I am definitely working hard, for the record.

Here’s a picture to prove it! On my first day, the head of the department’s wife (who is a photographer) came into the lab to take photos for the website, and snapped up this one of me working. I actually quite like it, which is quite rare for photos of me! However, I really should have my hair tied up. This is pissing me off. The one day I forget a hair bobble is the one day someone secures photographic evidence of my failings!

I am starting to settle into the lab a little more now. I still feel quite incompetent, but I’m getting a little more familiar with some of the common techniques, and perhaps most crucially… where everything is actually stored!

This week I’ve also had quite a few courses. This morning and on Monday I had an introductory protein bioinformatics course. I have one more session on Friday. It went pretty well, but was kinda easy. I already knew most of the stuff covered from undergrad. I also had a seminar on T-regs this afternoon, and a workshop on Proteomics. The proteomics workshop was mainly mass spec. stuff, which I quite enjoy.

Outside of the lab, things have started to calm down a bit too. On Monday night I went to a pumpkin carving competition run by the MCR. Obviously, I won. It had to happen, what with my pumpkin-carving mad skillz. Well… actually,ย  I drew the design, but Dave, Mehak and Claudia carved it. I would have lost a finger or something if I attempted it.

The winning pumpkin…

And yes, it has a friggin’ moustache! Mehak had never carved a pumpkin before, and wanted to decorate it with marker pen. I think she did a pretty damn good job!

Tuesday night was a quiet one too. I went for dinner with Matthew and Dave in college, then hung out in the kitchen with the guys in my house drinking tea and procrastinating. It’s nights like that which I enjoy the most though really. Just chilling out and unwinding after labs.

Tonight I might go swimming. I say ‘might’… I want to, but it’s cold and wet outside and I’m not sure where my motivation to exercise has gone lately. Bah humbug.


Jesus! How time flies!

I thought I hadn’t posted in a week or so… Turns out it’s closer to two!


Time for a much overdue update! A slightly rushed update, might I add! I honestly don’t have the time to keep this up.


Tuesday 9th October: Getting to grips with the department, Oxford, and Rowing.

On Tuesday morning I met with one of the programme directors to discuss the IITM programme with the rest of the students. It was a pretty straightforward introduction. After that, we headed to the science library for an induction and tour. It is a pretty cool place – tucked into the side of the Pitt Rivers museum (which I still haven’t found the time to go back to since my first meeting with Selva). I then had a while to do some shopping and roam around Oxford for a bit, followed by a run in the park. In the evening, we had another (yes… yet another!) welcome event in the MSTC. I didn’t drink though because I had a rowing session in the evening. I haven’t mentioned rowing yet… and I most likely won’t mention it much again. (Don’t get me wrong… the session was awesome and I had a great time. The girls doing it also seemed pretty cool. I’ll get to why I’m not going back in a bit.) It was great exercise… so afterwards I had a happy meal in MacDonalds as a treat. Classy bird.


Wednesday 10th October: ALLLL the research! And Food!
On Wednesday we had the first of many supervisor presentations, in which potential supervisors discussed the research going on in their labs, in an attempt to recruit the Wellcome Trust students to spend their first rotation there. It was massively interesting, and there were some really great infection placements on offer (Naturally, there were also some less-than-interesting ones too, in my personal opinion). Each presentation was approximately 45 minutes long, so it was a pretty intense day (8 supervisors). Because of that, I managed to miss a cross-country run which started around the time the last presentation ended. I’ve missed so many cross country events now that it’s unlikely I can really join now. Instead, I went for a run in the park. The weather was gorgeous, and I live in such a nice location… it’s great! After that we had our official St Edmund Hall graduate welcome dinner – a fancy formal three-course meal followed by copious amounts of port in the senior common room. The food was awesome… The wine was awesome… The port was awesome. All far too endulgent! It was brilliant. Afterwards I headed back to the MCR with some friends and we ended up hanging out there until about 2 in the morning, drunk on brilliant wine and company.


Thursday 11th October: Hanging.

As mentioned, Wednesday evening was awesome. However, it left me a little worse for wear on Thursday. The supervisor presentations continued. And as some kind of cruel punishment, they began at 8.45 am. Oh god, the hangover! Nevertheless, the presentations were really good, and I enjoyed them. One of them was also by the supervisor that I’ve wanted since before I even applied to Oxford last October, so that was exciting. The work in his lab is awesome, and one of the main reasons that I applied to Oxford. Anyway, instead of going off on a science tangent… back to Thursday! After the presentations, I walked into town to clear my head and grabbed a coffee in Starbucks. Then I headed up to (yet!) another welcome event… which itย  turned out was cancelled. I was going to go to an OxFEST (Oxford females in engineering, science and technology) event but thought it would be better to get an early night. I ended up in bed by 8pm.


