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Expedition Edition 19: Tokyo, Japan

The last international stop on our tour around the world was Tokyo, Japan. It's a tough place to tackle in four nights, but we did our damnedest and had a great time doing so.

Maggie picked out a hotel perfectly situated between the mega neighborhoods of Shinjuku and Shibuya, which I think is the location I'd recommend for anyone staying in Tokyo and wanting to fit in as much as possible. Get as close to Shinjuku Station as you can.

As soon as we arrived in Tokyo, we were treated to dinner by the Japanese friends of Maggie's aunt and uncle. They took us to a restaurant that featured just about every type of Japanese food (and drink) we could ask for, and thankfully helped us plan out the rest of our stay as well.

On our first full day in Tokyo, we explored Shibuya on what ended up being a pretty rainy day. Still, it didn't stop us from seeing an umbrella-painted Shibuya Crossing; probably the busiest pedestrian intersection in a city full of busy pedestrian intersections. We also popped into a cat cafe to pet a few little fluffy guys and visited the D47 Design Museum. I even managed to find a haircut for $10, which knowing Tokyo prices, is pretty amazing.

Our second day was sunshiny and so a lot more action packed, as we ventured out to Hamarikyu Gardens (home of pretty walks and jumping fish), Tsukiji Market (home of crowded walks and fish past their jumping days), and Ginza, where we found good ramen and a place to finally sit down after our fishes started barking.

That evening, we hopped around Shinjuku and stopped at Omoide Yokochō for yakitori (skewered and grilled chicken). Omoide Yokochō is a magical narrow alley (one of many in Tokyo) lined with tiny, aromatically inviting yakitori restaurants. Afterwards, we dropped by Golden Gai, which is another series of magical alleys filled with tiny, mostly-themed bars, that seems like it was designed for keeping the drunkest of people out of the general population.

On our third day, we stopped by the Godzilla store to look at some merch. I'm a massive Godzilla fan, and have been for as long as I can remember. Even though the store wasn't huge, it definitely had a great selection of gear and toys for enthusiasts (Smog Monster anyone?). We also traveled down to Harajuku to see the extremely crowded Takeshita Street and bumble around Yoyogi Park, where we watched people impersonating 1950's greasers dance around to rockabilly music. It was odd and enjoyable.

That evening, we made our way to Asakusa to see the always impressive Senso-ji Temple and wander around the streets for trinkets. I had stayed in Asakusa twice before, and it was interesting to experience Tokyo from the newer Shinjuku/Shibuya side versus the old Asakusa side. I like both, but I preferred the newer side, if only because it feels where the current heartbeat of Tokyo resides.

On our last day before heading to the impossibly far Narita International Airport, Maggie and I spent time in Roppongi, where we had some excellent sushi, went to a rabbit/hedgehog cafe, and got a few sweet treats at an almost comically upscale mall. Lastly, we dumped our last few hundred yen into a claw game at Taito Arcade. We were trying desperately to catch a stuffed Shiba Inu that couldn't have cost more than $5 to make. $20 later, we were unsuccessful and brokenhearted after we discovered that a woman on our train to the airport HAD caught the stuffed Shiba. We must have made it easier for her.

We're now in Maui for a few nights before we return to Chicago and then the Bay Area. I love Japan, and I had such a great time revisiting a country I hadn't been to in 12 years. Hopefully it isn't that long before we go back.

The photos are below!

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