An Index of Events:

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Tokyo (10 July – 13 July)

Fresh off the plane, we are eager to embark upon our journey of a lifetime.

  • Day 1:

    • Hello Tokyo
    • First Hotel

  • Day 2:

    • Ueno Park
    • Mystery of the konbini onigiri
    • First Temple Visit
    • Life in Ueno Park
  • Day 2 (cont.):

    • Jomon Exhibition
    • First curry experience
    • University of arts
    • Let’s enjoy the park from above
  • Day 3:

    • Akihabara
    • A Vampire Hunter D Hunter in AKIHABARA 
    • Universe of everything: Don Quijote
    • Heat Exhaustion
  • Day 3 (cont.):

    • Akihabara in the night 
    • Salaryman/woman
    • The Hook for the Maid Cafe
    • Mario Kart
    • Go up for the cafes
    • Neon Lights
    • A Spicy finish to a Fine Night: First Real Ramen
  • * More COMING SOON *

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Day 3 (cont.) TOKYO, Akihabara

11 July (continue)

After fully resting, we were ready to get back up there and enjoy the night in Akihabara.

Akihabara in the night 

Around 6 pm, we went back to Akihabara streets for more exploration.

Salaryman/woman

The work hours were over and everywhere we looked there were Japanese salary men and women wearing a white shirt and black trousers and skirts. They were dressed as if they were the same person all over. Also some engaged in an interesting behavior: a few of them would stand around in a circle and each would bow to one another before going their own ways. I later learned this is often the case when the group of salarymen go out with colleagues (drinking and eating) and then when it is time to go home they say their goodbyes in this manner, especially in the presence of more senior colleagues. 

Erhan’s Note: Travelling to other cities (especially Kyoto) we learned people often derided and ridiculed Tokyo way of living where salarymen style of career life is most visible. It was often told us that nobody wanted to live that life, like a robot, no offense.  

Tall building where work never stops in Tokyo

The Hook for the Maid Cafe

There were some girls dressed as maids to attract customers to the famous Maid Cafes. We already watched some videos about these cafes before leaving for Japan, so we weren’t too interested in these, but believe me, many tourists were attracted to these girls and entering the cafes. I know there is nothing fishy going in there but then again as a woman, I’m not sure that I’m too happy seeing these girls having to work like this, but that is my personal opinion of course.

The maid realized we were taking her photo and did a cross sign with her arms indicating she would rather not be pictured so we decided not to put the photo here.

Mario Kart

I’m sure that you have already heard Super Mario by Nintendo. And most of you may heard or seen in Instagram, the tourist driving around Tokyo routes with the Mario go Kart cars. By chance, we run into to their garage while walking from the hotel to the Akihabara station. It was fun to see this scene. Along the trip, we saw the karts around Tokyo many times, especially in Shibuya.

Go up for the cafes

Yes you heard it right, we weren’t used to go up for entering to a cafe but in Japan,many good cafes are situated in upper floors of an ordinary building, you just have to look up.

Neon Lights

While walking in Akihabara, we saw many neon boards, again showing some anime advertisement and so.

Famous SEGA Building (Eee, one of them)

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A Spicy finish to a Fine Night: First Real Ramen

Since we skipped lunch outside, we earned the right to choose a good place to eat. Now, the research I did before coming to Japan had worked its magic and we went to one of our starred places: Kikanbo Ramen https://kikanbo.co.jp/. There were 5 people in the queue waiting, it was pretty quick because there was a machine outside where you choose the ingredients you want in your ramen and your drink and pay on the spot to receive a ticket. Once you enter you give the ticket to the counter and voila! The ramen you wished you had while watching all these anime is in front of you! The store’s ramen style was from Hokkaido and they had a dark theme going in the shop, which immerses you immediately, and the drums play a war tune in the background which went tamtı tamtıtı, exciting your appetite while waiting. Some monstrous creature sculptures watch over you from their spots on the wall. We loved the atmosphere, and once we tasted the ramen, OMG! So delicious and extra spicy. First ramen (and one of the best throughout the journey) .

BEFORE – waiting in line, hungry and excited

Erhan slurping his ramen like a PRO!

a macro view to my ramen choice (the napkin in the video is very useful because the ramen was very hot, believe me you need one)

AFTER -It may not be a good photo but I wanted to share it anyway to show you how hot it was eating the ramen:)

***

Eventually we were overwhelmed by the experiences of the day and went back to the hotel early. You could see from our timeline again, details of our walk.

We didn’t sleep much again in the night, still adjusting to Japanese time?

Total steps of the day: 11644 

Day 3: TOKYO, Akihabara

11 July  – Weather 33°C at noon 

After all these walks of the day before, we let ourselves sleep that morning and woke up late. 

We decided to see our options for breakfast since the breakfast at the hotel wasn’t something to talk about. We went to a nearby cafe at the corner of the street, and took some delicious tuna sandwiches. Cheese sandwiches are not very common in Japan, and they have a bit of extra air of “exoticness”, which is very normal since Japanese culture relied on fish, rice, and vegetables for a long time. (However they have mastered the cheesecake and it is everywhere! Omg Japanese people adore cheesecake, I won’t complain because I do too). We had our cafe at Tully’s (we didn’t know then but quickly discovered that it’s a chain cafe store like Starbucks and they have delicious sandwiches, breakfast choices etc.)

Erhan notes: Perfect for westerners who are looking for a break from the Japanese cuisine which can be a bit overwhelming.