Friday 12th October: Lectures!

On friday, the next module in the animal handling course began. It was another 9-5 of intense lecturing, and I can’t really write about what they taught us… so this will be a boring entry. Afterwards we went to a social for the grad students in our department, where I ate ridiculous amounts of free pizza, and a glass of wine. Om nom nom. Early night, because matriculation starts bright and early the next day!


Saturday 13th October: Matriculashhhh!


On Saturday I matriculated. That is essentially Oxford’s big welcome ceremony in which they admit you as a member of the university. I woke up bright and early and headed to college for registration. Everyone looked so awesome in their sub fusc (cap and gown get-up). We then spent the morning taking silly photos and enjoying the sunshine! At 10am, we headed down to the Sheldonian Theatre for the ceremony at 10.30, only to arrive and be told that we missed our slot and the whole college had arrived late (matricuLATE… boom!). So we had to wait until 11am in the end, and Teddy Hall pissed off all involved in the admin and organisation.


So at 11am, we finally piled into the Sheldonian. I was sat right at the top in the gallery, and had an awesome view! There was then a brief conversation in latin, followed by a 10 minute speech about our time in Oxford and all the university has to offer us, and vice versa. We then walked back to Teddy Hall for a big group photo (which I doubt I’ll be buying, considering I look like a loon in it) and then a champagne reception in the MCR. It was brilliant.


At about 1pm, everyone disbanded for lunch. Dave and I went to Starbucks to sober up (Starbucks pops up far too frequently in my blog) and then home for a cup of tea, where Ben joined us and we hung out for a bit.

In the evening, we went back to Teddy Hall for a bop: It was SEH themed (I.e. first years dress as something begining with ‘S’, second years with ‘E’, etc). We didn’t dress up though. Couldn’t possibly come up with a costume after that much champagne and that little time. The bop was so lame that it was awesome. I knew none of the music, but it didn’t really matter. Everyone was a bit drunk. American David tried to teach me to dance… This will always be a completely futile effort. After a brief chill out in the MCR, I headed home.


Awesome, awesome day!


Sunday 14th October: Sinking.

After the bop I was feeling a little worse for wear. Unsurprisingly. I met up with Lara and we had a bacon sandwich to cure the hangover. Well… my hangover. Lara was a good girl and didn’t get drunk ๐Ÿ˜› After that I went to the Iffley Road sport centre for my swim test. It’s a university requirement that everyone who participates in rowing passes the swim test in which you need to swim two lengths, and then 5 metres under water, followed by treading water for 2 minutes. Sounds easy right? It is. Assuming you’re not hungover. I completely bombed on the under water part. I don’t really know what happened because I KNOW THAT I CAN SWIM. But I just couldn’t do that last underwater part. So… I’m now not allowed to row. Which seems fair. I am going to try the swim test again after a bit more time in the water, and no hangover.

Genuinely gutted, but these things happen, right? Bleh.


Monday 15th October: Mum visits!

On Monday I had no lectures or courses scheduled, and we hadn’t yet started our rotations. So mum came to visit! Woohoo! It was really nice to see her, and we had a cool day ๐Ÿ™‚ We went for a walk around Oxford, and I took her to see the Sheldonian where I matriculated at the weekend. We went into the top part as well and had an awesome view of the Oxford skyline. We went for a walk around Christchurch meadow, which is such an awesome place (thanks, Lara!), and then went to Wagamama for lunch. I also bought some new glasses. Not uber-important, but expensive enough to warrant a mention. Before she left, I took her to the Union and we had a glass of wine each. Omnomnomnom.


Tuesday 16th October: Mice, champagne, and formals.

On Tuesday I had an animal handling session: for the first time using live mice rather than dead. Mice are tricky little buggars. I actually got bitten. It hurt. After that I had a discussion with Chris and Ilse about joining the lab and the practical that I will be doing. I am getting really excited about starting now! In the evening we had welcome drinks with the principal of Teddy Hall (who is also one of the directors of my programme) where there was champagne and nibbles. I met a few new people too which was fun. After that was formal hall: my first formal excluding the welcome dinner last week. We had to wear our gowns.

The food was great. And once again there was lots of yummy wine*. Omnomnomnom…


* ALCOHOL DISCLAIMER: I don’t actually drink as much as this blog suggests, haha! This is not a common thing for me – it’s just all the welcome events. I don’t spend all my time drinking or hungover! I feel the need to state this because I know my parents/grandparents read this and I don’t want them to think I’m drinking my way around Oxford! haha.


