August in Tokyo

Spring of 2019 we came across an amazing Delta deal – R/T tickets to Japan for $470 each! We found 10 days in late summer and happily started to plan our trip. I had been in Japan for 7 days in 2014 as a solo-budget-traveler and LOVED it. (Click here to read that blog post.)

Asakusa Gate with local tourists in 2014

I knew this trip would be very different- this time I was traveling with my husband! He travels frequently for business so he is great at packing but his standards for accommodation are a bit different than mine. He chose the Hilton over the capsule hotel.

(See my post about staying in a capsule hotel.)

Here is my fancy husband with all of our luggage as we board our MSP>HND flight. We managed 11 days of travel with only a carry-on and a personal item each! I’m quite proud. We checked a bag on the flight home.

The flight was 12 hours from Minneapolis to Haneda. We chose that Tokyo airport over Narita because it’s close proximity to the city made it much easier/cheaper to get to our hotel.

The view from the Shinjuku Hilton.

It was VERY humid and warm out, but we trekked out for a bit of exploring and found ourselves in the Shinjuku Chuo park. It was a lovely spot to stretch our legs and the noise from the cicadas in all those trees was incredibly loud!

Soon we happened upon our first temple. Richard especially loved the juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern.

We bought a fortune (omikuji) from a machine at the shrine. If your fortune is ‘bad’ you tie the paper onto the provided wire, as you can see above. The wooden plaques (ema) are purchased and you write a prayer/wish on them and leave them at the shrine for the spirits to receive.

As it got dark, we happily realized that we had managed to out-walk the jet lag! We grabbed some grocery store sushi (yum.) on our way back to our room and ate dinner in our Hilton kimonos. Zzzzzz.

The next morning we popped into the Executive Lounge and were gobsmacked at the breakfast options! In the states, Hiltons serve the standard dry scrambled eggs and sausage in the Exec lounge… here we were treated to fresh smoothies, French pastries, tofu cubes, yogurt, salmon, eggs with wild mushrooms and fresh-squeezed orange juice! Richard’s favorite breakfast was the build-you-own Miso soup bar!

Now that we were suitably fed, we headed out to Asakusa to explore the famous Senso-ji Shrine. We were there early to avoid the heat so many of the shops weren’t open yet.

Wandering the streets of Asakusa before things get crowded.
The frequently-photographed gate to the Senso-ji Shrine.
Before heading into the shrine you should purify yourself. Rinse your hands with the ladle at the fountain and waft the incense over your head. You can tell that we were there very early, by the end of the day that giant basin will be entirely full of incense offerings.

Inside the shrine, look up and you’ll see this gorgeous nymph gathering sacred lotus blossoms.

It started getting hot and crowded but the stores were opening, so we grabbed a cold beverage at the Don Quixote’s and I mocked the poor eel just living his life in front of the megastore.

There is EVERYTHING in a Don Quixote – that might be a whole other post. That post might also include why you can’t drink tea/water/etc on the street.

We decided that due to our early start, we had time to catch the train into Tokyo station and find some lunch!

Tokyo Station, built in 1914.

The plan would have gone smoother if it wasn’t 100+ degrees outside. We walked out of the station and IMMEDIATELY wanted to head indoors to escape the humidity. We were hungry and we ended up eating in the station. The food in the train stations is consistently good. After recharging, we headed over to the Imperial Palace.

The grounds of the Imperial Palace

Since it was spur of the moment, we didn’t have tickets which should be purchased online before your visit. Tickets are free. We walked the finely manicured grounds and gazed longingly across the moat. By this time we were hot again and needed to get back in the A/C, so we headed back to Shinjuku to take a nap.

The trains are so efficient and clean!

After our nap, we popped into the Exec lounge to grab a bottled water and a snack… only to find out they were serving DINNER and so we made a reservation! While eating our free lounge meal (which was amazing) we discussed how much more enjoyable today would have been if ‘someone’ had packed comfy walking shoes. That someone did some research and discovered all the cool Tokyo kids are wearing Onitsuka Tigers! After dinner that ‘someone’ purchased the largest size Tigers in the store.

‘Someone loves his Japanese Exclusive Onitsuka Tigers!’

Tomorrow we catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto! Stay tuned.

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