Traveling to Japan has been high on my travel hit list for years. 2018 was the year I excitedly ventured into the land of efficiency, sushi, and politeness. From the white-gloved taxi drivers to the sweet Japanese school kids scattered throughout the city, Tokyo is lively yet perfectly calming. I arrived the evening before my birthday and with no itinerary in mind, I set out to explore this fascinating city.
My first stop was the Meiji Jingu Shrine located within a forest in Shibuya, Tokyo. As you pass through the Torii into the evergreen forest surrounding this Shinto shrine, you can’t help but feel refreshed and relaxed. As I strolled down the tree-lined path it became so peaceful I could no longer hear the sounds of the surrounding city.
I managed to see most of the shrine before getting stuck in a thunderstorm without an umbrella. I sat waiting out the storm watching as groups of school kids stopped to take a picture doing what appeared to be their signature pose, the peace sign. Forty-five minutes later the rain let up enough and I was able to head out of the forest to grab some much-needed lunch, it was sashimi time.
After lunch, I strolled through the quirky Harajuku neighborhood, attempted to figure out the train systems a bit more, and was overwhelmed by the wide range of themed cafes. In Tokyo, you can find everything from cat to owl cafes. Oh, and I can’t forget the crepes. If you are in the Harajuku neighborhood you must stop at Santa Monica Crepes, you won’t be disappointed!
I waited for the sun to set before heading over to see the bright neon lights, tall buildings and bustling streets of the Shinjuku neighborhood. Everything about this neighborhood screamed Tokyo to me. I shrieked like an excited little kid as the towering Godzilla came to life over the giant buildings.
I made my way down alleyways past an array of bars, yakitori grills, and captivating signs advertising Tokyo’s famous Robot show. I stopped for dinner at a restaurant that was three flights up. I was hoping for a view of the street below but instead, I was sat in the back next to a chatty group of women who were well into several rounds of drinks. They instructed me on what to order and then politely wished me a happy birthday!
I spent the next few hours intoxicated by the buzzing energy of Shinjuku before heading over to the famous Shibuya crossing. I did what most tourists do. I bought a drink at Starbucks then went upstairs to see the crosswalk from above. It really is a cool sight to see. Even at midnight, the crosswalk was packed! And just before I called it a night I stopped for one more birthday treat, some sashimi. Who needs birthday cake when you are in Tokyo, more sashimi, please!
Tokyo was everything I dreamed it would be with its buzzing neighborhoods, friendly people and insanely tasty food. I truly could not have traveled to a cooler city to ring in my birthday. And to top it off I ran into an old childhood friend, Totoro.
Thank you, Tokyo for a spectacular birthday!