I am indeed in Japan! So so exciting! After a bumpy 10 hour flight from Auckland I arrived at Narita Airport which is about 60km out of central Tokyo. There are a few different ways to get into town but the cheapest and simplist was the bus so I went for that. This got me to central Tokyo station where I would then need to get the train to Ryogoku, the closest station to where I had booked a hostel for a couple of nights. As you would expect Tokyo station was pretty big and busy so after buying my ticket I stood staring blankly at a map trying to work out where I needed to go. I then got a tap on the shoulder from old man who asks if I needed help, he didn’t speak much English but that didn’t matter at all, he pointed me in the right direction and told me which platform I needed to go to. Amazing! Actually once you work out all the different lines it’s pretty logical but there and then I was really grateful to my new friend. I found my hostel, freshened up and went to find some much needed food and a beer. There was loads of options just up the road but I ended up going for a little local place which had a machine you ordered your food from as you walked in and then 5 minutes later it appeared in front of you. Simple but perfect for what I needed.
I only had two nights in Tokyo this time as I’ll be coming back for a few days before I leave to have a really good look around but I did have a day to do a bit of exploring this time. I decided to head towards the site of Edo Castle which wasn’t too far away and gave me something to wander towards. I walked and basically took any little roads that looked interesting. Because the culture is so different just walking around checking out the signs on the buildings, buying a drink or deciding what food I was going to have were all really really fascinating. There’s something great about picking something on a menu and not knowing what your going to get. I love it! Anyway after getting very distracted on the way I eventually got to Edo castle and had a little walk around the grounds. I didn’t realise but the week I arrived was golden Week, one of the busiest of the year here so there was an amazing amount of tourists around. Despite this it was still nice to walk around and you could still find spots with less people so it wasn’t too bad. After my day exploring I met a guy called David at the hostel so we went to get some food and do a bit more exploring. Japan really comes alive at night with all the amazing neon lights shining away so it’s almost like a completely new place to explore!
The following morning it was time to head out of Tokyo. I’ve got a rail pass which is valid for 21 days, it was 400 pounds but apart from a few routes everything is included so you can get all around Japan using it. I decided to head north towards the island of Hokkaido first so I got a ticket to Sendai for an overnight stop on my way up there. I went to the platform and got the bullet train! Now I’m no train spotter but wow, what stunning trains! They are like nothing I’ve ever seen! They don’t hang around either as I discovered not long after as we blasted out of Tokyo. It was a relaxing hour and a halfs ride to Sendai. I went on the hunt for my hotel which was a capsule hotel. Having never been to one of these I was very curious about what this meant exactly and it didn’t disappoint. You check in and get a locker where you put all you bags, take your shoes off and then you literally have a pod where there’s a mattress and not a lot else. You climb in and pull a blind down at the end to blank out the light. It’s all very simple. You do get a very fetching pair of slippers and a night gown to wear when your wandering around the hotel which of course I totally embraced! It was great!
After giggling at the capsule hotel I threw my stuff in the locker and went to explore Sendai. There’s a castle site which I had read about so I set about getting there first. On my way there was a museum about Sendai and why the castle is no longer there which was really interesting but understandably most of it was in Japanese. As I was wandering around a lady who worked at the museum came up and asked if I was ok. She then ran off to get her friend who spoke some English to come over and give me a private tour. It was really nice of her and she did her best to describe everything as we walked around. I wasn’t entirely sure but I think she had a proper tour not long after because we walked around really fast! Still it was lovely of her to offer to help me. I then walked up to the site of the castle, all that’s left now is the walls around it and a base of where everything once was. It turned out its no longer there bacause it was destroyed during world war 2. After taking in the view I worked my way around the town walking down some lovely tree lined streets and exploring some of the little back streets. That evening I went on the hunt for some food and not far from my hotel was a lively looking street with lots of fashionable looking people. I obviously fitted right in! I found a nice cheap local place serving up some lovely Ramen noodles which hit the spot perfectly. After a little explore I went to embrace the robe! I’ve now decided I want a robe!
The following day I ended up having a bit of a big travel day. From Sendai I got the express train to Hokadate where I changed trains to a smaller local one which took me to Sapporo, the biggest city on Hokkaido Island. This northern area of Japan is great for skiing in winter and therefore has a number of different beautiful mountain areas. After a 3 hour trip from Hokadate I rumbled into Sapporo and found my hostel, a cool little place with a bar downstairs and the rooms above. I met an Australian guy called Matt and we went to explore as we’d both just arrived. When I first arrived in Sapporo I must admit I thought I’d made a mistake coming here but as night fell the place came alive! It was incredible. Lights everywhere, cars buzzing around and people walking in every direction. We found a really small back street I had read about which was full of ramen noodle shops, apparently a speciality here and got a great pork dish. Yeah I am loving the ramen noodles! They also have a beer made here called Sapporo beer…very original but I thought it would be rude not to try it while I was here. This washed the noodles down very well. We then went to a darts bar which was interesting before going to another bar called the electric sheep bar…the name alone was curious. It was on the 9th floor and despite the name it was actually a really nice place with no electrocuted sheep anywhere and a great view down onto the streets below.
Today I’m off to explore Sapporo by day and then tomorrow I’m heading to one of the smaller towns on the island before working my way back south. I haven’t really worked out where yet but it seems to be working out ok at the moment by winging it a bit! What a place Japan is turning out to be!
Few other pictures from my wanderings.