This week, Guest Blogger and Jaunt Contributor, Adam Fuller, takes us to Japan where picked up his belongings and went on a whim to live in a foreign land with little more than a travel book and a hankering to learn about the culture. In this installment on his Tokyo series, he gives us a hint of the local sights. A graduate of the Arizona State University with a degree in Journalism, he’s currently in Santiago, Chile writing for The Santiago Times. Where does he get his great love of travel? “I spent significant chunks of childhood living in countries throughout Africa (Mali, Sudan, Chad and Rwanda) and studied in Spain and Japan. Foreign culture is a way of life, as well as a passion.”
SENSOJI TEMPLE: ASAKUSA
Wandering the narrow, sometimes dark, sometimes lantern lit, sometimes neon lit streets in Asakusa you realize you are officially in Japan. Asakusa was the center of Tokyo a few decades back, now giving way to the more modern and trendy areas like Shinjuku and Shibuya, but still maintaining its traditional and charming character. It hosts a great selection of restaurants and plenty of places to buy souvenirs.
Known as ‘Kitchenware’ street, is full of stores selling traditional Japanese bowls, sake glasses, and chopsticks. It’s also the street that sells fake food displays that restaurants use in their front windows so foreigners who can’t read the menu know what they’re getting into – truly funny gifts. The vendors lining the walkway to Sensoji Temple (while very crowded) have lots of cool stuff to take home. The streets and alleyways in the Asakusa area have shops for almost anything – kimonos, swords, trinkets, clothing, food, electronics…the list goes on. The dollar stores in Japan (hyaku-yen: 100yen) are also clutch sources of cool, cheap, “authentic” gifts. Great for your Uncle Leo who’d never know the difference anyway.
Located right next to the Ueno train station is huge, pretty, and packed with about 300 stalls selling fish, vegetables, bags, shoes, watches, clothes, you name it. Museums, a zoo, street performers, concert hall, merry-go-round, and a baseball diamond where local recreational teams and friends playing for “fun” – the players take it very seriously and the result is hilarious. It’s gorgeous when the cherry blossoms (Sakura) are out – usually the last couple weeks in March. If you shop here, you can also save some money.
SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN
Large, serene park and garden – a very Japanese experience. The Shinjuku area is also a very popular place for shopping, bars, restaurants, nightlife.
Stay tuned for next week’s picks for where to shop in Tokyo!