Day 16: December 11
This was our last official day in Japan. Our first stop would be Tokyo Sky Tree, which was completed in earlier in the year (2012), becoming the new tallest building in Tokyo (and Japan) and the new hot spot to visit. I knew it would be busy.
Tokyo Sky Tree is not as central as Tokyo Tower (which I didn’t visit the observatory level of this trip, but did go to the top for the previous trip. I’ll touch on a comparison later), but is built with a large shopping, dining and entertainment complex called Tokyo Solamachi. There’s also an aquarium. We were lucky that it was such a beautiful day. It’s really cool to walk up towards the tower and look up! To me it always feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, as surrounding buildings are fairly short and residential compared to the dense skyscraper suburbs.
Because Japan loves new attractions, the waiting queue was monstrous! I think if we had gone a few months earlier it would have been impossible to visit. We lined for close to an hour before getting tickets. There are actually reservations tickets (from two months in advance) and fast-pass tickets for foreigners, so during very busy times, purchasing tickets on the day may not be available if everyone’s purchased ahead.
We purchased tickets for the first and second observatory. These tickets are some of the most expensive admission tickets I’ve purchased in Japan. I would recommend not going beyond the first observatory if it’s not an exceptionally clear day, as you will probably not see much more. They have signs on the first observatory level every day that will let you know which iconic attractions are visible on the day (importantly, Mt Fuji).
As you can see, Mt Fuji was visible on this day (this was taken from the first observatory level)!
On the first observatory level, you can get your photo taken in a specially decorated area. It’s a bit cliche, but the staff will also take one on your own camera as a free service. It’s pretty difficult to get a good photo with a person and the background yourself. The staff have a decent spot set up, and they will use flash. If you don’t give them your camera on the wrong setting (whoops my fat thumb), you’ll probably get a really decent photo for free. We liked the photo they took on their professional camera, so we purchased it as a memento. On the second observatory level, there’s a glass floor to stand on and look down. One other reason why I don’t think visiting the second observatory level appreciably better is that it is ridiculously hot. This was a warm winter day, and being that high up and surrounded by nothing but glass in a confined space with hundreds of people… it was really hot and stifling. I can’t imagine how bad it would be during autumn, spring or summer!
Having been up both Tokyo Sky Tree and Tokyo Tower, I think they are both unique experiences. Tokyo Sky Tree is less central and a lot taller, so you see more of the greater city of Tokyo, but less of the iconic details that you can see from the more central Tokyo Tower. If you’re not interested in ascending either, Tokyo Tower will always be the most iconic structure, and I think it’s absolutely worth wandering around in the nearby region to get those shots of the red tower against the city. Personally, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (see day 13 post) is actually my favourite building for city views of Tokyo, because the rooftop offers views undisturbed by a glass window, and you’re really in the heart of central Tokyo with great views of Tokyo Tower itself.
Following that, we had a quick lunch at a simple restaurant in Tokyo Solamachi.
The rest of the day was for us to just wander around Tokyo some more. We walked around Omotesando and Shibuya. It really was such a nice day.
By dinner time, we were in central Shibuya and found an okonomiyaki restaurant in Center-gai. Despite it being such a busy location, it was actually really great.
Every table had it’s own grill plate, and the okonomiyaki was divine!!! There’s nothing like it here.
After dinner, we walked around a bit more, enjoying the (crazy) hustle and bustle and city lights.
We returned to our hotel for our last sleep in Japan.
Day 17: December 12
We had a morning flight from Narita to Hong Kong. We took the JR Narita Express (NEX) from Shinjuku station (purchased the tickets the previous day, just to be on the safe side so there would be less to worry about), which was really convenient and so comfortable. It is, however, quite expensive and still takes 90 minutes.
At the airport, we had a farewell meal of ramen!
And that concludes the two-week trip in Japan! I was pleased with how it turned out and what we were able to fit in. It was my first time really travelling through multiple cities and using the JR pass. I was so glad to check a lot of things off my Japan bucket list. It was well worth doing it all myself after many, many hours of research. Though I realise I’m at a distinct advantage as it’s my third trip and can speak Japanese. Soon I will get started on posting about my 3-week Japan 2016 trip!
But maybe Hong Kong first…