I spent most of the past week in Tokyo, Japan. It was fantastic, and I’d definitely recommend a visit there, even if the exchange rate from KRW to the Yen is terrible. Originally the trip was going to include a visit to Osaka and Kyoto, but when the KRW lost almost 50% of its value after September, I had to trim these plans a little.
In any case, there is so much to see and do in Tokyo that a short visit certainly doesn’t do the place any justice. My wife and I visited some of the more touristy spots (Asakusa, Ueno, the Imperial Gardens), but we spent most of our time in cartoon-land. We tracked down a couple of places linked to anime, including the Ghibli Museum (the guys who did “My Neighbour Totoro”) and a toy store specialising in merchandise from movies and TV shows. Let’s just say that our budget was stretched to the limit, but I did finally get my hands on a Yoda figurine and some Robotech models. Awesome!
Our biggest expenses for the trip were the flight tickets and accommodation. I struggled to find good flight prices, but I did track down a special on Northwest Airlines to fly return for about 350,000 won. This isn’t a bad price, since these flights usually cost at least 500,000 won. But the flight wasn’t that great. Most US-based airlines have a bad reputation with regards to service, and I have to agree with this. The people at check-in weren’t the most friendly (especially at Narita Airport in Tokyo), and on the flight it was really hard to spot a smile among any of the flight attendants. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines are WAY better. But hey, the flight was cheap.
We tracked down a hostel in Tokyo that was reasonably priced – Aizuya-Inn. We paid 5,800 yen a night for a 4.5 tatami room with shared facilities. Now in Tokyo, unless you have a massive budget, it’s ALWAYS shared facilities. But the place was roomy, and very clean and quiet. Perfect. Also, the manager was French, and he spoke good English, so there were no communication problems like I had in China. All in all the place was really good, and it was located close to a major subway station and lots of touristy areas. I highly recommend it.
I definitely suggest going to Tokyo for a visit, especially if you are working in Korea. It’s expensive, but worth it!
Note for South Africans – unlike most other nationalities working in Korea, you need a visa for Japan. Luthien has made a detailed comment on how to go about this under the Travel section of this website.