I think it was Oscar Wilde who once said something like ‘we can have in life, one pleasurable moment at best, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to recreate that moment’. Or something along those lines. This has never been more true considering my travel experience with Japan.
I spent two weeks in Japan in 2014, and without hesitation, I can say that those two weeks were the most perfect two weeks of my life. When you have perfect moments, you can never forget about them, and you spend the rest of your time trying to recreate and replicate those moments. Within three months of returning home from Japan in 2014, I had booked my next two trips there.
Without invitation, my best friend invited himself along.
We left on the last Monday morning in June 2015, on an Air Asia flight, with an 8 hour stopover in Malaysia. The two of us were so tired that all we did at KL airport was check into a hotel and sleep, until it was about time to board our next flight to Narita. It was my best friend’s first time traveling to Japan, and my third. By this time, I could navigate the subway and airport pretty well, and once we arrived at Narita, we got to the suburb where our Air BNB was located fairly easily.
When you’re traveling with your male best friend, getting an apartment with two bedrooms is of utmost importance. When traveling to any other country, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but because we were going to Japan, the land of matchbox apartments, we ran into some trouble because we were also both budgeting. There was the hostel option, which we didn’t want to go. It took us a few weeks of searching to find a suitable AirBNB within our price range.
The AirBNB that we had picked, was in my favourite area of Tokyo, Minato-ku. Minato-ku is like the Manhattan of Tokyo. It’s one of the most expensive areas to live in Tokyo, and is comprised of the suburbs Roppongi, Azabu-Juban, Shiodome, Akasaka, Daiba, Shinbashi, Toranomon, to name a few. The suburb that our AirBNB was in, was called Shirokane-Takanawa. I had picked it for its proximity to Roppongi (my favourite part of Tokyo). Our AirBNB in Shirokane-Takanawa was super convenient, about 3 minutes walk from the subway, and with several convenience stores nearby.
Our AirBNB host was waiting for us inside the apartment, and showed us how to use everything. It was about 11am, when we got to Shirokane-Takanawa, and the two of us freshened up quickly before heading out for our first meal.
I’ve forgotten the Japanese name for standing restaurants, but standing restaurants are common in Japan, especially if you’re eating something like ramen, sushi or drinking. It was warm that day, and Michael and I wanted to cool down, so we thought that sushi would be the best thing.
Our lunch cost around 3,000yen (about $32 AUD). After eating, we walked around Shibuya shopping and taking in the sights. I also went to Bic Camera to fix up a data sim- I got 2gigs for about 4,500 yen. Not a particularly cheap option, but the cheapest and best value in comparison to the other choices.
We went to AA and walked around the back streets of Shibuya, had coffee at a super hipster cafe called Streamer Coffee Company. I came here for the military latte- a mix of matcha, coffee and white chocolate.
After a few hours of shopping, we decided to take a rest (that means eat, again).
After our afternoon snack, Michael and I parted ways as I had dinner plans with S, a Tokyo Instagrammer.
Shohei is your typical Tokyo salaryman. The only thing that differentiates from other Tokyo salarymen is that he has an Instagram account with a strong following. We chatted only a few times online before meeting up that night. I told him that I liked trying unusual foods, so we went to have dinner at a loach restaurant in Shibuya.
It was both our first time eating loach, or ‘dojo’ in Japanese. To be honest, I’m still not really sure what loach is. Whatever it was, it was delicious. It had a texture similar to eel. We had a lovely dinner talking about cultural differences, travels and the deliciousness of Japanese food.
Because of the language barrier, I often find myself in situations where I have no idea what I’m eating.
After dinner, we walked around talking in Shibuya a little before parting ways. Shohei took me to Longbay Yokocho near Shibuya Crossing, which is a laneway of bars and restaurants similar to Golden Gai.
Shohei had to go back to work after dinner (Japanese people work so hard), so I really appreciated him taking time out of his busy schedule to meet me.
Still exhausted, I decided to head back to the apartment and have an early night.