Day 68 in our trip and I must say that it was actually one of the coldest days we had in awhile ranging from 13-19°C.
Trying to travel around Tokyo without a JR Pass is different for me. We thought purchasing from the Tokyo Metropolitan Day Pass ¥760 from the JR ticket machine would cover all the lines but It did not. We learned it only covers JR trains and buses but not metro subway or Monorail (can add additional cost). Japan’s transit system is no joke. It’s amazing yet ever so confusing. We tried many forms of public transit (train, subway, bus & Monorail) that day but at a point, we ended up taking a taxi. The cost of a taxi however is way more than what the metro costs but it got us where we wanted to be earlier than public transit.
Another lesson learned – weekends are busy in Tokyo but we had to make it work since it was the best opportunity to meet up and hang with Bev’s friends and their kids.
First stop of the day – Nezu Shrine 根津神社. It is suppose to be a hidden gem and an alternative to Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari as it’s less trafficked and has it’s own row of orange tori gates (smaller scale). It was busy due to it being a weekend. You can pay ¥300 (cash only) to go through the azaleas garden but walking the tori gates is free.
We grabbed some little treats from the vendors near the end of the shrine before heading south quite a distance. I got Mini Castella cakes ¥500.
We booked tickets to Accidentally Wes Anderson at Warehouse Terrada ¥2000. Roughly 300 images from a rapidly growing community base via Instagram of real places around the world captured by many that seem reminisce of Wes Anderson films.
We wanted to have lunch at Tsujihan ZEITAKU DONつじ半 日本橋本店 (Kaisen-don – Seafood donburi topped with sashimi and when its half way eaten, ask for the broth to have a soupy base – 2 meals in 1) but the line wrapped in the front 3 times & the line kept going down the corner. I asked a person closer to the front and they said they have been waiting 2-2.5hrs so we left. We ate at Dengana Yaesuten 串かつ でんがな 八重洲店 which specializes in Osaka Kushikatsu – everything fried on skewers. I ordered the Kushikatsu meal ¥830 & Taka Wasa (wasabi octupus) ¥300.
While we were at lunch, Bev’s friend Ming-Yi plus his wife Jija & kids – Katie & Maddie came to meet us. They are from Toronto but moved to Japan during the Pandemic.
After lunch, we walked over to the JR East Travel Service Center Tokyo Station where we turned in our vouchers to receive our JR Passes which we activated for the following day so it would be valid until the very end of the trip as it’s strict on the dates and not based on time of day you activate. For eg, if you activated at 4PM, it would not be valid until the last day at 4PM but rather a blank day cutoff. We also reserved our first train to Yokohama.
The last time I got a JR Pass, I got a booklet & you would have to go up to an attendant to let you through the gate but now, you get your JR Pass is a ticket that goes into the ticket gate – just remember to grab it after going through. Also new, you can just goto a machine, scan your JR Passes QR code & reserve your seats at your convenience instead of going to someone and doing it at the gate. If you have a transfer or a reserved ticket, you input both into the ticket gate but at the end of the journey, only your JR Pass will come out.
After we got our JR Passes pre-activated, Bev & Eric left to go back to their hotel to get ready for a dinner with Ming-Yi & Jija so I continued exploring solo.
I made my way to Chidori-ga-fuchi 千鳥ヶ淵 – Kokyo Gaien National Garden & the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.
Walked my way to Akihabara. Visited a few Gachapon (capsule toy) dedicated stores & took some home. They vary from ¥300-500 from what I saw. I grabbed a little snack of Chigo Daifuku (Mochi with a Strawberry) from Taiyaki Kanda Daruma たいやき神田達磨 秋葉原店 ¥270.
Made my way up to Ameya Yokocho Market / Ameyoko – an open air shopping area beside Ueno Station.
Walked to Sumida River Bank to take in the views of the Skytree, the “flamme d’or (golden flame aka golden poop) of the Asahi Building (meant to be the burning heart of Asahi Beer) & the brightly lit bridge.
