Trip to Tokyo during Cherry Blossom in Japan

Konnichiwa! Japan has fascinated me since my early childhood. From the food, origami, and indeed the entire culture has cast a spell on me and will not let go until today. Order meat with tomato sauce or prefer to fish your own fish? See the cherry blossom with the Japanese or discover the best place for Hanami on a travel blog about Tokyo? With these Tokyo insider tips, your trip to Tokyo is sure to be a success!

Day 1 - Flight to Japan

Where does almost every trip to Japan start? In Tokyo! At half past noon, my plane went to Tokyo. With two extra nights in Bangkok and five days full program in Beijing, we were a bit exhausted and unpowered when we arrived in Tokyo. The almost three hours literally flew by and I was back in order and cleanliness to Tokyo. When I land at Tokyo Narita Airport after just under 24 hours of travel time in the morning, I am one thing above all tired. The runway starts right on the waterfront and here even the sun shines!

At the entry desk, an official without a word presses a stamp on my passport. I already knew that taxi is extremely expensive, making the train the vehicle of choice. At 10, the counter opens, where I can buy a train ticket, with which I travel to Tokyo.

The train takes about one and a half hours to get to Tokyo. There are several routes. I get off at Shinjuku Station, near my accommodation near Toshi. I wanted to stay in a ryokan, a traditionally decorated travel guest house as a hotel in Tokyo is expensive. Since Japan is the country with the highest living costs, the next few days are not cheap anyway. The country is special for me, and I am here to make the stay as special as possible.

I leave my backpack with joy. After a French toast, coffee, and orange juice, I leave. I do not have mobile internet, but I've already looked at Google Maps in which direction I have to go. And all the important signs are in English anyway. What Google did not tell me before the trip to Tokyo, however, is that in Shinjuku daily millions of people change. The station has correspondingly gigantic proportions.

Several floors, tens of lines intersect here. In between, I accidentally end up in the shopping center. The Japanese mass, however, is in steady flux. Nobody collides, and not even someone is stressed. Everyone walks patiently. After several attempts in the wrong direction, I am miraculously at the right exit. I recognize a hotel that was also on Google Street view, and suddenly everything is quite simple.

A few streets later I am at the finish. I enter the Tokyo Tsukiji fish market. At the entrance of the world's largest fish market, a sign informs tourists in English about the possibility, possibly to be run over. I accidentally break the first courtesy bids when I walk in the flat with street shoes and brush my nose by the way. For Japanese absolute no-go, as I learn later. Finally, I am on the right way! Shinjuku is known as a nightlife district and for its kabuki shows. Not three steps later, I find myself in a scene of Star Wars. Hundreds of beefy drones transport goods.

The first Japanese food is calling. At the restaurant, I cover myself with fresh sushi. I also have Udon soup and seafood tempura with green pepper. Seeing the prices, I almost faint. Japan basically consists of mountains, settlements and rice fields. There is not much space for cultivation areas. Therefore almost everything is imported. With my sushi box, I sit down in a nearby park and fall to bed completely exhausted.

Cherry Blossoms at Ueno Park

Day 2 - Ueno Park Cherry Blossom

It's 4:30 in the night and I'm suddenly wide awake. I have to rush to the Tsukiji fish market to be in the middle of a very fast-paced video game. But unfortunately only one in life. Others beat us through to the tuna auction, which is unfortunately already sold out. 100 spectator seats are allocated each morning, and it's better to be there at half past two, we learn.

So our plan B is a bit of sushi for breakfast. In the cozy alleyway along the fish market, we find countless small shops, sushi bars, and restaurants. When we reach the bar around 5 in the morning, there are just about twenty people outside the entrance to the sushi bar. But the friendly boss of the store sends us away around the next street corner because there begins the real queue. It is bitterly cold and dark and so we take hot tea.

Two hours later we are right in front of the front door and can at least look into the sushi bar. There are exactly 10 seats. At twenty past seven, we finally enter the hallowed halls and are received with friendly cheers. I had read in the guide of the exuberant welcome rituals.

