Last autumn, we went on a very special holiday. I’d been looking forward to this trip for a long time. After 4 years I finally set foot on Japanese soil again and you know what!? It felt like I’d never been gone! I even managed to brush up my rusted Japanese while we were there. Since we did so many things and took tons of photos I’d like to share with you, I’ll split this up in several posts. I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as we did. So let’s get started with Tokyo, the place I’d called my home for a year back in 2009/2010.
Our trip didn’t start off as nicely as we’d hoped for. When we got to the airport in Frankfurt we learned that our first flight to London was delayed by an hour because it was too foggy for the incoming plane to land. Of course, there’d been nothing but clear skies the previous days. Oh well! Since we had 2 hours between flights we were still positive we’d make it in time. Until we finally sat on the plane and nothing happened. We had to wait for connecting passengers and by the time we got to Heathrow, we had only 10 minutes until boarding was closing. I was still hoping they’d wait for us like we’d waited for the other passengers, but of course they didn’t. The next possible flight wasn’t until 6 hours later. Bummer! But well, somehow we managed to kill the time and after a pleasant flight we finally made it to Haneda airport. We took the bus to Shinjuku station and while we were making our way into central Tokyo, so many memories popped up in my head and I was overflowing with excitement. I couldn’t wait to show M around, to take him to all the places that had been part of my life for such a long time.
From Shinjuku station it was a short subway ride to our hotel. This station can be a pain in the ass as its one of the busiest in the world with millions of passengers every day. It’s basically a maze and I got lost more than once on the search for the right train line during the first months. I’m pretty sure M had his first little culture shock there since we got there during the evening rush hour and I think he didn’t expect me to know what I was doing. But we made our way to the subway without getting lost, yay! The second cultur shock for M was when we saw the shoe box that was our hotel room.
I have no idea how many times we bumped into furniture or our suitcases while moving about, but that’s the way things are in Japan and we didn’t spend much time at the hotel anyway. Plus, since we were pretty high up, we had a nice view over the city.
After a very long sleep, it was finally time for sightseeing. First, we went to Meiji-jingu, a big shinto shrine which I’d visited many times before. Before we went inside, I made the mistake of sitting down at the bottom of a tree in front of the big entrance gate and immediately got whistled at by a guard. Ooops! Well, I was already pregnant at the time and needed a rest, so, sorry! At first, we took a stroll through the adjacent garden, a first time for me as well, then went on to the shrine itself. As a contrast to the tranquility of the shrine, we afterwards walked through Harajku’s Takeshita dori, a narrow street with lots of fashion boutiquesm some of them selling pretty extraodinary clothes (even for Japanese standards). From there, we walked down to Shibuya, a part of the city I’d spent a lot of time at since I’d worked there and had frequently gone out for after work drinks in the area. I’d always loved standing at the famous Shibuya crossing, waiting for the lights to turn green and then letting myself drift along with the crowd. Standing there again after such a long time was a very special moment for me, kind of magical. We walked around on Center Gai for a bit, a shopping street with colourful stores and neon lights, pretty popular among the youth. When we got hungry, I rembered a sushi restaurant I’d been to several times before and after searching around for a bit, I finally found it. It wasn’t the same chain as before, but a way cooler one. You could order your sushi via a screen and after a few minutes the food arrived on a little train. What an awesome idea! Since I was pregnant and in Germany doctors recommend not to eat raw food, I decided to stick to the non-raw and veggie options. When I saw M indulging in all the sushi goodness, I felt tempted to try just one piece, but I didn’t dare. Japanese women would probably laugh at me, but well, there were plenty of other great things to eat waiting for me on the trip, so it was ok. Since the cafe I used to work at was only a short walk from the restaurant, we decided to pay it a visit after dinner. But unfortunately I had to find out that the place had been closed down. I have to admit that this made me pretty sad since I had hoped to see some of my former colleagues. On the other hand, it wasn’t such a big surprise to see a place had vanished since Tokyo is constantly changing and doing so pretty fast. So we took the train back to Shinjuku and went for an evening stroll in the Kabuki-cho area, an entertainment district, and through the bar-lined alleys of Golden Gai. All in all, it was an awesome first day back in Japan.