Wanted to goto Ichiran Ramen but that also had a line so I just continued walking. Made my way over to the Skytree. At the base, they had strung up a few hundred koinobori (Japanese carp streamers) in preparation for Children’s day on May 5th which is a national holiday and apart of Golden Week.
Eventually made my way back home and stopped at Yoshinoya for a cheapish tasty quick dinner. Got the Teppanyaki Beef Set meal ¥712.
JR PASS – Reserving tickets & Info
Reserving JR Shinkansen seats – individual/group. You can reserve one of your tickets at the desk where you got it activated. Otherwise, you can goto the Shinkansen ticket machines and reserve seats there if you want to reserve. You will need to know your passport number every time you reserve a ticket. At the machine, press english then bottom left will say JR Pass Rail. Then it will ask how many ppl you are travelling with. Click how many – this saves you time from individually trying to book the same train if booking for multiple people. Just make sure you know your departure location and arrival location – it will try to auto fill. Choose a timeframe and search. Many options will appear. Choose your timeframe then you can choose the car type and even see the seat map if you are reserving. You can book in advanced as well.
To use the JR lines/Shinkansen, you will need to insert your JR Pass into the gate. If you have reserved a seat, when you go through, put both your ticket and JR pass in together. The ticket for the ride will disappear after the ride is complete. REMEMBER TO GRAB YOUR JR PASS after going through the gate.
If you do decide to take the shinkansen bullet trains, those are the only trains you can technically eat on. make sure to leave some time to explore the station and grab an ekiben (meals that you can take onto the train to eat and they are usually made to highlight local regional ingredients.
There are reserved cars and unreserved. We opted for the Green Cars which offer rows of 2 seating which offers more space and quiet. Some of the cars offer smoking rooms because unfortunately the smoking culture is still prevalent. Car no. 10 has the smoking room for reserved.
The shinkansen goes at speeds of 300KM/HR.
First stop of the day was directly beside Shinjuku Station – Yasuyo Building designed by Nobumichi Akashi.
We made our way to TOHO cinema – Hotel Gracery to see the Godzilla head up close and personal. To get access to Godzilla up close – You need to enter the main lobby of the TOHO Cinema – Hotel Gracery then look for the elevator. Head to the 8th floor. You can go up top for free and it has exclusive Godzilla merchandise. It roars at certain times of the day (every hour from Noon-8PM). You definitely can’t miss it from down below on the streets as it peer’s over the edge of the building.
Back on the train to Shibuya Station. We had lunch at Togoshiya 戸越屋 渋谷道玄坂店 – they make incredibly fresh onigiri. I ordered the Onigiri combo B + egg yolk & seasoned ground meat ¥1090. Super fresh and the 1 large Onigiri is filling. Bev & Eric both got 3 small and my 1 equalled 2 of theirs.
We didn’t purchase tickets in advanced but found out the hard way that Shibuya Scramble tickets were sold out for the day. Also forgot its a weekend so it would be busy. It’s one of the spots to see Shibuya Crossing from above and was featured in Alice in Borderland.
We ended up getting a drink at the Starbucks Tsutaya which is on the second level and you can watch the Shibuya Crossing from a slightly elevated view for the price of a drink or snack.
Walked over to Miyashita Park – it is a cool park on a rooftop but also with a giant mall underneath. We didn’t really explore the mall but walked the rooftop – there’s even a skate park, a bouldering wall & a Starbucks. We met Ming-Yi, Jija & kids there briefly as they ate lunch.
We walked over to Harajuku. The weekend also featured Tokyo Pride and they had a more manageable parade/walk through the streets finishing off with festivities in Yoyogi Park.
Harajuku was packed. We walked down Takeshita Street and Cat Street (less busy). Bev bought some bags from Anello. Another attraction to see is Tokyu Plaza which is across the street from Anello which features the mirrored escalator but now a big sign blocks what would be a nice view. Eric went up to the rooftop garden.
Ming-Yi, Jija & kids joined us after lunch in Harajuku. The kids are balls of energy.
Ended the night going to a Baseball game at Meiji Jingu Stadium – Tokyo Yakult Swallows vs Tokyo Yomiuri Giants. Decently priced food & drinks, beer ladies with keg backpacks and each team has chants/songs – a very fun atmosphere.
