This is day 4 (June 28th) of my Travel Chronicles: Summer 2023, currently working in Tokyo as a teen travel counselor. Check out the previous day’s blog post United Flight 803 Review – Arriving in Tokyo. Yesterday, I arrived in Tokyo and today was my first full day in Tokyo! We hopped through many neighborhoods like Asakusa, Ueno, Shibuya, and Kichijoji, but the highlight of the day had to be going to the Ghibli Museum.
Due to my jet lag, I woke up earlier than expected. Usually, I would go back to sleep to get some extra sleep, but I wanted to take this opportunity to explore the area around the hotel. Hotel Sunroute Asakusa was conveniently situated next to a shopping area and just a 5-minute walk to the gates of Sensoji.
Before heading out, I had to take advantage of the free breakfast provided at the hotel. There were 2 different hotels where we could choose to eat from, a traditional Japanese restaurant, or a Chinese restaurant. I decided to try the Chinese restaurant so I could try something new. I had a unique seafood noodle soup that also had rice in it. I never had something like that so it was quite an experience. The thickness of the soup with the chewy noodles threw me off a little, but it was overall quite good. It did feel a little bit too heavy for breakfast, so I didn’t get to finish the plate. Now that I think about it, maybe I should of had a tradional Japanese breakfast since it was my first morning there, but here’s to trying new things!
During breakfast, I even bumped into another staff who was working for the same teen travel company. Since it was both our first summer, we talked about our expectations and what we were looking forward to the most, In reply, he said that he was most excited about the nature in Nikko while I was excited for Miyajima.
After the calm breakfast, I took the morning walk that I was looking forward to and headed to Kaminorimon, the gateway to Sensoji. Since it was before 9am, all the street food and souvenir shops were not open yet, so it was weird to see a street that is always so busy, completely empty. After arriving at Sensoji’s temple grounds, I tried an Omikuji to see what my luck was for the trip. Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples that shows your overall fortune for the future with the rank in the order of “Dai-kichi, Kichi, Chu-kichi, Sho-kichi, and Kyo”, meaning the best fortune, great fortune, good fortune, small fortune, and bad fortune respectively.
I then headed back to the hotel to rest up before actually starting the day’s activities. As a group, we started the day by heading to Ueno Park. It is is one of Japan’s five oldest public parks, and best known for Ueno Zoo, the many museums they house, and beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring. We walked around Shinobazu no Ike Pond and went to Shinobazunoike Benten-do, a temple in the middle of the pond filled with many lotus in various stages of bloom. There were many benches around to really let you take time to appreciate the pond and the surrounding area. This area is also very popular during Sakura season, many stalls selling traditional snacks along the path of the cherry blossom trees.
After enjoying the tranquility, we headed to the busy Shibuya and went to a hidden free Shibuya Crossing viewing spot. If you ever make your way in the area, head to the 14th floor of Shibuya Scramble Square and go into the free NHK (Japanese TV public broadcaster) exhibition hall, and enjoy the view of Shibuya Crossing like we did! The exhibition itself was also enjoyable and will change every few months!
After taking a quick look around Shibuya and saying hello to a Hachiko, the famous loyal Shiba dog who is remembered for his loyalty to his owner, I hopped on the JR train to Takadanobaba in Shinjuku to catch up with a friend that I made when I was doing Workaway in Tokyo about 2 years ago. It was so nice to get a chance to talk to people and how their lives has been since left. One of the people there was a former flight attendant, and when I told him about the diverted flight and the fuel pump incident that had happened to me a few days prior, he said that that had never happened to him and that I might of scared him from flying a little bit. It felt a little bittersweet when leaving the cafe that I worked at previously since it felt as if nothing had changed from the last time i was sitting in those chairs for a moment.
It then became time to head to the Ghibli Museum! There were two ways to get there from Kichijoji station, either a bus for 2 stops or to walk for 20 mins. We decided to walk through Inokashira Park and the nature surrounding us felt as if it was prepping us to get immersed into the world of Ghibli. Inokashira Park is loved among locals for providing a spacious green space, with many recreational facilities, a shrine, and a bucolic pond.
We then headed to the Ghibli Museum! I was really looking forward to this since I heard how hard it is to get tickets. All admission to the Ghibli Museum is by advance reservation only, and they go on sale 10 a.m. (JST) on the 10th of each month for the following month. No ticket purchase can be made at the Museum. Tickets and more information can be found here.
Overall, the museum isn’t too big but it is very easy to spend a few hours in each room, and floors (3 in total). Every inch of the interior was well thought out with a lot of content with an insane attention to detail. Most of the exhibition rooms showed how Ghibli movies were made, from the animation process, storyboarding, coloring, and character development. Almost all info about the exhibitions was in Japanese so it is a shame that International fans can’t know details about the pieces. There was also a movie theater that plays an exclusive unreleased short film (about 15 mins) that can be only watched at this museum.
There were no photos allowed within the museum. Which at first felt weird cause my first instinct when seeing something cool was to grab my phone but after a while, I was able to adapt and enjoy everything with my eyes. Because of this, it really creates a sense of excitement since you can’t find out the contents in the museum without going yourself. We were however able to take photos of the exterior of the building and the rooftop garden that has the robot from the Castle in the Sky, in which you can reach after climbing a ladder inside a tower covered with plants.
There was a gift shop, but it was so packed with people that it was making it impossible to walk and look around. Instead of checking that out, I went to the cafe to enjoy some desserts. I had a blue sky ice cream soda and a honey-infused ice cream from the cafe to cool myself down from the hot heat. This cafe has food like pork cultlet sandwich, Hot dog, french fries and desserts like pound cake and chiffon cake. Although none of the food is Ghibli themed, the cafe’s interior and exterior was Ghibli themed and made for a relaxing environment.
After wrapping up our time at the Ghibli museum, we finished the day with a delicious yakiniku dinner right by the Kichijouji station, Anan. It isn’t a Japan trip without having some Japanese BBQ! I also reunited with my love of melon soda (someone bring some to the US please!) and we all ate until our belly became full.
Follow my Travel Chronicles: Summer 2023 stories as I post my daily documentation of my 53 days on the road! I hope that this can inspire others who want to do something similar!