Largo di Torre Argentina is an excavated square containing the remains of four temples and the Theatre of Pompey, where Caesar was assassinated. It’s also home to a no-kill cat shelter and hundreds of cat friends. We spent so long standing in the rain spotting as many as we could, you’d think we didn’t have any where we came from.
Sadly the shelter has been threatened with closure and are currently waiting to see how the city’s new administration feel towards them. Good luck guys!
In Sonobe, a tiny town 50 minutes from Kyoto by train. Staying with Fiona and Pia in their little (though large by Japanese standards) comfy apartment, worrying that I could crash through a wall at any moment – classic gaijin smash. Being blown away by the richly coloured autumn foliage, and again when we awoke one day to a blanket of white covering the town. I’m so pleased I had this place as a base to explore Kyoto and other cities from, and with such super hospitality. Thanks, friends!
Building Block – so basic, so simple, so perfect.
Brown Rice Cafe is my number one food-related recommendation for Tokyo. I visited twice, and each time it was a struggle to find, but more than worth the trouble. The first time, with Kim, we each enjoyed an assortment of vegetables, pickles and mystery vegan treats with brown rice and miso, while sitting outside with charming blankets draped over our knees.
The second time was the day I caught the train on my own from Sonobe to Kyoto to Osaka to Tokyo to Harajuku (yep), from where I walked down to Shimokitazawa and became lost. All faintingly hungry and rain-drenched, when I eventually found it again I was rewarded for my efforts with a fantastic vege burger with wasabi and lotus root. I love my memory of sitting eating alone in a foreign land after navigating hours of solo train travel. Considering that from there I went on to meet my husband at the airport, miss the last train back to Kyoto by 3 minutes and get stranded in Tokyo overnight, this meal was a wonderful moment of calm during one of my craziest days.
Run, don’t walk, to adorable Mitaka and the best thing in Tokyo or maybe anywhere: Ghibli Museum. You know I love me some Totoro. There were tears. Mainly because it was such an overwhelmingly amazing and magical place to be, but also because adults are not allowed to play on the giant cat bus. >:|
It can be fairly difficult to find a cute and affordable place to stay in Tokyo. But aren’t you lucky, I’ve found one for you! Well, tbh I didnt find it. My pal Mika was in Japan a few weeks before I was, and when she started posting instagrams of her hostel Kim and I immediately cancelled our original booking somewhere blandly affordable to stay at the same place, which wound up being even cheaper!
As you can see, Nui Hostel is really, really nice.
The lobby is a cafe by day and popular bar by night, the rooms are simple, clean and not nearly as small as I’d expected. Kim and I shared a bunk room, and Jason and I later stayed in a river-view double. There are also dorm rooms and the unisex bathrooms are really good and not at all intimidating to share. There is a very sweet kitchen, dining and library area on the top floor. The wifi was super. It seemed like an equal mix of Japanese people and foreigners, which I certainly took for a positive. The staff were exceptionally friendly, and we had no difficulties whatsoever.
Unfortunately we found the location to be really inconvenient. With it being Kim’s first visit to Tokyo and with my terrible navigation skills, it would have been wise for us to stay somewhere more central. I hadn’t realised this as my first time in Tokyo I’d stayed near the Yamanote line, which made it deceptively easy to get around.
I certainly don’t regret staying at Nui, it was an excellent experience and as a place to stay I couldn’t recommend it enough. I’d just say to be aware of how many extra connections you’ll need to make if you do decide to stay there, and perhaps consider booking elsewhere if it’s your first visit and you’re not so confident with navigation.