Dan left the UK to travel the world but a stop to Japan left him wanting more. His home now for the past 4 years, Dan works as an English teacher and is still caught up in Tokyo's mystique.
Dan in Nagano, a 90 minute bullet train ride from Tokyo
What do you enjoy best in the country you're in? Any recommendations for travelers going to your new country?
After graduating from university I was enthralled at the prospect of seeing the world and experiencing new cultures and places. This opportunity finally transpired 5 years ago when I booked an around the world ticket with my friend. One of the places I visited was Tokyo, Japan and although I only spent a short time in Tokyo, the experience was so memorable. From the marvelous food (the sushi, sashimi and the delicious bento meals), the warmth and propitious ways of the people, to the colorful sights from billboards and store signs, there is no other place in the world that so efficiently and impeccably incorporates high tech innovations and gadgetry with the calm yet pungent beauty of ancient Japan as Tokyo. This is why I decided to return to Tokyo and Japan four years ago, and four years on I'm still calling this wonderful country my home. I've lived in several different areas in Tokyo, I spent three years in the heart of this colourful city in Ikebukuro, where my neighbourhood was surrounded by karoake bars, and izakaya’s (Japanese pubs) which keeps you entertained until well in to the early morning. (It’s even customary to do an all night karaoke session) The city truly comes alive at night, where you’re surrounded by the impeccable lights, (and drunken business men) it’s an experience you won’t encounter anywhere else, you can easily just walk around the streets and take it all in. (Tokyo is very safe so no need to worry about being out late at night) The crossing in Shibuya is a cool experience for anyone who has watched ‘lost in translation’, you will understand this expression when you’ve been in Tokyo for a few days, but just embrace it.
Last year I moved out of Tokyo and moved to Urayasu which is in Chiba just outside of Tokyo. After being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s metropolitan for several years it was a nice change of scenery, and yet from Urayasu it only takes forty minutes to arrive in Shinjuku. My area is also a fifteen minute car ride from Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea, which I recommend to anyone visiting Tokyo. (go on a weekday, due to the immense popularity on weekends) We’re a fifteen-minute bike ride from Tokyo bay where you can get the boat over to Odaiba, a wonderful artificial island, which is fantastic for families and young couples who want to go shopping and buy souvenirs, or eat at a variety of restaurants along the bay. (Where you can look out and admire the wonderful view of Rainbow Bridge at night). They also have the Japanese equivalent of the Statue of Liberty and Gundam, a 100ft life-sized character. We're lucky enough to have a wonderful onsen (Japanese spa) where you can get the free bus from Urayasu station. Visiting an onsen is one of the highest recommendations I have for anyone coming to Japan, I remember the first time I visited one it was absolutely surreal due to the fact you have to go in to a naked bath with these strange Japanese men. However, if you’re not up for this, Oedo onsen in Urayasu has an outside onsen (you can wear a bathing suit) and it’s absolutely beautiful. They have a rock formation with a small waterfall, it really looks like a paradise when you walk out. However, to really enjoy the onsen, go either in winter or early spring, if you’re really lucky you can relax while being surrounded by cherry blossoms.
The great thing about living in Tokyo is there are so many accessible day trips outside of the city. Kamakura (a small town with many temples and shrines) and the big Buddha statue can be reached from Shinjuku in around 1 hour 30 minutes. If you are only coming to Tokyo and don’t have time to go to Kyoto, this is a great alternative. Yokohama, the second biggest city in Japan, is only an hour away. There are many mountains surrounding Tokyo too, Mt Takao is very popular with tourists, there is a monkey park there and you can get the lift up halfway so it’s only a short walk to the top. The view's great and on a perfectly clear day you can see Mt Fuji. For more serious hikers, Mt Mitake is around 2 hours from Tokyo, an impressive mountain that I’ve climbed several times. What I enjoy about this mountain is it’s much more secluded compared to Mt Takao and the path to the rock pool is beautiful and fun. Other trips are Mt Fuji and Hakone, However, its best to book tours to these two places through a travel agency to enable you to visit all the best spots. There are many beautiful parks around Tokyo, Shinjuku gyoen, Imperial Palace (where the emperor lives), and Rikugien Garden which I highly recommend to visit. A final note, if you’re lucky and the sumo tournament is in Tokyo during your stay, make sure you go, it’s a culturally enlightening experience that facilitates you in learning more about Japanese culture (but be prepared to line up early morning for tickets)."
Photos submitted by contributor