Feeling rested we get straight up and out on our first day with a tourist agenda. We head to Shinjuku Station to get a train service to Asakusa station. You can get prepaid travel cards (Pasmo and Suica) but we chose to just do everything as single tickets as we went. Navigating the Metro and JR lines around Tokyo was a little confusing at first – mainly due to it having two train services to choose from, but you do get used to it. We preferred the JR lines ourselves if that was an option.
It was about a 20 minute walk to the SkyTree from Asakusa station through a residential area, much different to Shinjuku. It’s very peaceful – you don’t feel like you’re on your way to a major landmark at all. No tacky souvenir shops or throngs of people to be seen. Even when reaching the base of the tower it’s all still very calm.
You enter at ground level then proceed up a few levels within the base of the structure, home to various shops and a food court (more on that later). As we reach the ticket and elevator level an assistant immediately informs us that as we are tourists from outside of Japan we get a priority queue to purchase the tickets and a priority lift to the viewing deck – not bad considering we were expecting some kind of madness on par with the Eiffel Tower. A lot of people recommended not bothering with tickets right to the Tembo Gallery (450m) as the view doesn’t vary too much from the Tembo Deck observatory (350m). Tickets were ¥2060 – (£12)*. The lift to this floor also travels at 30m per second, I wish it was glass so you could see out at the speed you’re flying up! The Tower is 634m high in total, and was declared the World’s Tallest Tower in 2011.
The observatory deck consists of 3 floors. You enter at the top which is a 360* viewing deck complete with plenty of information about what you should be able to see as you go around. Sadly it wasn’t clear enough to see all the way to MT Fuji for us, but that didn’t matter. Tokyo looked like a little toy town from that height, skyscrapers go on for miles. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything so vast in my life.
After playing Where’s Wally? with landmarks we head down to the floor below. This consisted of more windows and a gift shop, with the bottom floor being made up of eateries, limited windows and sections of transparent flooring.
Back down in the base of the structure we explore all the exciting levels we passed coming up.
-4th Floor – A huge TV Character themed shop, Hello Kitty Shop, and Skytree souvenir shop to name a few. Maybe there’s about 20 stores in total – we spent a good hour shopping here.
-3rd Floor – Another anime gift shop, a Rilakkuma giftshop and a food court. I accidentally ate Deep Fried Octopus balls here – discovering a chunk of bright pink tentacle with suckers on will stick with me forever.
-2nd Floor – Home to a vast food market. We wandered around and around mesmerised by all the treats, eventually getting some gelato (mainly for me to soften the blow of almost eating tentacles).
Using Google Maps we leave the SkyTree and take a 20 minute walk over the river to Senso-ji Temple. En route we passed a small shrine called Ushijima which we couldn’t resist checking out thanks to the cute garden it was set in.
We also caught a traditional wedding procession heading in the Shrine. Outside was a statue of a bull where an adorable old man told us to pet the head then bum of the bull for luck. It’s legend that a bull demon dropped a knot of it’s hair as it ran around the shine, which was then enshrined itself.
At Senso-ji we get our first feel of being in a touristy area, with plenty of little shops and people armed with cameras – although still very little westerners.
Senso-ji is one of Tokyo’s oldest and most significant Buddhist temples dating back to 645 AD. The huge entrance to the Temple is the “Thunder Gate” with a giant lantern that people were jumping up to touch when passing through.
The inner complex is home to plenty of stalls, buddha statues and a cute koi river. Watching others, we decided to go and find out our fortune (thankfully English was available). After donating ¥100 you grab a silver tube and shake it whilst making a wish until a stick falls out of a tiny hole.
Match up the kanji number on the stick to the correct drawer (now this can take a while) and take out your fortune. I was lucky enough to get a good fortune which I kept, whilst Lauren sadly got a bad fortune. To prevent this coming true, you then tie the fortune in a knot on a little tree to leave behind at the temple.
Wandering back via giftshops we discover much to my delight… “Bunny Theme Park” which I’m sure is something I would have insisted we do at that very second if we didn’t have to rush back to our reservation at the Robot Restaurant.
Tokyo has plenty of themed restaurants to choose from but we chose the Robot one due to it being heavily recommended. You have to book in advance ( a day or so is fine) but there’s four shows an evening. You don’t have to eat dinner either, you can just opt for drinks and popcorn – which is something I wish we did (I think we paid ¥8000 for dinner). The food wasn’t that great, you’re just paying for the show.
Whilst you wait for the show to start you wait in the crazy shell bar upstairs (more on that below) before being taken down the brightest, most colourful, patterned staircase you’ve ever seen. The seats are all in rows along 2 sides of a long room with giant screens across the wall.
The show was absolutely crazy, very theatrical with dancers, musicians, animatronics and of course robots. The show was made up of multiple themes in 15 minute segments, which linked together and told a story throughout… all completely bonkers. Seriously this is something everyone needs to witness at least once in their life and needless to say it’s 90 minutes of “what the fuck is going on” fun.
Afterwards we decided to have another drink upstairs and the bar was the best room my eyes have ever laid eyes on, which we had all to ourselves as nobody else from our show went back up and the audience for the final show had taken our place downstairs. Our eyes didn’t know where to look first; huge screens, crystals, mirrored walls, oh and MASSIVE GOLDEN SHELL CHAIRS. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
The final thing I learned this day… sweet sparkling sake is great, green tea flavoured oreos are not.
*At the time of this trip ¥1000 was roughly £5.60.