Tokyo Map
Site Index
Contact
Random
Our Travel Books
Advertising / Press

For 91 Days in Tokyo – The E-Book

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

For three crazy months, we dedicated our lives to exploring Tokyo. Every single morning, we’d leave our tiny apartment, hop on the subway and set off to discover something new and amazing in the world’s biggest city. From sumo to kabuki, sushi to soba, gorgeous Japanese gardens, fascinating museums, distinctive neighborhoods, and wild nightlife, we tried to provide ourselves a well-rounded impression of the city… the only thing we really missed out on, was sleep!

We’ve now collected our blog into an e-book for your Kindle, Nook or other e-reader. With over 250 full-color photos and 100 articles, indexed alphabetically and by category, this portable edition is perfect for when you’re out and about in the city. We weren’t able to exhaustively document everything there is to do in Tokyo (a task for which 91 years would be insufficient), but we did have a lot of amazing experiences. And we hope our articles, anecdotes, advice and pictures can help inspire your trip.

Amazon Kindle

Direct Download
(PDF, MOBI, EPUB)

For just a few bucks, you can download your own copy of the book for use on your e-reader or computer, giving you access to our articles wherever you are, without having to connect to the internet. And, buying the e-book is a great way to support our project… take a look at some sample pages from the PDF.

January 19, 2015 at 12:57 pm Comments (17)

Escape from Tokyo: A Trip to Hakone

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

On our last weekend in Japan we abandoned Tokyo and headed for the hills of the Hakone National Park, in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Centered around a large crater lake, this is an area of hot springs, spas, traditional hotels, forests and mountains. It was the perfect antidote to the Big City Sickness with which we’d slowly but surely become infected.

Getting To Mount Fuji

In order to arrive at the Hakone region, we made use of every transportation method ever conceived by man, with the sole exception of Segway. We had made a reservation at a traditional ryokan hotel in the mountain town of Sengokuhara, and the day before leaving, I sat down to the considerable task of figuring out the directions:

1. Subway from Sumiyoshi Station
2. Bullet Train from Tokyo Station
3. Funicular Rail from Odawara Station
4. Mountain Railway from Hakone-Yumoto Station
5. Cable Car from Gora Station
6. Ropeway from Sounzan Station
7. Bus from Togendai

This sounds hopelessly complicated, but it was a lot more straightforward than I had feared. Though there are a large number of individual steps, the road to Hakone is firmly established, and we would step off one train, ropeway, or cable car, directly onto the next. From Odawara, the route climbs steadily into the hills, into increasingly beautiful nature, necessitating ever more extreme modes of transportation.

Getting there, as the saying goes, is half the fun. But in Hakone’s case, it might be more like 70%. At one point along the ropeway, as you’re cresting the hill before Owakudani Station, Mount Fuji suddenly appears, impossibly large on the horizon. Its profile is among the most famous in the world, and the view from our suspended car was unforgettable.

Getting To Mount Fuji

Midway along the ropeway is Owakudani, which is an area of geothermal activity. We disembarked to explore the hissing springs and “enjoy” the stench of sulfur. Owakudani is known for its hot spring hard-boiled eggs, whose shells have turned a beautiful color of purple-black, due to the mineral properties of the water. The area reminded us a lot of our time in Iceland, albeit with sixty thousand times the people. Not even in Hakone, it seems, can one rid oneself completely of Tokyo’s crowds.

Luckily, Japanese groups tend to stick tightly together, and if you can manage to peel yourself away, finding solitude isn’t impossible. Instead of rejoining the lines waiting for the ropeway, we walked from Owakudani to Ubako Station on a wooded path leading down the hill, and were the only ones doing so. Near the path’s end, we encountered a quiet spa with an adjoining temple, seemingly forgotten in the woods. There was nobody here, so we sat down in front of the main shrine and made a snack of our blackened sulfur eggs.

