I woke up in Tokyo but my body still thought I was on the east coast. After an 18 hour flight, numerous time zone changes, and almost missing my connection in Beijing I had finally arrived in the city of my dreams minus one of my checked bags.
My first night was spent in a hotel because the hostel I was staying in ended check in after my flight landed. The only thing open at midnight after I navigated the sprawling Japanese railway system was 7/11 though I didn't care because I was hungry for something other then tiny airport meals. I was quite surprised by how much better the quality of food was in Tokyo verses the states.
After a brief nights sleep I went to go check into my hostel. There is so much to see in Tokyo and even during the brief walk I was inundated with sights and smells. Every inch of this city is packed with something visually interesting.
The hostel I checked into was the Irori Hostel and Kitchen located in Nihonbashi a little west of Chiyoda. Irori is named after the traditional Japanese fireplace hidden in the tables that dot the entrance. I choose this because it seemed to represent a more authentic introduction to Japan. The staff was so nice and helpful with all my questions. Irori has two lounges and a kitchen you can prepare your own meals, they even cook a traditional Japanese breakfast if you order one the night before. The bunk beds were comfortable and the most privacy I've ever had while in a shared hostel. Next time you go to Tokyo I highly suggest you stay there.
My first taste of Japanese food was some miso soup and some delicious fried chicken at Torigen a quick walk from Irori. The texture of the fried chicken was lighter than the southern recipes I’m used to with a much more subtle flavor which allowed the taste of the chicken to really shine.
I'll admit I was extremely intimidated by the Tokyo railway system of which there are 158 lines owned by 58 different companies. Thankfully the Pasmo card which you can get upon arrival at the airport allows you to hop between them as if they are all owned by the same. Once you ride it once it becomes a much more simple beast especially since there are many signs and announcements made in English.
What you do need to be careful about is the final train. Tokyo's expansive network of trains suspend service around midnight depending on where you are in the city. Unlike DC, where the train system flushes itself out, Tokyo's transit will just stop at whatever station and force you to get out. You would think that taxi's and uber's would rush to fill in that market but no. Taxi's can be as costly as $100 for a distance that would only be $15-20 in DC. So people stay out in Tokyo till 5am.
I explored a lot in my first week, and my future blog posts will all be dedicated to one of the 23 wards. Two things made my first week very hard. The first was that I arrived in Tokyo for 3 months but only had accommodation for the first week. I trusted in the universe that I would find a place and while it all worked out through Tokyo Room Finder and I now live in Shinjuku I'll tell you that Tokyo did not make it easy. For one, there isn't really a culture of shared living in your 20's and 30's that exists in so much of the United States. If you want a communal living environment I suggest checking out Borderless House.
The second thing that made my first week difficult was that I was really lonely. The research said Japan is a difficult country to make friends in. I considered myself the kind of person who can and has traveled places by myself. But when it actually hit me as I walked down the streets of Roppongi that I was really by myself- I couldn't help but cry. I let the feeling wash over me fully because it's something that everyone who travels solo feels. Tokyo is one of the hardest beasts to master and as my first destination I was taking on quite a challenge. Almost every other place I travel too should be much easier. After the tears dried I felt more certain than ever that I was where I was supposed to be. I was taking the time to focus on my art and live outside my comfort zone in a city I always dreamed of living. I came to Tokyo to grow and flourish is what I will do here.
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