Travel: Tokyo Part 1 – Imperial Palace Gardens, Chiyoda & Akihabara

Wide shot of Akihabara in Tokyo at night

Back in June I was lucky enough to go to Tokyo. For those of you that don’t know, my day job alongside the wedding photography is as a Creative Producer for a digital agency. As part of an ongoing project, I was being sent to direct and produce a series of videos for one of our biggest clients. The shoot itself was a week along, and I decided to extend my first ever trip to Japan by tacking on just under a week of holiday. I was going alone and before I went it seemed like this big terrifying thing. I was super excited but in the back of my mind was thinking ‘what if I can’t direct this, how do I direct a Japanese crew, what if this is just way out my depth’. As for the solo travelling time I was equally nervous – I’ve always wanted to travel alone, I just didn’t think the first time would be right on the other side of the world.

All of this worry, was of course completely unnecessary. I HAD THE BEST TIME. Although I struggled with jet lag horrendously for the first week, which meant I was running off about 2/3 hours of sleep every day on the shoot, I had a blast. The crew were so lovely and everything went really well – this week the videos were pretty much signed off. No mean feat considering I was editing in a foreign language. My lovely client took us out for some great evenings in Tokyo – we had traditional sushi, dined with our shoes off and with the locals at an Izakaya (a Japanese pub), and wiled away the time looking at some crazy goods in Don Quijote.

Holding a tropical cocktail with Tokyo skyline behind

We were staying near Akasaka/ Roppongi and on the only evening that week I was left to fend for myself, I nervously set off to try and find myself some dinner. As 1) a vegan in Tokyo and 2) a tourist, finding dinner was harder than I thought. I was at first too intimidated to go into what I thought of as the ‘proper local places’ – the hidden doorways which seat about 5 people, and no english menu or photos of the dishes – that was something I had to build up to. However, I ended up having a great night in Akasaka at the ‘Champagne and Gyoza Bar‘. It does what it said on the tin.. I had some yummy mimosas whilst eating the best veggie gyozas I’ve ever had! One thing I actually regret for my trip, was not taking many photos of food while there…. it was all so good!!

Before Tokyo, I wasn’t used to eating out by myself, but now I am a huge fan. Especially being abroad, being out to eat alone is an amazing opportunity to just watch the world go by, or read – I got through A LOT of books! Now my opinion of eating out alone has completely changed and I would do it happily for some time out.

Imperial Palace Tokyo looking gloomy with a grey sky

On the first day after the shoot wrapped, 1) I woke up feeling a bit fragile after having too many celebratory cocktails at the top of the Intercontinental 2) Excited/nervous that I was now all on my todd! This was also the first day where I got over my jetlag.. it only took 5 days.. :/

Girl with pink hair taking selfie in Tokyo's imperial palace gardens

Peaceful traditional Japanese garden in Tokyo

I had a vague list of the various areas in Tokyo that I wanted to see, and the first on my list was around the Imperial Palace, as it was walking distance from the hotel. I set off and had the best day! It was about an hour walk to the Imperial Palace and I loved seeing the locals out about in the Palace Gardens on their Saturday morning – joggers, tourists, painters. The Imperial Palace Gardens themselves were beautiful and I really enjoyed the museum there which showed some of the Palace artefacts/art. The whole time I was thinking how lucky I was to be able to spend my Saturday here. After the gardens, I walked back to the hotel via Hibiya Park where I sat and watched hoards of people playing Pokemon, and several locals painting.

Fountain near the Imperial Palace gardens in Tokyo

For my big Saturday night out in Tokyo, I headed to Akihabara, the famous ‘electronics’ sector of Tokyo, known for its video gaming. I always think the best way to see a place is to walk, so I got my trainers back on and took on the hour walk from my hotel, seeing the North of the Palace Gardens and a new neighbourhood. I knew when I had hit Akihabara  – it is exactly what you imagine Tokyo to be. An onslaught to the senses – bright lights, tall buildings and people everywhere! The rest of my day had been very sedate and quiet so this was a colourful welcome into the Tokyo most people think of. I went straight into one of the Sega buildings which is basically 5 floors of arcade and video games. You could so easily spend all day here. I spent the evening playing Mario Cart, Super Mario Bros, Tetris and generally watching everyone else go about their Saturday night. It was so fun – I could have stayed on Super Mario Bros forever for the nostalgia but sadly I ran out of coins.

Pokemon Pikachu toys in arcade games in Tokyo

After working up an appetite I set off to find a vegan restaurant I had noted down in the area. After looking for around 30 minutes and not finding it, I decided I would have to face the unknown! I ended up finding what looked like a tourist-free place, but they had an english menu. A lot of the restaurants in Tokyo are tiny affairs – you sit around a small bar with around 10 seats and the food is served from there. It was one of those places that had originally looked a bit too intimidating, but I went for it! The lovely chef gave me the english menu, but little did I know you have to order from a vending machine – common practice over there. Gracefully he showed me what to do, speaking no english, then left me to it. After about 5 minutes of figuring out how to put the money in, I had successfully ordered something (I wasn’t quite sure if I had ordered what I wanted or if some sort of meat heavy dish was coming my way!). The evening before I had to navigate my first vending machine without any help, and had unwittingly managed to order a chicken dish and two large dishes of rice :/ Luckily, I had been successful this time and had the best aubergine tempura, cucumber and rice dish and sake I had ever tasted. The chef was super lovely and even tried to talk to me using Google Translate. I walked the hour back, hitting over 30k steps. I went to bed feeling super accomplished and grateful for my first day in Tokyo.

