This past weekend, my friends and I ventured from our homey Kansai region into the concrete jungle of Tokyo! It was such a life experience for me – stressful, nerve-wracking, exciting, and endearing. I really learned a lot while I was there!
The first thing I learned was to never take the overnight highway bus with this kind of group ever again. The overnight bus was probably the most stressful thing about going to Tokyo, for me – we were all up all night and when the morning came we were dropped in a place we had never been before. But I learned something else as we trudged along that morning – Japanese cities and American cities are much the same.
Standing in the middle of Tokyo, near Tokyo Station itself, you could’ve told me we were in Dallas and I would have believed you! Blank-faced, tall, glass buildings rose up around us without any indications of what they were or where we were. We walked for a long time before we got any indication of a place to get something to eat! It was funny to me – hysterical. I couldn’t stop laughing, but that might have been the lack of sleep.
While we waited to check into our hotel, we went to a park that had a zoo in it. It wasn’t a particularly large zoo, but they did have the cutest little otters, all sleeping in a pile!
We were all still exhausted from the bus, so we spent most of the day relaxing in that park. Being October, it was starting to get cold even in Kansai, so Tokyo was all but freezing to us. However, I liked the park we spent our time in. I felt connected to it, but again, that’s probably the lack of sleep talking.
We finally made it to our hotel, and rested up for the big day ahead of us next!
The next day we hit the part of town we’d all been waiting for – Akihabara’s Electric City. Filled as it is with arcades, food, karaoke parlors, and shops of every kind selling Japanese media goods, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t have a boatload of fun – under the right circumstances. We all had a great time. Traveling with such a large group caused minor stress, but we all managed to find time to do the things we wanted to do and see the things we wanted to see! I couldn’t believe the day flew by so quickly – before we knew it, it was dark, and another day would be starting soon!
The next day was our last full day in Tokyo, and we decided to head to the fashion districts. Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Harajuku are well-known as fashion capitals of not just Tokyo or Japan, but most of the world. We spent a whole day hopping around from district to district, scaling quickly through malls and trying to process exactly what we were seeing. It was all so over-stimulating! At last we pushed our way down Takeshita Street, the most crowded street in Harajuku district, and called our day a success.
The next day, unfortunately, was our last in Tokyo, but we were all relieved to go back to the slow days in Hirakata. We took the Shinkansen back home, so that we would only have to miss one day of class. It was a little stressful trying to figure out how the tickets worked (they wanted us to do something different at every station we went to), but once we were on the train it was smooth-sailing. The Shinkansen is fast. And it is so much more convenient than flying. It can be a little pricier, but I personally think the ease of access is worth it. And, of course, it is much better than the overnight bus. We could even see Mt. Fuji out the window!
Tokyo was a blast, and I’m so glad I went, but I feel like I much prefer the life I have here in the Kansai area. I thought, while I was there, about whether I would like Tokyo if I were living there alone. I thought I would like it more than being there with four other people, but I find I love the Japanese countryside too much to say a life in Tokyo would be a better one. Wherever my future takes me, I hope it one day returns me to the southern-Japanese countryside. That’s a place I could call home!