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Friday, February 24, 2017

Romy Roams Tokyo: 5 Places to Visit

It was my first time to visit Japan, and I honestly thought the trip wouldn't push through because I wouldn't get a visa (watch for my post on the application process). But God is great, and together with Jay, Tita Virgie, Ate Vina and her office mates, we set off last November for a 7-day trip to Tokyo!

Japan is one of my dream travel destinations, and even if we've only been around Tokyo (well, technically, we also went on a tour of Mt. Fuji), I'm already in love with the whole country!

So, without further ado, here are my picks of must visit places in Tokyo. I indicated below how to get to these places from Ikebukuro, where we stayed.

1. Tokyo Imperial Palace


Tokyo Imperial Palace is only open during certain hours, and the free guided tour is only available twice daily, at 10AM and 1:30PM, except on Sundays and Mondays. We got there early for the 1:30PM tour, so we first took photos at the lovely plaza across the palace grounds. This is beside the Wadakura Fountain Park.


You can make advance registrations for the tour, but we just lined up at the Kikyomon Gate for the same-day registration before the tour started. 

The tour takes a little more than an hour and is done in Japanese. Foreigners have the option to take headsets that will provide English translation. Groups will be asked to share. 

The photo below is of me standing at the Kyuden Totei Plaza. Behind me is the Choden Reception Hall, where the Imperial family appears before the crowd on New Year's Day and the Emperor's Birthday. 


A view from the Imperial Palace Grounds:

A photo of the Nijubashi, the two bridges that form an entrance to the inner Palace grounds. 


How to get there from Ikebukuro:
  • Ride the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line or the Japan Rail (JR) Yamanote Line, and get off at Tokyo Station. 
  • Walk to the Imperial Palace. 

2. Tokyo DisneySea


This is a must for theme park lovers. You can actually go to both DisneySea and Disneyland as they are on the same area, but we chose DisneySea because it is the only one of its kind among the Disney franchise, and its attractions are different from other Disney theme parks around the world.

Allot a whole day for this trip, and expect long lines for the attractions. As with theme parks, it's best to go on a weekday and definitely not on a holiday.

We celebrated Jay's birthday at the happiest place on earth!


We enjoyed the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull, Sinbad's Storybook Voyage (it's the DisneySea version of the "It's A Small World" attraction), and King Triton's Concert. The latter is a live show that features Ariel in an aerial harness. 

A whole new world!

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage

King Triton's Concert is at the Mermaid Lagoon

How to get there by train from Ikebukuro:
  • Ride the Marunouchi Line and get off at Tokyo Station. 
  • Transfer to the JR Keiyo Line and get off at Maihama Station. 
  • Walk to Resort Gateway Station and ride the Disney Resort Line.
  • Get off at Tokyo DisneySea Station.

3. Tokyo Skytree


At 634 meters above ground, Tokyo Skytree is the world's highest freestanding broadcasting tower. It is also the second tallest structure in the world, next only to the Burj Khalifa.


The tower has two viewing decks or floors. The Tembo Deck is 350m above the ground, while the Tembo Galleria is 450m above the ground.

You can choose to go to only one, or to both decks. It offers a sweeping 360-degree view of Tokyo up to 70 kilometers away! From the Galleria, you can go to the highest floor (450th) via a glass tube.

You can book your tickets here.


At 451.2 meters above ground, the Sorakara Point is the highest point permitted to visitors. 

There's also a shopping center within the tower called Solamachi. I love their lights display!



How to get there by train from Ueno Station (we came from Ueno Park):
  • Ride the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and get off at Asakusa Station. 
  • Transfer to Tobu Skytree Local Line and get off at Tokyo Skytree Station. 
  • Walk to Skytree. 

4. Shibuya Crossing


Shibuya Crossing is said to be one of the busiest intersections in the world. Hundreds of people cross that street in minutes, and we noticed it personally when we went there on our second night in Tokyo.

Posed for a photo as pedestrians wait for their turn to cross the street.


