Week 14 – Okay, NOW I Went to Tokyo

I DID IT!!! I took the obligatory trip to Tokyo and it was pretty cool. I got to reunite with my friend Chris, with whom I last hung out with during Golden Week. To be honest this may have been the perfect day to go to Tokyo, at least for me.

It was a rainy day in Tokyo and while that may have deterred others it did little to deter me. I happen to love rain and while interacting with it tends to lead to some wet clothes and possibly a cold, it has only gotten more pleasant the older I get. However, while I do intend to share plenty of pictures of this trip, there is something more important I want to share about what this trip showed me.

Every major trip in Japan introduces me to new interactions that tend to push my ability in Japanese. The only feasible method of making a day-trip to Tokyo would be to ride the Shinkansen, or bullet train. This meant a bit more of an involved ticket purchasing situation, of which I was a bit anxious about.

Upon taking two trains from Hibino to Nagoya station- a journey which I was used to, I found a line specifically for shinkansen tickets. My friend told me that the people at the counter likely wouldn’t speak any English. That seems like a “no shit” kinda moment and it was, but it’s because I was asking for round trip tickets, things were a bit more complicated.

I had to specify which train I’d be departing on, which one I’d be coming back on, and whether I wanted reserved seating. Before all of that though, I had to wait in a long line, making me more worried about how much talking I would need to do. Not to mention the worry that I was in the wrong line.

Ever get the feeling you are in the wrong line? You see other people who aren’t in line progressing smoothly and you wonder if they are doing what you are supposed to? Take that, but make every sign in the building in Japanese. It was also in the underground tunnel so I was sweating before I had even started walking through Tokyo.

Thankfully the woman at the counter was super nice and very patient with me. Come to think of it, there wasn’t even a single English word uttered by me, even instinctively. I talked with Chris later about how smoothly it went and he said that it was because I tried to speak Japanese that it went well.

Other foreign countries can get somewhat judgemental if a foreigner speaks their language and laugh when a tourist screws up. However, the Japanese, at least in my experience, have an immense respect for those who make the effort to communicate in their language. If you make it clear that you are trying, they will make an effort to help you more times than not.

I could relax once I finally boarded the shinkansen. Since bullet trains are quite faster and more efficient than other trains, the interior was more akin to an airplane than any other train I’ve ridden in. It was about two hours of a ride until I reached Tokyo station, where the first goal was to go to Akihabara.

Akihabara is a nerd’s paradise of sorts. It is a town full of shops dedicated to film, manga and anime, and all the merch associated. I took this trip to Tokyo as an opportunity to finally buy some things to remember my trip to Japan by. Other than a belated birthday gift for my sister, I haven’t bought much for myself.

I rectified that, buying a soundtrack CD, though in retrospect I could have bought more. Not sure why I decided to be so conservative with spending in the one town I have an excuse not to be. Either way, it was a delight to traverse these occasionally multi-leveled building, each floor specializing in any one thing, from games to manga to pornographic material.

Before all that shopping we dropped into an adorable restaurant and treated ourselves to Curry. I’m not sure why I hadn’t had curry before coming to Japan, but I intend to eat it way more upon returning to the US.

I felt a bit unprepared as, I really wasn’t sure where to go in Tokyo, not starved for options as I was. I intended my friend to be my guide, but he let me be the one to decide where we go. So after Akihabara, we took a train ride to a recently famous spot.

There is a staircase which is famous for being featured in the last scene of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. Naturally, there were others who thought to come to visit the venue as well, but not enough that it wasn’t a worthwhile walk for the surrounding view.

The last major stop on our journey was Tokyo Tower, as I wanted a few more pictures of major landmarks. There was plenty more that could have been done, but I don’t think there can be a wasted trip to Tokyo without some serious effort to do nothing. With the benefit of time and at least another day in Tokyo, my next visit will likely be even better.

But now the Tokyo trip is done. I have three weeks remaining and not a whole lot of big trips to be anxious about. The only thing remotely stressful is the thought of airport check-in… you know what, the entire return trip is pretty stressful now that I think on it. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come it.

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