Some would call it crazy, some would call it adventurous, and many have already called it irresponsible, my long planning, has just come to an end, and now the fun part has just started.
Six months In Asia, first stop Tokyo. Now if you asked me before I got there, what do you know about Japan, Yassine? My answer would be very shallow and naive, and so would everyone else who has never been there. I was asked that question by my couchsurfing host Katsuya, on the first night we met. I replied that I know that Japanese people are genius smart and very disciplined and that’s why they have always been one of the top powerful countries in the world. Holding a beer, he smiled and said that he never did good at school, and he hated math.
The coolest Japanese person I have ever met. he had dreads when he was travelling to Indonesia, he plays music, both drums and guitar, he even taught me how to do those circles when we were smoking shisha in his place.
Katsuya broke that Japanese stereotype for me. Before I went out to the streets of Tokyo at night, I had no idea, Japanese people are heavy drinkers or smokers. However after one week, I learned things and witnessed situations that built a whole new image for me of how it is like being in Japan.
Before I get to my week in more detail, I want to add that I wrote this on two occasions, but with the same motivation which is not having Wifi. First time, I was In China when I stayed with a couple In Shanghai for few days and the second time is about a month later when I got to Pai in Thailand.
Let’s get down to it then.
Day 1, Saturday, I get to Mikawashima station around two hours by train from Narita Airport, excited even if I had no sleep in the last 48 hours, I take a walk in the neighborhood for about an hour, backpacker style, curious stares from old people and kids, and a smile from me.
I was amazed by how everything is small and tiny but insanely clean, it’s ridiculous, all I was thinking about is how is it possible to have such clean streets when it’s not downtown but rather just random tight streets, bikes driving an inch beside me on sidewalks had me wondering if this is a show of how accurate Japaneses are. the funny part is that everything was in proportion, short people, small, boxy cars, even the fire department didn’t escape the equation, to me it looked like they had a van not a truck. I can go on with this for a while, the nice thing about it is that I felt like a giant.
At 6 pm Katsuya, my host recognized me standing in front of the main train Exit. we headed to his place, a nice two bedroom apartment, he had already a guest, a British Jamaican girl called Amy who cooked us a really good dinner that night. later on, they showed me how to get around the city, which subway line to use and which places to see the next day. It was a Saturday night so no one had any work the next morning, we talked about many topics, travelling was naturally the main one. Amy has done her Asia trip two years ago, she told me about her good and bad experiences in each country she visited.
I had a couch that turned into a bed, It was my first couchsurfing experience, and it felt nice to know that I could just go anywhere and potentially find a place to spend the night for free. Travelling has just got much more interesting.
Day 2, Sunday, I woke up around noon and cooked my breakfast while having Amy telling me how to go to Akihabara , a video games and technology district, she happened to be on her way out so she showed me how to buy a day pass from a machine in the train station. When I get to Akihabara, wearing only my orange hoodie since14 degrees seemed like summer to me who just came from a place where it was below 30 degrees just two days ago, I soon regret not putting my winter coat on, but fortunately there was a lot to see inside these buildings. Pachinko, a gambling video game, made me forget how cold it was outside, walking in these stores, I felt like an alien discovering a new world. It’s ineffable, you have to see it with your own eyes to know what I’m talking about.
After a while I headed back home, only to find out no one was answering the door, Katsuya have told me he would be home by 6 pm, I then went for a walk in the neighborhood thinking I would get a cold the next day, an hour later I went back to try again, still no one answers , I went to Ikebukuru, a place where I was having a date the next day, it was a good idea to kill some time, at 8pm I head back home, hoping I won’t I get stuck in front of the door again. I dial the same code as Katsuya have told me the first day, no one answers, but this time I stop and think what could be wrong, and finally a little detail just struck my mind, I push a button after dialing, and I could hear the ringing and then a hello, what a moment !! I felt so happy but kind of stupid at the same time.
Day 3, Monday, tired, I wake up around 2 pm and I decide to stay home until there was time for me to meet this Korean girl named Penny, and who later ended up to be the only girl I went out with in Tokyo, since she was busy that week, we only saw each other once. She took me to a Japanese restaurant, my first, we ordered Tokoyaki, a Japanese dish of chicken sticks plus an egg noodle, it was all new for me, she had a beer and I had Jin and tonic. She was full of stories, I liked her, because I’m not much of a talker. Dinner was on her treat, we took a long walk outside, she was just so lovely, she had that happy energy and that curious attitude. Walking her home, we talked about many interesting topics, she loved history so I had to ask her about the Korean and Japanese conflict. Apparently, Japan mistreated Koreans for half a century, dishonored their women and destroyed almost every Korean so they would rebuild the place and call it a Japanese land, Korea allied with USA and put a stop to that era.
When we got to her place, we watched “Lost in translation“, now, watching that movie in japan is a whole different experience, it was hilarious, not because it was clowny funny but because I could see myself in the characters during the whole movie, and since she wasn’t Japanese she knew exactly how I felt. I then had to leave and managed to catch the last train around midnight, when I got to the subway station, I find out I had no change so I had to call Penny on the phone, she ran all the way from her comfy bed and paid my subway ride home. She was the sweetest.
