As an interiors copywriter, you might be surprised to find me writing a blog post dedicated to travel. Having returned from a week in Japan, I could not resist – this country’s beauty deserves more than just a few snapshots on Instagram.
The trip was to celebrate my husband’s big 40, something we’d always discussed, and our week-long adventure didn’t disappoint. If you’re looking to visit Japan, have a read of this post; here’s a copywriter’s perspective of this marvellous place.
When we went
Originally booked to avoid the crowds of the popular blossom season, we flew from Manchester on Friday the 3rd of November. After navigating planes, train stations, and more, we finally made it late on Saturday the 4th, staying for six nights before our flight home early on Friday the 10th.
In hindsight, we wish we’d booked to stay for longer; five full days just didn’t cut it for soaking in all that Tokyo has to offer.
Where we stayed: Shinjuku
Our stay at The Knot Hotel in Shinjuku was a stylish and welcoming home from home. With its traditional Japanese bakery and a cosy restaurant, it was a comfy, down-to-earth spot in the heart of the district that never sleeps.
11 things we did in Tokyo
National Museum of Nature and Science
Our first day entailed hopping on a few trains until we reached Ueno to visit Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science. During our visit, we closely observed dinosaur bones and pretty floral exhibits. The museum really nailed the educational vibe, making it feel like a hands-on journey through the natural world, from ancient times to modern science.
Next on our itinerary was the iconic Senso-ji Temple, one of Japan’s oldest and most revered. Nestled in the heart of Asakusa, here, visitors can engage in a traditional fortune-telling experience by inserting a ¥100 coin and unveiling a personalised Omikuji.
Sumida River dinner cruise
After a hectic afternoon, we unwound on a river dinner cruise. Free-flowing drinks, tasty Japanese food, and the sparkling Tokyo skyline in the background made the experience even more enjoyable.
Kappabashi kitchenware town
The following day, our food journey kept going in Kappabashi, a neighbourhood famous for its one-of-a-kind kitchenware and popular with both professional and amateur chefs. We stumbled upon silicone replicas of Japanese food that looked so real we ended up buying them as Christmas baubles for gifts. It turned out to be a quirky yet charming memento from our trip.
Dinner at The Park Hyatt
That night, we had dinner at the Peak Lounge on the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt, and it was pure magic. Sipping champagne and savouring a tasting menu, we soaked in the incredible views of Tokyo’s skyline. Afterwards, we went up to the famous New York Bar on the 52nd floor, known for its role in the movie ‘Lost In Translation.’
The next morning began with a trip to teamLab, a cool exhibit where art breaks all the usual rules. Featuring four expansive art spaces and two enchanting gardens, teamLab Planets invites visitors to walk through water and meld with vibrant natural flowers.
Confronting my fear of heights, we then ventured to Shibuya Sky, where panoramic views of Tokyo awaited during the terrifying daylight (trust me, it’s easier to be up high at night). The city view, though a bit overwhelming, showed off Tokyo’s huge and beautiful expanse. It felt really good, showing that great experiences often happen when we step out of our comfort zones.
After nearly losing my cool in the clouds, it was time for a break and a visit to the Robot Cafe, Pepper Parlour. Here, cute robots delivered our food, creating a futuristic dining experience that felt straight out of a kid’s sci-fi film.
The next day, a coach trip to Mount Fuji proved to be a major highlight and began with crossing Lake Ashi by boat. We then savoured a traditional lunch in Hakone before taking a cable car to view Ōwakudani’s impressive hot sulfur fields. Created around 3,000 years ago, the active sulphur vents are a result of the explosion of the Hakone volcano.
After that, it was back on the coach for another hour or so as we climbed Mount Fuji to its highest 5th station. Just remember to take a jacket because it’s very cold. We’ll remember this amazing moment for a long time.
Our fifth and final day involved a little shopping; Harajuku is renowned for its colourful street art and fashion. For lunch, we also tried the interactive Kura Sushi, a chain of conveyor belt sushi restaurants and accidentally ended up trying sea urchins, amongst many other surprises.
Shinjuku drink and food tour
Our journey concluded with a food tour in Shinjuku. Guided by a local expert, we sampled delectable dishes and experienced the lively atmosphere of some of the city’s hidden spots. It was a fitting finale that defined our time here – I just wish I’d eaten less sashimi at lunch.
Five tips for visiting Japan
Learn a little Japanese
Learning a bit of Japanese before your trip can significantly enhance your travel experience. Even mastering basic phrases and greetings not only facilitates communication but also fosters a deeper connection with locals, showcasing your appreciation for their culture. It’s a small effort that can go a long way in making your time in Japan more enjoyable and rewarding.
Additionally, in Tokyo, a quiet demeanour is expected in public spaces like trains and buses. While talking is allowed, loud voices that disturb others are considered impolite. Japanese people value shared spaces and endorse keeping noise levels low, including muting smartphones and refraining from calls – an unspoken etiquette widely understood and appreciated.
Remember to carry some cash
No matter how modern you picture Japan, it’s a country deeply rooted in the tangible, and to some degree, cash is king. Should you require additional funds, consider visiting your nearest Family Mart or Lawson, which are often equipped with ATMs and tasty Onigiri.
On another note, we also used a Revolut card loaded with Yen, and we found it was widely accepted. As a versatile travel money solution, Revolut provides users with the convenience of cost-effective currency exchange, secure spending abroad, and real-time transaction tracking through a mobile app.
Organise a pocket wifi device
Arranging a pocket WiFi device online before arriving in Japan totally upgraded our travel game. This convenient option, available for pick-up at the airport post office for approximately £50, ensured continuous and seamless connectivity throughout our journey.
Be warned; however, they lose their juice pretty fast, so make sure to always carry a fully charged power bank. Maintaining a charged and connected status on the go is crucial, considering the potential challenges of navigating in Japan without WiFi.
Don’t forget to order a train pass
These cards will make navigating Tokyo’s busy transportation system a piece of cake. Pasmo (or Suica – they’re basically the same, just from different train companies) is a super-smart card that not only gets you through the train station but also covers all your expenses, whether it’s bus rides, snacks from vending machines or those random buys at Tokyo’s awesome convenience stores.
Grab one from any train station’s ticket machine, load it up with yen, and start hopping on and off between different modes of transport, just like the locals.
A long queue is a good thing
The Japanese are well-known for their remarkable patience and determination. They don’t mind waiting for prolonged periods, even going so far as to wake up excessively early to queue for the opening of a new store or lunchtime at a famous soba restaurant.
Instead of being discouraged by long queues, it’s advisable to adapt to this practice or arrive early to beat the crowd. Moreover, consider embracing the queue, as the sight of locals lining up is a clear signal that the place is undoubtedly worth waiting for.
Feeling inspired by Japan?
As our five days in Tokyo neared its end, we were undeniably tired, but the richness of experiences in this city left us both in awe. From ancient temples to futuristic cafes and stunning scenery, Japan beckons visitors to discover its multifaceted charm.
Whether you’re seeking Japanese travel advice or aiming to elevate your website with engaging copy, I’m here to share my insights. Feel free to reach out, whether it’s for an upcoming trip or creating compelling content for your brand.
Thanks for reading – Han & Si x