Day One looked a little like this:
5 A.M. : Wake up, breakfast, last minute packing (even so, I still forgot my hairbrush), taking out the rest of our trash.
6:15 A.M. : Boarded our train for Koriyama.
7:00 A.M.: Stopped at the Family Mart in Koriyama Station for some Cold Brew & Ritz Bitz Cheese Crackers.
7:40-ish A.M. : Our bus arrived and we spent four great hours on it. I can’t say enough about how pleasant our experience was taking the Highway Express bus to Tokyo. Taking the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) would have cost us around $400 (round-trip), but taking the bus saved us a TON of money. We ended up paying around $160 for both of us. The bus was really clean and we stopped twice for bathroom/drink/snack breaks. The seats were really comfortable with lots of leg room, each section had an outlet to charge your phone, and the bus was very, very quiet. I also have to say that Japanese rest stops are some of the nicest rest stops I’ve ever seen. At both rest stops we stopped at, there were nice (most likely expensive) sit down restaurants, and shops to buy omiyage. But I digress…
Here is a picture of us on the bus during one of our stops. We look really happy and not the least bit sweaty.
11:30ish: We arrived! Our first thoughts were: It’s really hot here. The temperature was in the 90’s with high humidity.
Because we couldn’t check into our AirBnB until 3 p.m., we had a lot of time to kill. We stopped at 7-11 for lunch, and then headed over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Tocho). Unfortunately we discovered that it’s closed on weekends, so we decided to walk towards the apartment, and stop at things along the way. As we walked, I felt like I was experiencing reverse culture shock. There were SO many people, bikers, and cars; after living in a rural Japanese town, surrounded by rice paddies – it was a bit strange to feel overwhelmed by the surplus of people.
Like most things in Japan, we had to wait in a long line to buy our tickets. You can reserve/purchase tickets to the Skytree Tembo Deck (the first observatory level) online, but the website is completely in Japanese and you must have a Japanese credit card to take advantage of this option. There is also the Express Ticket option that is available to foreigners, but it does cost extra. With the Express Ticket, you are able to go straight up to the Tembo Deck, and avoid the long, pesky line. Fortunately, we didn’t have any issues buying our tickets – they only sell a maximum of 10,000 tickets per day and on busier days, tickets sell out fairly early. We waited in line for about an hour, and were able to go up right away.
While we waited in line to go up to the top, I couldn’t help but marvel at the ceiling (blue). The ceiling in the elevator was pretty amazing too (gold). The elevators that take visitors up to the Tembo Deck are the fastest elevators in Japan, and take only about 50 seconds to reach the top (it goes about 600 meters/minute).
Our first stop was the Tembo Deck (350 m):
At this point, we were both a little sweaty.
On the Skytree Tembo Deck, there is the option to buy tickets to go up to the Tembo Galleria, which is the very top level (450 m). The tickets are $10, and definitely worth it for the views.
We were able to watch the sunset over the city. Even though it was hazy, it was still really beautiful:
From the outside, we were reminded of just how huge the building is.
Afterwards, we stopped at the Skytree Pokemon Center and then ventured out to find dinner. We ended up at Tucano’s Grill in Akihabara.
The restaurant itself was pretty small, and we had to wait a few minutes for seats, but it was definitely worth it. They had a lot of different and affordable options on the menu, and we both ended up ordering the grilled chicken and pork plate. The service was fast and the food was delicious.
From the restaurant we explored the Akihabara district, and came across what turned out to be a Gamer’s/Anime Lover’s heaven. Most of the stores sold cards/figurines/gaming paraphernalia, and there were a few cafes that were styled after popular anime – like the Gundam Cafe. We also passed a few girls in costumes handing out coupons for local maid cafes.
Tokyo Skytree: The views (even with the haze) were amazing, and the sunset was beautiful. On clear days, you can get a clear shot of Mt. Fuji. I would definitely recommend visiting – all together, with the Tembo Deck and the Tembo Galleria, tickets were $30/person. While tickets do sell out fast on busier days, I would recommend going later in the day, just to see the sunset.
Pokemon Center: I feel almost like an imposter writing about the Pokemon Center. I didn’t grow up playing or watching Pokemon, and even now with the new Pokemon GO craze, I still can’t get into it. I did, however, appreciate the cute Pikachu hats and plush dolls. If you are nothing like me and are passionate about Pokemon, I’d say GO! GO and revel in this Pokemon heaven. There are also ten other Pokemon Centers throughout Japan that you can visit.
Tucano’s Grill: While this wasn’t technically a Japanese restaurant, it still had a Japanese spin to it (bean sprouts and corn were included with the meat), and the food was undeniably delicious. If you find yourself in Akihabara, and are tired of Ramen or Sushi, I would definitely recommend Tucano’s. We did end up sitting at the bar, but they have table seating as well.
Akihabara: Like the Pokemon Center, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I might have if I actually liked anime or gaming. It was exciting to see all of the lights and of course, tourists. So many tourists…
Overall, I would have to say that Day 1 was a success. Remember to follow us along on Instagram as well! 🙂