First Impressions of Tokyo

13.5 hours after leaving Boston we landed at Narita airport and I instantly began to sweat. The building was only mildly air conditioned, and I had a heavy pack upon my back. I was also covered in what I’d like to call flight-oil which seeps through ones pores when on a plane for an extended period. Though the arrival to the hotel was fairly painless, it was not scenic, and I was eager to see the city. The room I had to myself was tiny, but the TV was huge. I quickly found a group heading out for dinner, and we were off.

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All matcha, everything.
I soon realized we weren’t staying in a busy part of Tokyo, so there was little to see. Despite there being approximately 5,000 restaurants along our path, it took an hour to decide which to select. I expected a night on the town in my Patagonia baggies, but I was only offered a small cup of edamame and a long walk to my hotel room. It was my first night in Tokyo, and I spent it staying up too late, messing around on my phone.

I awoke the next morning in my tiny room after a night full of waking up and not knowing where I was. I had committed myself to going for a run, even without data or a wifi-enabled device in a large, foreign city. I had only done such a thing unaccompanied once in London whose small blocks confused me easily. Having a general idea of where a park was where I could do a lap, I left with my playlist, tailored for my Japanese journey. There were few non-runners out so early, and the sticky heat was already terrible. I saw the Tokyo tower and had a pretty easy time navigating without a navigation system other than my brain.

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Tokyo Tower, NOT Tokyo SkyTree
I returned to the Apa and got myself ready for the day. The hotel’s breakfast buffet was interesting and had only mild American influence. After six courses and eight seaweed packets, it was time to attend the program’s orientation. It took longer to wrangle everyone together and travel to the site than to sit through the actual orientation. The same, limited information was repeated to us, then we had to wait while each of the 60 participants were individually called up to receive their flip phone and stipend. This gave me the opportunity to talk to new people, so I felt content with my going-out and exploration-partner options.

After returning my backpack to the hotel and changing into my Asics, a small group of us headed to Akihabara. We roamed and visited Mandarake and Yodobashi Akiba before finding a great noodle place. Although it looked amazing, I had no idea how to properly eat the dish, so my first attempt was greeted with a worker running and yelling before demonstrating how to dip the noodles. It was an excellent meal and the first that seemed truly Japanese. We took a series of trains and subways that led us back to the hotel. I napped with the promise of some late-night adventures.

I was dying for a night out because I have had the Wombats’, “if you love me, let me go back to that bar in Tokyo” verse stuck in my head since I got into this program. I thought I would accomplish this bar visit calmly and in an innocent manner. I’m very happy I got something I didn’t know I wanted. I have very little experience with wild nights, but I was with the right people and we went to the right places. We visited a 7-Eleven and by the time we arrived in Shibuya, the night was already “lit.” We spent an hour doing nostalgic karaoke songs, bought food purely for bathroom usage, and met people who guided us to the right club.

Though it reeked of cigarette smoke, this club charged me less than everyone else and gave me a free drink that I think was entirely SunnyD. I was somehow the central dancing figure on the hip hop floor, and it was amazing. I do love to dance, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. (Except Just Dance; I’m the best at Just Dance.) We danced until I emptied my energy tank (which does take a long time). We took the most expensive Uber of my life back to the hotel where we visited the hot baths before going to bed/taking a two hour nap.

I met so many people without even noticing that my English-speaking attracted other English-speakers. With a different perspective, my night of fun could have been considered terrible, but I had the time of my life. I’m so pleased with how my “bar in Tokyo” experience ended up being.

The next day we were off to our host families, where the actual program began.

So far:

  • I hadn’t had sushi.
  • Or ramen.
  • Japanese people understand English, but don’t speak it.
  • The train system is super fast, on-time, and easy.
  • I think I love it here already.

3 thoughts on “First Impressions of Tokyo

  1. If you’re in running distance from Tokyo tower, you’re must be in a pretty nice neighborhood. It may not look super busy but you might find a lot of real neighbourhood jems… I travelled to Japan for work forever, always fantasised about working/living there and was finally able to do it for one year last year. It’s a daunting place for non-Japanese speakers (as fascinating as it is bizzaro-foreign) and as the tourist veil comes off, the tyranny of language, everyday etiquette, uniquely Japanese bureaucracy can be oppressive. Nevertheless, as I am sure you’re experiencing each day, there’s much beauty in small, everyday things. Whether it’s how food delivery is stacked perfectly perpendicular (common early morning sight on the way to work), bike and cars parked in lots as they’ve been placed equidistantly by hand etc. And particularly this time of the year, lukewarm evening breeze that sets in after punishing heat… head for ubiquitous beer garden. Pluggin’ my blog a little, all the Tokyo listings are those truly beautiful places I loved the most while living there so hope you see some of them. Start w/ the parks… Hamarikyu Garden and Shinjuku Gyoen. JP

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  2. I have been to Japan, but didn’t have much time to spend and see the city much. I love it there too. I was kind of shocked first time seeing the size of their 7-11 store. It is nothing compares to the one we have here in the state. If you have more time, maybe next stops will be Hong Kong or Korea. Those places are good too.

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