Wednesday 17th October: Presentations.

On Wednesday we had a presentation workshop up at the hospital. It ran all day, and was actually kinda cool. More importantly… for the first time I managed to cycle up the hill on the way to Headington without having to get off my bike and walk half way! I am officially getting fitter! Woopwoop!

My presentation went quite well, I think. I presented the data from my undergraduate project which I haven’t actually looked at all that much since I submitted my dissertation in April, so I was a little concerned about it. It was honestly fine though. One less thing to worry about now!


Thursday 18th October: Top secret stuff, guys. Top secret.

Animal handling course practical day. Can’t really discuss it. Was kinda fun. Spent the evening studying for the exam. A lot. That’s all folks!


Friday 19th October: Hopefully my last ever exam!

On Friday I had the exam for the animal handling course. Weirdly, I don’t actually know how well I’ve done in it. Some of the questions were on bizarre topics that weren’t covered in our course packs. I could have spent weeks revising and I don’t think I would have necessarily done any better. I think it went okay, but the pass mark is really high (70%) so it could go either way. I’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday whether I’ve passed or not.
After the exam, I went up to the department for a seminar. It was so bloody interesting! It was all about the potential for stem cells in organ replacement. Mind blowing stuff. I really, genuinely, enjoyed it a lot.


After the seminar, I went back to Teddy Hall and had dinner with Ben, and then cycled to the train station to pick up Matt who came to visit for the weekend.


Saturday 20th October: Matt stuff. And lobsters.


I spent Saturday sight-seeing with Matt. I wanted to take him to the Sheldonian but it was closed because they’re filming in there. We had a nice day though, walked around the Cristchurch meadow, and went out for dinner in the evening to Ask.


There was a live lobster in the fridge. It’s hard to explain why this is relevant, but I want to include this information for when I read back on this blog in years to come. It will make sense to me. Possibly no one else though. Meh.


Sunday 21st October: Deer. and Cacti.


In the morning we went on a hunt for a bacon sandwich. Surprisingly, this was actually pretty difficult. Afterwards we walked into town, and then headed to Magdalen to see the deer. Such a gorgeous day, and I absolutely love this time of year! All the leaves are turning, and the walk was beautiful!


After walking around Magdalen, we headed to the Botanical Gardens for a bit. There are so many great places to go in Oxford. We were a little rushed because Matt had to get his train home at 3pm.


I dropped him off at the train station, then headed home to get some work done. Instead, I ended up blogging*.


* FURTHER DISCLAIMER: I do actually get my work done. Promise!


And now, we’re finally up to date!


Apologies for the dull blogging. It’s hard to be particularly inspiring writing about two weeks worth of material when you should be reading journal articules.




I haven’t blogged this past week. I honestly haven’t found the time. I have been busy right down to the nearest second. It’s great!
I have a seminar in an hour, so this will also be a short one. Just a little update to fill in the gaps.


Tuesday 2nd October: Being a tourist.

Tuesday was great. Kinda chilled. I managed to experience Oxford as a city, rather than as a university. I spent the morning exploring and taking touristy photos. For example, this one! I really do live in an awesome place!
In the afternoon, we had a tour of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) up at the JR hospital. I cycled there. Up a hill. It was agony. Brilliant workout though!
While there, we discussed the programme with a PI, and had a quick run through of the labs there, and the facilities available to us if we took up a placement in the WIMM. It was really interesting. Afterwards, we had a brief chat with a current student who told us a lot more about the informal parts of being a DPhil student: sports, societies, pubs, etc.


In the evening, we had a quick welcome talk from the important people in the college, and then had a social in the MCR. It was meant to be a pizza party in the graveyard, but the weather turned so we ended up huddled indoors. I had a great time – the people seem really laid back and fun.


Wednesday 3rd October: Join ALL the societies.

Fresher’s fair! I sold my soul.
I pretty much signed up to every society the university has to offer. Many because they looked genuinely interesting… but many because I felt forced into it. For example, someone comes up to you and says “Do you want to save the children?!” or “Do you hate terrorism?!” it’s not exactly polite to say no and walk away ๐Ÿ˜› I ended up on a fair few charity mailing lists that I simply can’t afford to support.
A brief run-through of some of the societies that I have signed on for: Rowing, cross-country, bibliophiles, medieval re-enactment, allotment, karate, aerial dance, Oxford Union, the biological society, OxFEST, the vaccine centre, wine society, royal navy, athiest society, various balls, etc etc etc.

