Our trip to Tokyo was one of our most ambitious trips yet!
For starters, we had absolutely no plans to actually go to Tokyo when we first headed out this way – we actually were only ever meant to go to Seoul.
As with any good travel plan, after a few glasses of wine with friends, 6 of us who would be heading out on the trip, decided to throw Tokyo into the mix (the hunger/lust for Tokyo was strong).
Before you knew it, places like Bilbao and Beijing also go thrown in the mix too (between 6 of us, we went to all of these!). Long story short – after a few days in Seoul, Bilbao and Beijing – we all headed out to Tokyo, making our way straight to the Ginza area where we would be staying for the next few days.
Between the jetlag, early flights and schlep to the hotel (swiftly followed by showering, snacking and general prepping to go out to explore Tokyo), we were all pretty knackered and there was nothing for it than a couple of cocktails at the rooftop bar of our hotel to perk us up and get us ready to head out exploring.
With friends though, cocktail hour seems to last longer than it should and by the time we headed out of the hotel
Now, why did I say this was an ambitious trip? Well, we’d only set aside 3 days (well actually, 4 days and 3 nights) to see Tokyo. Thing is, Tokyo is a HUGE city. Trying to “see and do it all” in that space of time would be more than challenging but hey, we were here to have fun not to tick lists so we didn’t think much of it when we decided to visit.
Eventually, we ventured out of our hotel, fumbled for ages trying to figure out how to a.) get cash (this was the easier one) and b.) buy tickets for the trains (this one took so much longer than I really should admit; especially when you consider the fact that there were 6 of us – 😀 ).
Eventually, we sorted our selves out and headed straight to Shibuya Crossing – one spot I just knew we’d have to visit as soon as we arrived in Tokyo!
Even though we’d been in the city for a few hours already and had travelled by train from the airport, you couldn’t help but be amazed once you arrived at Shibuya. Those bright neon lights and that ginormous street crossing will get you every time!
Slightly overwhelmed and very impressed by it all, we headed over to Starbucks – not for coffee but for a better view of the crossing (there are several places here that have great aerial views so definitely spend a couple of minutes at home or in your hotel trying to find that out before heading here).
Hungry, we headed down the street for ramen. Truth, we would have eaten anything at that stage, the ramen place just happened to be one of the first restaurants we saw and all agreed on.
This restaurant was also a first for us. Unlike what we’d gotten so used to in the UK and indeed, across Europe, you had to head outside the restaurant to order your food.
There was a machine, which you took your cash to, which you would then place your order in and pick up a slip. Good luck trying this when you don’t speak a word of Japanese (the machine is all in Japanese) and you’re just getting used to these new banknotes you withdrew not too long ago. Thankfully, we got a little bit of local help (and eventually help from one of the ladies in the kitchen) to order up our grub and fill up those growling tummies.
All fed and watered, we headed back down to Shibuya crossing to catch our train over to Shinjuku, an area I knew more by name than by what was characteristic of the area – i.e. brilliant nightlife!
We all decided unanimously that we wanted to go to the Robot Restaurant – fully prepared for how cheesy it would be but not caring in the slightest! With the right group of friends, you can have fun almost anywhere.
You never really have to pay full price for the Robot Restaurant, by the way… We got a discount from our hotel and even if we didn’t once you arrived at the place, you could also get a discount for the group (albeit not as good as the hotel discount).
We actually ended up being given far too much change, something we found out about halfway through the show, which worked out to our advantage in some ways as we all got given free gifts for acknowledging this underpayment and settling the difference – I’m pretty sure I still have that Robot Restaurant mug somewhere at home…)
Before you head to the show, you go to the bar to wait and get yourself a drink. Immediately I saw the sparkling sake – I was like “Yup! That’s what I’m drinking…” In retrospect, I should have just gone for a beer. You are more likely to get diabetes than get drunk from that sake – it’s sooooo sweet!
Eventually, we were ushered from the shiny and somewhat psychedelic bar to the show where for the next couple of hours, we would be watching “robots” dancing and battling across the stage in different scenes.
What started off as fits of giggling (…and maybe a little bit of surprised squealing whenever sparks/mini-fireworks went off), turned into a rather fun-filled evening, complete with sing-a-longs and cheer dancing over beers and popcorn as we watched character over character perform (without the slightest clue what was going on in parts but still not caring).
The pure kitsch-ness and energy of this show explain why this is still one of the most popular things to do in the city (though perhaps don’t have your dinner here – we didn’t and from what I’ve heard, the food isn’t necessarily the best). I’d thoroughly recommend it if you here, especially if you’re in Tokyo with friends.
With that, we made our way back to our hotel, this time thoroughly succumbing to the jetlag and settling in for an amazing night’s sleep (with a brilliant view over Tokyo) on our first night in this amazing city!
*Oh, by the way, you can see the video from this day below…