The sitting order
some people looks like they are from an anime

There are all kinds of people around Akihabara: business people, otaku, chic ladies, tiny humans…

Akihabara in the day

A Vampire Hunter D Hunter in AKIHABARA 

Akihabara is close to Ueno, therefore it was a good place to spend the day. I knew Akihabara is an otaku (people who consume a lot of anime, manga, and related everything) heaven but I was still taken by surprise by its sheer size. At the beginning of the street the manga and memorabilia shops start and go one after another, but don’t think that these are one-floor-shops, no no, nope, at least 5-6 floors of anime goodies. Everything you can possibly imagine and more. There was so much stuff that we couldn’t decide to buy anything, we thought we would look again later, maybe when we return to Tokyo. Expectedly things weren’t cheap either. I limited my search to only one thing, if I had found it I would buy it immediately: a figure of Vampire Hunter D! Unfortunately we had no such luck and bought nothing. 

Erhan notes: This is the first time I ended up convincing Mine to climb just one more floor in an anime toy Store. Which turned out to be 6 floors. Most Japanese weighing less than 90 kilos and having no bags of camera with them (unexpected I know) usually are able to climb but less active ones use the elevators which are often hidden deep somewhere in the labyrinthine layout of the stores. Later on, we learned it is best to locate these elevators and go to the top floor and take the stairs only to descend. The sheer size of the stores’ inventory really took us by surprise and we did not even understand what was the purpose of half of the stuff they were selling.

the hidden elevators

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Universe of Everything: Don Quijote

While walking we encountered the famous Don Quijote shop (the Akihabara one), we were missing some goodies so we entered the shop: actually it’s not a shop really, it is another universe!  Every corner, every floor has another theme… chocolates candies , cosmetics, some adult stuff, baggages, everything you can think of. It’s crazy, you can spend hours there and buy so much stuff you do not need normally.

Erhan’s Note: Which is interesting how Japanese live in this constant pull and give between a yearning of the so called zen simplicity vs allure of the over cluttered public and personal spaces. We’re all human after all. 

Heat Exhaustion

Again we were pretty exhausted from the sun, so we decided to take it easy and went to the hotel to rest. For lunch, we took some goodies from the Konbini and ate them in the room while cooling 🙂 We spent about 4 hours in the room, recovered from the heat exhaustion so that we can go back to the streets in the night when it’s cooler most importantly less humid.

Onigiris, egg salad and another salad. And the blue thing under the Onigiri is medical great cold compress gel pack for our knees, now serving as a compact refrigerator in the hotel:

It was our third day but heat exhaustion had already started to affect us, by then we didn’t know how difficult it would become along the way.

Next post: Our adventure of 11 July continues: Akihabara in the night…

Stay tuned and don’t forget to comment

Day 1: Japan, here we are: Tokyo 1st Visit

Hello TOKYO

We had to plan our trip starting from Tokyo because this is where the Turkish Airlines was landing. 

Erhan’s note: After considering various options with possible flight transfers from Seoul or Bangkok we decided that our landing destination had to be Tokyo because there was a direct flight from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. We did not want to arrive there all tired and confused, but more importantly given that we were packing valuable material such as cameras, laptops, and a drone, we could not risk losing them between transfers no matter how small the chance.

The day before we left home, I searched the possible routes from the Narita Airport to the city, and bought our Skyliner tickets online to the Ueno Station, because it was central and had direct route. We thought that we would be pretty tired after a long flight anyway, so we arranged our first hotel near the Keisei Ueno Station. It was Super Hotel Akihabara.

We got on the plane on the night of 8 of July (2018) and landed on 9 July around 19 pm (it takes about 11 hours) in Tokyo.

Waiting the plane, very tired since it was already midnight in Istanbul but also very excited

Erhan’s note: Mostly it was an uneventful flight. Turkish Airlines is well known for its service and comfort. We sat in 3’s, by the window side with a Japanese gentleman on the corridor side. He had a mask on and would cough quite frequently. I was nervous since getting sick on the first day of our long trip would not make the smooth start I was hoping for.

Once we landed, even though we didn’t require any visa to enter, they still asked us a couple of questions before entering the country. One of the questions was “how long will you stay in Japan” and we replied honestly (we were prepared to show the bookings if demanded also) and said 2 to 3 months (our return ticket was changeable but we bought it in the beginning as 15 September), and we received the sweetest reaction ever :

OH how nice, welcome to JAPAN! Thank you for staying such a long time!

We were already pretty motivated for our journey but this made us even happier.

The first things we bought in Tokyo were Pocari Sweat and tuna and pork onigiri. My favorite combination through the whole Journey!

Pocari sweat and Onigiri

We were already tired, but had to walk to the hotel from the station. Although it was nearby (11 minutes according to Google maps), it was a little hard to walk with the suitcases, but we didn’t mind too much since we were in TOKYO. A dream coming true… (a little note: after a while, we concluded that in Japan if Google maps says 10 min. It may count as 20 minutes for non-locals. The so-called 11 minutes must be in Japanese steps, who are usually traveling lighter, more conditioned to the climate, and are more aware of their surroundings. Pro tip: Don’t forget this fact when estimating your time!).

The first encounter with a Japanese hotel

It was very surprising for us: in front of the elevator we found the necessities, before going to the room you choose whatever you need: a comb, toothbrush and paste, razor etc. Oh, and we could choose our own pillow. So we learned that the Japanese hotels almost always provide you your basic needs whatever the cost of the room. 

As I wrote before, the room size is important in Japan, we learned that quickly in our first hotel, -although very equipped- the room was tiny for 2 people, especially someone tall like Erhan. 

Erhan’s note: And thus began our quest of guessing correct size of beds from photos in booking.com

The whole room in panoramic view

Exhausted, we went to sleep immediately.

More is coming in the next post. Stay Tuned!