Under the hot towels, we slowly thaw our hands. Hot green tea and miso soup are served. There is Tamago, a fluffy multi-layered scrambled egg cube with green algae and I am very happy to be here. And I'm afraid that part of the recipe for success might be due to the fact that after more than two hours in the icy dawn, all guests are simply uncritically happy to be here. I decide to stay critical, because the first sushi is served.

Sushi calling - The day I stopped eating sushi outside of Japan

With shining and deep red meat, the sushi rice is warm. The grain clings to grain, and the fish melts on the palate. The almost imperceptibly leavened rice crumbles in the mouth. Reverently I chew with my eyes closed. And that's when I decided to never eat sushi outside of Japan again. It would be pointless. I chew and apologize to all the fish that had to die because I thought I was eating sushi in a typical Japanese restaurant. Everything was worthwhile for this one Nigiri Sushi, getting up, getting ready, and flying to Japan.

Did I mention how unrecognized deep, round and spicy the miso soup tastes? Their secret is found at the bottom of the miso-shell, bones, fish meat and shrimp shells are the basis of the incredibly dense broth. The sea urchin roe melts in the mouth with its creamy, nutty sweetness. At a good pace, we continue with meaty scallops, herring, sea bream, snapper, mackerel, grooved hall, and a fat tuna.

When we step into the morning sun on the road, the queue has grown to 50 meters. I could not have imagined a better start to my day in Tokyo. Fortunately, I discovered a number of Tokyo travel guides on a shelf in my hotel. Because I read so much about how the Japanese celebrate the cherry blossom before my trip to Tokyo, I take the subway to Ueno Park. In fact, a huge pink-white sea of sakura flowers awaits me.

At lunchtime Japanese people sit in groups on plastic tarpaulins on the floor, laughing, partying, picnicking and drinking beer. Celebrating Hanami in the spring season is absolutely cult in Japan. I sit down for a while. When I have enough, I walk to the nearby Asakusa Shrine, one of the largest and most beautiful in all of Tokyo. The Asakusa Shrine is one of the largest, most beautiful and most popular tourist shrines in Tokyo.

Nearby there are some shopping streets. At numerous stands, Hello Kitty peeps out in all shapes and sizes of plush and plastic among all sorts of trinkets. The district is a bit further out and here tradition meets modernity. Amazingly many Japanese women wear a traditional kimono in everyday life. From a nearby bridge, we have a good view of the Tokyo Sky Tree. I do not want to go up, though. The Tokyo Sky Tree is not only popular with tourists as a photo motif.

Manga Madness in Akihabara

According to Lonely Planet Tokyo guide, Akihabara has the largest electronics selection in the world and Ginza is buying the rich Japanese. Landing in Akihabara, I dived into the largest electronic store only two minutes later. Akihabara is the center of the Japanese electrical industry, but also a meeting place for manga, anime and cosplay fans. Neon signs adorn all fronts. It is packed.

Every corner of this department store is filled with articles, stickers and tons of gaudy offers, all over several floors. Through the loudspeakers, information is continuously transmitted in several languages. My personal interest was, of course, in the photo and camera department and found out that this is the ultimate electronics paradise! There are hundreds of cameras for testing and accessories as far as the eye can see.

Nevertheless, I finally went out empty-handed, which was more due to the high prices than my willingness to buy. We decide to visit one of the so-called cafes. The special feature is that all the waitresses are dressed as maids, and the visitors are called prince or princess. The cafe is located on the fifth floor of a shopping mall. Even the way up through the video game halls is worth seeing.

Upstairs we join a queue. 45 minutes should be the waiting time today. When it is our turn, our damsel of the day greets us. The girl looks like a maiden and wears a waitress uniform and the obligatory knee socks. Everything is kawaii, Japanese for cute, cute and childlike. Our maid leads us to our place. There we can choose a drink. There are different price options.

We opt for a drink. The drinks are like everything in the cafe (including the maids themselves) sweet and cute. Our maiden with a lot of giggles paints an animal. Made of sugar syrup on the glasses she demonstrates an idiosyncratic shaking performance. Shortly after she returns with a photo board. Each of us can choose a girl with whom we want to take a picture later.

