in the dark (and we were not allowed to open the windows so that they could simulated nighttime despite the daylight).  I figured I would just find it when they turned on the lights for couldn't get lost right? Wrong: The air vent next to my window seat was BENT open, and my phone fell into it.  It would have fallen completely into the bowels of the plane if not for my gigantic rubber fries case.

This was a family trip (with 11 total people!), and I met up with my two sisters/their husbands and my uncle at the airport.  We got our Rail Passes stamped so we could get our first reserved ticket to Tokyo Station. To anyone who visits Japan: I strongly recommend the rail pass if you plan on doing a lot of makes everything so much easier! Plus if you miss your train (like we missed our first train away from the airport) its not a big deal to get a replacement ticket.

In Tokyo we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Tokyo Station.  It was located really close to Tokyo station (5 minute walk), and was walking distance to the Ginza district and the Fish Market.  The rooms were small by American standards (as are all Japanese hotels), but they didn't feel cramped.  Also the staff was really nice!  I would also like to point out how much more advanced Japan's bathrooms are. Yea they have those fancy heated toilets with rainforest sound effects, but what really impressed me were the heated mirrors so that a portion would be unfogged after you step out of the shower. The future!

Being so close to Tokyo Station meant we could arrive early to get ramen-breakfast at Rokurinsha on Tokyo Ramen Street!  There is always a crazy line here, and even when we arrived at 7:10 am (it opens at 7:30), there were already people waiting.  They have multiple options, but when we ate there it was only original or 'with egg' available...possibly because it was morning?? not sure.

The line outside Rokurinsha in the morning.

It is tsukemen style (dipping ramen) and I had heard of this place via Mind of a Chef (on Netflix).  It was my personal favorite ramen of the trip, though not everyone agreed with me.  The broth is so rich and flavorful! The noodles are pretty thick, so I filled up pretty fast.  It is a struggle to eat an entire bowl of noodles!

There are a lot of things to do in Tokyo, I really wish I got to spend more days there. 
We did manage to hit a few of the big sights:

Considering how wet and rainy it was, there were still tons of people visiting the temple.  The smoke seen in the photo above is believed to bring good luck, health and beauty, so many visitors stop to wave smoke toward themselves.
The cherry blossoms were on the down-swing, especially with the rain, but they were still holding on in a lot of places!
Shinjo-Ji doesn't really have a 'garden' but the grounds do include this miniature waterfall!  


The Tokyo Marriott was right next to the Ginza district, so obviously we went to the Sanrio Flagship!  I was really sad to find out that my favorite character, Badtz Maru, has basically been removed from the Sanrio family :(.  I couldn't find that cool-guy penguin anywhere!  

 Instead there was a lot of my sister's favorite...this unmotivated egg she follows on Twitter. He's funny, but he's no Badtz Maru.
FYI the above Gudetama photo above is actually from the Tokyo Train Station, not SanrioWorld.

I have been wanting an Instax for a while now, and I am almost sad I passed on this Hello Kitty version:

Also in Ginza is Ippudo Ramen.  They have an amazing lunch special where you can order a bowl of ramen and get a side of gyoza for super cheap.  Totally worth it.  The noodles they use are very thin, and they put a lot of garlic in the broth, so it is completely unique from Rokurinsha.  This was the favorite of my brother and sister.  There is an Ippudo in New York as well!


Can't go to Tokyo without visiting the fish market.  We were not willing to wake up early enough for the tuna auctions, but it was still really vibrant and busy around 8:30 when we arrived.  There are an abundance of stands just outside the wholesale area, like the one below.  

They don't let you go into the warehouse/wholesale market until after 9 when the big auctions close, so we decided to get some sashimi first.  The most popular (and probably best) sashimi places have lines to wait in line, so we opted for a less-busy restaurant.  We were not disappointed.  The place was basically just a bar, and you had to slide along the wall to get to past seated customers.  They didn't have the greatest variety in fish, the sashimi was really good.  Their special offering was Nakaoti, which is the tuna meat that is scraped directly from the bone. It basically melts in your mouth.

Nakaoti is on the left.


Shibuya is home of the famous scramble crossing, and according to the tourist map, the heart of 'Cool Tokyo.'

My brother and his girlfriend Annie suggested we head over to Starbucks to get a better view of the crossing (they are both photographers). Other tourists had the same idea, so it was pretty crowded.  Also they keep the thermostat at like 85, making me wish I had gone for a cold drink despite the cold rain outside. Annie and I both squeezed between a pole and the window to take videos of the crossing.
A video posted by Whitney and Mallory (@readytwowear) on

My suggestion for anyone going, try the L'Occitane cafe on the other side of the street, it didn't look crowded and the view might still be pretty good!


We also took a small trip to the Imperial Palace Gardens, which is where I took that opening photo.  To get there, we walked through the train station to the historic train station side (which looks very European).  After that, its just a quick couple blocks to the gardens.  On the way they also have a pretty 'rest house' where you can stop and sit down if you like.

 The gardens are very pretty, but we didn't get to see the actual palace.  Entrance was free, so even so, it was worth it ;).  It was pretty wet, so none of my photos really turned out besides that top one!


I hope to go back soon, as I only got to do a fraction of what I wanted to see.  I would love to visit the design museum 21_21 Design Sight (my sister said this was really cool), as well as explore Harujuku, eat at a bunny cafe and go to Disneyland. Also maybe Tokyo Sky Tree. Until next time, Tokyo.

Stay tuned for my upcoming travel posts!


  1. Wow ! It looks like such an amazing trip! I hope to get there some day!
    and UGH!! That sucks about your phone, but at least it didn't fall all the way...that would not have been fun!

  2. Loved seeing it through your eyes! I think we missed each other there by like 2 weeks! It was seriously such an amazing city. We stayed right by Shibuya, we got to see the hustle & bustle of being there every day! You would like it!!