The ropeway then continues to Togendai Station at the northern shore of Lake Ashi, a large lake formed by volcanic explosions. A boat ride sounded tempting, but we decided to leave it for the next day. This had already been a long journey, and we were anxious to arrive the ryokan where we’d be staying the night…

Locations on our Map: Odawara Station | Owakudani Station | Quiet Temple/Spa in the Woods | Togendai Station (Lake Ashi)

Cheap Flights To Tokyo

Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
Getting To Mount Fuji
, , , , , , , , , , , ,
July 9, 2014 at 3:19 pm Comments (3)

Meet the Tokyoites

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Over the course of two equally fun and frustrating days, Jürgen and I set off into the streets armed with pens, paper and a bilingual list of questions for the people of Tokyo. Not many in Japan speak English, and those who do are often reluctant to reveal the fact, so we knew this might be a difficult task. It was. But it was also entertaining, and gave us a cursory peek into the lives of the people who call Tokyo home.

Kozuwe was sitting outside at a Starbucks when we approached her. She started skeptically, unsure of what we wanted (perhaps thinking we were Mormons?), but soon warmed up and was kind enough to answer our questions.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a receptionist at a hotel here in Tokyo.

What’s your favorite food? Sushi, and particularly tuna.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Ginza.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? There are so many great restaurants, and the shopping opportunities are incredible.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Way too crowded.

What kind of music do you like? I love R&B and Hawaiian Music.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? The pyramids in Egypt.

We learned quickly that Japanese businessmen are not the most approachable people on Earth. Over and over, we were brushed off, before even able to begin a conversation. They are just too busy! But Takashi proved to be an exception. He had finished lunch and was more than happy to stop and chat with us.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a computer engineer.

What’s your favorite food? Probably what I just got done eating: curry tonkatsu!

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Ginza is the best.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? It’s a very safe city. Generally, you don’t have to worry about crime.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Traffic jams, and the amount of people.

What kind of music do you like? I listen mostly to Rock and Roll, and would say that Sting is my favorite artist.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? The Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia [this answer got a big reaction from us… we’ve been there and loved it!]

Makoto was chilling on a bench in the park. A young, nicely-dressed guy, not currently doing anything, he was a very tempting target.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a clothing salesman.

What’s your favorite food? Ramen is the best!

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Harajuku [which makes sense for a young guy into fashion]

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? For such a big city, it’s very clean and safe.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Everywhere you go, it’s crowded.

What kind of music do you like? I’m into rock, and my favorite band is Radiohead.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Rome, Italy.

Sakue was walking through the park with a friend, and her eyes lit up when we approached. Her English was excellent, and she had a fun, outgoing personality. Chatting with her was easy.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I help people out in their homes. [“And,” her friend spoke up, “she’s a jazz singer!”]

What’s your favorite food? Tuna sushi and soba.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? I love Asakusa and the banks of the Sumida River.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? The people here are so kind and friendly, and most are willing to help strangers. It’s a strong community that we live in.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? It’s crowded! [We weren’t surprised that this was turning out to be the most popular answer to this particular question!]

What kind of music do you like? Well, I’m into jazz, since I do sing it. But my favorite artist of all time is the great Elvis Presley.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Switzerland!

We stopped these two schoolgirls at the base of the Tokyo Skytree, and gave them a chance to practice their English. They were up to the task!

Where do you work, or what do you study? We’re both freshmen in school.

What’s your favorite food? Akane: My favorite is sushi, and I prefer tuna. Eriko: I’d say Miso Soup.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Akane: Nishonbashi. Eriko: Asakusa

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? Akane: The customer service is really good here, and very friendly. Eriko: The city infrastructure is great. Trains are almost always on-time and it’s easy to get around.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Akane: Once in a while, you encounter rude people. Eriko: I wish there was more green space, more parks.

What kind of music do you like? Both: J-Pop! Akane: SMAP is my favorite band. Eriko: But Mr. Children is better!

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Akane: Singapore. Eriko: Cambodia

We thought that Ueno Park would be a great place to interview people, but it was the opposite. Everyone there was on their way to the zoo or a museum, and the only people sitting around outside were drunken bums. So when we finally saw Yuko and Hidehiko sitting on a bench, we weren’t about to let them get away without answering our questions! Yuko spoke better English, and did most of the talking.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I work at a ceremony hall in Arakawa.

