For many years, I always wanted to go to Japan. I finally got the opportunity to do so with Gloria this year for her spring break. This was to be the longest continuous flight I’ve ever been on at around 12.5 hours, and I was thinking what to do with myself for that time since I rarely sleep on planes. After rooting my old Asus Transformer Tablet and flashing an Android Marshmallow ROM, I loaded it up with book and anime. I had planned on watching Mob Psycho 100 for as much of the flight as possible, but plans changed as my interest in the Nintendo Switch grew. Though I didn’t pre-order, the Best Buy near work was going to get a very large shipment, so I went after work and waited in line for hours. I’m not a fan of doing this, and the only time before that I did this was for a Nintendo Wii during college. Somehow, I was #2 in line, and eventually it started to grow huge as the night came.
I had only done this once before in my life, waiting for a Nintendo Wii in college. Before I knew it, the first wave of us were let inside to make our purchases. I had heard these events could be very rowdy and dangerous, but everyone was very calm.
…and back home for the unboxing!
Soon, it was time to fly to Tokyo. Gloria and I found a packaged deal with American Airlines that covered round trip flight and hotel for $2000 total. This was the longest continuous flight I had ever been on, but thanks to loading my tablet with some anime and my previous Nintendo purchase, I was ready.
After arriving in Tokyo, we took a bullet train from Narita International Airport to the city center where our hotel was (thanks to Nathan on tips for navigating the rail system!). We stayed at Hotel MyStays Ochanomizu near the Akihabara electric town. My coworker told me some rooms in hotels would be quite small, but it wasn’t as tight as I imagined.
After some rest, it was time to meet up with some friends. We joined Max, Mallory, and my former coworker Bryan for a night out of some walking around and dinner. Before all of that, I had to find some music that I had heard back in the United States (more on this at the end), so we took a train to the Shibuya ward to Tower Records. We stopped at a ramen and noodle shop at the Taito Station for a quick bite to eat.
Back at the hotel, I finally saw the fancy toilets I heard about. I was so impressed I’m looking into getting one for my future home.
I think it’s strange that they aren’t embraced in the United States, and many have written about this.
The next day was to be spent out with Max and Mallory, as they planned to go to Osaka for the remainder of their trip. We headed over to Tsukiji Fish Market for some fresh sushi.
Once we stopped for some sushi, the service was great, and the language barrier was easily overcome. The staff was incredibly friendly, and actually had a picture menu that helped with ordering. Unfortunately, my Japanese is VERY limited, so this made the process a lot smoother.
Gloria and I ended up spending about 3,500 Yen (about $31 USD). It was all so good!
After our meals, it was time for some potential shopping in the Ginza district.
Gloria is not a big fan of kitten heels.
I also leaned about White Day, a day 1 month after Valentine’s Day in which that received gifts from women on Valentine’s Day return the favor. However, a lot of us were just in line for the special dessert waffles at a shop on the corner.
We met up with my college friend, Dino, who happened to be in Japan as well. We spent some time at the park near the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
As Gloria was tired from the long day out, I met up with the group later that night for some drinks and bar hopping. We met at a place that specialized in cocktails named after famous movies and anime.
During my solo walk, I saw a street performance by two young women that I had to stop for.
By almost 2 AM, I was one of the only people still walking around. On my way back to the hotel, I was approached by two police officers, who actually had a chat with me and asked how I liked Japan so far after finding out (perhaps unsurprisingly) that I was a tourist and new in town. They were very friendly, and one said he had been practicing his English so he wanted to hold a small conversation. It was much more peaceful than the tense interactions I’m used to back home.
The next day, we decided to go to Denny’s. I was told to actually try this, and quickly found out the menu is quite different. Our meals were interesting to say the least. I have not had salad with my breakfast before, but I enjoyed it. The waitress recommended I try a melon soda, and it was one of the greatest drinks I have consumed. I found another Texan has written an entire post about the Tokyo experience, and melon soda specifically.
After our meal, we met up with Bryan at the National Museum of Modern Art. They accepted my UT ID for a small discount, and we were off for some museum shenanigans
After we finished up, we met up with Dino before he left Tokyo. We met at Ramen Street at the Tokyo Station, and were we in for a treat. After waiting in line and finally punching in our orders, I had what might be the best ramen I’ve had in my life so far!
After we parted ways with Dino for the remainder of the trip as he headed off to Kansai, we took the train to Shibuya, and walked to the Meiji Shrine to see it for ourselves and get a little more history and culture on this journey.
The trip was really moving fast, as we came up on our last full day already. I started off the day with some morning TV exercises. Seriously, I really enjoyed Japanese television, even though I couldn’t fully understand everything happening.
My college roommate Uchenna kept telling me that I must go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum during my trip, so Gloria and I decided to walk there from our hotel. I had become greatly interested in learning more about the Edo period from my anime, movie, and series exposure (such as Samurai Champloo), and my Intro to Japan elective during my time at UT, so this was a good experience. The museum was packed with information, history, and interactive art! Everything was in both English and Japanese, with translators everywhere.
For this photo, an older friendly Japanese man approached us and asked if he could take our photo for us. I’m not sure he was able to work my camera or if it was intentional, but he ended up taking about 15 photos :-). I picked this one in particular.
After the museum experience, we stopped for a quick meal before heading into M’s: Pop Life Sex Department Store (read about it, but slightly NSFW?). The place is in the heart of Akihabara, and 7 floors high. From DVDs, to costumes and cosplay, to every item imaginable, this place has pretty much everything. Photos are not allowed on most floors, except on the costume floors. Others have written about their experiences in better detail on yelp.
I kept passing advertisements for Soft On Demand. We ended up not checking it out, but it’s a porn VR room (read about it, but potentially NSFW?)
To finish the last day off, Gloria decided to get a tattoo, much like she did during Hawaii last year. I had read that tattoos are a bit frowned upon in Japan, but Gloria found a woman with her own private studio out of her home in the Harajuku district. I was skeptical, but I’ll let her work speak for itself. After getting to this part of the city, we stopped for some tea before going to her house.
I won’t spoil it here, but next time you see Gloria, check out her bicep. It’s awesome 🙂
We had finally reached the end of the trip. After some hotel breakfast, we checked out and headed to the Ueno station to catch the express train to Narita International Airport. The entire week had been very cold and cloudy, but this last day felt like a great spring day. The cherry blossoms were out in full, so time for some great last photos.
I couldn’t leave without visiting a Pokemon store and getting some treats!
Goodbye Tokyo! I’ll be back someday for sure. In all of our travels, this was one of my most enjoyable trips, rivaled only by Rome and Prague. Everyone we met was so kind, welcoming, and helpful. Every meal was enjoyable, and I definitely recommend visiting if you have the opportunity to do so. Back in hectic DFW Airport, back to Austin.
Song of the post: Sai Yoshiko – Taiji no Yume. Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this very long post. Before my trip, YouTube put this in my recommended videos and I instantly grew hooked to it. Her story is interesting, and I encourage you to read it when you have time. She made music for about half of the 70s, and abruptly retired, coming back out of retirement in 2001. Her CD was very hard to find, which is why I ended up going to Tower Records on my first night in Tokyo to get the last copy of her CD.