I got a beer ¥800 & the Hideki Nagaoka Noriben dinner ¥1300. Dessert was a Custard pancake ¥300.
Tokyo – Yokohama – Nagoya, Japan
The train stations are busy in the mornings with everyone going to work. We scheduled our first Shinkansen (bullet train) heading to Shin-Yokohama from Tokyo Station for 927AM (we booked in advanced when we activated our JR Passes a few days prior). It was busy but apparently not as busy as if it was 6-8AM.
On trains, each stop has a number stop eg JH13, JH14. The number under those stops is the amount of minutes to get to that stop. So if you see 2,4,6 those are the minutes it will take.
At the train station, follow the signs for the shinkansen and when you get to the gate especially with a JR Pass, make sure to insert both tickets into the gate to get through (if you have reserved a seat on the Shinkansen). Remember to grab both tickets when you go through. Once you get to your destination, the reserved seat ticket won’t come out but remember to grab your JR Pass ticket back.
This day was spent going from Tokyo to Yokohama for a day trip and ending the night in Nagoya.
Yokohama was one of the first foreign trading ports since 1859.
We stored our luggage at Shin-Yokohama station in lockers for ¥500-700 for the day. A Medium locker held my duffle bag and backpack no problem. You can use your Pasmo/Suica Card to rent a locker and just need the card to unlock it at the end of use.
At Yokohama station, there is a building right beside called Asobuild. It’s a “easy access to entertainment building” and has food vendors. We got there for 10AM which Google says is when it opens but things didn’t look open and signs there said 11AM on weekdays.
Wanting to see more, we walked from Yokohama station towards the harbour area. We hopped on the Yokohama Air Cabin gondolas for a one way ride over the water ¥1000. The exit point brings you to World Porters Warehouse which was dangerous but in a good way. It has a giant Bandai Capsule Toy selection and I spent a good 30 minutes going through all the aisles and selecting only the best.
With my bag bulging with gachapon cases, we continued to the Yokohama Brick Warehouse, now a shopping & cultural centre. Bev & Eric got their shopping on and grabbed some chocolate and bags. Remember to carry your passport with you as there are loads of tax free savings you can benefit from when you shop. Just remember if the bag is sealed, it’s meant to stay closed until you leave the country. If you purchase loads of snacks and apply for tax free savings, it will be sealed and it’s meant to be consumed outside of the country.
Over to Chinatown. Every stand/restaurant was selling the same things basically – char siu melon pan, steamed buns, candied strawberries/grapes on sticks, chicken cutlets, pan fried Xiao long baos & bubble tea – a lot of what we saw in Nightmarkets in Taiwan. Dim sum and mapo tofu too.
Had lunch at Hong Kong Yum Cha Dynasty Tea House 香港飲茶 皇朝茶樓. I got Gomoku noodle soup & a mango pudding ¥1280.
Checked out 倭物や カヤ本店 that is a multi-floor shop full of souvenirs & clothing including Jika-tabi (toe shoes).
I also circled back when the line died down for melon char Siew Bao ¥550 and got what I thought would be a lotus seed paste steamed Bao ¥550 that turned out to be red bean (still good but not what I wanted).
Walked over to Miyashita Park and to the Gundam Factory for a peek at the animatronic Gundam (It is closing down end of March 2024). Walked the harbour a bit before heading to our final destination in Yokohama – Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum 新横浜ラーメン博物館 ¥380.
First floor features the history of ramen but the lower level is where all the actions at. It’s modelled after what looks like 1950’s era and houses famous ramen shops that cater to multiple regions throughout Japan so you can taste it all in one place. It’s multiple restaurants and you order and pay for your ramen via machines. You can choose between small or large (go small if you’d like to go try different regions).
We went with Rishiri Ramen Miraku from Hokkaido. I got the soy sauce mini ramen ¥650. Tempted to try another one but we ate so much in Chinatown we opted not to.
Back to the station we went to retrieve our bags and also try to catch an earlier shinkansen (1.5hr) to our destination for the night – Nagoya. I stayed at Lamp Light Books Hotel Nagoya.