Bulleting past the Japanese countryside into the infallible city of Tokyo I am feeling at ease. I have an entire week of adventuring ahead of me. I am sitting next to my childhood friend, Joe, who is teaching English in Japan, going on two years now. He is my personal tour guide, sensei, and fellow adventurer. We start my Japanese lessons right as we sit on the train learning basic words, phrases, numbers, and common knowledge. He is thriving here, and everything he describes is filled with enjoyment and enthusiasm.
I flew into Narita airport, so it was about a half hour train ride into the densely populated, organized chaos city, Tokyo. We hopped off at Tokyo station to grab a bite to eat before we set off to our Airbnb. Tokyo at night is filled of business people, families, and friends clustering the steeets outside of bars and restaurants. Streams of light from advertisement signs and restaurant entrances fill the narrow alleys and walkways with bursts of colored florecense. Joe and I peruse the streets looking for a Japanese classic, ramen. We find this little shop down an alleyway with a sliding door. We take a seat and Joe translates the menu, yet it is not entirely necessary since almost all menus have pictures of what you are ordering. I order a piping hot bowl of miso ramen.
In a few minutes, it is in front of me. The smell is mouthwateringly delectable goodness. I am thankful that slurping is socially acceptable and encouraged since that is all the sound I make as I clean my bowl. After about 14 hours of traveling my exhaustion gives in with a happy belly and we make our way to our Airbnb a quick five minute train ride away as all of Tokyo awaits tomorrow.
We rise up early to start the day, and we met Joe’s friend Yumiko at the Harajuku station. She is a Japan native and is full of life and eager to see some parts of Tokyo she hasn’t explore yet! In the middle of this bustling city lies a boastful inlet of forest and Meiji Jingu, a beautiful shrine nestled right in th middle of all the trees. I forgot that I was in the city for the time that we spent there. Walking up to the entrance, there are young women dressed in kimono preparing for a ceremony of sorts. The detail on their attire is inteicately delicate and colorful. We approached a hand washing basin to clean our hands as a sign of respect before bowing to enter the shrine. Inside we made a small donation and prayed for good fortune. The structure in the shrine is breathtaking with curves and sashaying swoops around the roof line while the detail in the wood plays into the shrine’s surroundings. We played a small fortune game where I shook a box to pull out a numbered stick and then pulled a small piece of paper from a dispenser to reveal some words of wisdom.
We made our way back out of the forest and brought ourselves back into the city. We descended down Harajuku streeet where all shops had an essence of pink and displayed the style of teenage fashion in Japan. From anime to little trinkets of characters from tv shows everything was “Kawaii!”
Making our way from Harajuku, we stopped at Shibuya crossing, one of the busiest street crossings in the world. We made our way through the masses and then continued towards Tokyo Tower, stopping along the way for some lunch Okonomiyaki a mixture of vegetables, eggs, yam, and anything else you want to add in.