For this, we are individually called forward in the cafe and may choose to put pink rabbit ears or form a heart with the fingers. Other visitors play with their maiden Jenga. Personal questions to the girls are forbidden. We can only photograph the food. For all the other pictures we have to ask the maids, but they are never on photos. After an hour, we are subservient to the submissive posturing and we pay what happens again with a lot of giggling. After a coffee, banana muffin we go back to the subway.

After seven stations I am in the shopping paradise of Ginza! Ginza Street is the most expensive and exclusive street in Japan. There are countless shopping centers with the well-known designer labels, but they are expensive.

Therefore, I also protect my wallet here and enjoy the sight of the rich and beautiful. Japanese women are not the only ones who attach great value to a well-groomed, feminine appearance in this district. Short hair can hardly be seen, for example, in younger women. Many have an almost doll-like appearance, which suits the mostly extremely slim women.

Right next to the shrine begins the Harajuku district. Here the young Japanese meet. Many are dressed in Lolita style or elaborately costumed cosplayers. Directly behind the train station begins the Takeshita-Dori shopping street, one of the most popular in the area.

What lies behind is pink and sugary through the bank. A sweetish scent stemming from the many crepes and popcorn stalls hang in the air. Excited groups of young girls can be found in the adjacent shops with brightly colored jewelry, fancy socks, and cute accessories. The Lolita style is very popular in Harajuku.

I quickly turn my back on the crowds of people passing through the narrow street and land on the broad Omotesando boulevard. In the adjacent streets hides some good vintage and second-hand shops, some with high-quality designer goods. Because we are just around the corner, I make a detour to the Meiji Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife Shoken. Inside, we see a lot of wedding parties in front of the camera so I could not resist taking some pictures.

At some point, there is an end. At the Imperial Palace, we can only visit the eastern part of the Imperial Palace Garden. I continue by train to Yanaka in the north. Here we can still find a bit of original Japan. The old wooden houses were largely spared by the war and are therefore very well preserved. I stroll over the huge cemetery and through the small quiet streets. It is a soothing change from the hectic core of Tokyo.

Shibuya crossing

If there's an in-quarter in Tokyo, it's Shibuya. The shopping streets around the center teem with young people. Everywhere speakers are attached, from which loud J-pop echoes. The area is also known for its infamous intersection, where cross at peak times up to 15,000 people per traffic light phase. We get to the intersection. At the exit at the Shibuya station, we pass the Hachiko dog statue.

I drive to the Naka-Meguro, a small channel that a friend recommended to me as an insider tip for cherry blossom peeking. The area around the station is so unspectacular that I do not have high hopes. However, I am quickly being taught otherwise. A lush sea of flowers extends for miles along the canal.

The sight of the cherry blossom is beautiful and instantly puts me in a hard-to-explain elation. The branches form an almost continuous roof of flowers over the water. Again and again, I come across small bridges on which people stand and take pictures. In fact, here are almost only locals and not nearly as many as in the parks.

We spend the evening in an arcade on Odaiba. We secure a seat right at the front of the bike. The view of the skyline and the artificial Eiffel Tower is spectacular and gives an idea of the gigantic dimensions of the city. Inside the game room, the halls are loud and colorful. Everywhere people shout, ring and blink something.

We test a baseball and a roller coaster simulator, shoot at virtual undead at the Zombie Apocalypse and curve over the racetracks at Mario Kart. The whole thing is fun. Finally, we treat ourselves to a ride on the Ferris wheel, a real one outside the hall.

Shortly before returning home to my ryokan I went in search of something to eat. The small restaurant looked inviting from the outside. When I entered, I stood in the middle of a crowded living room with boxes, buckets, TV and all sorts of trinkets. The owner came straight to me, offered me a seat on the soft sofa and asked if I wanted ramen and beer. Well, I opted for the offer without a drink and made myself comfortable on the couch next to an elderly lady.

It's our last night here. Tomorrow we continue to Kyoto and two weeks of travel are still in front of us. Nikko, Kamakura and Mt. Fuji all wave at us.