When we were booking our flight to India, we had a layover in Tokyo for about 3 hours. We decided to take advantage of that stop and turn it into a 24-hour stopover. The airline put us on the same flight the next day, so now we had a whole day to explore the city! We landed in the afternoon and took the Narita Express (the direct train from the airport to the city) to Shibuya Station. We got in during the after-work rush and witnessed thousands of people crossing at the famous Shibuya Crossing. It was such an unreal and exciting experience. We fell in love with the eclectic city within minutes, and we're already scheming ways on how to get a job to move us there.
We pushed through the jet lag and roamed through the busy streets at night. I love the feel of a big city: the lights, the people, the buzz. It's all so exciting. I also decided that I think that the reason I love cities so much is because there are constantly people walking around and everything is always lit up. And since I'm a baby and literally scared of everything, it brings me comfort to never have to walk around by myself in the dark, haha. We ended up eating at this gourmet burger place, which obviously wasn't very adventuresome or Japanese, but it was still delicious.
We also went up in the Starbucks above Shibuya Crossing to watch the rush of people running back-and-forth across the crosswalks, and it was such a unique experience to sit still and watching so many people going in so many different directions. It really makes you stop and think about how easy it is to get to so caught up in your own plans and your own schedule and your own life and just go to and from all of your own appointments. It's obviously easier to keep that outside perspective when you're traveling and have literally no plans or anything to do other than just explore, but it's still refreshing to take a step back and remember that if we don't make it to that meeting or check that last thing off our "to do" list, the world isn't going to come to an end (although, don't tell me that when I'm in the middle of a hectic week, because I'll probably break down in tears and tell you what a failure I am, so...lol 😂).
We stayed at an Airbnb right in Shibuya, so it was a close walk from the downtown area. It was tiny and surprisingly cold, but it came with a portable internet, which was like the coolest thing Ryan and I had ever experienced. You're literally carrying around wifi in your pocket. It's like every phone-obsessed person's dream 🙈.
The next morning, we woke up and walked over to the Harajuku section where I danced around singing Gwen Stefani the whole time, and Ryan just looked at me with blank stares. #notashamed. Then, we made our way to Meiji Shrine. One of my favorite parts about other countries and cultures is witnessing their religious ceremonies and rituals. Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife. We saw people worshipping, writing down their prayers, and even witnessed a wedding, which was so simple but so beautiful. I love love. We didn't have time to make it to the Sensoji Temple, which is one of the oldest religious sites in the city and a popular Buddhist Temple, but we saw it from the Skytree and it looks absolutely beautiful, so we would highly recommend it.
Tokyo is like the New York City of Japan. Shibuya and Shinjuku are both kind of like Times Square, and the Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest tower in the world and the second largest structure in the world next to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is like the One World Observatory (but the elevator ride isn't quite as cool.) And the Skytree area is similar to Rockefeller Center, full of shops and restaurants and even has its own ice rink. The Skytree tower is an incredible way to see the entire city and even has a view of Mt. Fuji. And this has nothing to do with New York, but the McDonald's in Tokyo has french fries drizzled with chocolate sauce, so that's comical.
Tokyo is the most organized city we've ever been to. The crosswalks go in eight different directions, but we never once saw someone jaywalk. Everyone waits for the sign to signal for crossing, and then they all cross the street immediately. Despite it being one of the cleanest cities we've ever been too, everyone wears medical masks, which makes me a little worried about all the dirty air I'm breathing in everywhere else in the world. The public transportation system was surprisingly easy to navigate even though everything was in Japanese, and we had to change trains like three times and get on two separate buses, but we made it without getting lost (even if we only made it back in time to make our airport train with like 10 minutes to spare).
Tokyo had never been at the top of our list of places we wanted to go, but we are SO grateful we had the chance to visit during our layover. And with heated toilet seats and create-your-own ramen bowl vending machines, it is definitely on our list of places we are dying to go back to and see more of what the beautiful country has to offer.