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downundergal Tokyo - A travel report by Kerrie
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Tokyo,  Japan - flag Japan -  Tðkyð
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downundergal's travel reports

Narita and Tokyo Taster

  16 votes
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This modern, exciting and dynamic city was crowded, frenetic and just buzzed with energy making us wish we had more time to explore more fully than our short stopover allowed.

Sony Square
Sony Square
An eclectic and exciting mix of old and new, crowded streetscapes, ancient temples and serene alleyways vie for space in and around newer and more towering high tech skyscrapers and neon lights. Tokyo is just a feast for the senses.

One of the first things that strikes you is the humanity. People, people everywhere, space is such a premium I found it hard to reconcile being in amongst just so many people.

As we had an early flight out we opted to stay at Narita town.
Narita Airport is the main gateway to Tokyo but what a lovely surprise Narita is a city in its own right and is worth spending some time exploring. The old town centre is made up of quiet streets lined with traditional shops and restaurants and also boasts one of the largest temple complexes in Japan.

Favourite spots:
Naritasan Pathway
Naritasan Pathway
In Narita:
Approaching the temple complex along Omotesando Street is really interesting. It is lined with shops selling traditional wares, souvenirs and restaurants displaying recreations of their menu in the shop fronts.

Naritasan Temple complex and park grounds are a delight to wander around in. The temple grounds dates back from around the late 700’s and hold many pagodas. Highlights include the newer Great Pagoda of Peace from the 1980’s,Shotokutashai Hall it's namesake being known as the father of Buddhism in Japan, the Three storied Pagoda and the Niomon Gate where there are four deities who ward off evil and a a huge bronze bell. There is also a large cemetery with traditional headstones set in amongst some ancient trees and one of the highlights is the large park with a peaceful lake. It was raining when we there so the woods were soft, beautiful and misty and it was so peaceful and serene.

What's really great:
Harajuku fashionistas
Harajuku fashionistas
In Tokyo
Harajuku – this is the place where the young crazy things come to be seen and pose. Amongst the very constraining customs and expectations of Japan these guys are true rebels. The crazier the better – they just love being asked to pose.

Ueno – this is an atmospheric grid of car free streets that are jam packed with restaurants, bars and shops.

Ginza – is the shopping district and is full of high end department stores with prices to match so bring the Gold card. On the lower underground levels there was a rabbit warren of small traditional eateries that offered some great food and really good value. Sony Building also located in Ginza – Playstation fans may be disappointed Sony has relocated it’s shrine of gaming so this is now level after level of new technology such as Ipods, cameras, phones and every new gizmo.

Imperial Palace – Built on the site of Edo Castle and home to the Japanese Royal family. We would have loved to visit inside but Fridays it's closed.

Omotesando Street
Omotesando Street
If you are using the subway system buy an all day pass that covers the return trip into Tokyo city and the loop around the central area found on the Yamanote Line. You can hop off and on as much as you want as many times as you wish so it turned out to be great value.
Make sure you know when the last train back to Narita leaves. This is only about 7.30 or 8 pm. We also found it confusing as there is more than one route to take you back so it makes it a little difficult to find. Most of the locals are more than happy to help. When we were having trouble finding the right platform a young woman went about three platforms out of her way to make sure that we ended up heading in the right direction.

Our hotel room
Our hotel room
We stayed at the Mercure Narita Hotel for access to an early flight.The rooms were small which is expected in Japan as space is such a premium. They were comfortable although bland.
The bathroom was something that I had never come across before, it was a fiberglass module that was totally seamless, small, a little claustrophobic but easy to maintain and keep clean. Safety deposit boxes were available next to the Reception and a buffet breakfast included.
There is an infrequent courtesy bus to the Hotel. In lieu of long wait we decided to take the train. That was an adventure. First we had to buy a ticket from the automated ticket dispenser, all in Japanese. After some head scratching a woman stopped to help and point us in the right direction to our platform. While on the train a nice gentleman who we christened “Mr. Sake” for his high level of inebriation decided to befriend us. He shepherded us in the pouring rain to the start of our street & bid us goodnight.

Sake Barrels
Sake Barrels
Because we were forewarned the last train departed about 8pm we opted to try Narita nightlife over Tokyo City. The local hangout seemed to be the Barge Inn (thanks, Mike). Cold beer and a lively atmosphere they also offered English pub grub and is a great filler after you have been walking all day.

Pachinko Parlour
Pachinko Parlour
If you pass what appears to be a fun parlour filled with adults and emanates a deafening noise you are looking at a Pachinko Hall. This is a quasi form of gambling as gambling is actually illegal. The game is a cross between a slot machine and pinball machine and played with steel ball bearings. These balls equate to a token that can be exchanged for prizes and although not legal but for cash also. The prerequisite hostess looking somewhat like a transplant from a Star Trek movie is normally standing at the entrance to try to entice you in.
If you take a look inside some of the players have baskets and baskets filled with ball bearings. But the noise!!! How they can stand it for any length of time as it is cacophonous

Other recommendations:
Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace
Wear comfortable shoes, there is lots of walking to be done especially when you know a taxi is going to cost the whole of your holiday budget.

We thought Tokyo was going to be really expensive but on the whole we were pleasantly surprised, OK it’s not cheap but at about a $100 for a double room, less than $20 per person for a return trip into Tokyo from Narita plus unlimited travel around the main city circuit for the day, lunch was less than $10 per head for a stir fry and potstickers at a local restaurant, a drink at the pub wasn’t that expensive so all in all it wasn’t so bad on the hip pocket.

Published on Thursday March 1th, 2007

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Tue, Mar 20 2007 - 12:03 AM rating by shalini_md

Very interesting and informative report. I liked the picture of Naritasan pathway.. it has a fairytale feeling:-)

Sat, Mar 17 2007 - 10:32 AM rating by tokyomike

Fantastic report, Kerrie! I've been living in Japan -- and quite close to Narita -- for 15 years, and I couldn't have said any of this better myself. I also think that for people on a very short stop over, basing out of Narita is the way to go. You mentioned a pub -- the Ship Inn. Are you sure you aren't talking about the Barge Inn? Anyway, in the last few years, there's been more to do at night in Narita, which is great. And with such an international community, you can also get some of the best Thai and other ethnic food in Japan as well! Finally, as you point out, if you can sort out a cheap place to stay, the actual stay in Japan can be quite cheap. Anyway, loved the report! Super well written, fun to read, and great pics!! Domo arigato gozaimasu. Mata kikai ga attara, nihon ni asobi ni kite kudasai :)

Sat, Mar 17 2007 - 05:52 AM rating by marianne

Wonnerful read, very complete,very informative. Beautiful photos especially the sake barrels nad the Pachinko parlour

Sat, Mar 10 2007 - 03:56 PM rating by eirekay

Kerrie, you have such a great style! Always terrific tips and great detail! I have wanted to go but stayed away because $$$ - your closing info has mae me change my mind!

Thu, Mar 01 2007 - 11:48 AM rating by travler

G'day I remember the bedroon at Narita but mine had twin beds.

Thu, Mar 01 2007 - 10:29 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Pleasant reading and 5 points for you, as usual.

Thu, Mar 01 2007 - 09:30 AM rating by trekkerman

i also found the subway system a little confusing, to get help we knocked on this hatch for help and i was in stitches as a man stuck his head out wearing a peak cap looking like a contestant from takeshi's castle game show. nice report, covered all the main places.

Thu, Mar 01 2007 - 05:24 AM rating by rangutan

Brief report for a major city but I like your cool flowing style and hot tips always! [4.4]

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