TOKYO // DAY THREE: TOKYO TOWER

Our third day was perhaps our most relaxing in the Japanese capital. Hana was heading back to Seoul that afternoon, so we got up nice and early to fit in as much as we could before her flight. It was a beautiful morning, and given its close proximity to our apartment, we decided to visit Tokyo Tower. We assumed that, much like Namsan Tower in Seoul, there would be a cafe or two at the base, and chose to wait to have breakfast once we arrived.

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The tower is, as you would expect, visible from most places in the city, and we made our way there more by walking in its general direction than anything else. Thankfully, this was as easy as it should have been – not something I can often say about finding somewhere I’m looking for – and we arrived after about 30 minutes. We were quite ready for some sustenance by this point, and a quick look round revealed a small food court and a cluster of cafes. It was still fairly early, and there weren’t yet many other people around, so we sat down in the quiet cafeteria and ordered sandwiches and coffee; the coffee ended up being the single worst I had ever had in my life, and I had to run to a different cafe and buy another just to get the taste out of my mouth. Not quite the breakfast we had been hoping for, but at least we were no longer hungry.

We found our way to the ticket booth at the other side of the building, passing a depressed-looking monkey being forced to perform for a few passing tourists along the way, and purchased tickets for the first level of the tower. There are two viewing levels to visit, but tickets to the second, higher floor can only be bought on the lower level. The lower viewing platform is 150m up, and tickets cost ¥900 for adults; the second sits at 250m, and costs an additional ¥700.

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We picked up some brochures before getting in the lift, and something about the fact that the tower was described as ‘Tokyo’s Navel’ in English really tickled me. The Korean was much more sensible, and basically translates as ‘Tokyo begins’. Once we arrived at the first level, it was clear that we had picked the perfect day to visit; the weather was gorgeous, and the city’s soft hues of blues and metallic greys, interspersed in places with splashes of vivid green, stretched before us as far as the eye could see.

Once we had explored sufficiently, admiring the views from every angle possible and paying our respects at the shrine that sat at the entrance, we purchased tickets for the second level from the small ticket booth, and climbed inside the next lift. A recorded announcement reassured us that, should we hear a loud ‘cracking’ noise, we needn’t worry; this was just the safety mechanism, designed to make sure nothing happened to us. We looked around at each other, feeling far more uneasy than we would have had we not been given this information, but after a few seconds and no discernible ‘crack’, we had arrived at the 250m viewing platform. The views from here were even more beautiful, stretching even further towards the hazy horizon.

We eventually made our way back down and spent a little time exploring the cluster of souvenir stalls at the base of the tower, purchasing silly keychains and small gifts. Earlier, I had received a message from my dad about a hedgehog cafe in Tokyo, and despite recommendations on their website that you make a booking in advance, given that it was within walking distance in Roppongi, we decided to head over there in the hope that someone would have cancelled. Plus, a rabbit cafe in the same building doubled our chances of being able to interact with some cute animals, be they hedgehogs or bunnies.

As it turned out, you really do need to make a reservation. The cafes are very small, and while there is a designated area outside where you can wait to get in if an opening comes up, the average wait is at least an hour, if not longer. There was a small group of foreigners already waiting, and it didn’t look like we would get in anytime soon. With Hana’s imminent flight, we didn’t want to waste her last couple of hours, and after inquiring as to whether there were any spaces left for the following day – nope – we went to grab some lunch.

We found a nice cafe with tables outside, and ordered a selection of food and beverages to share. Afterwards, we rushed back to the apartment with Hana so that she could collect her things, walked her to the nearby subway, and then the rest of us relaxed in our cool, air-conditioned room for a while. Although we were tired, we didn’t want to waste what little time we had left in Japan, and eventually dragged ourselves back outside. We decided to spend the evening back in Roppongi, and searched for what felt like hours for somewhere suitable for dinner; even with the assistance of Google, we couldn’t find a vegetarian-friendly establishment that served Japanese food, and eventually just decided to try our luck anywhere. Not much English was spoken in the place we ended up at, but they did indeed understand my dietary needs and made me something tasty.

After our meal, we went in search of somewhere to have a drink or two, but it quickly became apparent that Roppongi is not the nicest district of Tokyo. Much more walking ensued, and while we did come across a couple of places that seemed busy and not seedy, they were expensive. In the end, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren’t going to find anywhere, grabbed drinks from a convenience store – passing a small bar along the way that had giant tanks filled with fish and small sharks, and a strange version of the last supper etched on the windows; never have I wanted to go somewhere more, but it was very pricey – and had another karaoke session, before giving up and calling it a night.

[DAY ONE] [DAY TWO]

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