I got to go home this summer for my cousin's wedding, but since it's a long flight that usually takes a layover or two, I decided to make it count and plan a long stopover on the way! I gave myself a little over 24 hours in Tokyo and got to see a bit of the city. I've been to Japan before and I know how expensive it can be, so I found a few things that I could do and spend as little money as possible. Between trains, accommodation, and food, I spent just over $100. Not too shabby!
First things first: exchange money and purchase caffeine.
Next, take the train into the city:
My first stop was Shibuya Crossing, known as the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world. All the traffic lights turn red at the same time and THE SCRAMBLE begins! It looks like someone stomped on an ant bed with all the people crossing and criss-crossing every which way. It's impressive to watch!
It also happens to have the worlds busiest Starbucks right on the corner, so I bought myself my second frappuccino of the day and settled into a window seat for some people-watching and book-reading.
I managed to figure out the subway system all by myself! ...aka with the help of another foreigner who noticed me staring blankly at the board and ticket machines. Seoul has the most foreigner-friendly subway in the world (or at least Asia), so I am spoiled. Tokyo's isn't too hard, once you use it once or twice.
That evening, I met up with two friends from Korea! Joel and Ciara used to go to my church in Gwangju before moving to Tokyo. I happened to catch them on their last week in Japan before they set off on their next grand adventure. I looooove having friends in all these different countries around the world. It's probably the best part about expat life. I have places to go and people to see once I get there! Love love love it.
Anyway, we had dinner and then walked to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where you can see a beautiful view of the city fo free!
We saw this adorable LOVE statue and I
We made it up to the tower and the night sky was beauuuutiful.
I really really like these people! Abundant fun, abundant good conversation.
And, of course, we got ice cream. Complete with Hello Kitty! Because Tokyo.
Ok, now here is the real reason I've wanted to go to Tokyo for so long:
It's a capsule hotel! I instagrammed this pic that night and it got a bit of attention! A lot of folks thought I was crazy and worried about the claustrophobia-factor, but it was actually pretty cool. Back in 2011, which I was student teaching in Houston, I taught a lesson on space efficiency as part of the cultural geography in East Asia. The images of capsule hotels in Tokyo (and other unique space-saving techniques) has always stuck with me! I was SO EXCITED to finally live out this bucket-list experience!!!
As you can see, it's pretty tight. Basically, you've got a mattress pad in a tiny corridor-space, but it felt a lot like staying in a hostel. Instead of a bunk bed, though, you're in a sleeping pod. Kinda like Star Trek or something.
They give you these awesome pajamas for the night:
Inside the pod, you've got a small TV, a shelf, a light, and an alarm clock. Once you're ready to call it a night, you shut your little screen door/shade at your feet and turn everything off with the switches by your head (built in to the shelf).
Bucket List dream achieved!!
And then, time for actual dreams to be achieved. Sleep mask on, earplugs in, lights out!
It was definitely an experience! Because you just have a shade drawn at your feet, you can still see light from the corridor *and* hear everyone walking through to their pods, and hear them talking to each other. I read reviews before I went, so I was prepared with the mask and earplugs, thank goodness.
I stayed at Shinjuku Kuyakushomae Capsule Hotel. It was perfect for one night, but I wouldn't stay there more than one night. For one thing, you have to be out of the hotel every day from 11 am - 4 pm, so they can clean, and you would have to move pods every night. It's great for a one-night layover or for business people who commute to the city and have late-night meetings and such, but I wouldn't recommend it for a longer trip. It was very convenient because of its location in the city center, a 5 minute walk from Shinjuku Station, and it's cheap (about $30 a night). There are separate men's and women's floors, but the women's floor is lame in comparison. The men have a sauna and common room. The women have a shower room and lockers for storage. Maybe some of the other capsule hotels are better for women. That would definitely be something to consider!
The next day I continued my One Short Day in Tokyo with a trip to Takeashitea Street. Takeashitea is famous for trendy Japanese fashion and hustle and bustle, as well as being hard to pronounce ;)
|Obligatory Zara in front of ZARA picture: I'm all over the world!|
Next I hit up Yoyogi Park and HEY TOKYO YOU DO PARKS WELL! Sunshine and trees and ponds and a dude on a bench playing a guitar and a group of students rehearsing a play... Such a lovely picnic spot!
My last venture for the day was Meiji Shrine. It seems like temples and shrines are losing their effect on me after seeing, oh, a couple hundred over the past few years. This one was nice, but nothing to write home about. I had a nice walk, took a few pictures, then made my way back to the subway.
After a solid layover, I hopped on my flight and headed to Texas to surprise my parents!! I *might* have told them I'd be spending 4 days in Japan, rather than just one. Hehehhe....