More to come! xx

What I loved this month: June 2018

Hello all! Hope you have been enjoyed the wondrous summer we seem to be having! This blog is a little bit late as June was the craziest month of the year for me. I had 3 weddings, and ended up doing a 10 day trip to Tokyo with my day job as a video producer! The month has flown by, and I can’t believe I am over the hump of my 2018 weddings season already. So here’s a round up of what I loved in June:

  1. Tokyo

I was in Tokyo directing a video shoot for 5 days and then took 5 days to myself to explore the city, as this was my first time in Japan – and my first time travelling alone.  I will be doing a separate blog on this, but will just round up by saying it is the best place. I felt so at home, and whilst everyone says Tokyo is this crazy, busy place, I actually found it very relaxing. My highlights were strolling the Imperial Palace Gardens on a Sunday, spending Saturday night playing old Sega video games in Akihabara, and vintage shopping in Shimo-Kitazawa

Akihabara skyscrapers at night in Tokyo

2. Japanese Wellness

Having visited Japan, I am so intrigued by their approach to food and wellness. I can tell you I didn’t see any overweight Japanese people while in Tokyo. On the weekend it felt like everyone was being active – so many cyclists and people out for strolls in the parks. I loved the way of eating as well – lots of smaller dishes with plenty of variety. I did struggle slightly finding vegan food places, but managed to battle on through and ate like an absolute queen while there. Below is one of my more beige meals.. but I loved the vegetable dishes I tried. I definitely want to read up more about the general Japanese approach to wellness, so if anyone can recommend any books or websites, drop me a comment below!

Vegan dining in Tokyo

3. The World Cup 

I wasn’t particularly excited about the World Cup before it started – I normally love the atmosphere but let’s face it, it’s also normally a bit depressing for England fans. I missed some of the first matches because I was in Tokyo, although did watch a Japanese game amongst the locals while I was there. Since getting back I’ve caught up a lot and the whole buzz around the England team at the moment is amazing. I haven’t enjoyed a World Cup this much since I was an early teen! It also feels like Gareth Southgate is going to be a national hero by the end of the tournament.

4. Yoga downtime 

In the peak of yoga season, it is very easy to 1) get super stressed and 2) be super achey from carrying heavy cameras around for 14 hours a day. I have been trying to do Yoga With Adriene religiously this month around my regular workouts, and it helps so much. Any photographers out there, I can suggest doing one the day after a wedding to loosen up your back and shoulders! I typically do a session right before bed and it helps send me right to sleep 🙂 After each of my long haul flights to Tokyo and back I also did this session, which I tell you – it was divine after being cramped up on a plane!

5. George Ezra 

‘Staying at Tamara’s’ really is the album of summer 2018, isn’t it? I listen to it most mornings – it’s the perfect uplift to get you in the mood for the day! I’ve also been enjoying the new Panic! at the Disco album, and Penguin Prison who I discovered the other day during a Spotify explore 🙂

Vinyl shopping in Brighton

My reading this month took a big hit – after spending most of my evenings editing, I do yoga then fall straight asleep. However, two 12 hour flights and several dinners alone in Tokyo meant I still ploughed my way through a few books:

  1. ‘Salems Lot – Stephen King. I did say in my last post how Stephen King has probably been my fav author since I was a teenager, and his books really got me through lots of travel this month! I could not put down ‘Salems Lot – the plot was definitely not what I expected but it was a terrific and chilling read. 5/5
  2. Bag of Bones – Stephen King. After finishing ‘Salem’s Lot, I chose this as the book to get my through my 12 hour flight to Tokyo. I read it on there until my eyes hurt! I’m not going to give anything away but it is another fab book and one you won’t be able to put down. 4/5

Having gone for two novels, I wanted to read a factual book next, and was researching Japanese wellness guides when I stumbled across ‘How Not To Die’. A few people have recommended this book to me, so I figured I would give it a try. I’m only about 30% of the way through but it is so fascinating! Written by a Doctor/Nutritionalist, the book goes through 15 of the major causes of premature death in humans, including the big ones like Heart Disease, and most types of cancer.  He goes on to explain the science behind each disease, and how nutrition and diet can hugely help to prevent or off set each. At so many times I have stopped and just been wow-ed by the facts he reels off. Don’t get me wrong, it is also a slightly scary book! The final section, which I haven’t got to yet, outlines how using scientific knowledge you can practically use your diet to stay healthy.  I get asked all the time why I went vegan – if anyone asks me again, I’m just going to direct them to read this book.

How Not To Die review

Hope you all enjoy July, and let me know what you’ve been enjoying! xx