The flight between Indonesia and the States is no small matter; It usually involves 2-3 planes one-way and about 48 hours including layovers. Somehow the plane gods smiled down upon me this time around and I had an entire row to myslef for all three of the flights to get to Indonesia! Plus, from Jakarta to Tokyo I was bumped up to Business Class for free! I was so spoiled and never want to go back to Economy again. After getting plenty of rest in my spacious reclined seat complete with a footrest, slippers and mosturizing eye mask, I was ready to explore Tokyo on my ten hour layover.
Knowing that Tokyo is a ginormous place I chose ahead of time to visit Asakusa, a neighborhood between Tokyo and Narita airport. It took an hour by bus (¥1000, $10 one-way), where I did some more sleeping, which is totally fine since Tokyo isn’t much of a looker anyways and beautiful scenery really isn’t their strong suit. Let’s just say that if the DMV were a large city it would look a lot like Tokyo; Very grey, slightly depressing and full of people on a mission to avoid making any unnecessary eye contact. Everyone on the street wore suits and work attire and didn’t speak to each other as they quickly walked to their destinations. The Japanese are down to business. After being in overly-friendly Indonesia for so long, Japan was a strange land.
After arriving in the city and having a near meltdown at the mere site of bus and train maps (how does anyone get anywhere in the confusing mayhem that is a Tokyo station!?), I finally made it on the right bus to get to Asakusa, mostly thanks to a guy who wrote a nice bilingual map for me. Asakusa has a decent amount of tourists and I decided to hit the main sites with a determination that would make any efficient Japanese citizen swoon. All in all, I spent $50 for the day including transportation, food and activities (mostly all free), that would make any poor budget traveler swoon just as hard.
This is the entrance to Senso-Ji temple and is often crowded with people taking pictures. The original gate was constructed in the year 942 but had been burned down many times so the one today was built in 1960. It is protected on either side by the Buddhist gods of wind and thunder, Fujin and Raijin, respectively, although I think they need a fire god there, too, you know, just to be safe.
This is the big dawg of Asakusa and there are many people exploring the area.
In front of Senso-Ji are the fortune boxes, where for ¥100 ($1) you can shake a box of sticks, pull one out and find its corresponding box to receive your fortune. The first paper I got read “Bad Fortune,” so I did it again only to get “Bad Fortune Lack” (whatever that means). Irritated at these annoying pieces of paper, I did it one more time and again got “Bad Fortune.“ My wise paper said that, “Although you do your best and sincerity to others, it’s useless just like buring incense to the sky… You will spend a long, hard time working on many useless things.” Oh, wonderful. Luckily (pun-intended, just not for unlucky me), if you get a bad fortune you can tie it to a rack so that it won’t follow you home.
Basically, I spent $3 to find out that, according to the Japanese, my future is looking as grim as their skyline. Hopefully you’ll be far luckier than myself in the luck department if you try this.
NAKAMISE DORI STREET
Basically an overcrowded cluster of walking streets leading to Senso-Ji. There are many little souvenir shops, people taking pictures, food stands and ice cream shops.
ASAHI BEER HEADQUARTERS
When you see the golden turd and complimentary gold-faced building you’ll know you’ve reached Asahi. The 22nd floor has a view, though you have to buy something to see it. I got a $5 pint of beer with a side of Tokyo skyline. The view was far more impressive than the beer.
MOSEYING THE CITY
The best way to see a city is by walking, I say. Meandering down streets, trying new cafes, observing the world, people-watching… I love it all. The Japanese live up to their name and are indeed clean, efficient and nice, although slightly standoffish, people. Their streets are nearly completely void of litter, they refuse to cross an empty intersection without a crosswalk light to indicate it is officially safe to do so, and bicycles are definitely a thing.
And there you have it, 10 hours exploring a tiny part of Tokyo on a layover!