I avoid going to the same place I have been to before. My reason? Simple, I still have a large part of the world to explore, I will do the repetition later, once and if, I am done with my ever growing travel list. But Tokyo is different. Tokyo is an exception. I have been there twice, first time in 2012 and the second time was last July. And I would visit it again in a heartbeat. Having spent a week together with my friends who are a couple and left by Yin, who needed to go back earlier than us ; I walked hand in hand with Tokyo for a few days.
^^Look at my morning view. That’s Tokyo skyline, man!
Unlike our first visit when we stayed at a ryokan, this time I stayed in a hotel (mostly out of convenience: damn heavy luggage and the need of clean wearable clothes). Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, with a huge Godzilla head hanging on the roof top of it, located in the middle of Shinjuku. Easy to find, reasonable price, very good service with a dash of quirkiness; I highly recommend it.
I have explored Tokyo before with my friends, we have been to the main tourist spots, so this time I took it it easy. On the first morning, I packed my camera and went out to explore one of the world’s most expensive cities.
Shinjuku is the entertainment district in Tokyo, a famous tourist area. It’s buzzing with activities 24 hours. It also has many questionable looking signs on at least half of the buildings. On my last morning here, while rushing to catch Tsukuji tuna auction, I saw a man with a work suit half shoving a “working girl” inside a taxi. It was 4AM, on a work day. Shinjuku is where people who work hard come to party harder.
I walked for some time, through the insides of department store and reached the train station. I planned to take the train this morning. I always include train rides in my plans.
On the day, where to was not the main thing, as long as I could enjoy the train ride. And I did.
My first stop was Asakusa. I remembered liking it because it’s filled with little trinkets to give people back home. After an hour of so exploring the area and failing to find light saber chopstick my cousin asked me to get, it’s time to stop by a place for breakfast. A few turns and I saw the Ginza Renoir cafe. Who doesn’t like the idea of having an iced mocha with jelly and ice cream on top? Especially on such a hot morning.
Next stop was Shibuya which means experiencing the Shibuya crossing. Here, rushing among thousand of humans, I felt lonely. I missed my friends, home and even my work. I chalked it out as a symptom of dehydration and stop at the Starbucks located on the junction. For someone who hates anything chained or corporate-ish when traveling, I am unable to leave my loyalty to the green mermaid lady at home. At least I order one of their local recipes, be it a coffee or tea. But the missing feeling kept creeping in. I knew it would be more fun to do Shibuya together with my girls compared to being alone in the sea of people.
Well caffeinated and trying my best to not give in to the lonely feeling, I roamed around Shibuya. I also did a little bit shopping while ignoring the fact that I already passed the luggage weight limit for our flight back. I went to the Disney store again! Yin must be very proud of me.
I also went to an electronic store to get a wide Instax camera, but didn’t because the price was three times my budget. Yeah, I was guilty for not doing a proper research nor budget. I learned my lesson Universe. A couple of hours in Shibuya my T-shirt was drenched with sweats, due to Tokyo’s unapologetic summer air so I stopped at H&M to buy the thinnest T-shirt and changed into it immediately.
Finally, I got inside Muji and dropped my jaw because wow! Just WOW. I have been to Muji before, but this Muji was huge, with many sections, filled with the stuff that either I didn’t know I needed until I saw it there or I might need some day. My favorite were Muji On The Go and Muji Yourself. You guys, we definitely have to Muji ourselves.
After making another dent in my credit card, I went for lunch. I chose eel to fend off the lethargic feeling due to the summer heat and celebrate Doyo Ushi no Hi aka the Unagi day, a few days earlier. I also silently vowed to myself to never ever visit Tokyo during the summer again.
Later that day, I went to Ginza, my last stop of the day before going back to Shinjuku district. I went to Ito-ya the famous stationary shop excitedly, but was disappointed by the collection. I then went to the department store, but it felt a little too pretentious for my taste. I also drained my iPhone battery using GPS to find Alice in Wonderland cafe. It’s when I took refuge in the Ginza Apple store. Voted as one of the best Apple stores in the world, the place ended up to be the only place in Ginza that didn’t disappoint me which means I might never visit Ginza again, unless my future Japanese friends and colleagues invite me to hang out there. #wishfulthinking.
I was done staying out and fighting the heat. Throughout the day, I kept pressing different vending machines, getting the coldest or weirdest looking or sounding drinks from it. My favorite was Green Da-Ka-Ra. It tasted a little funny, but it did the job of cooling me down well and the bottle has cute tiny pictures of the ingredients they put inside, which reassured the Japanese illiterate person like me that I am putting healthy stuff into my body.
On the way back to the hotel, I went inside the local beauty products store to stock up face masks and weird souvenirs. This time I got the green Hello Kitty hair wax, peeled off red lip stain and milk bath salt to try on the hotel tub later. Like I said before, these stores are gold mines for travel souvenirs.
The final stop of the day was pachinko, because I wanted to peek into another local demographic world. Also, I really, really like plush toys. Okay, plush toys was the real reason why I went inside. They all were so bright and looked easy to obtain.
A few coins, left and right wiggles on the hook and viola.. Or so I thought. After a few failed attempts and a growing crowd of people who were still in their work attire watching those failed attempts. I walked back to the hotel.
This was Shinjuku at night. Look how busy it still was. Right in the middle was the hotel I was staying. There was a 7-11 below the hotel. I got my goodies for the night, including a bottle of wine and went up.
Milk bath salt was a huge success! The only thing left to be done for the day was to put addresses on these postcards so I could send it to the people I love and miss this afternoon before going to sleep. drunk.
So that’s my one day alone in Tokyo. I hope you like reading it and it inspires you at least to try the DA-KA-RA drink. As for me, this post will be a well cherished, slightly lethargic, memory.
Have you ever been to Tokyo? Would you explore Tokyo or any new place alone?