I know quite a few people that have traveled pretty extensively in Japan. They have always told me how much they love Japan. Now that we have taken a holiday there, I understand why. I cannot say enough about how lovely our trip to Tokyo was. After our 2 days at Disney, we took the train into Tokyo and switched to an Air B&B rental closer to central Tokyo.
We have been having a heat wave here in Malaysia, it is the hot season. I have figured out that Penang has 2 seasons, hot and horribly hot. Right now we are just about to come out of horribly hot. The Spring Equinox seems to have put the sun right at the equator, plus there is no rain in the afternoon to cool things down. It is still 5000% humidity though so the afternoons are brutal. This is not just me complaining, even the locals are telling you how horrible the weather is right now. Japan on the other hand was nice and cool. Like we needed sweat shirts and jeans. B even needed a blanket in the stroller. It was fantastic. I loved ever cold minute of it.
Tokyo is by far the biggest city I have ever been to. It makes NYC look small. The Tokyo metro area has a populations of around 37 million people. There doesn’t really seem to be one central area to stay in because of Tokyo’s size. We wanted to catch some of the Sukura or Cherry Blossoms Trees blooming while we were there; so we decided on the Ueno/Asakusa area. There is a tourist attraction called the Sky Tree, that is a radio tower that has observation decks with panoramic views of Tokyo. The city just goes on and on as far as the eye can see. The bottom of The Sky Tree has a small but really nice aquarium that B loved, a food court with some good local food options, we had the Udon Noodles (so good) and a little shopping. It made for a good morning.
Staying at an Air B& B apartment gave us a more of chance to see what living in Tokyo would be like. Considering Tokyo’s size and population I was expecting a crazy, loud city much like NYC. This is really not what we found at all. It is so quite. I mean refreshingly peaceful and quite. The apartment was small, but really clean, and nicely located in the middle of a real neighborhood. Tokyo has an amazing train/metro system, and parking is very limited. There is no on street parking really. The neighborhood streets are not lined with cars, and they have very little traffic. Most people take the train to get where they are going, so there is a lack of traffic noise that I have not experienced in a very long time. It was almost too quite at times. Pretty much the only traffic on the streets by the apartment was foot and bicycle. It was ridiculously quite at night, we may as well have been sleeping out in the country with no one else around for miles. This is definitely not how life is in the part of Penang that we live on. We live on a very busy street that has traffic noise all the time. There is always a motor bike, or music coming from the area outside the mall. This is because of the way the two building of our development are centered around the mall. The sound from below from the outside plaza just bounces on up to the 18th floor quite clearly. This is especially bad on the weekends when they have “live music”. It was really nice to go from the chaos that is often Georgetown, to the peacefulness that was Tokyo, even if only for a week.
We road the train a lot. Tokyo has a huge network of trains and subways. They are seriously clean and you can get just about anywhere. One thing I noticed was they are very crowded at times but no one talks on the train. There is no idle chit chat like there would be in from our part of the US. No one looks at anyone else, no one is talking on the phone, I am pretty sure they weren’t even texting most of the time. Just reading what ever was on the screen. Now, B talks A LOT, and pretty loudly too. I had no idea how much or how loudly until I got a on a subway train in Tokyo. The Japanese seemed to be a reserved group of people, so even if they did disapprove of the noise he made, no one reacted like they did. Everyone we came in contact with was really nice and helpful. Even with the language barrier, people were very helpful and gracious to us.
Now I am going to talk about bathrooms for a minute. Ordinarily this is not something I would bring up ever. I am of the school of thought that what ever it is that you need to do in the bathroom is your business and it is not to be acknowledged or discussed by anyone else. The Japanese also seem to believe this. I wish everywhere was like Japan, it was like I had found my spiritual bathroom place. I’m serious, everyone needs to go there and take lessons. I have a problem with public restrooms in the US. There are only certain gas stations that I will stop at when we are driving between TX and OK. I have an even bigger issue with public bathrooms in Malaysia. I will not use them unless it is a dire emergency. No disrespect to Malaysia here, but they are gross. There is also a good chance most will be squatty potties with one disgusting, probably broken, western toilet if you are anywhere but the mall. I just can’t do it. Even at the Mall by mid-day I will no longer go in the bathroom, I have no idea what happens with the hose to get the water everywhere…….. Japan is the complete opposite. They are so clean. Most are smart toilets with many features and heated seats. In some bathrooms when you sit down to do your business, a sound effect of running water starts playing automatically. As someone that suffers from stage fright in public bathrooms, this was pretty awesome for me.
