Our first moments in Tokyo were spent waiting 1.5 hours in line for immigration at Narita Airport. It was humid, crowded, and exhausting having to lug my giant backpack through line! Definitely not a great way to start the trip, but we were soon on a train from Narita (a suburb of Tokyo) directly into the belly of the beast.
We checked into our hostel – the Ace Inn. When we originally booked, it was a last ditch attempt at lodging. All of the hotels were full, Airbnb apparently doesn’t exist in Japan, and all of the regular hostels were at max capacity. The Ace Inn is a traditional capsule hotel – the stereotype of Japanese urbanism. For $30 a night, you can rent a 6ft x 3 ft x 3ft coffin to sleep in… in a room with 30 other people stacked on top of each other. I had pretty low expectations.
But it turned out to be incredible! The mattress was only an inch thick so it wasn’t the most comfortable accommodation, but the wifi was fast and the staff was extremely helpful. They even had beer vending machines and free coffee! The hostel was located directly next to a metro stop, so it was pretty easy to navigate. The only downside was that the capsules didn’t have outlets inside, so it was impossible to charge our phones overnight. I didn’t want to leave my valuable iPhone unattended in the common area! We ended up waking up an hour early each day just to sit next to an outlet and charge. Annoying.
After we dropped off our bags, we went out! We found a little ramen shop in Shinjuku, our neighborhood. It was called Menya Musashi and it was the best meal of the entire trip. This tiny restaurant had an interesting set up – you walk in, approach a vending machine and select what you want, and it dispenses a ticket. Then, you give the chef your ticket and wait in line until a free seat opens up (there are only 20 seats around the kitchen!). This ramen had amazing beef, egg, and nori. I was apprehensive at first – I’ve never eaten ramen before! I watched everyone else slurp up the broth and stuff noodles into their mouths with chopsticks. It wasn’t pretty, but the food was so good that it was worth it!
Afterwards, we went to the Golden Gai. It is a series of 4 alleyways with 10 micro-bars on each side. Seriously – each bar only has 5-6 seats and barely enough room to squeeze behind each other to make it to a free seat. They are TINY!
We went to 2-3 micro-bars before migrating to a place called Vagabond. We entered and it was fairly empty considering how amazing it was! There was a piano player, live jazz singer, and amazing decor. We sat at the bar and ordered round after round of sake. While wandering the streets afterward, we befriended a couple of brits who took us to another bar and we stayed out until around 5am! It was definitely a great first night in Tokyo.