Oh, Tokyo. How do I even begin to talk about how much I love you? Let me count the ways.
1. Five days were hardly enough.
Tokyo has so many wards and we weren’t able to cover even a quarter of them! Most of the time, we were in Shibuya because we had to take the Keio-Inokashira line to get in and out of our Airbnb space near Eifukucho Station. It was pretty good, though, since it was so easy to go everywhere else from Shibuya. Our neighborhood was very nice and quiet too, rather far from the noisy, crowded location that I had in mind.
So for four days, we had time only for Shibuya, Harajuku, Asakusa, Ueno, Akihabara, Meguro, Kagurazaka, and Shimo-kitazawa. That’s…a lot.
2. Tokyo friends are awesome.
Meeting friends in the craziest city in the world made the trip so much more fun. Kat introduced me to her friend Yuki, who took us to a nice pasta place in Shibuya and fulfilled our “tourist dreams”: posing for purikura and singing Arashi songs at a karaoke joint!
It was really nice to hear about regular Tokyo life from Yuki, as well as her experiences in other countries and what her hometown is like. It was funny, we became friends only on Instagram through Kat and we got along right off the bat in Tokyo! Somehow, it felt like meeting a sister and taking comfort in the fact that somewhere, there are people with the same dreams as yours.
Yuki also introduced us to our now-favorite umeshu, which we ended up drinking for four nights straight. Haha, thanks, Yuki!
We also met my student Kanae and her friend Yukiyo, who took us to Asakusa Temple and showed us how to cleanse and pray at the shrines. So this was where we found out that we did it all wrong in Kyoto!
They also led us through Ueno Park, which was full of sakura trees. But it was summer, so it wasn’t that crowded and everything was green. From Ueno Park, they brought us to a cafe where we had cake and told each other stories.
Kanae was so sweet about making sure that we were enjoying ourselves, even if it meant some difficulties with English on her part. Yukiyo talked a lot more and told us about her visit to the Philippines, where she learned about native handicrafts.
We weren’t expecting to meet any friends the day we went to Chiba (more on that in another post) and Meguro, but suddenly my friend Shibu messaged to say that he could meet us for dinner and drinks. I got really excited because we haven’t seen each other in six years, and Kat and I were dying to drink umeshu again.
This was how excited I was: I completely forgot to take pictures of Shibu, the izakaya he took us to, and all the glorious food that we ate–grilled beef tongue, tofu, and various sashimi that we would never ever find in Manila. 残念 です ね.
Our coffee date the next day in quirky little Shimo-kitazawa was a bit more low-key. I would’ve gotten lost without him, though, because navigating through the narrow streets was really confusing.
In any case, Tokyo is so much more fun when explored with friends.
3. Shibuya is crazy, but so easy to love.
Shibuya felt a lot like our homebase, never mind that it was pretty chaotic and always crowded. Stepping on Scramble Crossing was an adventure in itself, even!
I felt scared and intimidated by the huge crowds and the shady-looking streets, but we never got into trouble. Some girls also kept getting catcalled, but we did see how a group of boys quieted down when an old man told them to shut up. Ha!
It was so fun to explore the shops, too–Muji, Tsutaya, and even the hidden book stores that Shibu found for us–and watch people as we sat in sushi bars and cafes.
4. Yamanote is the best train line ever.
Especially when it greets you with an advertisement for the new Tackey & Tsubasa single:
My obsession with Japanese trains couldn’t be more obvious at this point. I didn’t know that it could get much worse the first time I stepped foot on the Shibuya station platform!
The sad thing was, our first day in Tokyo was the last day that our JR passes were valid. Then again, buying Suica cards was really worth it, and it finally made us feel more like locals.
5. Crows were everywhere, and they weren’t as creepy as I thought.
I always thought crows were ominous, but they were rather normal in Tokyo.
And they were actually kind of nice to look at.
6. Parts of the city felt a little older and a bit more intimate.
This would be more about Kagurazaka, where we explored traditional shops, ate some seafood, and drank umeshu (again).
Meguro was also very nice and quiet but felt a bit more posh. I was a bit too worn out to take more photos of it, oops.
7. Everything passed by so quickly.
Okay, maybe this wasn’t as positive, as we would’ve wanted to feel that Tokyo lasted so long. But I hope it just means that there will be more love affairs with this lovely, crazy town.