We spent our last two nights in Tokyo at Nine Hours Akasaka. While the capsule hotel we stayed at in Kyoto was much more high end and premium, we wanted to enjoy a true capsule hotel sleeping experience before we left Japan! I actually felt really cozy and snug sleeping in the capsule – probably from so many summers nights spent at my grandparents in Maine, comfortably bundled in a top or bottom bunk for the evening. And despite the small space, we had no trouble finding a spot to arrange our suitcases for one final pack before our return flights the following morning.In total, we spent four nights at a minimal loft in Shinjuku, an evening at a spacious capsule hotel in Kyoto, a night at a traditional Ryokan in Kyoto, and then we finished the trip at Nine Hours Akasaka in Tokyo. We had a vast variety of sleeping and hotel experiences, and it was so cool to get a taste for the different neighborhoods and accommodation styles in Japan! I would definitely recommend this hotel hop :) That said, all of the moving was made fairly simple by the fact that I am a light packer and only brought a small carry on suitcase and my purse. I knew we would be on and off of trains, walking around the city, and hopping from accommodation to accommodation, so I packed accordingly! And funny enough, not once did I think, Ohh I wish I had brought that! So maybe there is some merit to being a light packer more often ;)
After a good night’s sleep in our pods, we hit the town for one last day of adventures!We started out at Turret Coffee, where we were served the most divine red bean latte. The stop left me kicking myself for not discovering the cafe on day one!We then walked over to the nearby Tsukiji Market to take in all of the sights and smells of Japanese market life.Apparently, since our visit the geography of the market has changed a bit. As we experienced it, the Tsukiji Market was the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. And in-line with the sheer scale of Tokyo, it was also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. However, in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, the Tsukiji Market was relocated, as it occupied prime real estate in the heart of Tokyo.Today, if you want to experience the Tsukiji Market, you can find it relocated about 1.5 miles away at the Toyosu Market. As we experienced the Tsukiji Market as it was before it moved, that’s what I’ll be referring to in this post!Like literally *everything* in Japan, operation of the Tsukiji Market is a smooth and beautiful process.The market opens at 3am as fresh seafood products arrive by air, land, and sea from all over the world. Tons of seafood are unloaded and unpacked, and then the wholesale auctioneers estimate the value and prepare the products for their sale. Only licensed buyers are allowed to bid – these include intermediate wholesalers, restaurants, and large retailers.Once everything is set up, the buyers are allowed to inspect the products and can strategize on what items they would like to bid on that day. The auctions kick off just after 5am, and the licensed bidders begin their quest to obtain the best and freshest seafood. The auctions end around 10am at which point the remaining fish and seafood is made available for purchase for the local market shops and stalls. So if you time your visit right, you can still enjoy some of the day’s fresh catch from the very stalls you will roam through at the market!I was able to try to most delectable sashimi skewer at the market – and although I do not know when or where the fish was caught or who prepared it, it was still one of the most delectable morsels of fish I have ever tasted!In addition to the seafood, there were so many other sensational tastes and smells at the market.
Fresh teas, pickled onions, colorful candies, pink confections, berries – if you craved it, it could probably be found at the Tsukiji Market! We even found some unexpected souvenirs – how cute are these sushi erasers?!Following the latte and sashimi skewer, Amie and I decided to indulge in one final Japanese ice cream. I got strawberry vanilla swirl and Amie got a delicious purple sweet potato ice cream!Or slick ice, as the sign called it! After our wander through the market, we walked over to Itoya, Japan’s oldest and probably most impressive stationary store.The store was four or five stories tall, and we spent at least an hour in the shop, wandering through every floor, picking out the cutest stickers and stationary for our friends back home! This is the perfect spot to pick up original and adorable Japanese gifts! Our next stop was the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize tickets needed to be purchased in advance, so we walked around the palace gardens but were unable to go inside for a tour. It was a bummer, but we had so many fun things we wanted to cram in on our last day, we weren’t deterred what-so-ever. We had a quick coffee pit stop, where I was wow’d by the most dreamy peach and wooden bathroom.That I was also somewhat color coordinated with! Next, we headed back to Minato to meet up with CC, one of my colleagues from Sid Lee back in the day!! I was trying to think if I had ever featured her on the blog, and then remembered this gem! :D It’s an oldie but a goodie!! I am also sure she pops up in some of my San Tropez posts (part 1, part 2, and three here!) as well. Ohh nostalgia for the Sid Lee days!
Together we hit up a local grocery store to buy some cool Japanese cooking products that Amie and I could take home, and CC very sweetly surprised me with a bunch of her favorite local things from the store! I still have a huge tin of broth paste that she bought be and it’s absolutely divine! I also loaded up on green tea Kit Kats and strawberry Pocky, which are two of my very cliche favorite Japanese treats. Afterwards, we went on a walk together, where we saw the grand opening of the biggest Starbucks in the world!! The line was so long that visitors were asked to take a number and return within a certain time frame where their number would be admitted. So unfortunately no iced mocha lattes for us! But who wants Starbucks when you could get a local red bean latte?!On our final evening, Amie and I freshened up back at our hotel and then rode the metro over to Akihabara, famously known as Tokyo’s Arcade District. Akihabara is INSANE and what I had equated in my mind as to quintessential Tokyo – everywhere you look there are electronic stores, manga posters, arcades, anime, costume shops, maid cafes, and some of the biggest, brightest, and most modern sky scrapers you have ever seen. Amie still wanted to get a few final gifts for friends back home, so we popped into department stores and beauty shops to check out cute Japanese makeup products. We also went into some crazy book shops, hobby stores, and gaming hubs.Literally this neighborhood was INSANITY and ENDLESS and we walked around for an hour or two feeling completely overwhelmed, before popping into a random chain restaurant for dinner. We both ordered breaded pork meals, which came with salads, soup, rice, omelette, sauce, and a thousand small dishes that we had now grown accustomed to after 10 days in Japan!
The pork was served rare in the middle, and we were given a small open flame grill to finish cooking our meat on.Honestly it was a super fun concept and the food was fantastic, despite being a spot we had just randomly stumbled into!We finished the evening with a walk back to the metro, taking in the craziness of Tokyo one last time.We past the cutest Cat Cafe where a perfect white feline cleaned her paw daintly in the window. The lighting was perfect and Amie and I had a chuckle over how desensitized we had become to these kind of sights. Cat Cafe? Nothing out of the ordinary here!We’d honestly had a big long list of fun spots we could check out on our final night in town, but we headed back to our hotel’s neighborhood rather early, having spent our last yen and wanting to be prepared for our flights the next day. Ohh how thirty-travel differs from twenty-travel!!And wow, I think that sums up the insanity of our Japan adventure!!
Honestly, I’d gone to Tokyo in search of a city adventure, wanting to feel lost, uncomfortable and able to experience a slew of new things. And we got just that!! From the cherry blossoms to the red bean lattes, Japan was such a delight, and I honestly can’t wait to return again with Kai (and maybe our future family!!) again in a few years!