I will be surprised if I even find the time to sleep with my degree, let alone endulge in any of these! I do actually want to do rowing and cross-country though.

In the evening, we had a pot-luck dinner in the social space of NSE. I basically exchanged a bottle of wine for a ridiculous amount of free food. Brilliant! Also… the amount of free stuff I’ve received since I’ve been here is MINT! I’ve barely bought a meal.


Thursday 4th October: The fun begins.

On Thursday I properly started my degree. What I mean by that is that we started real taught elements of the programme, rather than just induction events. The course was to prepare us for obtaining a Home Office license to work with animals in research. We covered various legal bits-and-bobs, as well as basic animal welfare and handling techniques. It was a long day, but bloody interesting.

At lunch time, the guys from my programme headed to the University Club, had a rushed lunch, chatted, then headed back for more animal stuff.

Then, in the evening, we had a welcome event in the medical sciences teaching centre where we were yet again told about how we’ll be spending the next 4 years. And, yet again, were provided with free-flowing free wine. Woopwoop!


Friday 5th October: It’s Friday, Friday, Gotta get down on Friday!


Well, the day was a little ‘meh’. We had another full day of animal handling training lectures. It was brilliantly taught, and really interesting, but doesn’t make particularly good blogging material.

I also registered with the college doctor. Isn’t that exciting. *rolls eyes*.

However, the evening…. OMGTHEEVENING!

We had pub golf. If you’ve never played pub golf before, the rules are essentially as follows: You have a set of ‘holes’ (i.e. pubs) to complete. For each hole (pub), you have a pre-set drink (e.g. wine, beer, vodka) that you must drink within a set number of gulps. For example, if par is 5 on a beer hole, you have to drink the whole pint in 5 gulps. If you complete it in less than 5, you are below par, etc.

I teamed up with Rachel… There was no way I would have survived playing solo. Anyway, we managed to drink everything in 1, and so were seriously below par, and so were SERIOUS WINNERS.

I sound like an alcoholic.

I’m not.


The game lasted ages, so I didn’t actually get that drunk, and we split the drinks in a way that meant neither of us were mixing too much.

It was so great meeting people. And although I’m not a big party person, I had such an awesome time.

After the pub golf, we headed down to University college to storm their bop. We got there a little late though and so only managed to catch the last 15 minutes or so. It was horrendously hot and sweaty and cheesy, but equally brilliant.

After the bop, we didn’t want to go home so went to Purple Turtle – the union’sย  nightclub. I can’t dance. At all. So I won’t dwell on what went on in there ๐Ÿ˜›

Finally, we went to burger king for classychips, and then walked home in the rain. Followed by late night tea and the 3am philosophy club.



Saturday 6th October: Of tours and teas.

I woke up groggy. Understandably.

At 10am I was booked in for a gym induction, so reluctantly dragged myself out of bed for the purpose of exercise. Usually I’m pretty good with the whole ‘motivatedtokeepfitshit’ but not when I’m hung over.

The gym is a bit crap.

In the early afternoon we had a historical tour of college. It was really interesting, and Teddy Hall has some of the oldest buildings in Oxford. We went down into the crypt, and saw stuff which isn’t ever open to the general public.

I went into town and met up with Lara again (WOOLARA!) for coffee and we had a bit of a catch up.

Then I went round to Dave’s to christen his teapot… which I assure you isn’t half as weird as it sounds.

I also went for an awesome run around the University Parks while the weather was good. I didn’t run for very long (~15 minutes) but ran faster than usual. So… still progress!
Finally in the evening we had (yet) another drinks party in college. This time it was with theย  boat house to discuss rowing. I really want to do it, so tried to have a chat with a few people who row for college. I promised myself I wouldn’t drink again after the pub golf… but time makes fools of us all. A few glasses of wine later, and we ended up back in the MCR playing a drinking game version of Jenga… Which I wasn’t aware existed!


Sunday 7th October: Punting.

On Sunday, I woke up too late to go on my first cross-country run. How gutting! That was the wine’s fault. Which I suppose was my fault.

Instead I went punting with some people from college. I can now tick punting off my list of things I have done badly. It was brilliant fun… but I am not a natural.

Dave was punting for us most of the way, and was naturally awesome at it because he’s spent the last few years at Cambridge. One of the only other towns that utilises such a ridiculously slow method of transport. He made it look easy, so we all had a go.

When it came to my turn, I nearly fell in twice, steered the punt towards the trees, slipped over and managed to hit Charlotte on the head with the punt stick, and generally made a mess of everyting. It was still one of the best things I’ve done since I arrived!
In the evening, I went to college for dinner, ate chicken for the first time in 7 years, then sat in the MCR to avoid course reading until about 9pm at which point I realised it wasn’t just gonna read itself.