A lot had these panels
Oh and most had these
That’s right if you are potty training or traveling with a small child, there is a potty seat right there for you. There are seat covers too if you so desire. Can I also tell you about the baby changing rooms? Amazing. Rooms with just changing tables with rolled paper to pull out to change your kid. These rooms also had big comfy chairs for nursing Moms. They really do think of everything. A practical group of people I tell you.
Now on to the fun stuff.
Tokyo’s oldest temple Sensoji is located a quick walk from where we stayed. It was beautiful. It was founded in 645. The original building was bombed and destroyed in WWII. It was rebuilt after the war.
This is one of the fortune telling areas. If you put in 100 yen, you can pick up this canister that has a bunch of sticks in them. You shake the canister about until the stick falls out. Each stick has a character on it, that corresponds with a drawer, in that drawer is your fortune.
We spent a lot of our time in Ueno Park. This is a really charming park. There is a really nice zoo that B loved. There is also a Science Museum, which had a great Dinosaur exhibit, which B also loved. The Tokyo National Museum, a couple of Shinto shrines and many cherry blossom trees are also here.
The Cherry blossoms were not all in bloom yet when we were there but they were getting close.
When the Sakura trees are in bloom one of the traditions is to go picnic underneath them. They have picnic spots marked off for people, to enjoy the blossoms. They are first come first serve. It is such a big deal, that often junior assistants get sent to the park in the afternoon to sit and hold a spot for their bosses, to picnic in after work. The trees were not fully there yet, so it wasn’t nearly as packed as it could have been.
The Zoo was great, they have 2 giant pandas, and lots of other animals. B loved every minute of it!
One of the other things we did while we were there as walk around Akihabara, also known as electric town. This was obviously for my husband’s benefit. This is where you can get any kind of electronic device your heart desires. This is also where you can get video games and anime.
One of the other famous attractions we did in Tokyo was the Tsukiji Fish Market. This is a huge working fish market in the middle of Central Tokyo. It has both wholesale and consumer fish sales. It is famous for it’s tuna auctions that take place around 4:30 in the morning. From what I understand if you are up early enough anyone can go watch the auction . These are huge and expensive tunas. I have heard some go for as much as 100k USD per fish. Unfortunately from the research we did kids are not allowed in the inner market since it is an industrial, work zone. Definitely no strollers are allowed. Lucky for us the outside of the market is great. Lots of fish stands where you can find anything you hearts desire as far as seafood goes and places to get sushi. We were able to find a fairly family friendly restaurant to get a quick bite. We ate some great stuff, but let me tell you that fatty tuna, which is generally pretty pricey in the US, if you can even find it was like butter. It was so amazing and fresh. Also B insisted on trying the regular tuna. He loved it, so maybe I have a little sushi eater or it was a fluke and he will never tough it again. Ahhhhh the whims of the 2 year old.
We had a fantastic time in Japan. From Disney to Tokyo, everything was great. It is such a strange statement to make that going to literally the largest metropolitan area in the world was a peaceful break from Malaysia, but it was. The weather was fantastic, everything was pristine, and worked correctly. It was not hard to communicate with anyone even with a language barrier. B had a fabulous time, he is still talking about it. I have found every time we travel when we come home B’s vocabulary explodes again. It was no different this time. Its entirely possible that it is a coincidence given his age, but I like to think the traveling he has done is having a positive impact on him.
I hope we can go back and do some more traveling in Japan in the future.