Category Archives: Japan

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.)

 

First Night in Japan

I’m finally here! Today I traveled to Takanobaba Station. I’m really proud of myself for successfully getting to my first meeting spot without getting lost. I got there a while before I was supposed to meet Miriam, so I walked over to the McDonalds and got a coffee. Yes, when overwhelmed and scared, I ran to the first American establishment I could find haha.

I’m surprised by how chilly it is here. I’m also nervous and exhausted. I waited a while for Miriam and her friend to get to the station. We grabbed some food and then headed to Ben’s Cafe for a poetry and short story night.  I had a great pot of citrus rose tea. I’m so grateful to have Miriam to show me around. I’d only been here for a few hours and I know I’d never be doing anything like this if I was on my own. I got to meet and talk with some really interesting people at the cafe. It seems like everyone else outside of the US travels all the time. Maybe because in other parts of the world it’s easier to go to different coutries? One guy there reminded me so much of one of my favorite religion professors at college. I hope he’s doing well.

After the cafe we walked to where I’ll be staying for a few nights. It’s a house that is rented out to a few different people. Miriam and her boyfriend have an extra room attached to their part of the house so I’ll be staying in there on some mats. I don’t know where I’m going to stay after I leave Miriam’s, but I’m looking into some bed and breakfasts outside of Tokyo. It is freezing!!

En route

 

First steps outside of the train station

 

Outside of Takanobaba Station

 

Big Box

 

Scared and out of place, I ran to the first American thing I could find ha!

 

My bed for a few days
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Heading to Japan

I was so excited and nervous all at the same time. Mom dropped me off at the airport around 3am. There wasn’t a soul in sight. I pretty much walked right through security and hung out at the gate.

On the first flight from Harrisburg to Newark, there were a lot of people headed to Vegas. One lovely group asked me what I was doing/where I was going/etc. I explained that I had a traveling itch and basically put some stuff in a backpack and headed to Japan. They promptly told me I was a mixure of brave and stupid and that they hope they don’t see me on the news as the small American girl who got murdered and chopped up into pieces in Japan.

Awesome start.

The plane we took to Newark held about 100 people. It was so small that we actually had too much luggage and the plane was too heavy or something like that. Woo! Anyway, I ended up sitting next to Andrew. He’s in the Air Force and living in Guam. He was going to Tokyo before Guam, so during our 3 hour layover we had breakfast together. I like travelling alone because I don’t think I’d meet as many people as if I were in a group.

The flight to Tokyo was the nerve wracking part. There was no turning back. Once I landed I’d officially be on foreign ground, not speaking (or reading) any of the language. Fortunately, the in flight movies were pretty good, and while waiting in line to use the restroom the stewardesses asked me about my Vibram Five Fingers shoes. The ladies were awesome, and I ended up talking with them for a good portion of the trip. They gave me some tips about Japan (bathe before onsen, try a saki bath, be mindful of where to remove shoes, where to exchange money, and ask younger people for help as they’re more likely to speak English), and told me about their careers as stewardesses. One attendant gave me directions on exactly how to get where I needed to go. Good thing because it turned out to be a lot more confusing than I expected.

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Everything I packed

 

Our tiny little plane

 

Restaurant had LOTS of meat

 

Breakfast

 

In-flight movies..watched Jennifer’s Body (terrible) and Lost in Translation (good)

 

First Meal

 

Second Meal

 

Can of Oolong