After a comfortable enough 4 hour flight where I watched The Office US on my Macbook for most of the journey, I landed in a very dark Tokyo Haneda Airport! It was 23:30 at night and all public transport had stopped. My original plan was to sleep in the airport until the transport started again around 5am. But when I told my mum this plan she got a little worried about me… so she went on a mission to find a hostel near the airport where I could crash after landing. And – as always – she managed to sort it out for me. She found a decent hostel not far from the airport – and bonus: it offered a free shuttle bus service after midnight! Perfect.
So after passing immigration I went outside of arrivals to look for the bus stop where I was told the shuttle would pick me up. There was another guy there asking the policeman questions looking around, so I asked him if he was waiting for the Beagle Hostel shuttle too and he said yes. He was a Danish flight attendant doing a little bit of travelling during his holidays.
The shuttle bus arrived and dropped us at the hostel. It was a sight for sore eyes I can say that much! A big, clean pod which a hugely comfy bed and TWO pillows! (This is very rare in hostels, usually you just get one very flat pillow). It had a little ledge inside the pod where you could put all your stuff, a plug socket with two usb charging points, a little mini usb fan and some little toiletries. It was the best place to crash after a flight, and after a very nice shower I settled down to sleep so I was ready for my first day of exploring Tokyo!
The next morning I had to transfer to my next pod hostel in Ikebukuro – Book and Bed. This was a unique hostel in that it is almost like a library and all of the beds are within bookcases! It was really cool.
The novelty soon wore off though when I was given a top bunk pod, and upon climbing into it I realised there was a load of insulation padding and stuff hanging down into my bunk, just covered with a black blanket. So there was hardly any room to move about or sit up. To get to the back of my pod I had to duck my head or commando crawl in. Not ideal! But hey, it was only for one night. Once I dropped my bags down, I headed out to the nearest JR East Centre to exchange my JR Pass voucher.
If you didn’t know, a JR Pass is basically a pass that foreign tourists can get which allows them unlimited travel on JR trains and buses within a set amount of time. I chose 14 days as this was how long I would be in Japan. The pass is quite pricey at around £300. But if you are travelling between cities using the Shinkansen (bullet trains) like I would be, it is well worth doing, as a bullet train ticket alone costs upwards of £50.
JR voucher exchanged, I jumped on the trains and headed straight for Shibuya. I was on a mission to see the famously chaotic yet organised Shibuya crossing. It essentially consists of a load of zebra crossings in all different directions where thousands of people cross at the same time. On my way there I went past the Hachiko dog statue so of course had to stop to take a quick photo. Hachiko would meet his owner Ueno every day at Shibuya station after he had finished work, until one day Ueno didn’t turn up – he had sadly passed away. Hachiko still continued to turn up to the station every single day precisely when the train was due for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days awaiting the return of Ueno. Hachiko became a national symbol of loyalty that all Japanese families should strive to achieve. Bitter sweet huh.
The Starbucks right by Shibuya crossing is a notoriously good spot to get a good view of the whole shabang, so I headed up there to find a seat and people watch the crossers!
I didn’t think it was actually as crazy as I had imagined, maybe it looks cooler if you go up to The Excel hotel and look down from there – I originally planned to do this but decided I couldn’t actually be bothered, and you’re also technically not supposed to go up there unless you’re a hotel guest!
Whilst in Starbucks I actually saw the real life Mario Karters whiz by the crossing. Yes, you read correctly. In Tokyo you can dress up as a Mario character and go real life Mario Karting on the roads. Amazing.
Once I had had my fair shair of crossing-watching I went on the hunt for the Disney store. I know I know, Disney again, I can’t help it! This Disney store is famous for it’s cute decor inside and out, and it was indeed very cute. It got me all excited for my upcoming trips to both Tokyo Disney Sea and Tokyo Disneyland!
At this point, I was knackered. I made the sensible decision to go back to the hostel and take a little nap before going for din dins in the evening. It was a lovely nap I enjoyed it immensely. And I was right – the nap perked me up and I was ready to go explore Memory Lane in Shinjuku and find some dinner!
Memory Lane is also known by two other names: “Piss Alley” and “Yakitori Alley”. The Yakitori comes from the fact that all of the little restaurants down the alleyway serve Yakitori, which is basically grilled chicken skewers. However, I only just recently realised after seeing another photo of Piss Alley, that where I went was not technically that Alley. I think it may have been the little street just before the alley. But at the time I thought it was the alley so that is where I ate! What an absolute tit. Wherever I was was still pretty cool though!
After scanning each restaurant’s menu briefly (and stumbling across some interesting dishes….)
I settled on one little restaurant. I was seated at the bench in front of a diddy little fishtank and handed a menu. I decided to go for – obviously – the Yakitori skewers, some prawn crackers and a beer to wash it all down. The food was YUM. There were 3 different varieties of chicken skewer: standard chicken, chicken meatball and pure chicken skin. All of them were gooood. The chicken skin wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked, it’s more like the chewy rubbery skin, but the grilled end bits were crunchy and pretty nice. The beer went down well too, it was my first proper drink in a while so it went quite quickly to my head, whoops!
Belly full and Shinjuku explored it was time to call it a night and head back to my bookshelf!