New Year in Tokyo

New Year is the most important holiday in Tokyo, Japan. My family’s wandering was limited because most of the shops close on the week of the New Year (save a couple of the more modern shops that stayed open). This was my first trip to Tokyo, Japan and although our choices of visiting certain places was restricted, we enjoyed our stay nonetheless.

Asakusa

Here’s a list of some of the things my family did in a span of 5 days in Tokyo:

  1. Ate authentic Japanese food — need I say more? I honestly can’t get enough of their food. I never thought I would enjoy cold noodles (called soba) but I was wrong. Ramen, tempura, sushi, soba, gyoza… they were all so good.

    My first authentic Japanese meal
  2. Joined a crowd at the Meiji Shrine for the Hatsumōde — the first Shinto shrine visit of the Japanese New Year. The huge crowd moved slowly towards the shrine where they would throw some coins then exit to buy some lucky charms. My family decided to throw Philippine pesos in, and my little sister bought a 3ft long arrow that is supposedly lucky. (It proved to be lucky when the airline personnel allowed it to be hand carried on the plane.)
    Buy your lucky charms here
    Walking towards the Meiji Shrine (Mom took the picture)

    Family picture with the Meiji Shrine at our backs
  3. Crossed the famous “Shibuya’s Crossing” where all stoplights turn red as pedestrians crossed the intersection all at once. We probably watched the stoplights turn red 10 times before leaving.

  4. Found Hatchiko waiting for my family outside the train station. Couldn’t resist taking a picture with such a loyal dog.

    My sisters and I with Hatchiko
  5. Visited the famous bookstore, Kinokuniya Bookstore, which is known for its huge collection of books.

    Look at all those books
  6. Went to Shibuya 109, a department store that mostly caters to fashionable teenagers. It was pretty crowded and rowdy inside as saleswomen from all sides would call the attention of all passersby. I vividly remember one guy covering his ears to drown out all the noise.

    Shibuya’s Crossing & Shibuya 109
  7. Ate in Isetan, another department store that is directed more towards the upperclass. Most of the high end stores are found in here. Our family mostly went for the food they sold at the food court where they had a great selection of delicacies that are not only Japanese, but are also French, Italian, etc. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures.
  8. Went around Lumine2 where we found franchises of Dean & Deluca and Laudrée.

    Dean & Deluca
  9. Went to Asakusa where the the famous Buddhist temple, Sensō-ji, can be found. We didn’t bother going inside because we saw a long and slow procession leading up to the temple.

    Entrance to the Sensō-ji Temple
  10. From a distance, we admired both the Tokyo Tower, the original tower and the second tallest building in Tokyo, and the Skytree Tower, the tallest building in Tokyo.
Tokyo Tower
Skytree Tower

Observations I’ve made during my stay:

  • Japan is SO clean even though I rarely saw trash bins on the streets. Seriously. It always took me a while before I would see a trash bin (or do they just blend in really well with the walls?)
  • It feels so safe to walk anywhere. I haven’t gone across any sketchy looking place (…yet).
  • People generally have very healthy lifestyles. They bike a lot and eat a lot of fish. No wonder the Japanese live the longest in the world.

    Bike Parking Lot
  • It’s hard to get around if you don’t know the Japanese language. Most people speak Japanese (obviously), and there are only very few who are fluent in English.
  • Japanese people usually dress very well. Their taxi drivers wear suits for crying out loud. It makes me wonder how such a small country was able to thrive so that most of the population is around the middle and the upper middle class.
  • The Japanese seem to be very disciplined. They bow…a lot. Before our bus went on its way, the workers would always bow until our bus left. Then, upon arriving, we would see the workers bowing at us again.
  • They gift wrap most of the things you shopped for. (With very nice paper too!)
  • Some malls are separated by gender — one building for the ladies, and one building for the gentlemen.
  • On an escalator, you either stand on the left or walk up on the right side.
  • In the subway station, it’s never always keep left, there are some signs that you have to look out for that say keep right. It gets very confusing.
  • Their toilets do more than just flush. I’ve never seen so many functions for a toilet.
  • People don’t lock their bikes. I guess they’re not scared of thievery.
  • The people are generally very nice. They were patient with us even though they didn’t know much English.
  • People shopped in Prada as if there were a sale (when there was actually none).
  • Their subway seats have cushions and heaters. There’s nothing like a warm ride home.

    I’m ready to snooze

I had an incredible time in Tokyo, and I would definitely think about going back again! A step into Tokyo was a little bit like a step into the future. I can’t wait for my next visit!

Happy New Year!

– P

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