After our ski trip to Niseko, we all headed to Tokyo for another adventure. I have never wanted to return to a city more than I have with Tokyo. I couldn’t get enough of it, from the bustling Tsukiji Fish Market and Shibuya crossing to a tea ceremony and Imperial Palace East Gardens. Around every corner, we were captivated by what we discovered, making us crave more of this astounding city, so much so I have to divide my Tokyo travel journal into two posts.
We were lucky enough to stay at the Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo, a short walk to Shinagawa station, one of the largest subway stations in Tokyo, which made it easy to get around. I already mentioned my admiration of the hotel décor and the attention to detail in this post. Did I mention we counted three different styles of bathrobes in our room? We were also lucky enough to have the buffet breakfasts every morning, which was such a nice way to start our days, especially with the green smoothies. However, the one downside of the hotel was the concierge service. We were let down a few times by the concierge who was not prepared, unable to recommend restaurants and give exact directions.
Sights and Activities
Happo-en Tea Ceremony
As soon as we arrived in Tokyo, my mother and I booked a tea ceremony. This was the best decision we made on our trip to Tokyo, as the tea ceremony offered the perfect introduction to Japanese custom and culture for a reasonable price. As soon as we arrived at Happo-en, an events venue to the rich and famous of Tokyo, we were escorted to the traditional teahouse in the Japanese Garden. Our tea master was so friendly, guiding us through the tradition of matcha (Japanese powdered green tea). We learnt so much from her that this deserves its own post (coming soon). This casual ceremony took about 30 minutes (we asked a lot of questions), and afterwards, we toured the garden, a small treasure in the heart of Tokyo. In addition to our fantastic experience, the concierge personally escorted us to the subway station nearby.
Unfortunately, my mother and I only gave ourselves an afternoon of shopping in Ginza, the Fifth Avenue of Tokyo. This was the best shopping I have ever experienced, better than London, Paris, and New York. Our first stop was Uniqlo, Japan’s version of the Gap, with a twelve-story shop, complete with on site seamstresses to personalise your purchases. Zara also blew us away, as it felt like the couture version of the popular brand, with perfectly placed garments not available anywhere else. We wish we had more time, as we only covered a few blocks in one afternoon.
For boutique shopping, Harajuku is the place. Although it is famous for youth street fashion, its unique boutiques juxtapose popular brand name shops, making it my preferred shopping area.
Known as “old Tokyo”, it is the place to collect all those Japanese souvenirs, especially along Nakamise Street, leading up to Sensoji Temple. But the side streets, offer another dynamic. We also heard so much about Japanese department stores, that we got all our food and drink souvenirs from Matsuya Department Store (lower levels) here.
Everything electronic is found here. I did not venture here myself, but the men I was travelling with made this their first destination in Tokyo.
Gardens, Temples, and Shrines
Imperial Palace East Gardens
A nice central city park with a bit of history scattered throughout. We thought we were a bit early in the year to experience the full bloom of the gardens. But the few early blossoms we caught were a nice backdrop to our walk.
This is Tokyo’s most popular and oldest Buddhist temple. Located in Asakusa, it adds a colourful backdrop to the “old town”.
This was my favourite, as the walk through the tall tree-lined path from Harajuku set the tranquillity for the Shinto shrine. From washing our hands upon entering to reading the little prayer offerings, it was an incredibly peaceful way to end our time in Tokyo.