Tokyo, the city of neon signs and Shinto shrines, of skyscrapers and crazy newspapers. The gadgets and gismos, the foods, the kimonos. The vending machines, the trains, the architecture, the rains. The people, the shops, a city that runs by its clocks. The calm and the gentle, the chaos and the mental. A city of contradiction, constantly striving for the latest, while maintaining the traditional greatest. How does it do it, you ask? There is only one answer: It’s Tokyo.
We woke on our second morning in Tokyo to farewell one of the strangest roommates we’ve had to date. We are pretty sure she was fairly intoxicated both when she arrived and left, and while she attempted to make her bed for the first, second and third time (by putting the duvet down first, and sheet on top…), AND while she managed to devour 3 sushi rolls and 2 jellies whilst lying in bed. Once we’d attempted to wrap our heads around what we had just witnessed, we went on a hunt for a little local coffee spot we’d been recommended: Sol’s Coffee. As pros at navigating the city (and with the help of the conveniently colour-coded bridges that line the river) we found the little hole in the wall and treated ourselves to one of the best coffees I’ve had. Ever. Needless to say, Sol knew our names and coffee orders by the end of the week.
Once caffeinated, we decided to wander the streets of Asakusa around our hostel (Khaosan Kabuki). We visited the beautiful but highly touristed Senso-ji, though we later decided we preferred it at night because there were no tourists or crazy markets open. Silently, as Hannah had challenged me to stop talking, we walked around the lantern-lined lanes scouting out the best grub. I was doing well at my silent challenge until we got back to the hostel for a quick pitstop and I jumped at the chance to talk to a fellow traveller while Hannah was out of the room. Unfortunately and fortunately, James was far too interesting to talk to, and I ended up getting busted by Hannah who said she could hear me talking from the corridor. Absolutely worth it though, James was full of information and really helpful regarding things to do in Tokyo, blogging, business, cooking, and life in general really. Coincidentally, he was moving to Australia (from Canada) once he left Japan so hopefully we will meet again in the future!
Near the Senso-ji
That night we met up with four other Australians (Charlie, Harry, Pat and Vince), two Americans (Alex and Eric) and a Canadian (James) at a hostel bar where we were lured by offers of free sake and plum wine. Needless to say with that mix of nationalities, things didn’t stay tame for long and before we knew it we were in a kareoke room with unlimited shots of water and water cocktails until 2am. The strange night that transpired, however, did not stop there, and we ended up in a 24hr MacDonalds talking about politics, religion and sex until 5am. Go figure.
On a side note, amazingly one of the Australian boys is at the same uni as me, doing the same degree but a year ahead, AND happens to run The Brief magazine for the Law Society, resulting in me getting myself a job as an editor for the publication. It will be the first law-related thing added to my resume! Who would have thought traveling would provide the opportunity to progress your career! Woooo!
We woke the next morning with relatively fresh heads (more so than I imagine the multitude of men passed out cold in MacDonalds the night before would have). As the sun was shining, we decided to save some pennies and walk through Omote-sando and Ayosan, which turned out to be Hannah’s heaven. She was a very happy little munchkin after getting to snap away at architecturally famous buildings such as the Prada building, and buy copious amounts of god knows what from the organic health food stores.
One of my favourite things about the train rides home each day is watching the people who are sleeping, which is often most people on the train, and wondering if they have ever missed their stop. But I bet they haven’t. It’s incredible to watch a commuter who looks basically unconscious open their eyes, lift their head and step off the train at their stop as if they weren’t just passed out against the window with their mouth hanging open. HOW DO THEY DO IT?!
The next morning, due to my mistake, we managed to walked the entire loop around the Imperial Palace trying to get in before I decided to actually read the guidebook, and realise that it is only open two days of the year, and that today was not one of those days. Oops. The walk got us sweating for the first time since we’ve been here though, and the joggers who were lapping us made us motivated to go for a run ourselves. When we get home, maybe. Maybe not. We did make it into one of the palace gardens however, and saw a few confused cherry blossom trees which was a welcomed surprise.
To make up for our walk, we treated ourselves to a trip to Muji. The only way I could describe Muji is as a Japanese version of IKEA. It had beautiful furniture, clothes, plants, stationary, beauty products, health foods, and a delicious cafe full of pastries. After we’d done some shopping and some eating, we walked downstairs and that’s when we discovered the rest of the shop. It had valentines gifts, jewellery, gift wrapping stations, luggage, kitchen appliances, bikes, travel ware, watches, wallets….the list goes on. If you have heard about those crazy Japanese department stores, this was one of them.
We finished the night off with dinner with Hiroko at a ninja themed restaurant called Ninja Akasaka. When we arrived we were taken, by a ninja, through secret passageways, over bridges, through small gaps and even got to smash a door down to climb over. The whole restaurant was underground and looked like a scene from a movie. A dark ninja village fit with smoke, flame torches, bridges, swords, and most importantly, heaps of ninjas walking around the place. The food was crazy and we were even treated to a magic ninja show at our table. It was an experience I will not forget. For all the right reasons.
The next morning something bad happened. You can tell you’ve been spending too much time with someone when you start unintentionally dressing the same. I guess it’s good for traveling when you know you’re on the same wave length as each other…but to everyone else we just looked like idiots when we walked into the common room for breakfast both wearing a striped shirt, black jeans and big fluffy socks, like some form of team uniform. To make matters worse we’d been laughing at a couple we spotted the day before who were wearing matching jumpers and shoes. Thankfully it was snowing outside so we were able to quickly cover our fashion faux pas with as many layers as we could. Once we were sufficiently wrapped up so that we could barely move, we braced the weather.
That’s a wrap!
First stop was Akihabara, affectionately known as Electric Town. The streets were lined with department stores selling every gadget and gismo under the sun – electric hairbrushes, selfie-sticks in all shapes and sizes, massage machines, cameras, and things that I think were supposed to be some sort of toy. Scattered amongst the department stores were a few sex shops that contained all kinds of electronic things that I cannot even describe, but needless to say, many many many laughs were shared.
Across the road, market stalls were filled with electrical cord, strips of neon lights, screws, globes, and tiny pieces of what I think are used to make computer hardware but to be completely real with you I have no idea. Looked amazing though. I managed to talk to someone about my GoPro and he declared it dead at 11.24am, and with it all my hopes and dreams. Thankfully we visited Tokyu Hands in Ginza next which was basically an enormous store of Japanese stationary, so I decided I’d make a scrapbook instead of a video for my time in Japan.
After jumping back on the subway, we rode our beloved Ginza line into the sunset all the way home.
I think I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so.