Ginza - Seriously Impressive!August 9, 2016 in Japan
We landed at about 10am and quickly noticed it was hot! Such a nice change from being cold and wet last week in Sydney. It would have been in the mid 30s which was actually pretty good.
Tokyo's Haneda Airport is quite close to the city itself and it looks very new. Tokyo hosts the summer Olympics in 2020 so they are doing a lot of work in preparation, most signs are in both English and Japanese. As well as being a new airport it was also very empty. We had landed, passed through immigration, collected the bags, and passed through customs in under 30 minutes - record time!
First thing to do was go to the Japan Rail (JR) Office to collect the JR passes and then we had to find our way to the Hotel. Taxis are definitely for wimps we were using the subway! The Tokyo subway is huge and brutally efficient, have a look at Wikipedia to see more. In Sydney a train is deemed late if it is more then 5 minutes behind schedule here it is deemed late if it is a few seconds behind schedule. We didn't have people pushing us onto the trains but they were pretty crowded. Everyone lines up on the platform and lets people off before getting on, nothing like New York.
Another complicated aspect of the subway was the fact there are multiple subway operators as they have been privatised. This means we can't use our JR pass on all Tokyo subway lines and had to buy a Suica card (like Sydney's Opal card) to use on the other lines. It sounds complex but it's not that hard to work out really.
The train from the airport is actually a monorail that really flies along. In some parts we were above the streets and others we were underground. The monorail only goes to Hamamatsucho Station where we had to change to go to Shimbashi and then change again to get to Ginza where our hotel is located. Sounds hard but took us about 40 mins all up. On the way we saw our first Shinkansen - also known as a Bullet Train!
Ginza is the glitzy part of Tokyo where all the high end shops are located - Tiffanys, Cartier, etc, etc - and is very schmick. The streets are meticulously clean and there are always loads of people about. We came out of the subway and were trying to work out which way to the hotel when this lovely Japanese lady came up and started talking to us. You hear about how Japanese people are very happy to help tourists who look lost and I thought she was going to point us in the right direction. Turns out she just wanted to have a chat and had no idea where the hotel was, though she did point out something on the map which helped so we worked it out pretty quickly.
We dumped the bags at the hotel and went to find some lunch and to explore the streets of Ginza.
As well as the high-end shops Ginza has lots of department stores and little alley-ways to disappear down for a look. It's very interesting but the prices are about on par with Sydney so we didn't spend up big!
We headed up a couple of blocks to the main Tokyo Train Station to book our Shinkansen to Kyoto on Friday which we did with no problems but the station itself was organised chaos! People and trains going everywhere. The locals buy their tickets at ticket machines which were way too scary for us which is why we bought the Suica cards.
After wandering through the station for a while we went over the road to one of the big tech stores to organise a local SIM card for my phone so I can access the internet while we are here - essential when you are relying on Google Maps and Google Translate! The SIM card came from a vending machine which are everywhere in Japan and luckily the bloke in the shop was super-helpful and managed to get it all up and running for me in no time. The shop was a mix of Technology Shop and Drug Store - yes seriously!
By then we had been on the go for close to 2 days with minimal sleep so we had to find some dinner before we crashed. We wandered down some of the lanes near the hotel and found a cool little restaurant that had some interesting photos in the window and decided to give it a try. What a win! Not only was the food sensational but the waiter was super-helpful and spoke some English, he even posed for a photo (see below) as we left.
Really lovely people
- Very safe
- Food is sensational
- It is big but if you have a go it isn't that hard to get around
- Very few Westerners. If you walk a block in Ginza and you probably won't see a Westerner, walk 2 blocks and you might see one!
- Language is not an issue (well not yet anyway). Unless you want to watch TV, every station is in Japanese! Who would have thought ....Read more