For the past five or six years, I've been reading about Japan's car culture on Speedhunters.com. People like Taryn and Dino are constantly bringing amazing content out of the Land of the Rising Sun, from drifting and time attack events, to some of the world's greatest tuners and builders. It seemed like the best place to be for an automotive enthusiast, and was easily first on my list of places to travel to.
It was lucky for me, that my girlfriend's class was heading there for a week and a half during March break, and I was invited to tag along.
Our trip began at 6:00 a.m. with a five-hour flight to Dallas, Texas, a two-hour layover, and then a big thirteen-and-a-half-hour flight to Narita, before taking a train into Tokyo. Many movies were watched, some not-so-good food was eaten, and no sleep was had(by me, anyway), because we'd be arriving in Narita just in time to have dinner and get a good night's sleep.
Upon arriving in Tokyo you quickly realize just how big the Subway network is. It's quite intimidating at first, but it's actually pretty easy to navigate after a few days of getting used to it.
I had read prior to arriving about how Japanese people are very quiet on public transit, but I was still shocked when I stepped into a full train and was met with complete silence. I know this phrase is overused, but you could honestly hear a pin drop. It was somehow both relaxing and uncomforting at the same time. If it weren't for the noise of the train I would have probably started to wonder if I was breathing loudly.
For the half of the trip that we spent in Tokyo we stayed at the fairly new Irori Hostel. It was my first time at a hostel and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice and clean it was, and the lounge on the top floor was a great place to relax, charge batteries, and get some photo editing done.
The hostel was located on a side street just off of a larger boulevard, and I was again surprised, this time by how clean the streets were. Throughout Tokyo they always looked like they had been cleaned only five minutes before we passed by.
A mere fifteen minute walk away was Tokyo's 'Electric Town' Akihabara. I'm convinced that you could find any electronic device that you could ever need here. If you can't find what you need at any of the hundreds of shops in the area, the gigantic nine-floor Yodobashi Camera store probably has it. I was most interested in the camera and hobby model floors, but they have everything from appliances to cosmetics. They even have a golf store with a driving range on the roof!
I'll be going more into detail on Yodobashi Camera in a separate post about Tokyo's hobby shops, so stay tuned!
Hanging out around Akihabara you'll also see some awesome cars, I spotted my first of many S14s on my first morning there. You might even see a group of go-karts race by if you're lucky! Again, I'll be making a separate bost for car-spotting, so you'll have to sit tight if you want to see more of that.
A forty minute subway ride away from our hostel and possibly the furthest thing from an 'Electric Town', was Meiji Shrine, in Shibuya. Tokyo is dotted with parks, gardens and shrines, but this is the most popular one. It is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, the first Emperor and Empress of modern Japan. This area was chosen for the shrine as it was a place that the Emperor and Empress were known to visit.
Even though it was too early in the spring for the Iris flowers, and most trees were bare, it was still very beautiful and peaceful. Once I stepped into the forest I could barely tell that I was in the center of Tokyo. Unfortunately the shrine and It's surrounding buildings were in the process of having their roofs replaced, and so pictured above are the famous Sake barrels, the Iris flower fields, and the teahouse in the inner garden.
Of course, being in Shibuya we had to check out the famous crossing, which on a Saturday is just as incredibly packed with people as it is in the movies. Apparently I was too busy taking pictures of cars to get pictures of anything else though (notice the 2002 bottom left).
Just to the east of the forest that Meiji Shrine is located in is Takeshita Street. It's a long pedestrian street packed with some awesome little clothing shops and eateries, as well as some more well-known stores.
After checking out some small shops, grabbing some cotton candy, and me almost buying a shirt covered in cats, we ditched the crowds. It's a cool area, but I don't recommend going on a Sunday unless you're comfortable without personal space.
Last, but not least, we visited Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple, Senso-ji. The walkway that leads to the temple is lined with small shops that sell all kinds of things, from some interesting (and delicious) food to souvenirs and more traditional items.
Luckily this was the only rainy day of the trip, and I think the mist actually added to the beauty of the temple and gardens.
That's all for Tokyo for now, but I'll be returning to it soon with my post on the awesome Toyota Megaweb & History Garage.