Sake, Sex and the Love Hotels of Tokyo

Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
Trip End Sep 23, 2011

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Khaosan Tokyo Kabukii

Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Friday, July 1, 2011

Hello everyone,

Unfortunately  in March 2011, while we were in Australia, Japan was hit by an earthquake hitting 8.9 on the Richter Scale, which triggered a devastating tsunami and the breakdown of a nuclear power plant. We were extremely concerned about travelling to Japan in July after the recent effects but seeing as we were visiting Tokyo and Kyoto, south of the disaster zone we took the chance (much to our parents despair).

In the end Japan has been a definite highlight to our trip. It is an amazing country and amongst this concrete jungle, neon lights, cartoon animated billboards and skyscrapers is the old Edo with its traditional shops, small restaurants and stunning heritage sights. We expected to be blown away by the futuristic Japan that we have all heard of but to be honest we were more surprised by how quaint and traditional Japan can be. We were lucky because we chose a hostel that was in the Asakusa neighbourhood  and it was beautiful. A real sense of the old Edo with tiny shops and restaurants that you had to stoop to enter, streets lined with Japanese lanterns and lots of narrow streets running off each other. Walking down the street almost felt like a movie set.

We had limited time in Tokyo as the majority of the trip would be spent in Kyoto so we had two days to fit as much as we could in. Arriving at the airport was easy and getting directions to our hostel was simple as nearly everyone speaks English and since the 2002 World Cup all road signs and information is in English, unlike China. Our hostel was very nice and the staff were so friendly and kind. The hostel itself was spotless with cute little bamboo rooms, and a nice kitchen and living room.

The first day we spent around central Tokyo. We visited the Imperial Palace. Home of the emperor and the imperial family. The palace itself is closed to the public , apart from two days of the year, but it is possible to wander around the grounds and the Imperial Palace gardens.

Next we headed to the Ginza district to the Sony Building. Tom being a gadgets freak he heard that the Sony building is known to have products that aren’t even on the market yet so we thought we’d have a glimpse into the future. But sadly, we were in for a big disappointment. I guess coming to Japan we expected an ultra modern city with gadgets and gizmos we’d never seen before. I’m not sure what we expected - robots maybe - but Japan may have been a million years into the future about a decade ago, but it seems that the rest of the world has caught up. And we were sadly disappointed about not seeing the Japan that we are have heard about - though the musical/talking toilets are still quite amusing. Though, it did take me a long time to get Thomas off the 3D games!!!

In Ueno we popped into the National Museum and both enjoyed the collection on Japanese warfare, Samurai weaponry and artwork. However, it was walking through the Ueno-Koen Park that we saw another side of Japan. In the park, live the surprisingly large population of Japan’s homeless in blue tents- with their shoes neatly still left outside.

That night we visited the neighbourhoods of Shinjuku and Kabuki-cho: We couldn’t leave Tokyo without having a small wander around Tokyo’s infamous red light district. Known to be imaginative we were expecting to see love hotels - we were told the area around Dogenzaka in Shibuya neighbourhood was home to love hotels to suit all tastes, from Gothic castles to temples, but our expectations were way to high. However, there are plenty of peep shows, massage parlours and strip shows in the Shinjuku neighbourhood. Billboards advertising both men and women - all looking like they are in some kind of Japanese pop band or Manga characters strangely. Definitely interesting seeing all the hostesses dressed up in their PVC nurses and maids uniforms.

The next day we went to Harajuku, home to the Meiji-jingo shrine - which was lovely, especially since we got to watch a Japanese wedding. But we were more interested in visiting Harajuku to see the Costume Play Gang that gather each Sunday dressed up full goth make up, wearing S&M outfits and all sorts of craziness and freakishness. We spent a whole afternoon wandering  around Yoyogi-Koen Park trying to see the Japanese gangs in their extravagant get ups. After a very disappointing afternoon, and only seeing the greased up rock and rollers swing dancing in the park grounds, we were later told the Costume Play Gang have slowly been pushed out by the Government and they hang out at the weekends in Tokyo Bay. Despite this we did now and again see some people in costumes along the street and on the underground.

A highlight we unfortunately missed was the Tsukiji Fish Market, but due to the natural disasters the market has closed. However, we still got to eat sushi for lunch, dinner and breakfast - if we really wanted to. Being budget travellers eating out was expensive, and the earthquake has caused food prices to rise drastically but the food in the supermarkets was affordable and we self catered majority of the time.  Our staple diet in Japan consisted of Rice, Tofu, Ramen (bowls of wheat noodles in a meat broth), tempura prawns and Sushi. But we did find a great Udon Noodle restaurant called Hanamaru Udon and it was amazing. Sitting here writing this now I am craving it. If in Japan you must find this chain, dirt cheap and great udon noodles in a broth covered in spring onions and tempura. We ate here everyday during our entire trip….yummy!!

Our next stop is Kyoto - a must see in any visit to Japan and one of our favourite places in our whole year away so make sure you see the beautiful pics in the next blog for the Japan that we love so much.

Love Hollie and Thomas xxx

We were told to get the Japanese Rail Pass that costs 250 and lets you travel on the majority of Japan’s rail and metro system across seven consecutive days. However, if you are only going to a few places we would highly recommend looking into Japan’s Bus Passes. We took a bus pass with WILLER as we were only doing two journeys. The pass could be used on 3 trips, twice a day, across a whole month. It worked out a lot cheaper at 10,000 Yen ()  . The travel in Japan was one of our most expensive expenditures but the transport system is as impressive as  you hear. Clinically clean, highly efficient, comfortable and ultra modern (and fast!).

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nan@grandad on

i would have loved to be with you in japan just to go to all the judo clubs and we see you are both enjoying your food////

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