Day 4, Tuesday, same breakfast, eggs with toasted bread at noon. To Shinjuku, the financial and skyscraper district. Ok this time the streets were unrealistically clean, and pictures don’t do justice to this place. I get off the subway and first thing I notice is a smoking lounge, I later ask my friends about it and they said that it’s prohibited to smoke in some areas, even if it is outdoors, but the ironic part is that people smoke indoors though, Cafes, bars, you name it.
I was walking around the neighborhood and almost all I could see is these middle aged men and women in nice black suits having lunch at these tiny bars/restaurants with no more than two or three tables to sit, with their shiny luxurious cars parked along the roads. My plan that day was to go up to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, where you can see all of Tokyo for free unlike the Sky-tree which is quite expensive. Finding it was not easy, but it was definitely fun, I never saw people getting their phone from their pockets to check Google map, walking you to your destination and almost panicking if they can’t help you. Now when someone asks me what is the best thing you liked about Japan, I say asking people for directions.
I finally found the place I was looking for, having a 50x zoom camera was a lot of fun , I could see people having conferences in other buildings, others in their cubicals just like me week earlier. I showed that in pictures to Katsuya and it cracked him up. I stayed in the building until it got dark.
Going back home I stopped at Shibuya, it’s where the young people go out and meet up before hitting a bar or a club, now this was a Tuesday, but I guess it makes no difference here. When you get to that subway station,you can feel the different vibe before even getting outside. I had to first stop at the Hatchiko Statue, known as the world’s most loyal Dog, and the only public space I found free WiFi in Tokyo, then I went to the coolest and the busiest cross path in the world, I crossed that several times just for the fun of it before I got to a Starbucks and shoot a Time-lapse there. I then find myself talking to this Japanese guy sitting next to me. he initiated the conversation even if he doesn’t speak English well, and for that I kept talking to him, I told him some of my funny travel stories, he was very happy that he promised me that he will learn English in the future. I then take a walk in the neighborhood and get approached by Japanese pimps asking me to check out their clubs. On my way back home I saw a white guy who was doing the same thing as me, shooting that crazy pathway scene, we get into conversation, a young entrepreneur from Vancouver, the place I am going to move to after my trip. I have to make sure I meet him when I will be back.
I take the subway and then stop at Harajuku to see some old Japanese kind of shops, by this time I kind of felt lonely and sad knowing that I won’t see Penny another time since she was leaving to Europe for her own trip, I moved to Ueno Park, however, everything was closed since it was night-time already.
Whenever I get home I would tell Amy and Katsuya, what I did that day and have them answer all my curious questions as well as tell me what to do the next day.
Day 5, Wednesday, I went to a temple called Sensoji temple in Asakusa, It was the first time to take the bus, seeing how organized everything is, made me respect these people. I felt much better that day, happiness is a mysterious thing I have to admit, After Asakusa I went to Odaiba to check out an onsen, I have heard that you get naked in those places but it didn’t hit me until I found myself in a changing room and having already paid for the entry, I couldn’t go back so I went ahead, got naked and went in this hot springs only to get kicked out because of my tattoo ten minutes later, However, I didn’t go through all this to leave that soon, I tricked the guard into letting me take a shower first, then we played hide and seek until I got bored staying in one spot, and got out on my will.
Odaiba is such a romantic place, full of nice views and fun stuff to do, whoever designed this place is a genius, he brought Paris, Newyork, London into one place, so If you want to give a nice present to your special someone, a ticket to Tokyo will do the work for you.
I Later go to Shimbashi, where I couldn’t help it but smile looking at how these businessmen go to this high class brothels and how they enjoy their time after a stressful day at work. When I went back to the metro I got approached by a Japanese lady, seeing me having trouble getting a ticket home from the machine. It was the first time I see a Japanese speaking good English in Tokyo, and I told her so, it turned out she went to University in London.
Day 6, Thursday, I spent most of the day at home editing a video about my Vancouver trip, I get back to Shimbashi at night, but this time by mistake thinking that the Tokyo tower was nearby, so I end up taking the TokyoMetro to go to Roppongi, a neighborhood full of expats, travelers or immigrants, they all come here to have a good time at night.
I Don’t know why I came all this far and I still didn’t mention, that I have never seen a place in the world not even in my imagination, full of perfect looking, super cute girls like I did in Tokyo, I remember telling my friends that next time I go to Tokyo, I will be taking Japanese classes.
Day 7 , Friday, I spent my last day in Tokyo in the zoo, I didn’t know, it would take me all day, but it sure was big. Although I didn’t get to see Tigers and lions due to construction on their site, I saw so many cool animals, and took countless pictures, it was a beautiful day, and what marked my visit has to be seeing how cute that panda and how an elephant can eat grass of the floor.
Day 8, Saturday, off to Busan, South Korea, I had to wake up at 6 am to get to the airport.
My week in Tokyo was a memorable experience, I felt like a 5 year old all over again, appreciating each moment, and getting curious about the most basic tasks like eating and reading, I couldn’t read anything, I could only sense how things work and trust my instincts, my whole existence became a series of interesting guesses, from which way to go to choosing a new dish I never tasted before.