Monday 8th October: Doing horrible things to mice and my liver.

Monday was the first day of practicals in our animal handling course. I was pretty nervous about it beforehand, but it really went well in the end. When we arrived we were told we had to surrender any recording equipment including mobile phones. I am lost without my phone. Boohoo.

We then had an introduction to the day, and were told the learning objectives. It all seemed very manageable. And it was.

We then had various tutorials and taught elements which I don’t suppose I can really write about on here. That would slightly nullify taking our phones off us, right?

In the afternoon, we had a brief assessment where we had to demonstrate that we had achieved the learning objectives and were competent with the techniques taught. Easy peasy.

Afterwards I went to the pub (where I didn’t drink) and then to the Union (where I did). It was fun. Aga and Mathias came too, and they are mental. Good mental ๐Ÿ™‚

I then went for late-night tea. This is becoming a regular occurrence, haha!


And that brings us to today….

Which I can’t be bothered to write about just yet. It also seems pointless considering I’ve only done about half of what I’m scheduled to do.

Over and out!



I have been so wonderfully busy for the last few days. And tonight I am off out! So hopefully a full update will come either tomorrow or Sunday.

Have a good one!

Aha! I finally have a reliable (albeit slow) internet connection! Nevertheless, time for a proper update! I warn you now… It’s going to be a big, wordy, indulgent splurge of words and shoddy punctuation! But then again, doesn’t that describe all my blogging?

Saturday 29th September 2012: The big day.

On Saturday I moved to Oxford. It was stressful. It was also pretty damn awesome.

If I hadn’t been such a fool and left all of my packing and preparation until the evening before I was due to leave, I’m sure a lot of the stress could have been avoided. But old habits die hard.

Anyway, we left home in the morning and arrived around midday. At some point during the journey I’d – for reasons unknown – convinced myself that I’d filled a form out wrong, or missed a deadline, and would be left homeless on arriving. Fortunately, when I arrived at college it was confirmed that I am unnecessarily paranoid, and I was given my room key. Surprisingly easy. Sorted.

So we headed off to my accommodation. I’m living in a really nice old Victorian building in the north of Oxford. Although I haven’t met everyone here yet, I reckon there’s around 16 of us in total.

You wanna see my room? Of course you wanna see my room. Here’s my room! It’s pretty nice, right?!

So anyway… after my family headed off in the early afternoon, I finished unpacking and then decided to do a bit of socialising. I met a few of the people in my building, including the girl next door who is called Katie, and seems awesome; and Matthew downstairs.

In the evening, I met up with Lara for dinner. I haven’t seen her in agessss (well, maybe 3 weeks? But that’s far too long!) so it was nice to catch up. Also had a look around her college (Linacre).

We went into town and had pizza hut for dinner. #Omnomnom.

Followed by drinks in an incredibly crowded pub. Inexplicably full to the brim with Americans.

All in all, a really nice day. Woopwoop!

Sunday 30th September 2012: Settling in.

Sunday was great! I got up early and cycled into town, and miraculously managed to not die. I am one of those ridiculous people who has reached their twenties without mastering (or even adequately familiarising myself with) the bicycle.

I sat in Starbucks feeling VERY proud of myself (and managed to post a stupidly short and pointless blog post) before cycling back home to get ready to meet Selva.

Selva is my college mentor. He is brilliant. He is a second year postgrad in Teddy Hall who seems to know absolutely everything useful about surviving in Oxford. I met up with him in the morning at the Pitt Rivers museum – an absolutely incredible anthropology and archaeology museum about a five minute walk from my house. I can tell I’m going to be spending a lot of my free time there! We sat and had a coffee in the cafe, and he talked me through a lot of the academic procedures at Oxford, as well as some of the more day-to-day stuff.

Afterwards, I walked back into the city centre to do a little shopping and buy some things I needed for my room. I also met up with Lara again in Waterstones (for yet another coffee). Woo Lara!

In the evening I had my first college social at NSE – the graduate centre for Teddy Hall. There was a high tea event, followed by dinner, followed by a drinks reception. So much free food! Brilliant! I met a hell of a lot of people in the college which had good and bad points:

Good: I met a lot of really interesting, nice, friendly people.

Bad: I met so many people that I can’t remember for the life of me what most of their names were, where they were living, what they were studying, or where they came from! Not helped by the fact that it was so loud in there that I could have misheard in the first place anyway!

