Tired, but excited, we arrived in Tokyo on Saturday, May 3. After blazing through six prefectures in only seven days, it was a relief to know that we were going to be in only one place for the remainder of our trip!
We decided to go to Ueno Zoo the next day, Sunday, May 4. Because it was “Greenery Day” (the Golden Week national holiday that falls on May 4), we lucked into one of the Zoo’s annual Free Admission days! Yahoo! The zoo was super crowded, but it was wonderful! We saw elephants, monkeys, seals, flamingoes, giraffes, owls, bears, kangaroos, a hippo, penguins, several exotic birds, a tiger… Went spent the morning and most of the afternoon enjoying the animals.
After the zoo, we walked to the subway station and rode up to Asakusa. I really wanted Mom and Bro to see Sensouji, a large (albeit touristy) temple. Nakamise, a shopping street that leads from the front Kaminarimon gate up to the temple itself, is incredible – it’s lined with shops selling souvenirs, ice cream, kimono, Japanese sweets, and anything you can think of related to Japan! We had fun taking pictures, and even got to pose with some young girls at the temple who were dressed in beautiful kimono! Bro was in his glee. :) We picked up festival food (including karaage, yakisoba, and fried & sugared sweet potatoes!) and sat on a rock near the temple to eat our “supper.” Delicious!
Finally, with the sun starting to set, we thought it would be the perfect time to head to Tokyo SkyTree! However, as soon as we got there, we found out that all of the tickets to the observation deck had been sold out since 2pm – crazy! We still got to appreciate the height of SkyTree from the ground (at 634 m, it’s the tallest building in Japan!), but it’s too bad we didn’t get to go up.
Still having the entire evening ahead of us, we decided we would try our luck at the iconic Tokyo Tower. Tokyo Tower is shorter than SkyTree at only 333 m and it’s also much older, so it wasn’t nearly as crowded as SkyTree. We were able to get tickets up to the observation deck no problem! Nothing can compare to the night view of Tokyo. (Do we even say “night view” in real-life English? Or is that Japanglish making its way into my vocabulary? Haha!)
On Monday, May 5, we were jolted awake at 5:18am – literally! – when Tokyo experienced its biggest earthquake (shaking-wise) since the 3.11 earthquake. In Minato-ku, where our hotel was, the shaking registered a 4 on the Shindo scale. Our beds were rocking and we could hear the hotel building squeaking and straining. It was pretty crazy! Thankfully there was no tsunami warning nor any deaths or collapsed building in the main Tokyo area, so it was about as “good” of a first-time earthquake experience as we could have gotten! (It was Mom and Bro’s first earthquake ever, and my first real/significant one.)
With our adrenaline running, it was a while before we could get back to sleep, and even then we couldn’t sleep very long. The forecast said it was going to be rainy, so we decided to go shopping in Shibuya! Our first stop was a ramen restaurant for breakfast (because why not?) and then we hit the shops! We actually didn’t do too much shopping, but we enjoyed looking through all the shops, seeing the different Japanese fashions, crossing the Shibuya scramble crossing a few times (busiest pedestrian crossing in the world!), and drinking coffees at Starbucks overlooking the scramble!
The rain was holding off, so we took the subway up to Harajuku and the Meiji Shrine. I love Meiji Shrine, too – even though it’s a famous tourist destination, it feels completely different than Sensouji. It’s so peaceful and quiet! We didn’t get to see any Japanese weddings today, but we walked through the grounds, saw the beautiful gardens, read the many special displays about Empress Shoken (it was the 100th anniversary of her death), and enjoyed the quiet in the heart of Tokyo.
Meiji Shrine is close to Harajuku, another famous shopping district, so we walked there and emptied our wallets on shoes, clothes, and purses!
Wallets feeling much lighter, we subway’d back to Minato, ate more ramen for supper (Bro had the biggest bowl of ramen I’d ever seen in my entire life!!!), and called it a night!
Tuesday, May 6, promised good weather, so our first stop was Ginza – Tokyo’s equivalent of NYC’s 5th Avenue – for some window shopping. It was a lot of fun to walk up and down the street and admire all of the things that we couldn’t afford – hah! We did buy Mom a Mother’s Day present, though!
After a quick stop for coffee and cake, we went to the Imperial Palace. We saw Nijibashi and the front gardens. Mom and Bro also had their first experience with a Japanese native being fascinated by foreigners when a runner stopped us, asked to take our picture, and then continued running on his merry way. Haha!
We then decided to do a river cruise down the Sumida River, so we subway’d up to Asakusa and boarded the boat which took us downstream towards Tokyo Bay and the ocean. We went under so many bridges, including Rainbow Bridge(!), and the views were spectacular! It was so cool and I’m glad Mom finally got her river cruise! :)
We got off the boat in Odaiba, a man-made island of Tokyo that was only recently developed into the commercial area it is now. We stopped for pizza and were entertained by a crazy-talented street performer outside our restaurant window. After supper, we rounded out the night by emptying our wallets (again!) at the nearby malls. Old Navy is the best! :D
Wednesday, May 7 was our last full day in Tokyo before Mom and Bro returned to Canada. What better way to spend a last day than at Tokyo Disney Sea?! Because it was a Wednesday and after the official Golden Week holidays, it wasn’t crowded at all, so we had the opportunity to go on a lot of different rides without really having to wait! Journey to the Centre of the Earth was by far our favourite ride! (Although I didn’t stop screaming the whole time, haha!) We ate flavoured popcorns, including black pepper?!, and other fancy desserts, took pictures, and enjoyed the sights and sounds. Of course, Disney Sea itself is incredible – the detail and the architecture is absolutely beautiful! We were all enjoying it so much that we even stayed until the 8pm Fantasmic show that they put off every night in the “harbour.” That was incredible!
It really was a wonderful day. :)
Unfortunately, the next day was Thursday, May 8, and it was time to say goodbye to Mom and Bro and head our separate ways. :( We packed up our hotel room, had a last breakfast at Denny’s, and then I saw them off to the airport. We spent two wonderful weeks together and I wouldn’t change a thing (except that they should have stayed longer ;))! I’m so glad that I got to spend my Golden Week touring around Japan with them. I’ll never forget it! ♡