This has been one of the longest blog posts in the making – since July to be exact. So it stands to reason that it may be one of the longest blog posts of all time. I’ve really struggled to cut down the images on such an amazing experience, so I really hope you enjoy it. Settle in, you may be here a while.
Japan, is one of those few places in the world that lives up to everything its meant to be, yet still manages to exceed your highest expectations. The only other place in the world I have ever been to that had the same effect on me was France, well, Paris to be exact, it just refused to disappoint, it was everything it ever promised to be!
To be honest, there is no particular story about to follow, just a barrage of different pictures and stories that sum up the trip as best they can. Ironically – or possibly not ironically…I’m never sure after Alanis Morissette – it depicts the trip perfectly. A lot of late nights, a lot of delicious drinks, even more delicious food and the most amazing people I have ever met.
Where do I even begin.
A good friend of mine was turning 40 (you’ll catch a glimpse of him below) and decided his birthday would be held in Japan. Now as I’m not one to miss a party, I decided I would make the 20 something hour journey and share a beer or a bowl of Ramen with him on this momentous occasion. Truth is Ive always wanted to go to Japan, and this just became the perfect excuse, a boys trip to one of the craziest places I’ve ever been. How crazy? Well, keep scrolling, you’ll see.
We spent most of our time in Tokyo and were based in Nishi-shinjuko, just a couple of subway stops from the centre of town, or at least what felt like the centre of town. Tokyo is so sprawling it doesn’t really feel like it has a centre, or if it does, you never really find the end of it. With over 35 Million people in the greater Tokyo area it is the largest metropolitan city in the world and you certainly feel it!
I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on what it was that made Tokyo (Or Japan for that matter) so special. It has all the makings of a great city, great public transport system, amazing restaurants, bars and hotels, tourists attractions galore and is so clean you can eat off the streets – well, depends what you’re eating I guess. There are however 2 major things that stood out for me, the people and the culture. Come to think of it, that may be one thing. Despite its super modern state, the culture remains strong and you see it in the warmth of the people. Well, I mean you see it in the temples and stuff too, but the people mostly. Something that absolutely fascinated me, was how many people wore traditional dress on a Sunday, and I don’t mean the old folks desperately trying to hold on to tradition, I mean young ladies walking round proudly dressed in a kimono on there way to lunch with girls. Amazing!
So what is there to do in Tokyo? Well, pretty much anything if you go looking for it. We spent our time eating and drinking mostly. Shopping is okay, but you need the time to explore and find the gems, time that we simply didn’t have.
When it comes to eating, i’m gonna start off by saying, you haven’t had ramen, till you’ve had ramen in Japan. That’s a fact. I was lucky, I had saved myself…for 38 years to have my first bowl of ramen. It was at 2am at a hole in the wall in Shinjuku on the night we arrived and it was worth the wait. Can I explain the deliciousness of it? I certainly can not. We ate a lot of ramen, some better than others but none disappointing. We even had fresh udon noodles at a place so tiny it went from empty to full when the 4 of us walked in. True story.
But Tokyo isn’t just about ramen, you can literally get anything you want to eat if you know where to find it. I know this, because I found myself munching on horse tartar and bovine heart tubes one night at a Korean barbecue – To be fair I wasn’t particularly looking for that, but the experience was worth it. If you want to try anything new, get in the queue, yep, the Japanese love them a queue. Lobster rolls, soufflé pancakes, octopus balls (it’s not what you think) we queued for them all, sometimes for 2 hours. None of them were as good as the ramen. Man did I love that ramen.
Now, if you enjoy a little drink every now and then, you’ll be in good company. The Japanese love a drink (in a good way of course) and you’ll find them dressed in a suit and tie, arm in arm singing in the streets at 4am. It’s awesome! We drank a lot of beer, mostly because the beer is good, but also because its kinda cheap, or cheap enough that you can have a few. Our top drinking experience was however at the New York bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo – you may remember it from the movie Lost in Translation – It’s considered one of the best rooftop bars in the world, and I totally get why. The view is incredible, the service world class, and really, nothing beats sipping an old fashioned while listening to a live jazz band.
Japan really seems to comes alive at night, and we had some pretty late nights so trust me on this one. At some point we were eating donuts at 2am while watching a street fight and discussing where to go next. So, like I said, trust me.
Between the bars, the batting cages and the only Japanese onsen that allowed tattoos we had some pretty wild nights, come to think of it on one night we managed to squeeze all of the above in, I think. There was however one thing that topped everything we did during our entire trip, its called the Robot Restaurant and if you go to Japan and only do 1 thing, make this it! It’s impossible to explain and the pictures don’t do it justice, but it is a dinner theatre the likes of which you have never experienced in your life. I went from…‘meh…what a tourist trap’ as I sat watching a Daft Punk type robot playing a guitar in a room filled with mirrors, to ‘holy shit, my mind is blown and my life is complete’ as I watched a horse in a dress giving a zebra a piggy back. Yep. Best. Thing. Ever.
We also visited Shinjukus famous Golden Gai district for 1 last drink one night and I was simply blown away by the 100’s of tiny bars packed in amongst a maze of alleys. When i say 100’s I’m not exaggerating, and when I say tiny, I mean, some bars hold a maximum of 4 people! It’s definitely worth a visit!
Thats the birthday boy up there, dressed the part while tucking into a little saki as we took on the Golden Gai one alley at a time.
I’m gonna have to stop there or I’ll never stop. I have endless stories and even more photos to share, but I think you get the picture. If you got this far in the post, arigato. I hope you enjoyed it.
Japan, is amazing, there really is nothing more that needs to be said. If you ever get the chance to visit, grab it with both hands.
Okay. Stay Fancy.