I came back from Japan at the end of November and I have been struggling to write up my content as I’ve been going through a massive creative block. But I’be found putting pen to paper has solved this as drafting posts on my laptop/phone is pretty distracting.
Let’s take it back to 2019…
Tokyo had been at the very top of my bucket list for years but the flight prices had always put me off. Paying £700 direct from London and then god knows how much for had always had me feeling like this emoji -🤮. Thankfully, the Jack’s Flight club email landed in my inbox back in July with flights to Tokyo from £290 and upwards, the planets aligned and I took it as a sign to book them.
Check out my Aeroflight review here.
But then came the cost of accommodation – Tokyo, like London, isn’t cheap. However, one of my travel hacks, which I’ve yet to had a chance to divulge on this is to look at new hotels that have recently opened or yet to open in the place you are visiting. I paid approx. £500 for 7 nights which isn’t *too* bad if you as me. Of course there are much cheaper options (like hostels…) but it all depends on your budget, your preferences and who you’re with. It may not even be a solo trip, however mine was, meaning I’d be footing the while bill, or as I call it “the price of peace”.
If you’re wondering, I stayed at the boutique hotel – Hamacho Hotel. I would highly recommend staying here as it’s in a really cute neighbourhood with easy access to Narita Airport. I’ll be posting a hotel review separately.
When you visualise Tokyo, you often think of the bright lights of Shibuya crossing and whilst that’s one aspect to this city, there is SO much more to see. From Harajuku to Shinjuku, Tokyo reminds me of London’s Picadilly Circus but 1,000 times bigger and 10,000 times better.
Now if you’re navigating Tokyo solo, it might seem overwhelming at first but I trust you will ease in to it. I highly recommend grabbing a SUICA card as soon as you land as this is your gateway to getting around the city. And of course, with it being 2020, ditch a physical map and download Google Maps or City Mapper. Both will tell you exactly how much your journey will cost, where to get off and the different modes of transportation you can use.
I personally used a mix of buses and the metro as 1) I love a bus journey because I feel like you “see” more on land 2) because I could.
If you didn’t already know, I am black. I always get a lot of questions of what it’s like to travel to a place whilst being back and if I’m honest this is not at the forefront of my mind when I travel. I just book the flight and go.
Anyway, in Tokyo I had no issues at all when it came to me being “me”. No staring. No one asking me for photos. Nothing at all. If anything, Tokyo is the perfect place to blend in. I guess the only issue would be the language barrier.
I only know about 5/6 words of Japanese – hello, goodbye, thank you and that is about it. I tried to go down the Duolingo route beforehand but life got in the way. Japanese people are the most kind, hospitable, friendly and humble people I have ever met. Being in a huge city solo can be daunting but I have got to the point in my life where I see solo travel as character-building and part of my identity.
I had a couple of incidences where I couldn’t translate what I needed so good old body language and a smile took me places. At one point on my way to Palette Town I went in the wrong direction and metro station attendant literally ran down the escalator to help me on my way. In London you’d be lucky if anyone takes their headphones out to help you.
Eating is a huge part of Asian culture and it is no different in Tokyo. If anything, its perfect for the solo traveller. Instead of sitting alone at a bar, you can sit alone at a noodle bar amongst a ton of other solo diners. No one looks at you off if you ask for a table or stall for one either. Just don’t forget to order some sake.
If you don’t know what you’re ordering you can use the Google Translate app to scan over a menu for help. Some restaurants also have a vending machine style ordering system with photos and portion size. This also allows you to pay beforehand meaning no awkwardness when it comes to asking for the bill. Japan is not a tipping culture either so you don’t need to worry about this. But of course, you can still tip if you want to.
What stood out most for me being in Tokyo by myself for a week is that there was an explosion of culture around every corner. From the skyscrapers to the temples to the bustling Tsukiji fish market – Tokyo is is a melting pot of culture and I’ve only just had a taste.
I love concerts, 6am flights, 90s R&B, cancelled plans and wine. My blog Memoirs and Musings is all about documenting my travels infusing my personal experiences (memoirs) and a few musings along the way.