Japan Day 2: Yoyogi Park

“…a bird which flies into your house is an angel. You must look upon his presence as a blessing.” -House of Sand and Fog

First thing his morning I got up and took a bath. I also learned how to use the fancy toilets, haha.

Miriam teaches English here, and she had to teach all day so I was off on my own. She sent me off with an agenda, directions, and a list of useful Japanese phrases.

My first stop was Yoyogi Park. I loved it. It was pretty chilly and I was right by the rest house when it started to rain so I stopped in and bought an umbrella and some dry tea that came from the park. After trying to describe to a very nice vendor to give me anything that didn’t have meat, I was delightfully surprised with red bean mochi and a Royal Milk Tea (~$2.50 for both). The park was incredibly beautiful, even in the rain. I tried my best to observe what the locals were doing and try to act accordingly. I have this horrible fear I will do something offensive and not even notice it. It rained harder so I hung out back in the rest house for a while longer. I was soaked. The heated toilet seats were a God send.

Next I headed to Patisserie Potager. It’s a pastry/dessert restaurant where everything is made out of vegetables. I was having a hard time communicating with the people working behind the counter, so I just pointed at whatever looked good and hoped for the best. I had the tomato chiffon cake and a coffee ($7.50). The cake was delicious. It was sweet, just like a normal piece of cake. I’d love to try making something like that, but I don’t know that I have the skill. I would’ve liked to try some of the other treats, but it was a little pricey. They did have heaters though, so I lingered for a while. I felt like a drowned rat and my feet were soaked. Still, I’ve never seen such well groomed and put together women (and men)…even while it was pouring.

(Sidenote: I’ve noticed that not many people speak English here. I was surprised in Greece that almost everyone under the age of 50 spoke English well, and kind of thought it might be the same here. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe I should go to another country and everyone should speak MY language, but I wasn’t expecting the language barrier to be *this* difficult.)

I decided to skip going to the Crayon House for the organic lunch buffet because the timing wasn’t working out. I did see some red snapper fish cookies on my walk though. Didn’t try any. Maybe tomorrow.

Next stop was Zen Chafe tea cafe. I ordered a matcha latte ($3.20) and charged my phone. I still had a couple hours to kill until meeting Miriam, but I was getting seriously drained. The people at the cafe were extremely nice and gave me directions to Roppongi Hills. There, I had dinner at the Total Workout Cafe. I got rice and curry ($10), and I think it was pork curry. Again, huge communication barrier and I ordered by pictures. Whatever it was, it wasn’t bad.

It started snowing. Even though I hoped it would be a little bit warmer here than in the States, it was absolutely beautiful

The next part of my day was not my favorite. I was exhausted and wasn’t meeting Miriam until 10pm. It was only about 8, so I decided I’d relax on the metro for an extra stop or two to kill some time. I got off a few stops later and tried to take the same line back, but I ended up on an express instead of a local. I completely missed my stop and had to take another train back again. I stopped to get another coffee because at this point I felt like I was about to fall over any minute. I went into a burger place in the train station and the only open seat was in the smoking section. I felt more and more drained by the minute. When I finally made it to our meeting spot I was about 15 minutes late and not even sure if I was at the right metro entrance. I walked a block to the other side to see if Miriam was there but she wasn’t. I waited a little bit, unsure if I’d be able to find my way back to her place in the dark and alone.

My first thought was just to find a hotel room for the night and try to email Miriam to tell her I was okay….but there wasn’t a hotel in sight. Businesses were starting to close and I couldn’t even find anyone to point me in the direction of somewhere to stay. My phone was dead, and at this point it had been snowing for hours. (It only snowed a few inches but it had been the most snowfall they had had in a while.) I went into survival mode and started looking around for corners that I could bundle up in, in case I couldn’t walk any further. While I was walking I was recognizing the area a little bit from passing through in the morning. I decided to try to find Miriam’s place anyway. She lives in a very rural area and all the houses look the same. After finally making it to her neighborhood and walking around for what seemed like forever I started to wonder if this was an even worse idea.

It was close to midnight. It was still snowing, and I was sliding around everywhere in inches of snow…in my Vibrams. (I love these shoes but at this moment, wearing them was the worst mistake.) I saw a man with a tripod set up in the middle of the street taking photos of the snow fall. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see another living human being (I was also praying he wasn’t a psychopath). I pulled out my now soaked paper map (with no street names, just a park and a star that says “Miriam’s House”), and tried to communicate that I was lost. He spoke not one lick of English.

But this man was an angel.

He put away his camera equipment and brought me to his house. I tried to stand outside because I was soaked. My pants were went up to my knees. I wasn’t sure if I even had feet anymore they were so cold. My hair was soaked and I had been sobbing (although I was so wet and frozen you couldn’t really tell). I’d only been in Japan for a day, but I quickly learned how important cleanliness is, especially taking off your shoes in the designated area, and wearing slippers throughout the house. I peeled off my Vibrams and again tried to stand in the shoe area, but this man and his wife gave me dry slippers and insisted I come inside. The man tried to compare a Google map to my hand drawn map, and his wife made me a cup of coffee. I gave him the phone number I had for Miriam and he called her. It turns out I was in back of her place diagonally. I honestly don’t know if I would’ve ever found it on my own. This amazingly kind man walked me to her house and made sure I got in safe. I wish I could’ve done something for him in return. He took in a complete stranger, in the middle of the night, who didn’t even speak his language. He may have saved my life.

I started to wonder if coming to Japan by myself was such a great idea after all.

(I later learned that Miriam had actually been 30 minutes late, so if I had waited a little longer I might have caught her. Also, turns out there was a magna cafe that was 24 hours that I could’ve hung out in.)

 

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