What’s your favorite food? There’s a few… yakitori is my favorite, then soba and sushi.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? I love Ginza and also Omotesando. And Asakusa is wonderful.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? It’s amazingly safe here, and I love that.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? The city is too noisy.

What kind of music do you like? I love jazz, and my favorite artist of all time is Billie Holiday.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Perth, Australia… our daughter married an Australian, and that’s where he’s from.

We knew that we’d have luck with Emika. She and a friend were standing on the side of the street, asking people to write on a poster about what they’re thankful for. Here’s the deal, Emika: we sign your poster, you answer our questions!

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a medical representative.

What’s your favorite food? Ice cream. Does that count? [Yes, but what kind?] Matcha-flavored.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Omotesando.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? There are new things here all the time… new restaurants, new shops, new trends. It’s fun!

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? The crowds.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I love pop… Britney Spears and Rhianna. As for Japanese music, I’d say Ayumi Hamasaki is my favorite. [We mentioned that we’d never heard of her, and Emika was shocked.]

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights, so somewhere way up north. Canada, maybe?

Yoshi was pacing back and forth outside Ueno Station, apparently waiting for someone. Oh, Yoshi, it’s us you’re waiting for, isn’t it?! He seemed ready enough to interrupt his lonely vigil by chatting with us.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’ve just started in a position doing Market Research.

What’s your favorite food? Chicken yakitori.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Shibuya is the best.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? It’s very clean here [many responses throughout the day were nearly unanimous; there’s a general consensus that Tokyo is clean and safe, but too crowded.]

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Too loud.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I’m into J-Rock and my favorite artist is B’z.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Italy.

We finished our interviews in Ningyocho, where we had a difficult time finding anyone to answer our questions. No one spoke English, or they didn’t have time. Yuka saw us trying to talk to people, and came over to ask if were lost. Well, not exactly, but while you’re here…

Where do you work, or what do you study? My husband runs the Ningyocho Imahan restaurant [a famous Tokyo institution], and I take care of the flower arrangements for all our branches around the city.

What’s your favorite food? Sukiyaki is my favorite, but I also love sushi… and hamburgers!

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Ningyocho.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? It’s safe and clean. People are kind, and the drivers are considerate.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? The pace of life here is very hectic. People are always busy, all hustle and bustle, and nobody has any leisure time. There are too many cars, and not enough green space.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I like classical music and jazz. I love Yumi Matsutoya.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I really want to see Italy… or London. My son is in Connecticut, and that sounds like a wonderful area, too.

June 20, 2014 at 2:14 pm Comments (3)

Ameyoko Shopping Street

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

On the eastern side of Ueno Park, in the streets around the elevated tracks of the train station, you’ll find the Ameyoko Shopping Street: a great place to come when you’re in the market for… well, anything. Fish, veggies, shoes, leather jackets and the discrete companionship of attractive ladies are just a sample of what’s for sale.

Ameyoko Shopping Street

Ameyoko is a fun place for those who enjoy being crushed half to death. When we visited on a Saturday evening, the density of the crowd was approximately that of a neutron star. As the market came into view, we were captured by its gravitational field and pulled helplessly toward the nucleus. Seconds ago, we had been in the safety of Ueno Park, but now we were caught in the dead center of Ameyoko, being jostled and shoved from left to right, blinded by the neon and deafened by the shouting of the vendors.

The true name of the market is Ameya-Yokochō, which means “Candy Shop Alley” and indicates the original focus of the area. Today, it’s been abbreviated to Ameyoko, and the mercantile focus has expanded. Over 500 shops compete for business, but there are easily enough customers to go around. We found ourselves darting into stores simply to take a break from the crowd.

In Japanese, Ameyoko’s name also works as a pun on “American Market.” In the post-war years, this was a black market where many of the surplus American military goods could be found.

