For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with Japanese culture. I'm not sure if it was my parents or grandparents that bought me my first Godzilla film, but that's what kicked it off. From there, it has blossomed into a love for the art, aesthetic, food, and automotive culture of the islands. Visiting Japan has always been "on my list", but it was never immediate. I certainly wasn't saving up for it or anything. However, when my friend Cory Mader ran across a cheap airline ticket to Narita several months ago, we decided that we had to jump on it. The flight left from Los Angeles, but that was fine, I could get there.
Despite the affordable plane ticket, living in Japan for a week is not a cheap affair. While other southeast Asian countries offer extremely favorable exchange rates, the yen to dollar value is very near equal. That is, ¥100 is pretty much equal to $1, so everything is essential priced at a 100x multiplier when comparing yen to dollar. A ¥1000 burger in Japan, would cost $10 in America, for example. So that being said, your money goes about as far in Japan as it does here, and neither of us had a whole lot of it.
For lodging, we located an AirBnb in the Toshima ward off of the Otsuka train stop. The apartment consisted of three rentable rooms with a common kitchen and bathroom. It worked perfect for us. Walking onto the twelfth floor balcony gave us some incredible views of the city as well.
Our plan for day one was to get in as many sights as we could, primarily traveling along the Yamanote rail line. This would cost us between ¥140 to ¥200 per ride, so fairly affordable. Adding our entire day of train travel up ran us about ¥1500. Our goals for the day were Toho Studios in Shinjuku, Type One Motorsports in Suginami, Akihabara, and finally Ikebukuro to meet a friend of ours that would take us to a car meet that night.
We started our morning by briefly exploring the area around Otsuka station, outside of our apartment, as well as getting some breakfast. The area was a fairly quiet part of town, with most of the residents making their way to work or school. We hopped on the train to make our way to Shinjuku first.
To be 100% honest, neither Cory or I were especially enthralled by Shinjuku. While it was certainly great to see the peeking Godzilla head, the rest of the area was obliviously a spot for night life, and at 8:30am, there just wasn't a whole lot to do. I grabbed a Krispy Kreme to compare, determined that it was in fact a Krispy Kreme, and we headed to our next destination.
Getting to Type One Motorsports was a bit of a hike, even after the train stop in Suginami. Type One is the workshop arm of Spoon Sports, a popular Honda parts manufacturer and a pilgrimage spot for enthusiasts. We had a thirty minute walk to the shop and really enjoyed seeing a more relaxed, quieter view of the city.
Our visit to Type One was great, but I'll save that for another post. After we finished, we made our way back to Otsuka for some Japanese curry and to drop off our various goodies we'd acquired.
Eating at Curry House Coco was one of our favorite parts of trip. While I know that its a chain, it's delicious and cheap. If you haven't had Japanese curry, its fairly easy to make here in the states, with easy-to-cook pre-prepared roux packets available in the Asian section at most grocery stores. Pair with it white rice and some fried pork and it'll make for a perfect fall or winter dinner.
After lunch, we got back on the Yamanote line and made our way to Akihabara. Akihabara is the mecca for otaku culture, and while I'm not exactly an anime fan, its just something that you have to experience once.
Our final destination for the night was Ikebukuro, which was a stop away from our apartment at Otsuka. This was obviously a shopping district, and was the busiest and brightest stop in our trip. When you think of Tokyo nights, Ikebukuro is the type of place you are thinking of.
We met our friend Keisuke around 8pm here, and he drove us to Daikoku Parking Area for a car meet about 30 minutes away that was not accessible by train. We had an awesome time there, but again, that's a story for later.
We ended up getting home that night around 1:30a after being dropped off in Ikebukuro and realizing that the trains stopped running. We had a 45 minute walk home, and crashed. Day 1 was over.