The past year has seen me set myself some terrifying challenges. I’ve been pushing myself beyond boundaries I previously couldn’t even hope to reach. One of the biggest struggles for me in recent years has been as simple as being alone. Alone with my own thoughts and my own responsibility. This month I went past that boundary at lightening speed as I travelled to Tokyo completely alone, I truly was flying solo.
I’ll admit, rocking up at Tokyo airport with a hangover, no phone battery, no charger and not a single Yen to my name was not my wisest idea but I still, by some miracle and extremely helpful airport staff, managed to make it through.
After waiting in the bus ticket queue for twenty minutes (note: I was trying to get a train ticket) I finally got redirected to the right place. Negotiating the subway was a little difficult, we’re spoilt with the MTR system in Hong Kong. I eventually got ushered onto the right platform and found myself speeding away to Asakusa.
Even at 10pm I could tell the area was going to be fun. It was easy to find my way and after getting distracted by a 711 (once you’ve visited Asia you understand the excitement of other country’s 711s – THEY HAVE FRESH CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS HERE!!) I found myself at Sensoji Temple. All of the market stalls were closed and it was eerily quiet and cold. The whole place was floodlit and I found myself a little breath-taken. It was really beautiful and calming. I stood and admired the huge temple in front of me for a while before I scooted around the edge and made my way to my hostel.
The next morning I revisited the Sensoji Temple and saw it in a completely new light – quite literally. It was bright and sunny and the paths were crowded with tourists. The market stalls were bursting with souvenirs and fresh food. I grabbed a lucky fortune (it took me three bad ones to get there) and decided to check out the rickety amusement park next door.
Hanayashiki Amusement Park is said to be the oldest in Japan. It’s tiny, slightly creepy but I had fun exploring the site and checking out the mini rollercoasters. Snacks include clams and ridiculously long french fries.
From here I took a stroll along the waterfront and headed over the bridge to check out the Golden Turd, ie. the Asahi Hall. I treated myself to a beer and some chips (so Japanese) and found my bearings for my trip across to Ueno.
In all honesty some of the crazier urban parts of Tokyo didn’t attract my interest as much as other options. I live in a hectic Asian city so it wasn’t anything new to me. The things I don’t get to experience in Hong Kong are huge, open grassy parks and shed loads of museums. So, for me, this afternoon was about getting my culture on.
Ueno Park is stunning and even though it was FREEZING, I still enjoyed walking around. I haven’t seen autumn leaves for three years so you can imagine my delight when I realised I could stroll between each museum and gallery whilst stomping on crispy orange leaves. I’d read a lot of good things about the National Museum and, to my luck, it was a public holiday so it wasn’t shut like it usually should be on a Monday.
There were a lot of interesting things to see inside, I particularly enjoyed the sculptures and pottery. It’s a beautifully laid out museum with plenty to tickle your fancy, whatever your interests. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
My legs were starting to get a little wobbly from the walking and it was nearly time to meet an old friend from home for tea. Peter, and his beautiful wide Anna, took me to Shibuya for a delicious dinner and plenty of Umeshu before showing me the ropes of getting across the famous Shibuya Crossing in one piece.