Japan in my mind: Tokyo, Part 2

  • Posted on: March 8, 2014
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My second week of stay in Japan consisted of more exploration, fresh fish, a huge Gundam replica, and Mickey Mouse.

On my last Monday in Tokyo, I decided to visit the last shrine in my itinerary, Meiji Shrine. Of course, getting lost (again – this has been a recurring theme since I obviously cannot read directions) is always a part of my adventure. I think it took me more than an hour to get there, when in fact it should have taken me less than 10 minutes from the time I got out of the train station. Tsk, tsk.

I finally ended up seeing the big gates of Meiji Shrine and a feeling of serenity enveloped me. Which is really great, especially that I have spent a lot of time in Tokyo where hustle and bustle is just second nature for the metropolis. Perhaps because of the trees? The breeze was really nice there, and it was a good walk from the gates to the actual shrine.

After walking around and paying my respects, I dropped by at Harajuku to see what it is all about, and to kill time since I was scheduled to meet a friend for dinner. I think the excitement was not there to begin with, as I am well past my age to feel so. Harajuku is a stylish youth’s haven. I am obviously not as young as I used to be.

Then again, it wasn’t too bad checking out the place.

I went to Ikebukuro after and met my friend Boom for dinner. Boom and I went back in university – we were batch mates actually, but never really met “in person” until we finally briefly saw each other in campus back in 2008. It was a great time catching up with her. It was also a great breather to finally speak in my mother tongue after two weeks of speaking in English and broken Japanese.

The next day, my destination was Tsukiji Fish Market. Not to catch the 5am fish bidding, but to have lunch. I had great time roaming around the market; somehow the place is reminiscent of my own childhood growing up in the Philippines. I found a good conveyor sushi restaurant and was so ecstatic for I have never had fresh saltwater fish in a while!

Having a happy tummy, I went to Syabi afterwards, then to Impossible Project Store (in which I will talk about later) and being caught in a really heavy summer rain. The staff at the IP were more than gracious to lend me an umbrella and when I got the chance, bolted out of the store and went back to my friend’s apartment.

Next day was Odaiba day, where I met up with T to show me around the place. It seems like Odaiba is his turf, as he really knows his way around, and has told me some snippets of stories while we were walking.

Why is there a Statue of Liberty? I don’t know. It was really odd seeing a replica there though.

Oh yes. My childhood!

T was kind enough to tell me to buy the cute panda mug at Village Vanguard, but was supportive of my self-control to not by any Rilakkuma items.

It was pretty overcast that day, but that didn’t stop us two crazy photography people from walking around and taking lots of photographs. We ended the day visiting T’s home town and meeting his family. It was nice to see where he grew up – Omori somehow has this welcoming feeling to it.

My second last day was spent at Tokyo Disneyland. I have never been to any before, but thought, hey, they have a Disneyland! Might as well go.

Obviously the place is HIGHLY commercialized, but it felt magical nonetheless. I chose the rides that I took, mostly because I went alone. Personally, my trip there could have been better if I was with someone. A bout of sadness hit me; it made me miss K and wish I was back in Canada already.

Bell was talking to everyone in English. Oh Japan.

By the time it was around three in the afternoon, I was hot, sweaty, and really tired. I had to find a spot because the afternoon parade will start in an hour. I was surrounded by lots of people – families, friends, couples. Again it made me feel sad, but I shrugged that feeling away and concentrated on finding a place to sit down and rest (and be burnt under the Japanese summer sun).

But then I met Mickey Mouse and saw the parade, and I felt a lot better. I think my eyes stung a bit, I wasn’t sure if I cried because I saw the parade or I was just relieved. Or maybe fatigued. The things that cartoons can do to me, eh?

During my last week in Japan, I consciously thought of reflecting about the things I have experienced on that trip. I felt really accomplished, having checked off Japan on my list of places to visit. I have always been fascinated of its culture, especially that I learned about the country in an academic setting. I found out that my feelings and reactions in general seem to be in stark contrast with my friends and acquaintances’ reactions when they have been there (people I know where just floored because, you know, Akihabara = Anime? Somehow I didn’t feel that, thank goodness). I think I made an effort not to treat the place as something exotic. Initially, I was really interested in going to Japan. In the end I ended up enjoying traveling alone.

It was not much because of the destination itself, but the process of going and being there and going back home and remembering the experiences I had.

To S for being a wonderful host and being very patient with me, to all the strangers, and new and old friends who have assisted me throughout my stay – THANK YOU. You have made my trip memorable.