But yeah, it was great. Lots of fun. =]

Monday 1st October 2012: Today, I start my DPhil!

A massive day! But sooooo good!

This morning at 8:00 I had a breakfast meeting with one of the course directors – and the other students on the programme. He talked us through what we’d be up to over the next few weeks, and lots of the procedures in the department. It was really exciting – I can’t wait to start!

After that, our induction programme began. This lasted the whole day and consisted of a series of presentations on computing, good lab practice, resources in the department, teaching opportunities etc. I won’t write more about it, because I don’t know how much of what goes on in the department I am actually allowed to write about. It also probably wouldn’t interest many of the people who read this.

After the induction events, I came back to my room and did a bit of admin stuff – emails, course reading, etc. It’s now 10pm and I’m finally winding down for the day. Even though I haven’t written much about today, it’s been damn busy, and I didn’t have time to go to the college social this evening *booo hissss*.ย  I’m about to snuggle up in bed and start on my module reading.



So, yeah! There it is! My first 3 days in Oxford. May there be many more happy days to come!

Yesterday I arrived in Oxford. I had a lovely day! However, I find myself this morning without Internet. I will not have Internet again until my Bod card arrives on Tuesday. So I am currently writing this from my phone in Starbucks!

I will update properly then. It will probably be a biiiig one!

Tonight, I am buzzing. Absolutely buzzing.

I will be starting my DPhil in 10 days, and it is finally hitting home what a monumental transition this is going to be in my life. Until recently, I have felt as though it was so far in the future that it was simply ‘not a concern’ for me. In fact, I had a “future Sophie can deal with it!” approach to the whole thing.

I received my offers in January. I met my conditions in June. It has taken this long to realise that shit’s gonna get real, to put it eloquently.

I guess that what has made today significant is that I have spent a lot of the evening reading scientific journals. Despite finding this incredibly tedious at the begining of my degree, I have grown to enjoy it, and am actually really excited about having some form of directed education again. Since I finished my first degree in May, I have spent a lot of time exercising my body (I’ve rekindled my love of the gym, woo!) but not so much time exercising my brain. It feels good. I was also sent the freshers’ guide in the post. The societies. Oh my god. The societies! (Disclaimer: Nothing will ever replace the University of York Book Group in my heart).

I am also glad to finally have something to blog about again. I miss spewing out my thoughts into the abyss that is cyberspace. Ignoring the glaring fact that nobody actually reads this!

I am happy. I am really excited. I am also terrified.

I miss blogging…

And I’m considering starting again soon. Possibly when I start my PhD in October. A lot has changed in the last year. I don’t know. Watch this space ๐Ÿ˜‰

So I’ve been asked to make a list of ideas/suggestions of things to do in Tokyoย  ๐Ÿ™‚

More than happy to do so, because it gives me an excuse to reminisce and write more about my favourite damn place on Earth!

I’ve included links (mainly Wiki) to further info because I don’t want to write out WHY every place is awesome, if the cumulative voice of the internet has done so already.

Sightseeing and recommended places:

– Asakusa: Really easy to access by metro and the temple (Senso-ji) is stunning. There are a lot of souvenir stalls nearby and it’s a great place to pick up bits and bobs for friends and family [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asakusa].

– Shibuya Crossing: I think this is the busiest crossing in the world. It’s awesome. Really great to go buy a coffee from the Starbucks above and watch all the hustle and bustle below.

– Odaiba: A massive artificial island just off mainland Tokyo. Lots of great sightseeing here (the Statue of Liberty, the Rainbow Bridge, the Ferris Wheel, Fuji TV studios etc), loads of shopping (Palette Town, Aquacity, Decks etc), the Oedo Onsen (mentioned in this post). Requires a full day IMO [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odaiba].

– Ameyoko market: A really massive market in Ueno which sells everything under the sun. Lots of fresh fish and other foods, as well as clothing (lots of shoes), souvenirs, electronics, etc. It’s relatively cheap too. [http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3012.html]

– The Meiji-Jingu shrine: Beautiful shrine by the Harajuku station. Free to access. [http://www.meijijingu.or.jp/english/]

– Shinjuku: Absolute hustle-bustle of Tokyo. Loads of department stores, electronics stores, shops, restaurants. Everything. Really awesome. I accidentally found myself in Kabukicho which is the red light district. I actually completely recommend you go here. It is allegedly really safe and there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on (No – I’m not referring to anything illegal or dodgy) – There’s some great bars and restaurants in the area. [http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3011.html]

– Ueno Park: Massive, beautiful park in the Ueno area. So large that it contains its own zoo and several museums. There are currently pandas there which are so worth seeing! The park was one of my favourite places in Tokyo, actually [http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3019.html].

