This time last year I wrote a blog post for a competition (I didn’t win) about how much I wanted to go to Tokyo. Later that year I fully lived and realised that dream by spending a week there, just exploring parts of the city that I truly came to love. And whilst I didn’t spend nearly as much time there as I would have liked (I spent much longer in Kyoto) it was a dream destination that I was desperate to go to.
Over the the course of the week I found possibly the best ever vegan ramen I’ve ever eaten, I somehow managed to lose my train card with 1000jpy still on it, I spent three hours wandering around trying to find the locker I had put my belongings in whilst I explored shinjuku, and I spent the remainder of my money being a total nerd and buying anime figureines and Pokemon plushies. Do I regret it? Not one bit! Do I wish I could go back? Every waking moment.
Japan, for me was a huge love hate destination. It was ridiculously expensive, so I had to spend the majority of my time in doors, working, just to gain enough money to buy train fare. Which, of course, led to my room mates at the time being highly judgemental about the amount of time I spent in doors. I found it so hard to find food suitable for vegetarians, I spent most nights looking up veggie restaurants and trying to find brands that I could eat in stores. Turns out, even ketchup is unsuitable for veggies! And, of course, learning the language is hard as hell.
On the flip side, when I did find food I could eat it was some of the tastiest, most amazing food I’ve ever had; when I did manage to scrape together a few thousand yen for day trips the scenery and the vibe was truly breathtaking; despite the little language I knew the locals were all very happy and accommodating towards me, speaking slowly and clearly. Not to mention I was in my nerdy element. I make it no secret that I enjoy anime and manga, so being in the home of it was a geeks dream.
Tokyo, being very very high in my bucket list, was the perfect way to end my trip before going home to work and save more money. Because, unfortunately, travel isn’t always smooth and neither is business. But here are a few reasons why it’s managed to retain the title of favourite destination;
1. Manga Everywhere!
Okay, not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, this one is a good reason. Although the mural of Naruto in Pai did make me rather giddy too!
2. The best food ever at T’s Tan Tan.
I will rave about this place until I die. Honestly, it’s such a little place that’s tucked away in Tōkyō station, you literally have to be in transit to eat there, but it makes the BEST vegan ramen ever! The seitan ‘pork’ in the shoyou noodles was so tasty I had to double check that it was actually not meat. Highly recommended, even for non veggies.
3. Latte art cafe in Harajuku.
Again, so tucked away you’ll miss it if you’re not looking for it and at £7 for a cup of 3D latte art coffee it’s not cheap. But it was some of the best coffee I’ve ever had! I highly recommend the honey latte.
4. Super helpful locals.
During my little distressed moments of trying to find the lost locker, several locals stopped and asked me if I was okay. Usually, in capital cities, you don’t get that. London is a very, ‘keep your head down and don’t make eye contact’ kind of place. I mean, if I say thankyou to a bus driver they look at me like I have three heads! No joke. Too much northerner in me. Tokyo, however, was the total opposite. And it was refreshing.
5. Overall good vibe.
Yes it’s busy, yes everyone rushes around and yes you melt because it’s so humid and hot, but it’s got a good vibe to it. You see shopkeepers cleaning their little patch of street every morning and people falling asleep in the subway at every time of day. Little kids getting excited over a new manga magazine and English tv shows about a character with a sushi head. All in all it’s just a wonderful vibe.
I’m incredibly excited to be returning to Japan in the not so distant future and I’m excited for all the exciting prospects it’s going to offer me!