So the long awaited Spring break has finally arrived!!!
Originally I had wanted to go to South Korea for spring break but after making friends here, it felt like a better idea to go to Tokyo with people you know rather than traveling Korea alone. The girls, Tiffany and Marissa and I, took the night bus to Tokyo a day earlier than the guys did and boy, were they lucky because that one day we were there before them had the worst spring break weather I’ve ever seen..
Our hostel was in Asakusabashi and it was an interesting stay to say the least. We had booked a 4-bed room for us 3 girls but the hostel squeezed in extra travelers for the week we were there, and it would have been fine if they weren’t men who were freely changing in front of all of us.
Other than the awkward hostel situation. Tokyo was spectacular! We spent each day exploring a different part of Tokyo, and it was in Tokyo where I really got the jist of how to use the Japanese railways. We hit up Harajuku and Shibuya first, the two famous shopping centers and home to the scramble crossing. It amazed me how many people were crossing that intersection everytime — where do they keep coming from?!
The next day was Akihabara. But before that, we took an amusing trip to the hospital in Asakusa to get crutches for our friend who has sprained his ankle the week before. He had thought that he would be fine but that first day walking in Harajuku really got to him. At the hospital, there were really no English-speaking staff which we thought was somewhat silly because it’s TOKYO! However, I just realized how limited my Japanese medical vocabulary was despite being a biology student back at home. After several phone calls and charades games, we finally worked it out and poor Michael was all happily hopping along on his crutches, making us all a happy traveling group again. Akihabara is of course home to all manga/anime/video games related things you could find. I even cosplayed when they offered it for free in a purikura (sticker picture) place. We also visited a maid cafe, which I must say is one of the most expensive and awkward things I’ve ever done. It cost 1000 yen to just sit for 2 hours and each person had to order at least two things on the menu, the total tab for each person is at least 2000 yen. The waitresses, all dressed up in maid costumes had so much energy to sing and yell I wonder how they can work with so much enthusiasm everyday.
Through all the silliness the day before, we decided to take a break from the bustling city and rode the train to Hakone, one of the places that offer scenic view of the famous Mt. Fuji. It was so beautiful, the town was centered on a lake with snow-covered Fuji-san peeking out from behind the surrounding green mountains. With a 5000 yen 2-day pass, we were able to ride the trains, the cable car, the bus, and the awesome pirate-ship in Hakone, and we would have been able to go to an osen too if we had time.
No Tokyo trip is complete without visiting the famous Tokyo Tower, which was surprisingly harder to find than we would have thought. Nevertheless from the tower, you could really see how Tokyo is the most populated city in the world, and it just make you feel so small. Earlier in the day we took a trip to Tsukiji Fish Market, which was also weirdly hard to find. But our efforts paid off as we enjoyed a nice fresh sushi lunch nearby.
For the last day, we took a trip to the Imperial Palace, or its gardens because you weren’t allowed in the actual living quarters. Nevertheless it was a beautiful place where modern meets traditional Japanese architecture. We sat on the lawn eating our bento as we watch mothers and children play so carefreely. Afterwards we went to the Ghibli Museum where they showcase the works of Miyazaki (the guy who made Totoro, Spirited Away, etc.). Honestly, I didn’t really care for animation but some of my friends did so I decided to come along for the experience. It was a very cool place with tons of cute things from the animations and very worthwhile if you like Miyazaki’s work, if not, it’s still enjoyable to go.
Coming back from Tokyo we were all but exhausted. Nevertheless, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever gone on and we saw and learned a lot. I, certainly for one, came back an expert on riding Japanese trains, which is one of the most useful skills you could learn that would make your life a lot easier while being in Japan.