Hi everyone! It's been a week since I have been back in the states. I was going to put my entire vlog up but realized that would make my video over 30 min after editing! No one has patience for that!! So instead I broke it up into segments. Shout out to Van, she has helped me write this post as I am busy playing catch up on work right now. So here it is! Vlog at the bottom.
Japan. Land of the rising sun, honor, and a culture so rich, it’s like biting into a five star quality steak. The flight there was a dark and boring one. Everyone had the blinds closed, blocking out any semblance of a world outside the blue and gray color scheme of the cabin. By the time I landed 14 hours after departing from the states, the rays of the Tokyo sun pouring through the windows of the airport were a welcome reminder that something existed outside the oxygenated plane cabin.
Stepping out into the terminal was a surreal experience. As opposed to airports in the states, it was silent and nearly empty. A quiet sign that I was, indeed, no longer in the U.S.A.. Customs check took as long as expected, but after about an hour or so I was through and saw my friend who had graciously agreed to show me around and translate along the way. Without Xiaoming, I more than likely would’ve ended up on a train that was headed the exact opposite direction of where I needed to be. After finally getting the train ticket and figuring out (for the most part) the Japanese transport system, we were on our way.
An hour later, we finally arrived in the city proper where I had to train hop to get on the correct line to Shibuya. Which, in and of itself, was a nightmare as my AirBnB had issues with moving my reservation up a day. Eventually, I ended up finding an internet cafe. The cafe was more like a small hotel room than anything, where you can pay about $20 for nearly 8 hours in a private room. While the primary purpose of the cafe’s private rooms were mainly for gaming or general internet browsing, I spent my time there catching up on the sleep I missed while sitting in the aisle seat of the plane ride.
The next morning, I began the day by going to meet Xiaoming and some of his friends so that we could head to the old capitol building as the first stop of the day. It was chilly and slightly overcast, but nothing a jacket and heavy amounts of walking couldn’t fix. After walking around and gazing upon my first Japanese shrine, surrounding sights, and seeing my first cherry blossoms at the Hachimangu Shrine, we walked a couple miles to get lunch. Afterwards, we headed to the Kotoku-in Temple,in which sat the Great Buddha that had withstood a 15th century tsunami and had come out unscathed. Seeing it was an awesome experience I can't even truly describe in words. It had been weathered down by the centuries, yet still remained poise and pronounced against the temple and trees surrounding it. Once we had paid our respects and been around the temple, it was time to head into town.
Compared to the bright hustle and bustle of Shibuya, the coastal town of Kamakura was a relaxing reprieve after the events of the previous day. Unlike beaches in the states, the beaches near Kamakura and the islands off the coast were quiet and didn’t smell like the ones I grew up knowing. It smelled clean, free of the normal 6 ring beer holders or cheeto bags. It was simply the ocean, all salt and brine, with a few scattered shells waiting for a once in awhile passerby to come pick them up and spirit them away to a new life. We ended up walking nearly every square inch of Enoshima Island that day. I didn’t mind though, as the exercise didn’t seem to be as strenuous as hiking back in the states. Eventually though, the days adventures began to wear on everyone and dinner was in order before I ended up throwing someone off a cliff in a hangry rage.
After we left the island and headed back into town, we hopped the train to get back to Shinjuku for dinner. Most of the day I had spent following Xiaoming, not really paying attention to the line names of the trains or what stations we came and went to. Which after dinner became a bit of an issue. Navigating Tokyo is no small feat, think of it like New York on steroids. The train system is even more confusing considering very little of it is in English. Finally I figured it out and managed to make it back to my AirBnB by myself without any complications, and just like that, the 10.5 miles I walked in total that day hit me like a sack of bricks, and I was out until my alarm signaled the start of another day of adventures.
Day three began with the shrill whine of my alarm letting me know there was more to do and see. I began the day by heading to Starbucks for my first ever Sakura frappe, which I was skeptical of the hype surrounding till I tried it for myself. American Starbucks, take notes and get this frappe recipe because it is the nectar of the gods. After a short walk around Shibuya, I managed to find a Taco Bell which I was more than excited for considering I hadn’t really known what I had been eating the last couple of days.
Across from the Taco Bell sat a vertical strip mall, a stark difference from the normal, suburban, and concrete hell gates of the states. Upon venturing down to the basement, I found an interesting little store called Wild One whose main form of export was a bit on the naughty side. Tenga Eggs, flesh lights, lubes of every variety, signed dildos from Japanese adult entertainers, and more disturbingly, replica torsos one could defile on a whim. Real women need not apply for the two businessmen browsing the eclectic collection of rubber torsos before heading into their vanilla desk jobs for the day. Having had my fill for the day of the darker side of human obsession, I made my way to a local discount store for knick knacks and facial cleansing masks they don’t sell here in the states before heading back to my AirBnB for a bit of rest.
Finally, the day’s main event rolled around. Anime Japan. As soon as you exit the subway station, you hang a right and there it is. The massive, titan of a building that housed the expo called Tokyo Big Site. Compared to the LA Convention Center’s 720,000 square feet, Tokyo Big Site dwarfs it at over 1,000,000 square feet. Big is a little bit of an understatement, maybe they should consider changing the name to Tokyo Gargantuan Site. After walking for what seemed like miles, I finally found the check in counter and got my “badge” before wandering into the con itself. They don’t do badges there. You take your ticket to the security and they let you in. If you want to re-enter, you get a stamp. The main exhibition hall of the con was completely different from any convention in the states, as it was more an art exhibit rather than a vendor hall. Rows of figurines, original artwork, and animation studio booths lined the aisles with room to spare. I was so used to being elbow to elbow with other attendees, actually having room to breath seemed almost alien to me. The downside was how loud the hall was. Between the music and multitudes of different conversations going on around me, the noise blurred into more of a constant static hum than anything else.
Outside, away from the regular patrons and exhibits, you could find the cosplayers. For more on that and other convention details, check the review on The Geek Lyfe for more!
Finally, after an exhausting day of too much walking in very uncomfortable Converse, I made my way back towards Shibuya to meet up with some new friends from my AirBnB for dinner. We ended up at one of my favorite places from the trip. A cafe called Alice in Dancing Land, tucked away down an ally in another vertical strip mall. Upon entering, you find yourself “falling down the rabbit hole” into a completely Lewis Carroll themed dreamscape. A flight of checked stairs lead down to the hostess stand, with a floor of black and white chevron tile spanning out across the restaurant. A carousel ceiling lined with bulb lights spanned out over the tables, while pages from the original Alice in Wonderland lined the walls with various pictures of the white rabbit and cheshire cat dancing playfully about. The menu, as expected, held drinks based off things from the original story while the food remained more cookie cutter and normal. I ordered a Cheshire Cat Tricky Direction, which was as equally dangerous as it was whimsical as it was so well mixed, you could just barely taste the alcohol in it.
After dinner, it was time again to catch some sleep. My feet ached, and after two days with more walking than I was used to doing in a week, I started to feel it. I laid down and after setting my alarm, checking social media, and rinsing my face, I was out to visit my own wonderland.
Check back in a few days for the next half of my trip!