One of the best ways to experience another country is to have a long layover. These layovers provide travelers the opportunity to experience something new without the cost of a hotel/airbnb. On my way back to the states from Asia, I had the pleasure of having an 11 hour layover in Tokyo!
Tokyo’s International Airport
Most international flights land in Narita, but in my case, I landed in Haneda at 5AM in the morning 😅. Since I was traveling Japan Airlines, they held on to my luggage. If you are traveling and have to pick up your luggage from baggage claim and don’t know where to put it. Don’t you worry! You can actually check in your luggage at a baggage storage. I recommend doing this if you plan on taking public transportation. You definitely don’t want to be dragging heavy luggage around up and down those steep stairs.
I took public transportation. Honestly, it’s quite easy to get around. Tokyo is about 30-45 minutes away from the airport if you take the train. The public transportation is super clean and quite high tech in Japan. If you plug in your destination on Google Maps, you can easily see the times and routes that will take you to your destination. For the most part, it’s quite accurate.
If you don’t want to take public transportation, download Grab. It’s basically Uber/Lyft for Southeast Asia
I arrived at 5am in the morning. -__- Not much was open at that time, only the temples and a couple coffee shops. I grabbed a warm cup coffee and headed to Hie-jinja Shrine. The shrine is a beautiful site to see. The one thing I love about Japan is the sense of peacefulness in a city so busy. I’ve never felt anything like it. The shrine is located on a hilltop between the business district of Asakasa and the government building area of Nagatacho.
According to Japan Travel, this shrine has origins that date back to the Kamakura period (1185-1333). It was served as a guardian shrine of the Imperial Palace.
As you walk through the Hie-jinja Shrine, you will find the torii gates. These gates were said to divide our world and the kami (spirit) world. It is said to mark the entrance to a place where the spirits hear your prayers. You can really feel the rich history and culture as you explore this shrine.
After exploring for an hour at the shrine, I headed over to the electric Town of Tokyo.
It took about 15-20 minutes to get to this animated district. It was about 8am when I arrived and still, nothing was open, but it was quite interesting to see one of the busiest areas of Tokyo in complete emptiness and silence. The district is small, but the buildings are large and out of the ordinary. I can only imagine what it would look like at night. After about 30 minutes of walking around, I started to see people lining up for the stores.
BTW, the stores open up at about 10AM. I would definitely try and arrive during the store hours. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted from traveling that I decided to head back to the airport and eat some yummy ramen and just rest.
BUT BEFORE I LEAVE!
Japan is notorious for their outrageous and interesting vending machines. They were literally everywhere. I was so thankful for these guys being quite ubiquitous in Japan at such an early time of the day when everything else was closed and I was absolutely starving. They sold everything in these vending machines. They even sold instant sake (Japanese alcohol, duh 🤪). It was way too early for a shot, so I just got a green tea instead. Then headed off to the airport.
Getting a taste of Tokyo for a quick second was really nice. I’ve never seen such a peaceful, yet busy ambiance all at once. But I would definitely stay a bit longer than just one day. I would probably stay at least one week, just so I could experience everything else. There was so much I wanted to see!
Also, try not to arrive at 5am 😆 for a layover. If possible, try to arrive sometime in the afternoon or at night. Tokyo is one of those cities that open up at 10am. So, though it was nice to experience absolutely no one there, a part of me wishes that I could see the iconic crowd that you hear about in so many movies, travel blogs and tv shows.