– Nikko *: Shrines and temples especially. Worth looking into the World Heritage Pass [http://www.tobu.co.jp/foreign/pass/w_heritage_pass.html] for tickets as it works out cheaper to do that than buy transport and site entry individually. 2 days recommended to see it all. Worth seeing the Shinkyo and Nikko National Park for the waterfalls as well as the shrines and temples. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrines_and_Temples_of_Nikk%C5%8D & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikk%C5%8D,_Tochigi%5D

– Kamakura *: Especially the shrines and temples [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamakura,_Kanagawa]. Here is also the home of one of the world’s largest Great Buddhas [http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3100.html]. Honestly one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in my life. You can go inside it too to see how it was constructed. The beach by Kamakura is also pretty beautiful, and if you’re spending a long time in Japan, worth a visit in summer. Enoshima nearby is also meant to be nice, but our visit to the island was cancelled due to timing.

Bars & Restaurants:

[ I won’t name specific places because 1) a lot of them I can’t remember the name for as they are often in Kanji; 2) Tokyo is so flaming massive that I would never recommend that a person hunt down the specific place I went to when there are hundreds of equally amazing places potentially closer by; 3) I have only ever had one bad meal in Tokyo, and that was on my first night. With such a great track record, it seems silly to single out individuals]

– The Starbucks above Shibuya crossing – just for the view below. Jesus!

– Unadon: Beautiful grilled eel served over rice. Even if seafood’s not your thing, I completely recommend Unadon. You can find it in smaller, traditional Japanese restaurants.

– Okonomiyaki-ya: Restaurants that serve Okonomiyaki (One of the best Japanese foods in my opinion). It is cooked and served at your table – You can even do it yourself if you want. It’s amazing fun, and the food is brilliant. They are dotted around everywhere in Tokyo. Some people say it’s ‘Japanese Pizza’ but I 100% disagree [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okonomiyaki].

– Sushi Restaurants: There are different types of sushi restaurant. The traditional ones (Sushi-ya) where you order food that is then brought to your table are considered to be better quality, but I can’t really tell the difference myself. The carousel-style restaurants (Kaiten-zushi) where the sushi is transported past the tables on a conveyor-belt tastes just as good IMO and is significantly easier if you can’t read a Japanese menu. Fatty tuna nigiri is my favourite. So good! It’s especially good in the Tsukiji area because it’s so fresh.

– Ramen-ya: Ramen.Is.Amazing! So unhealthy and salty though, but just fantastic. You can find ramen places everywhere and they’re often pretty cheap. Most of the time I see them you buy your meal ticket in a vending machine outside, and then go in to eat when it’s ready. It’s weird, but fun. Good for smaller groups as chances are, large groups won’t be able to eat together.

– Yakitori-ya: Yakitori are grilled chicken on skewers. I don’t eat meat, so I haven’t eaten them myself but my friends seemed to love the stuff! It’s also not too pricey.

– Tempura restaurants: Nothing beats fresh, crispy tempura. It’s really important that you don’t go to a cheap place though: It’s the only place I’d really recommend splashing out on food, because the cheap stuff is soggy and nasty.

– Izakaya: Brilliant drinking places. Kind of like small, intimate bars. Serve food too, and a lot of places won’t let you buy alcohol without food, but the food is cheap and worth it. Great places to buy nihonshu (Japanese sake).

– Kakigori: A sort of shaved ice… thing. Kind of like a snowcone. Flavourings are usually things like lemon, melon, cherry, strawberry, grape etc. It’s really cheap and very refreshing during the boiling hot summer.

Now, as I said, I’ve never really had a shitty meal in Tokyo, so it’s hard to go wrong. I really recommend though that you try the small, cozy looking restaurants over the big chain ones. The food is always brilliant, and the atmosphere is great. Okonomiyaki is my favourite. Please try this!


Things to Do:

– Go up Tokyo Tower: Spectacular views. I definitely recommend going at night time when the city is all lit up. It’s incredible [http://www.tokyotower.co.jp/english/].

– Go up the Government Metropolitcan Building Observatory: For a view just as good as the Tokyo tower, but for free! I think that it might not be quite so high (check that – I can’t be bothered right now) but it’s free to access and you can see for miles and miles [http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH/TMG/observat.htm]!

