Thursday 31 May, 2018
Day 1 / Tokyo
Welcome to our adventures in Japan! Both Cheye and myself have been to Japan before, but only to the big city of Tokyo. This time we start our journey with a few days in Tokyo before heading to Hokkaido for some cycling.
We arrive at Haneda airport around 3:30pm and catch the train into Tokyo. The first thing you MUST do when staying in Japan is get yourself a Suica card. This makes train travel (and life in general) so much easier, and rather than having to purchase a ticket for each trip you take (cash only!) you just tap on and tap off.
Tokyo trains are just as busy as we remember them. Not great when you’re lugging all your bags from the airport, but we make it to Shibuya with ease. We decided to stay in Shibuya for a number of reasons: ease of access via the JR Line, our Aussie friend lives close by and Shibuya is always pumping!
We booked an AirBnB quite a while ago. One thing you discover about Japan is that everyone is super organised and pre-book virtually EVERYTHING. Japanese accommodation is also very compact. It’s normally a room with a bed and bathroom. We paid a bit more for a kitchen and separate toilet and it was still quite cosy.
As soon as we check in we head out towards Meiji Jingu Baseball Stadium. Tokyo has two baseball teams – the Giants and the Swallows. Tonight we are seeing the Swallows vs Marines.
It’s such a fun match to watch with the crowd singing and chanting during the game.
There are beer girls running up and down the aisle with their beer-filled backpacks on selling drinks to the crowd. There’s even a brass band playing different tunes as each new player heads out to bat.
We grab some beer and food. The only vegetarian food we can find amongst the chicken and hot dogs are fries, edamame and coleslaw.
The Swallows end up winning 3-1 and the crowd goes wild with their umbrellas and bat clappers.
The man sitting next to us even gives us his umbrella so we can spin it around like all the other excited fans.
Even the old lady sitting in front of us wears her team jersey as she spins her umbrella.
Everyone floods out of the stadium and we walk home while on the lookout for some proper food.
Along the way there are plenty of convenience stores so we pop into one called Lawson’s. Convenience stores in Japan are so different to those in Australia. They actually have good, proper food – fresh pre-made meals such a noodles, bento boxes and sushi. They also don’t rip you off like in Australia. A boxed lunch will cost about 500 yen (AUD $6) and actually resembles something you’d purchase at a regular food outlet.
And they’re EVERYWHERE. You’ll never go hungry when you’re in Tokyo and for someone like me who is always hungry, that’s the biggest relief of all 🙂
JAPAN TRAVEL TIP #1: Tokyo has two main airports, Narita and Haneda. Most flights will generally start or end at Narita but if you value your time then Haneda is the better option. It’s less than 20 minutes from Shinagawa, a major transport hub that can take you to most parts of Tokyo. Narita will take you a good two hours on the train unless you’re willing to fork out for an express service. The flights to Haneda may cost a touch more but consider all things before going for that cheaper flight to Narita if you’ll be spending more time on the train.