I had a week off in July, so we decided to go to Japan. Specifically, Tokyo, with a short trip to Osaka. Naturally, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios were on the menu. But first and foremost was the Ghibli Museum, located in Mitaka, Chiba. Unlike some of my other travels, we paid for everything besides transportation and food before we left. This was an interesting difference. After talking with a friend who is currently living in Japan, we decided to use AirBnb for the whole stay. This proved somewhat trickier than I thought, but it allowed me to sort out a Taiwanese PayPal account connected with the only bank in Taiwan that supports PayPal, E.Sun Bank.
We started booking private rooms in a few recommended neighborhoods in Tokyo. We stayed mostly in Shibuya, Setagaya, and ended up in Daikenyama for the last few days. We started out near Hibarigaoka, which was a bit further than we thought it was. Trains are a vital part of life in Tokyo. Everything revolves around them. I used the trains everyday. I used a taxi only twice to get to the Ghibli Museum because I didn’t have time to take the bus.
Two of the places I stayed in Tokyo were close to train tracks. You should be aware of this fact and ask questions to your hosts. They’ll most likely respond honestly, but it didn’t matter to me, as I always wear earplugs when I sleep these days. So basically, we planned out three big events: Tokyo DisneySea, Universal Studios and the Ghibli Museum. This meant that we took the Shinkansen to Osaka from Tokyo. It was three times more expensive than the HSR in Taiwan, but we knew that going in.
For the rest of the time, we would be around Tokyo. We wanted to visit the Tokyo Skytree and a few other places. I wanted to go to Kakimori, a custom notebook shop that I had read about. Other than meeting my friend a few times, that was basically our itinerary.
Since we were going to Universal Studios only for a day, we purchased 7-ride Express Passes. It actually helped out a lot, because by 2PM we had gone on most of the rides that we wanted to.
All in all, I really had a good time in Tokyo. Parts of the city are amazing. The fact that there aren’t many scooters or motorcycles around makes the city very pedestrian-friendly. Once again, pedestrians have the right of way, unlike Taiwan. Cars, bikes, and the few motorcycles that are around are very careful around pedestrians. This isn’t the case in Taipei, which is kind of sad. The narrow residential streets are great, once you leave the downtown core. They make it almost impossible for big vehicles to go on them. They also slow down the traffic a lot.
There are so many people on bikes. It reminds me of an European city. From what I’ve heard, people tend to go on bicycles around their neighborhood, and will generally stay in their neighborhood after coming home. That’s a nice change from Taipei.