We had just been enjoying the relative peace of adjacent Ueno Park, so Ameyoko was a shock to the system. Luckily, we were in the right mood, and found it exhilarating. There’s so much to see, and the food and clothing being sold here are cheap in comparison to other Tokyo markets. I’m glad I don’t have to do my day-to-day shopping there, but Ameyoko was worth experiencing at least once.

Location on our Map

Online Shop For Japan Pop Culture

Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ameyoko Shopping Street
, , , , ,
May 29, 2014 at 7:20 am Comments (2)

A Concise History of Tokyo

Add to Flipboard Magazine.
Old Tokyo Photo

Unlike many of the places we’ve visited, Tokyo doesn’t have a history which stretches far into the past. In fact, before the close of the nineteenth century, Tokyo didn’t even exist; it was known instead as Edo. But the rapid ascension from village to “World’s Biggest City” has been as catastrophic as it has been meteoric. Growing pains are always the hardest for those who mature too quickly.

3000 BC Humanity arrives late to the Kantô Plain. At this point, the Egyptians had already established a civilization around the Nile.
628 AD Fishermen brothers discover a Buddhist icon in the waters of the Sumida River, and the Sensō-ji Temple is established in what would eventually become Tokyo.
12th Century Clan leader Edo Shigenaga establishes his castle on the shore, bequeathing the town his name.
1590 Shortly before establishing the shogunate which would rule Japan for 268 years, Tokugawa Ieyasu chooses Edo as his home, irrevocably changing the destiny of the heretofore unimportant fishing village.
1657 Rumored to have started with the burning of a cursed kimono, the great Meireki Fire burns most of Edo to the ground and kills over 100,000 people.
1707 Covering Edo in volcanic ash, but no lava, Mount Fuji erupts. It’s since lain dormant for over 300 years, but remains an active volcano.
1853 Commodore Matthew Perry (not the guy from Friends) lands in Edo Bay and forces a previously isolationist Japan to open its borders to American capitalism, under threat of war.
1868 The era of the Japanese Shogun comes to an end with the rise of the Meiji Empire. Edo is renamed Tokyo, meaning “Eastern Capital,” and the emperor moves into the city’s Imperial Palace
1923 Striking at noon, when the stoves of the city were ablaze for lunch, the Great Kantō Earthquake ignites fires across Tokyo, destroying most of its housing and killing a significant percentage of its populace. Oh yeah, and sets off a tsunami.
1945 The Pacific War isn’t a rousing success for Japan. In its waning stages, the USA drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then fire-bombs Tokyo to within an inch of its life. Debates can (and have) been waged on whether the American submission technique was a necessary evil, but what can’t be questioned is its horrible toll on innocent Japanese life.
1964 Japan’s postwar healing comes full-circle with Tokyo’s hosting of the Summer Olympics. The games are a source of pride for Japanese citizens, and Tokyo’s infrastructure is rapidly modernized. It’s a much-needed success story in this city which has known so much tragedy.
1995 Ten members of the fanatical Aum Shinrikyo cult unleash a sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subways. Thirteen die and thousands are injured in the worst assault on Japan since World War II.
2011 The completion of the Tokyo SkyTree brings the world’s tallest tower to the world’s biggest city, and solidifies Tokyo’s place in the architectural vanguard. Days before the tower reaches its final height, the Tōhoku earthquake ravages Japan.
2014 and Beyond It takes a single glance at the cranes and construction around Tokyo to understand that Japan’s capital isn’t done growing yet. The Olympics are slated to return in 2020, which will give the world an excuse to turn its attention towards its largest city. As though another excuse were needed.

Tokyo History Books

, , , , , , , , , , ,
March 21, 2014 at 6:47 am Comment (1)
For 91 Days in Tokyo - The E-Book For three crazy months, we dedicated our lives to exploring Tokyo. Every single morning, we'd leave our tiny apartment, hop on the subway and set off to discover something new and amazing in the world's biggest city. From sumo to kabuki, sushi to soba, gorgeous Japanese gardens, fascinating museums, distinctive neighborhoods, and wild nightlife, we tried to provide ourselves a well-rounded impression of the city... the only thing we really missed out on, was sleep!
For 91 Days