It was a 2 and a half hour flight from Seoul to Tokyo for the start of our third and final country.
Japan was noticeably cooler than South Korea upon arrival, by the time we’d arrived at our hotel and gone out for dinner and back the cloudy skies had opened with heavy rain. That pretty much put the dampeners on heading out anywhere on our first evening, not that there was much planned anyway.
The following morning was much of the same weather wise, but this time we were equipped with rain jackets and umbrellas. Our first point of call was the Ueno train station. Just fifteen minutes walk and not even our closest station, we headed there to pick up a useful international discount on subway tickets. 11 pounds each for 72 hours unlimited travel on every subway and metro line in Tokyo. Not too bad is it?
It would get its use too.
First up in the city was the Meiji Jingu shrine. Located towards the south west of the city, the shrine was of Shinto origin. The religion of Shinto is engrained into Japanese culture and has been this way since ancient times. The entrance to the shrine is located within a dense forest area consisting of trees from all across Japan. This forest was created to honour Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken almost a century ago.
The path bends to he right, but not before passing a huge wall of sake barrels. These barrels of the Japanese rice wine have been donated from breweries all across the country. The colourful barrels make for an interesting stop along the walk.
Further on from the sake collection you can begin to see the inner grounds of the temple.
The shrine, which will reach its centenary next year, is stunning. Despite the rain, the authentic traditional design of the buildings along with the peaceful tranquility of the atmosphere around them make for a humbling experience. Upon entering there is a small building to prepare yourself to enter the shrine. You are invited to wash your hands and mouth with fresh water using the ladles provided. Instructions of what order to do it in are written above.
It may be almost 100 years old yet the shrine is still a significantly important and cherished area of Tokyo.
After around 2 hours meandering around the grounds of the shrine enjoying the fresh air, we headed back to the subway. Our next stop could be something of a pola opposite, but it seemed like the right thing to do considering where we were.
The Pokémon cafe is situated on the 5th floor of a shopping centre in downtown Tokyo. Inside it looks almost exactly how you would hope and expect it to. Seemingly every Pokemon is represented in some way around the cafe and on the menu, with a plethora of choice as to what Pokemon you’d want decorating your coffee.
If it’s anything, it’s nostalgic. That retro theme tune is played on an almost constant loop and it really makes you feel like a kid again. Not many people can say they’ve had a jigglypuff on their cheesecake, but that’s one for me.
The Pokemon centre shop is located across the way from the cafe where it is possible to buy everything and anything associated with the Japanese sensation. Even glue sticks which at first glance I was convinced were lighters, they were next to stationary so I should have figured it out sooner.
The cafe is wonderful, but constantly heaving. Steph made our booking a month in advance in order to avoid disappointment and each group is limited to 90 minutes which doesn’t seem like a lot but the speed of service meant that we needed just over an hour.
We hadn’t been out in the open for almost 3 hours so had missed most of the rainfall. It was much brighter by the time we did re-emerge from the metro at a place known as Shibuya ‘scramble’ crossing.
It is rumoured to be the busiest intersection crossing in Japan, with seemingly hundreds of pedestrians crossing from four directions. It is the epitome of bustling city life and one which was hard to grasp when walking through. We were swept off of our feet, time for a pint I think. My first taste of local drop, Kirin, went down a treat.
First full day in Japan: complete.