Here's a time lapse video I posted on Instagram (follow me!):

A post shared by Romy P. (@romyisagirl) on


Several steps from Shibuya Crossing is another famous Tokyo landmark, Hachiko's statue. The loyal dog rose to fame because of  how he waited for his owner by the train station, even years after the master had passed.

From the Shibuya Station, there's a path of paw prints leading to the statue. Of course there were many tourists angling for a photo, but each one was courteous to let others have their moment.


Shibuya is also a shopping district and there are many malls and stores you can visit. We went to Adidas where I was able to score the hard-to-find women's slip-ons, and in a new color too!

A friend of mine said there's a Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory store nearby, but the one we visited was at Skytree. Tokyo Milk Cheese are delicious cookies with cheese sandwiched in between.

How to get there by train from Ikebukuro:
  • Ride the JR Yamanote Line and get off at Shibuya Station. 
  • Take the Hachiko Exit and walk to the Hachiko statue and Shibuya Crossing.  

5. Yoyogi Park/Meiji Shrine


We enjoyed our visit at Yoyogi Park where the Meiji Shrine is located. The calming effect nature has is evident in this place, with its canopy of trees and flowers in bloom. Entering the park, we were greeted with falling leaves, like gentle raindrops.



Posing in front of Sake barrels.
Further inside the park, you will arrive at Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

In Japan, at the entrance of shrines, you are required to cleanse your hands and mouth with water.


There are also a section where people write their prayers on little slabs of wood.


By the entrance of Meiji Shrine, there's a box with two holes called Omikuji. You drop 100 Yen on smaller box in front, and get a Waka poem from the Omikuji. The left hole contains English poems, while the right hole contains Japanese poems.

The poems are from Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. A Waka is a traditional Japanese poem made of 31 syllables with the pattern 5-7-5-7-7. Emperor Meiji wrote about 100,000 Waka while Empress Shoken wrote around 30,000. These works help enhance the nation's moral character.


These are the words of wisdom that I got:


How to get there by train from Ikebukuro Station:
  • Ride the JR Yamanote Line and get off at Harajuku Station. 
  • Take the Omotesando exit and walk to Yoyogi Park.

BONUS: Here are other places you can include in your itinerary if you have the time.

Tokyo National Museum/Ueno Park

If you like immersing yourself in historical artifacts, you'll enjoy a visit to the Tokyo National Museum. You will see a lot of exhibits and displays that explain Japanese history, and will make you appreciate the country more.


It was snowing the day we went there, so it was really cold. The snow and the rain made the temperatures drop and we were freezing. But we were still able to take a stroll at Ueno Park.

How to get there from Ikebukuro:
  • Take the JR Yamanote Line and get off at Ueno Station. 
  • Walk to Ueno Park and Tokyo National Museum. 

Odaiba

If you're going to Tokyo before April, make a stop at DiverCity Tokyo Plaza in Odaiba to catch the life size Gundam display, as it will only be there until March 5, 2017!


How to get there from Ikebukuro:
  • Ride the Yurakucho Line and get off at Shin-Kiba Station.
  • Transfer to Rinkai Line and get off at Tokyo Teleport Station. 
  • Walk to Odaiba. 

Mt. Fuji Tour

If your schedule permits it, I highly recommend taking a Mt. Fuji Tour. The magnificent mountain is said to only show itself a number of times in a year, so we were very fortunate to have a glimpse of it.

We booked our tour here. It includes a trip to Mt. Fuji's 5th viewing station, an authentic Japanese lunch buffet, a visit to a Japanese Onsen (hot spring where you bathe naked. Think Wensha, minus the buffet), and shopping at Gotemba Premium Outlets.

Because it snowed the day before our trip, the 5th viewing station was closed. But we were brought to Lake Kawaguchi, which our Japanese friend says offers the best view of Mt Fuji. And it does!

Just look at this beauty:


So there you have it, dear readers! Hope my entry helps you plan your Tokyo itinerary. Do watch for my Tokyo Eat List and How to Apply for Janapanese Visa.

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