This is the 5th post in my 21-blogs-before-2019-ends-challenge!
As previously mentioned in this post, my best friend Vi visited me in Japan this past November. I, of course, took some time off to show her around. I prepared an itinerary that took us from the rooftops of Japan’s skyscrapers in Tokyo and Osaka, to the quiet villages of Hakone and Kawaguchiko at the foot of Mount Fuji. We had a chance to experience the adrenaline rush of the King of Coasters at Fuji Q Highland amusement park, and also the quiet zen-like atmosphere in one of the local non-tourist temples. We visited Kyoto, Japan’s former capital. The journey took us from Shinjuku’s underground clubs where we thought we had met a Japanese actor, to the world’s tallest standalone tower (Tokyo Skytree). We wore the traditional kimono and also wore modern, colorful outfits that would have blended in with the crowds in Harajuku. We ate at Starbucks, McDonalds, and we also ate at nameless Japanese restaurants. We ate ramen and oden, and ordered tons of food using Uber Eats. We rode on crowded local trains full of workers going home. We drove along the winding country roads in a lovely Vitz. We rode the bullet train, and also took the night bus. We shopped at the Apple Store in Shibuya and also at one of Japan’s crazier stores, Don Quijote. We walked for hours during the day, went out at night and stayed till the sun came up. We also stayed in bed all day on some days, watching Netflix and sumo wrestling. We even managed to squeeze in an hour of karaoke. The only three things on the itinerary that we didn’t manage to do were visiting a cat cafe, a maid cafe and eating Kobe beef.
On the first day, we went on a relaxed airbnb kimono experience. In spite of having lived in Japan for more than 5 years, it was my first time trying on kimono. I say the experience is relaxed because we didn’t have to wear layers of petticoats underneath or the kimono shoes (geta). The experience included a stroll around the neighbourhood to the riverside and a visit to the Mimeguri Shrine, where we prayed for money, love and success.
It is said that the more money you give, the more luck you get. And the more luck you get, the more money you will get. The gospel of prosperity is universal.
By the time our 2 hour stroll was up, we were so hungry we bought the next thing we found: oden at a local restaurant. Oden is a “classic Japanese winter food, consisting of a variety of ingredients simmered in a soy broth”.
Tokyo Skytree At Night
Later in the evening, we walked to the nearby Tokyo Skytree. Before we went in, we sat on one of the benches along the street next to the river, enjoying a break (and a drink) while watching people go past. Who would have thought that 10 years ago, in campus in Juja, that we would now be sitting on the illuminated streets of Tokyo admiring the world’s tallest tower?
It was a weekday night, so there was no queue going up. Tokyo at night is so beautiful. The highways are dazzling streaks of lights, which stretch on as far as the eye can see. The twinkling lights of one of the world’s largest metropolis at our feet. We went up to 450m above the ground. We spent an hour or so admiring the views and taking photos. I had been to the Skytree before, but during the day. It is worth going at dusk so you can get both the day and night views.
It was on the way home at around 9 or 10 p.m. that we stopped for an hour at a karaoke joint near the station at Kichijoji. It’s an all night karaoke place. While it’s more fun to go as a group, karaoke is guaranteed to be fun even with 2 people! We got a tiny booth that we squeezed into and they had a wide range of English songs to choose from. There’s always the classic Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion (That’s the way it is and My Heart Will go On)!
I love traveling with friends over traveling alone. I’m lucky that I get along well with most of my friends, and we always agree to disagree. Like for example, if can’t agree on what to do, we just go our different ways during the day and link up again in the evening. But with Vi, she let me be in charge of the itinerary and adjusted it as we went along.
Anyway, karaoke marked the end of an action-packed first day!
What happened the next day? Story for the next post.