Friday, March 10, 2017

The Phoenix Post | The Ultimate Flip Guide to Tokyo

Here it is! Alas. After a long hiatus, Mr. Flip Guide is back. And he is back with a vengeance.

Stop. This is being too dramatic. My goal for this year is to be more direct and concise in my stories. But I can't promise, I write like a machine gun, I may not be able commit on a new style guide.

The first months of this year and the latter part of 2016 were tough. I am a bit depressed for being stuck in a moment, but I am positive that the remainder of 2017 will be a fantastic run. Now off to the first good news in this resurrection post - the long overdue trip to Tokyo, Japan!

The first time I went to Japan was way back 1998. I was 11 years old then, turning 12. I was part of an exchange student program sponsored by the Rotary Club of Diliman. Among the thousand students, five were luckily chosen and I was blessed to be selected as one of the participants. We were trained for basics on Japan's culture - language, customs and traditions, food - but we were so young then to digest everything. It wasn't in Tokyo though, it was in Nagano City, northernmost part of Japan which was the setting of the 1998 Winter Olympics. It was my first snow experience, one of the most memorable moment of my life.

And now I am back, in February again, my favorite month. This time in one (if not the most) modern and cosmopolitan city in the world - Tokyo.

Let me do this post in a simple format - The Top 10 Things You Can Do In Tokyo :)

1. Splurge in Japan's Hottest Sensation - Ramen

It's a no-brainer decision, when in Japan, you have to find the nearest ramen spot and immerse yourself into a one of a kind dining experience. Never mind the rules, just use the chopsticks very well, and finish the bowl of ramen soup by slurping the soup right from the bowl itself. Using the soup spoon is just too plain and time consuming. You might be asking, how much is a bowl of ramen in Tokyo? The price range is around 400 Yen to 1000 Yen (200 PHP to 500PHP) per bowl. It's gonna be worth it specially if you decide to go to Japan during winter season.

2. Don't forget the quick journey to Tsukiji Fish Market (Right across the Tsukiji Station)

Yes it sounds to boring, but a trip to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market is a must. Japan's love for seafood is comparable to ours. But their seafood selection is just so overwhelming. And if you think the fish market is full of flies and other pests and the foul odor could be a downer, you are forgetting that you are in Japan (where in every world problem, their is a corresponding Japan solution). There is no single fly in the area, no annoying crawling cockroaches in the sewers, no stray dogs or cats waiting for some leftovers, no hint of any foul smell at all.

First thing you have to try is the famous egg fish omelette. There are at least two or three stalls selling this popular cake but look for the one with the longest line :)

Afterwards, roam around the food stalls selling various types of seafood such as fish curry, seafood skewers, fish cakes and other non-seafood items such as strawberries, mochi and chinese dimsum.

3. Immerse yourself in Japan's Super Reliable Transport System

When we went to Fukuoka last year, our main transport were buses and Japan Railway (JR). But in Tokyo, get ready to get lost in their mega-advanced and comprehensive links of trains (JR, Subway, Shinkansen or bullet train). You may find it overwhelming and difficult in the first day but I tell you, it's going to be easy as you go along.

Recommendation: Use the Google Maps. It has options to guide you in finding the location of the the stations. Use Google Maps instead of the print version of the Tokyo Map and the train system. It's going to make your life easy in Tokyo. The trains schedule are synchronized with Google Map so it is the only thing you need for transportation. See my below guide on how to use Google Maps.

Well aside from the Metro Pass of course.

Tip: Where can I get the Metro Pass? There are a lot of areas where you can avail the pass. It's highly recommended for you to get one specially if you're the type of guy who would hop from one area to another. It's going to save you a lot of yen and time. We purchased our pass in BIC Camera store in Shibuya station. Right next to McDonald's. Below are the sample of the ticket for your guidance and the corresponding rates:

Tokyo Subway 24-hour Ticket – Adult: 800 yen, Child: 400 yen
Tokyo Subway 48-hour Ticket – Adult: 1,200 yen, Child: 600 yen
Tokyo Subway 72-hour Ticket – Adult: 1,500 yen, Child: 750 yen

4. Japan's Secret Weapon - The Cherry Blossoms

No other countries could match the splendor of Japan's Sakura Trees Blossoms. We are lucky to have witnessed a handful of trees that start to blossom (because the actual start of the full bloom is around April). Best time to go to Japan to witness the full bloom is on the last week of March onwards. But if you happen to arrive in Tokyo at an earlier date (February let's say), you may be able to see some early blooms in Ueno Park (right across Ueno Station) and or in Yoyogi Park (Near Harajuku Station)

5. There are more than just the ramen. Japan has an explosion of flavors in their food and every kind of food in Tokyo is a delight to your tastebud.

To Be Continued >> Part II (The Ultimate Flip Guide - The Top 10 Things You Can Do In Tokyo )

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