I have to say that out of all the places I visited over the past three weeks, Japan is my favorite. Tokyo is the cleanest, safest city I’ve ever seen and the city is easy to navigate by subway. Did you know that Tokyo is the largest city in the world, with over 37 million people?!
(Signage in both Japanese and English)
There is a lot of culture and each part of the city offers something a bit different. I highly recommend booking tours through Viator. I did this in several countries and had no issues. We wouldn’t have seen nearly as much of Tokyo without our knowledgeable tour guide, Mr. Suzuki.
We stayed at the Aloft Tokyo Ginza in the Ginza section of Tokyo - the main shopping area of the city. It's a great Marriott Bonvoy property in an excellent location close to the subway.
1) Tsukiji Outer Market (roughly 400 shops including all types of Japanese food and retail)
2) Asakusa, Sensoji Temple (Buddhist temple & the oldest temple in Tokyo)
& Nakamise shopping street
3) Meiji Jingu Shrine (a Shinto shrine surrounded by forest in the heart of Tokyo)
4) Harajuku Takeshita Street (pedestrian shopping street with boutiques, cafes & restaurants)
5) Team Lab Planets TOKYO (immersive reality museum)
The Japanese are incredibly kind and respectful. Mask wearing is still highly recommended in Japan and I would estimate that 99% of the Japanese wear them both indoors and outdoors (I wore a mask too, but took it off for photos). They respect others and want to protect the people around them and themselves. I also noticed that they don’t all rush to board a subway or plane at once - they wait until it’s their turn or until they’re called to board. The boarding process at Haneda International Airport was the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. Their manners and etiquette are unmatched. In fact, it’s considered rude to eat or drink while walking around in public or on public transportation. I bought a sweet potato snack from a vendor and Mr. Suzuki told me to stand to the side next to the vendor shop and eat it there.
As a gluten-free vegan, I’ll admit it was difficult to find food I could eat in Japan. Ain Soph in Ginza was a pleasant surprise - it's a vegan restaurant and patisserie with gluten-free options! Many Japanese also speak English, so it wasn’t difficult to communicate my dietary restrictions with them and they were able to accommodate me. For those who spoke limited English, I showed them my translated dietary restrictions card (thank you Google Translate) and I was taken care of.
Something else I noticed: most of the Japanese do not wear sunglasses, even when it’s sunny. Mr. Suzuki said that sunglasses are not common in Japan.
And then there are the toilets! Yes, the toilets are the best in the world. Heated seats and multiple toilet controls for a spray, wash, dry, etc (think bidet).
Like in Europe, the hotel bed in Tokyo did not have a top sheet. Can anyone tell me why some people don’t use a top sheet on the bed? Personally, I love having layers on a bed, so if I get hot, I can push down the comforter and use the top sheet. But in Tokyo, it was a big fluffy comforter or nothing.
Also, as in many European countries, people walk and drive on the left. But with such a fantastic subway system, we didn’t need to use a car there at all.
Finally, in Japan, my name is pronounced “CHAIR-EE-UL” by most. I don’t blame them… I’ve never understood how Cheryl can be pronounced “SHARE-EL.” ;)
We would love to spend more time in Japan someday, but for now, it’s on to stop #2...
Hint: this country is close to the equator.
*** NOTE: You won't see any photos of my family because I am respecting their privacy. ***