Starting out around-the-world: Tokyo

Christopher Travel Journal 1 Comment

We chose Japan to kick off our around-the-world trip for two reasons.  First, Lauren and I have both wanted to visit Japan for some time so we thought this first week would be more of a vacation to us before we settled into full time travel mode.  And secondly because we were able to book two first class tickets on Japan Airlines using miles… resulting in the most amazing flight of our lives.  1

A Few Highlights of Tokyo

You’ve probably seen enough skyscraper shots of Tokyo as well as the pics of all the neon-flashy street signs, so I’ll skip that stuff.  Instead I’ll just offer up a few thoughts and highlights from my viewpoint on our three days in Tokyo. 2

For a base to explore the city… Lauren, Johnny Cas, and I stayed away from the most popular tourist neighborhoods, opting instead for a traditional Japanese Ryokan3 in the sleepy – well, sleepy compared to the rest of Tokyo at least – Ikebukuro neighborhood:

I can't read most of those signs, but I'm pretty sure it says "Your US dollar doesn't go far here..."

I can’t read most of those signs, but I’m pretty sure they say “Ha! Your US dollar doesn’t go far here…”

Our landmark street.  Next to the KFC.  We knew to turn left here.

Our landmark street. Next to the KFC. We knew to turn left here.


There are a lot of people in Tokyo4 and every street is packed. Perhaps my favorite place we stopped for some people watching was Tokyo’s famous Shibuya crossing:

That was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Imagine this at rush hour or on a Friday night!  But despite being such a packed place, you can still find a little peace and quiet in a few of Tokyo’s hidden gems.


Hama-rikyu garden in Central Tokyo.

Hama-rikyu garden in Central Tokyo.

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine. Or rather one of the impressive gate-things leading up to it…

We also did a little early morning shopping5 in Tokyo’s hip Ginza district.  I did buy Lauren a few new shirts for the trip at Uniqlo since it was her birthday6.

This cool street is in Ginza.  Before it got busy.  Seriously busy.

This cool street is in Ginza. Before it got busy. Seriously busy.

Let’s get something out of the way early in this blog.  A certain redhead roamer made an appearance in this photo.  Because every time I stop to take a picture she keeps walking.7  She does that a lot, so this won’t be the last photo where she totally Where’s Waldo-s a cool picture of mine.  Moving on…

My top “to do” in Tokyo was to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market.  We love sushi and this enormous market is a world-renowned commercial seafood warehouse.  The freshest and best fish in the world makes its way from Tsukiji to the various restaurants across Tokyo starting in the wee hours of the morning.  We left our hotel before 3 am to get there for one of the 120 available tourist spots to observe the famous tuna auction.  The buyers first examine the goods:

At Tsukiji, buyers compete and bid for the what is arguably the best tuna on the planet and a large fish can fetch upwards of $10,000.  We were spectators for a part of the action, so I made sure Lauren knew not to wave at me to get my attention. I love sushi but didn’t want to be the proud owner of a $10k Bluefin Tuna on day 1 of our trip.


After checking out the tuna auction8 I waited in this line at 6 am:

Sushi Daiwa - Tokyo

Sushi Daiwa – Tokyo


…for a seat at this counter:

Someone get up.   Please.   We are hungry.

Someone get up. Please. We are hungry.


…for the best sushi I’ve ever had!

That piece of tuna was truly amazing.  Yes, post $10k tuna auction waiting over an hour at 5 am awesome.

That piece of tuna was truly amazing. Yes, post $10k tuna auction waiting over an hour at 5 am for sushi awesome.

So in conclusion, Tokyo was amazing and the perfect 3 day start to our trip.

Thanks for reading,

  1. Seriously.  It was amazing.  Lauren fully documented the experience for those curious.

  2. Lauren’s full play-by-play can be found here on

  3. In most Ryokan the room sizes are described in terms of how many tatami mats it will fit. So rather than a single bed room or a double bed room, you would book a “3 mat room” or a “5.5 mat room.” You place your mattress on the floor each night to make the bed – it was very comfortable and is super practical in a city where space carries a premium.  We stayed at Kimi Ryokan.

  4. 13.3 million

  5. or rather browsing since we’re living a backpack lifestyle for now

  6. Good husband

  7. Yes, I knew this when I married her.  And yes, of course I realize that means I have to just put up with it.

  8. and successfully NOT buying a $10k bluefin tuna

Comments 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *