20 things in Tokyo
I’ve now traveled to Japan twice, below I will list some of the exciting activities I did during my first trip in 2018. I’ll detail the things I saw and felt.
Here are 20 things in Tokyo. My first trip to Japan, though it was short it was extremely enthralling!
I was there for a week- a small vacation from work and I mainly spent my time in Tokyo, since it’s the major city and I’m a city girl.
You might be asking where did you stay?
I CouchSurfed the whole experience which allowed me the save a huge chunk of money, tourism statistics report that the majority of the money we spend when traveling is on housing (i.e. hotels, hostels, AirB&B).
I generally travel on a semi-flexible yet fixed budget; but having my housing secured I was all set to start my adventures!
Purpose of the trip:
During this trip, I wanted to mainly see
1) downtown Tokyo, see anime people Otaku boys/girls…
2) visit Japanese religious temples and parks
3) see multiple contemporary art museums & historical museums,
4) run into handsome spiky haired anime looking Japanese boys (!) lol! I never ran into them which bummed my spirit;
5) meet a Yakuza gang member and take a pic with them (!) also didn’t happened because I couldn’t spot them or I was not in the right places, idk.
And to have enough leeway to carelessly explore like a stereotypical tourist and follow my inner child instincts.
Day 1: Tokyo
Day 1: I arrived at the airport and texted my first host, an energetic and open minded 30 something male Japanese Doctor. I informed him that I would be heading to his place shortly after grabbing my secondhand rucksack and I hopped on the train. The ride was smooth, I pretty much just looked at everyone and watched how they behaved while not looking creepy or stalker like in the process. lols.
A few min or so later, an older Japanese Grandma boarded the train a few stops after I boarded and I asked her if I was on the right train (Japan train system is super efficient however, can look daunting to visitors, view photo below!) and she looked at the small ticket fare I held in my hands and was trying to tell me that I need to change trains by telling her granddaughter who spoke some English. I smiled and thanked them and dashed to the train on the adjacent platform- pheeww!
Not even 30 minutes in and I’ve made one of the most common rookie tourist mistakes aha!
Overlooked minor details about which train number and color to take to go to Shinjuku. While transferring I dropped my small train ticket which you need to hold on to to transfer at the next station. Luckily, the transit ticket guy let me pass without any fuss. I thanked him and kept it moving. The train ride was pleasant and silent, aside from the zzping sounds of passing neighborhoods. Finally, I arrived in Shinjuku district, still a bit uncertain of my direction, I remembered some key local landmarks (i.e. Family Mart up the road to the left) from the video the Dr. sent me weeks prior to help me find his home.
It was a bright sunny day, clear sky, and the temperature seemed just right, I didn’t stand out too much, I dressed semi casual while being true to my original swag but aside from that I was an African woman in Shinjuku, YAY!
I started walking towards his home, I observed how clean everything seemed to be, no trash on the ground, it was quiet, no one arguing or talking loudly as I walked pass them, the street signs were meticulously decorated and in synced. 10-20 min of walking and I made it to the home of my first host, the door used a Bluetooth lock, which “blue” my mind! I had the code and input it and I was now inside of this simple looking Japanese home but little did I know how complex and advanced the inside of the home was going to be like.
The interior was modern looking, made of wood and other materials that are local to Japan which made the house well ventilated, compact, and lit with natural light. I walked to the living room where I met one of my host’s many roommates.
I introduced myself to them and informed them who I was there to see. They were respectful and immediately greeted me and showed me to my room. I quickly unpacked, used the restroom (I will describe it below), and went off to explore the rest of the house, the roof, some of the neighborhood before I darted to the city center to began to tackle the tasks I had on my itinerary for that day.
Japanese toilets are super complicated to use! -___- I urinated but didn’t know what to press and feared pressing the wrong button would cause my urine to be sprayed on to me! I stood in the quaint wooden restroom for over 5 minutes just analyzing the possible risks of pressing a button that looks like a triangle or a circle FML! I panicked and was too prideful to ask someone for help. I said F it! I’ll press this weird button and shut the lid to prevent any missile like shooting of my urine, ahah and to my success I had pressed the correct button. YAY! It’s the small but challenging steps like this that really makes me enjoy traveling as a traveler not as a tourist. Click here to read the differences between a tourist and a traveler. Which one are you?
It may seem cheesy but whenever I travel, I write in my sticky note app the exact places I need to see their hours of operations, fees, and address to save time and bypass any unnecessary headaches.
20 things in Tokyo. Day 1 in Tokyo had the following:
URGENT find anime markets to buy some Pokémon and One Piece (“OP”) plushies! I came across a lot of small OP toys but didn’t find what I wanted until day 3 of Tokyo.
Go to Shabuya Crossing & take pictures. I went there several times during this trip. It was cool and made me think of how many foreigners have recorded strangers walking on that street crossing lol, I recorded some too! =P
Eat a MosBurger meal… I ate a fish burger… it was okay.
Visit Hard Off, I visited a couple of them and Book Off to buy some Nintendo GameCube games for $1 (円100)
Shonmen Jump HQ, I skipped this or couldn’t find it.
Shueisha Inc– “”
Yakuza– I unfortunately could not spot one.
I was super exhausted from exploring those places. I arrived back at my host’s place during the evening maybe 7 or 8 pm ish and finally met him.
He was a well mannered male, who wore basketball shorts and had very hairy legs. lol, this was the first time I’ve seen that on a Japanese.
But anyways, we chatted about his work, what I did that day, what I saw, and about life, we discussed life in the USA and China.
He told me about his travels, he’s been to the Middle East for professional medical experience amongst other interesting places.
He was an optimistic and honest guy. Not long after, one of his roommates joined us and we all chatted some more on other topics.
They generally seemed curious about my experiences (i.e. education, career, cultures) and my trip to Japan.
A little while after that, I showered and went to a nearby Family Mart to buy my dinner (i.e. ice cream and Onigi/ a light but hearty snack).
Day 1 was satisfying.
20 things in Tokyo. My Day 2 of Tokyo:
Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, it was comprehensive and massive! I enjoyed what I saw and the experiences I had there.
Visit the Hara Museum, though this museum was a bit far, it was well worth the trek; I saw dozens of original thought provoking art pieces like Yoshimoto
Nara’s traveling art studio!
And the works of Miwa Yanagi’s Elevator Girl House 1F, and Yasuhiro Suzuki’s Donation Box called Well. I bought so many amazing toys for myself and for my nephew!!
National Art Center (NACT)– too far or couldn’t find
Taka Ishii Gallery– didn’t have enough time/ was under renovation- did not check out.
Day 2 consisted on binging on contemporary art museums, I was hopping from one subway train to another to visit as many of them as I possibly could within
their hours of operations. I grabbed fruits, snacks and my reusable bottle to keep myself full and hydrated while on the go!
20 things in Tokyo.Day 3:
Visit Super Potato (SP) arcade in Akihabra.
It’s kind of a funny story, I had a difficult time finding this spot, I first asked a female transit helper lady, but she sent me to the opposite direction (some subway stations have dozens of different exist like A1, A5, etc- this too can be overwhelming for visitors!).
I walked out of the station which pre-dated me having Google maps on my iPhone since I too was traveling broke, lol I was bumming Wi-Fi (i.e. using it free when at Starbucks or at 7/11s to keep my expenses low & to keep me undistracted).
So I mainly used screenshots of the places on my phone as a guide to get me from points A to Z, daily.
Yeah, at first it could be challenging but the more you succeed the more you grow and learn to be more self reliant or you’ll have to practice asking strangers for help.
Which will help you get out of your comfort zone or break out of being timid/shy/ reserved.
But anyways, I kept walking until I ran into another older Japanese male stranger, I asked him if he knew where the Super Potato Arcade (SPA) was, I showed him the address and to my surprise he stated that he was heading towards that direction.
So we walked together, he wore a sharp black suit and a white dress shirt underneath and he maintained eye contact while we chatted and walked, he seemed genuine.
He asked me what SPA was and I told him that it was a gaming arcade I saw online and that I was going there to play videogames.
He giggled and asked me where I was visiting from, I told him that I am American, I asked him had he visited the US he said “no, not yet” but that he wants to but that he works too much.
He went on to tell me that he attended an international school which is how he learned to speak English.
I said “cool” and we kept walking and we chatted a little bit about American Politics, (Trump was the President of the US at the time and was starting his Tariff War with China…) I told the guy that I thought Japan’s economy seemed more stable then the US’s right now, he giggled again and we continued walking.
Shortly after, we arrived at SPA. I thanked him and smiled and he smiled back and kept walking to his main destination.
I read the directory and ran up to SPA and I was ingamer heaven. They had all the classic consoles, NES, SEGA, Dreamcast, Japanese exclusive consoles and more contemporary ones too plus snacks!
No surprise though, I was the only woman there lol =p.
The experience was enjoyable, I played a couple rounds of the arcade games and bought a small candy, took some pictures and headed to my next destination, Nintendo HQ.
Nintendo HQ Tokyo branch…Finding this place too was a bit of a funny misadventure. I hopped back on the train to get there. I had a vague feeling that I was heading in the wrong direction. So I ran into a 7/11 to grab Onigi (おにぎり), it had started to rain. I grabbed a bag of peanuts to stall for time, because I didn’t have an umbrella. -__- I looked at my watched and realized that I had to leave now or lest I would miss the HQ because they would close at 5pm and it was now maybe 3pm ish.
I started walking and again my direction doubt kicked in so I asked a random male cyclist who had stopped at a red light for directions, he directed me towards the path I was already heading which reassured me a bit but, two opinions are usually much safer than one right? So I walked by a sports store and asked the Japanese male owner for direction and he drew it on a small sheet of paper (this would be the 1st out of 2 times during this trip someone would draw me the direction) lol, it’s cute and interesting. I thanked him and exited.
I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have HUGE fucking expectations for the Nintendo HQ Tokyo Branch!!
In my head I had assumed the building’s architecture would be artistic looking and that there would be Mario, Pokémon and Zelda amongst other characters plastered on the buildings windows and that the building itself would be super complex to enter with gizmos and riddles you’d have to solve before you entered it.
Sis and bruh guess what?
I blame my hyper active imagination, plus seeing the Nintendo store in NYC during the launch of the latest Mario Cart / Pokémon game for all the hype!!
Finally I arrived. The building was bland looking, with tiny windows, this isn’t weird, right?
There were no hugely offensive billboard signs saying WELCOME TO NINTENDO HQ either, hmm.
WTF, am I at the right place?
I walked towards the main door expecting to be greeted by Pikachu or Luigi -___-.
All I saw was a receptionist’s desk and a life sized cut out of the latest Pokémon game. Moments after I walked in I was immediately greeted by the female receptionist, she said something in Japanese. I didn’t understand her and looked at her blankly, lol. She then repeated in English, “do you have an appointment?” I sighed and said no, and she said sorry you can only enter if you have an appointment.
My heart hurled, I was defeated and walked out.
My mind raced with questions!
Where was Mario and em?! Why does this HQ look so dry and depressing?
And it hit me immediately that Americans are the largest consumers of Nintendo stuff so the Nintendo NYC store is the closest thing to a LIT AF gamer experience that I fantasize about having where I am running and jumping around with various Nintendo characters in public, lol!
It ain’t in Japan, it’s not part of their culture. =(
After that disappointment, I was greatly humbled and started back to my host’s place. It was still a little early so I took my time commuting.
Once I arrived, I met more of the Dr’.s roommates, we chatted… They took a picture of me to put on their ceiling which showcased travelers who’ve stayed in their home.
I was the only African on their ceiling lols- it’s the small wins! =D
I informed him that I would be leaving tomorrow.
He asked me if I wanted to have dinner with him before he started his night shift.
I agreed and I rested for a bit and showered before we dashed to a Sushi resto.
While walking I told him I wanted to visit the Aokigahara Mountain, (Mount Fuji’s suicide mountain), he seemed concerned about me visiting that place and he expressed how that mountain has been showing Japan in a negative light due to the high number of suicides that take place there…
I asked him more questions about Japanese culture and suicide and he shared his perspective as a Doctor and detailed some of the circumstances he’s seen from some of his patients who exhibited suicide behaviors.
It was pretty heavy and made me reflect as to what I truly wanted to gain by visiting that part of the mountain.
On a lighter note we had an enjoyable dinner, the food was tasty, we split the fare and he went off to work and I went back to his home.
The following morning, I texted him and thanked him for letting me stay at his home and departed from his place to meet up with my second host, a handsome 19 year old Japanese male student- Kim.
I found Kim again through CouchSurfing, vetted him and sent him a request. He accepted it and so we agreed on a time and place to meet.
However, during this time he was in college and worked part time so I would only be able to meet him during the evening, which meant that I had to explore for several hours with my now heavy rucksack.
That too is part of traveling. The sweat, the struggle and the adventures all combined.
20 things in Tokyo. Day 4.
Watari- Um Museums of Contemporary Art, this museum was small but stimulated me a bit. I saw an exhibit on sexuality and on western political art.
This is where I got a second hand drawn map when I asked the male clerk for directions somewhere nearby.
I couldn’t find the place btw the language barrier and his map scribbles were incoherent. He tried though I thanked him and smiled.
Aokigahara Mountain– chickened out, didn’t want to visit because it would be too depressing or might cause me psychological trauma.
Mori Art Museum– didn’t visit/ was closed/ was too far.
Ghilibi Museum, Mitaka, ” “
On this day I had a lot of idle time so I walked around, revisited some of the sights I passed by but couldn’t see on Day 1-3.
I met Kim later that evening, we hit it off; he also had another friend from another country staying with him during the same time that he was hosting me. It was fine.
I met his friend, we chatted he told me about his country, he too was young, fresh out of high school… Kim’s house was beautiful and a bit away from the city, it was in a suburb area which was very quiet and quaint.
Once we arrived at his place, it dawned on me that his home was Wi-Fi less, I think because his parents were older they did not see the value of being connected to WI-FI.
Hmm, this was going to be a very interesting experience. -____-
Luckily, his small town had a nearby McDonald’s with free Wi-Fi and 24hour service, I could bum some there.
He showed us to our rooms; It was a fun day. Afterwards I showered, unpacked, and imagined my final days in Tokyo.
I left his place early in the morning to explore a nearby anime museum Suginami Animation Museum and a religious temple. Both places were fun.
Hours after I ran to Harajuku street to meet up with an old surfer I hosted a few years ago, Nat. An energetic young Japanese female student.
We walked around the area, I bought some Pokémon socks, colorful shirts and was also randomly interviewed by a Japanese sock store (I am still trying to find the actual footage, if you’ve seen it share it with me); she then took me to Meiji Jingju shrine.
Afterwards, we went to the downtown area and grabbed Tokyo styled Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き).
We walked around a nearby park and chatted about what she was doing recently for work, my travels, cultural differences, fashion, and about boys.
We parted ways and I returned back to Kim’s neighborhood to explore it some more and to stall for time, (he was at work).
Hours later, he returned along with his other visiting friend, we grabbed dinner nearby, sung karaoke and returned to his home to chat and drink some more ( I was mainly there for the food) Kim cooked us a delicious meal!
We had fun. That night was incredibly special because we did so much yet it felt like there was a temporary bond between us. I enjoyed it a lot! Check the photos!
The following morning Kim dropped me off near the McDonalds so I could bum some Wi-Fi, I thanked him and we said farewell, he was a true gentleman.
An hour or so after I headed for the Airport, it was time for the Tokyo Adventures to come to an end.
The feelings were all bittersweet, exciting yet extremely gratifying. I had conquered Tokyo in my own corny way. I hope you enjoyed the adventures as much as I did.
Stay tuned for more - Adventures with Bebe
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