– Climb Mt. Fuji!*: Especially good if you climb overnight and watch the sunrise from the top. It’s a shit mountain if you’re climbing because you like climbing mountains. But it is worthwhile if you want to climb for the experience of conquering Japan, so to speak. It’s dusty, cold, tiring and unpleasant; but the sense of achievement at the top makes it worthwhile. There is a famous quote that “one who never climbs Mount Fuji is a fool, and one who climbs twice is twice the fool.” This completely sums up my opinion of it. The views are spectacular if it’s a clear day during your descent. Bring lots of water though as it gets exponentially more expensive as you get higher. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mt_fuji]

– Party. Tokyo Style!: There are some excellent (albeit expensive) nightclubs in Tokyo. We were told that Womb is one of the best places to go [http://www.womb.co.jp/] but for us, unfortunately, it never materialised – We kept planning on going and then didn’t. One night, we went somewhere called Gas Panic which, although not excellent, provided us with a great night out. The company is the most important thing I guess. It’s worth pulling an all nighter as the Taxis are insanely expensive, and the trains stop running sometime around midnight.

– Take a stroll through the Imperial Palace Gardens: It’s really beautiful and completely free to enter. You can’t access the palace itself, obviously, but it’s nice to find somewhere so serene and peaceful in the city.

– Window shop in Ginza: Ginza is insanely expensive, so if you’re like me, you won’t buy a thing! But it’s great looking through the Department stores. The Apple store is great for bumming a free internet connection for a while too.

Quirky Randomness:

– Visit an Onsen!: Onsens are Japanese hot springs. You sit in the hot baths and relax. It’s lovely. So why is it under ‘Quirky Randomness’? Well, it is a rule that swimwear is prohibited. You go completely naked. BUT… Don’t let that put you off. It’s one of the best things I did in Tokyo. It’s a little awkward for Westerners to start with, but do as the locals do, right?! Really. Go. I recommend Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba – It’s not a traditional Onsen, and is slightly more tourist friendly. It’s a little more expensive, but there’s a lot you can do there. [http://www.ooedoonsen.jp/higaeri/english/]. WARNING: Those with tattoos are not welcome. Sorry guys. Piercings are fine though (I have 16. No problems encountered).

– Dear Stage: Quirky, insane, amazing. This is a typical Otaku hotspot where you can go and watch Japanese pop idols perform. Cheap entry (500 yen), amazing fun, crazy dancing by the audience and a great atmosphere. Definitely one of the best things you can do in the Akihabara area at night. [http://moejapan.jp/dearstage/]

– Maid Cafes: Also predominantly located in Akihabara. Pretty, cute, young Japanese girls dressed as maids, serving you tea and cake. Great fun to go as a group; perhaps slightly awkward to go with just 1 friend as I did (some assumptions that you are a couple. In our case, a lesbian couple).ย  MaiDreamin by Akihabara station is amazing, and some of the girls speak pretty good English [http://maidreamin.com/].

– Go Harajuku-girl spotting: Harajuku is amazing for quirky fashion and everything weird in Japan. Takeshita street is especially awesome. Sunday afternoons are great for seeing some really ‘interesting’ looking people. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harajuku]


* = Outside ‘Tokyo‘, but worth the visit.


Things my friends did but I didn’t do myself (I’ve been assured they are awesome but can’t vouch for it myself):

– Tsukiji Fish Market: It was closed when I went because of a national festival/holiday, but the people I know who went said it was a lot of fun. Try to go early enough for the tuna auction [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukiji_fish_market].

– Ghibli museum: Fans of anime say this place is amazing [http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/].

– Kyoto *[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto], Nara [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nara,_Nara] and Yokohama [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yokohama]: Three cities that friends went to. Nara has tame Deer running around the city centre, which is pretty damn epic.



I know there’s more I want to add to this, but I’ve written a lot today, and still haven’t even unpacked my suitcase, so chances are I’ll add to this (or make another post about it) tomorrow.

I hope this comes in handy!

Over and out.

There is so much about Tokyo that I will miss.

I will miss the food.

I will miss the busy vibrancy.

I will miss the excitement of waking up each morning, not knowing how you will spend the day, but knowing that you will enjoy every second of it.

Most of all, I will miss the people.

I have made so many amazing friends in Japan. Friends that I hope I will keep in contact with for a lifetime, even if I never get the opportunity to see them face-to-face again. It makes me so sad to know that it’s finished, but I really hope that it’s never ‘over’. I want to go back some day. I will apply for a masters course at the University, and hopefully I will get accepted (although how realistic that dream is… I guess that’s questionable).

I really have had the best time of my life in Tokyo. I feel so grateful and privileged to have been given the opportunity to study there: My time both in and out of the lab has been amazing.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Tokyo. It’s been a pleasure.