Many of my friends traveled all around Southeast Asia after their year of teaching in Korea. Some of them are still traveling, and I admire them for their sense of adventure. I wasn’t ready for a full-on expedition like that, so I set out with my best friend, Jabriya, to take on Tokyo, Japan.
We only had five days to spare, and boy did we waste our first day trying to understand the public transportation. The buses to Shibuya were at least thirty dollars, and each subway line is owned by a different company so transfers are expensive. I was exhausted with the idea of combating the transportation, so Jabs was nice enough to handle the hardest parts. (Bless her). Seoul really has an efficient system which the government runs, and I took it for granted while I was there.
In our first full day we ventured to Harajuku in the hopes of buying tickets for Design Festa, a massive convention of artists from all over the world. Unfortunately, the tickets were sold out and we settled for exploring Harajuku instead.
We found a cool shop where we bought most of our souvenirs, for ourselves and our families. It had everything from Pokemon to Snoopy themed products and I was so glad we found this weird shop and all of its wonders.
We also found the cutest, and loneliest, Hello Kitty Cafe just down the street. It was lonely because we were the only customers there so early in the morning. The employees gave Jabriya a cookie for free, and I got excited when I saw they had enamel pins for sale. (I’ve taken to collecting them). Unfortunately, they were selling them as a mystery pin…but I got the one I wanted, so everything worked out wonderfully.
We attempted to tackle Akihabara, the neighborhood famous for its video games and similar content. I think I got a migraine from it, and Jabriya definitely felt sick afterward. There were so many people, and so many shows we didn’t recognize. We bought a few cute things and then made our way back to a more sane area of town: Harajuku.
The next day was our big day! We bought tickets for the Ghibli Museum (which you must buy at least a month in advance) and had plans to go to the bird cafe across the street. In preparation for the museum, Jabriya and I watched almost all of the movies they had created. I’m glad I did, because I recognized nearly everything inside the building.
But first, the bird cafe. Jabriya loves small birds, and I love anything cute, so it was a perfect excuse to go. I’ve never known a country as obsessed with parakeets as Japan. Everywhere we looked, there were products featuring the fuzzy birds. The Kotori Cafe was split into two, one part for eating and buying cute things, and the other part for the birds. While you ate your omelette rice, you could watch the birds play.
The cafe provided an English menu, and you only had to pay 300 yen to play with the birds. We had a lot of fun with the birds, especially because the one was named after fish roe because of his red cheeks. (So cute!!!)
Then I was time for the Ghibli Museum. It was crowded, but definitely one of the most unique museums I have ever been to. I loved seeing all of the original sketches from my favorite Ghibli movies. However, I was surprised that the merchandise was really lacking for some of their better films.
After a treacherous journey to see the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa (curse the subway system, really!) we returned to our Airbnb for a good night’s sleep.
The following day, we set out to find some dango, a sweet or savory Japanese treat made out of rice cake.We made it all the way to the Shinjuku subway station, and we almost got to the shop when a nice old lady came over to help us. She spoke perfect English and was really sweet. We even passed the shop and she waved to us from across the street telling us to go back! I came to love rice cake while I was in Korea, but I forgot that it’s really not for everyone. Jabriya didn’t really love them, but I loved the strawberry and red bean dango.
Later, we traveled to the Bonsai museum, where we saw an eight-hundred year old bonsai tree.
Then we went to a nearby Shinto temple, which was beautiful and surrounded by the loudest crows I’ve ever heard. Japanese temples and Korean temples are very different, and I’m glad I got the chance to visit more that one. I have to say, I prefer Korean temples because of how colorful they are.
Thanks to my friend, Laura, Jabriya and I found a place that made gluten free ramen. While it was also vegetarian, it was still delicious. After that we did probably my favorite thing of the whole trip: photo booths!
I don’t remember the last time I felt so much pressure. For about four dollars we went into four-part photo booths with timers on each section. We had so much fun editing and guessing what things were since everything was in Japanese.
For our last adventure, Jabriya and I went to the Shinjuku Gyoen park, which we knew from a beautifully illustrated movie called The Garden of Words. The park was beautiful, and it reminded me of Central Park in NYC.
I even tried to scare a crow that was trying to steal things out of a backpack on a bench. These crows were huge! When I got close it didn’t even move, I thought maybe it was considering taking me on.
My favorite part, of course, was the beautiful tea house. Parks in Korea sure do lack the amazing beauty of this park and its fall colors.
In the end, Jabriya and I went to the airport and got on our twelve hour flight (in which I didn’t sleep at all). My parents picked us up, and I suffered jetlag for a good two weeks before feeling normal again.
Thanks for reading this long post about my trip to Tokyo, it might be sometime until I update this blog again, so cheers!