Hi, it’s me. And I find it hard to believe that I’ve been in Japan. There is
something, no, a lot of things, about this country. One is how the air faintly smells fragrant as you walk through the streets. The air smells like Fuji apples a Japanese uncle used to send – each piece wrapped in net-shaped foam that my cousins and I would play around with back when we were kids.
I am thinking how it would be nice to have enough money to bring the family here – not just the four of us but including my sister and parents. I am also thinking that if I live in this country, I probably would have faith in all good things.
I mean… Efficient transportation? Enjoying my own company while strolling around parks and temples? Wandering on foot for hours and your shoes and face still end up clean? Eating flavorful dishes that are mostly still healthy? Catching the scent of flowers while you clasp the hand of your lover, mid spring? Cozy public baths with your kids and a hot bowl of ramen later? Layering chic clothes because your life depended on it? The discipline of the residents? The anime? The glorious technology? The picturesque environment?
Day 1: Shinagawa
We arrived at the hotel at past 12 am because we managed to get lost despite the help of Google Map. The other reason why we checked-in late: we were so psyched to see the cherry blossoms ~to the point that we forgot our luggage in the bus! But fast forward, we got our things back, the same night.
Day 2: Roppongi – Harajuku – Shibuya
I was happy to have almost an entire day to myself. I roamed Roppongi, Harajuku, and Shibuya mostly on foot because it perfectly made sense.
I cried while watching documentaries in Mori Art Museum. There was a silent video on loop showing people in colorful masks who each were sluggishly pointing somewhere distant – to Fukushima, to that hometown they can never return to, following the nuclear accident that happened during the earthquake on 2011. When I visited Yoyogi Park and got overwhelmed by the sea of cherry blossoms; my eyes teared up again. It was primal sensitivity to be so gripped with what you see, hear, and feel; and there wasn’t any need to soften things because I was alone among strangers. No one with the power was there to interrupt my feelings so I let the tears pour like IDGAF.
Who would’ve thought that Tokyo would be our reunion venue? I met up with Karla and Miggy who are very close friends from college. We crossed Shibuya Crossing six times, ate while laughing heartily in a burger joint, and sipped coffee in Excelsior café while catching up to more stories about each other. The next day, we met again in Sensoji temple – us, girls, in furisode kimonos – to eat and of course, ask our husbands to take photos of us.
Day 3: Asakusa – Akihabara
A Westerner who was pointing at me, said to his companion: “I took a photo of that girl in Geisha costume!” I should take note that somewhere across the globe, a stranger has my photograph like how I take and keep photos of people I do not know.
Here’s a hidden coffee shop at one of the buildings in Akihabara. I did not have the energy to take much photos in Akihabara because I was tired as fuck and we had our hands full from shopping in this unbelievable place. We bought A LOT of stuff here like gaming card sleeves, snacks, fridge magnets, pens, and Sanrio stickers for our daughters at home. I also got my first self-bought film camera here. If you’re looking for generic “pasalubong” in Tokyo, you might want to visit Don Quijote and Bic Camera that you can almost find everywhere. But by far, I got the cheapest skincare loot at the shops outside Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.
Day 4: Yamanashi | Shinjuku
If you don’t get pagoda with the 400 steps to Chureito Pagoda, I don’t know any more what will. After climbing what seemed to be an infinite run of stairs and being drained breathless at the verge of regretting everything – I was suddenly standing on the top of this mountain and looking down at the calm of Fujiyoshida City. The color of the sky was a dreamy crisp azure and I was breathing in the cleanest and most delicious air. I was in this tiny mountain on the top of an implausibly fresh world. Or at least that was what it felt like. Seeing the pagoda was a letdown for me though because I had an expectation. I thought it was a building that I could actually enter in but it was only a display. Nonetheless, it was pretty to look at.
Afterwards, we visited a lovely temple in Yamanashi and petted a fat beautiful cat, picked and ate strawberries in a small farm, and drank numerous shots of wine in a château that generously offered free taste to visitors.
Day 5: Odaiba
Our richest memories of Tokyo were made in Odaiba. It was afternoon when we arrived at this place because we rode the wrong train in Shinagawa and had to return to the same prefecture, at the same platform again, to board the right train, three or maybe four times.
The air in Odaiba was several Celsius cooler than those of the busier districts of Tokyo. Odaiba was dryly windy and this was something we suffered later on.
We saw Gundam Unicorn “transform” (or rather flash lights & make a bit of sound), immersed ourselves in abundant art at the Borderless exhibit of TeamLab, and got ourselves ¥2000 shoes from Nike that was only ₱940 in Philippine currency.
The air was frigid when we were walking to Oedo Onsen from Venus Fort. We got lost a bit, of course, despite the help of Google Map, and it took us 30 mins. to get there on foot.
The onsen was warm and welcoming. We were aware that we would strip butt naked in the public bath, which we didn’t mind because we’ve had prior experience in a local jjimjilbang that robbed us of every inch of shame. The hot bath with the water jets was a relaxing experience. I felt all the tension in my muscles being thawed. We were looking forward to check-in and end the day but it turned out I miscomputed the lodging costs – and that we couldn’t afford it! – so we had to pull an all-nighter somewhere free; which meant McDonald’s, Family Mart, or the streets.
We tried the first two options. It was a surprise to even think that we were kicked out of three establishments from this place. Thank God I read that Japan has a lot of karaoke, manga kissa, and net cafes where people can sleep low-cost. But we didn’t find any in Odaiba. In the end, we just felt grateful that at least the streets were clean as we tried to nap on stone benches that felt like ice while we were hugging our bags tight.
When we couldn’t take the cold, we aimlessly walked and warmed ourselves in a telephone booth. But it wasn’t comfortable and it looked weird so we again roamed outside in frigid 3°C and pretended we weren’t shaking, our skin wasn’t sore, and that our legs wouldn’t break and fall-off any minute until we found a 24-hour noodle house, a little prior 4 am, where we gorged on ramen and gyoza until the train station opened.
Odaiba became our personal Mercury Retrograde that we don’t have the energy to comprehend why and how anymore. But it was also a precious experience. I peeked at my husband’s phone while he was sleeping and saw this in Google Translate:
“Sorry, my wife is sleeping because she is tired.”
“Sumimasen, watashi no tsuma wa tsukarete irunode nete imasu.”
But guess who actually ended up sleeping?
Day 6: Narita – Manila
Only a few people we encountered could speak in English. It was kind of a bliss because we were connecting with people through making eye contact, smiling, bowing, and saying a lot of “arigatou,” which means “thank you” in Japanese. I was tired and ready to come home after all the random mess but I also wanted to stay longer.
Paolo and I have been married for seven years and the experience introduced to us new things about ourselves. We discovered we are that kind of people who can walk tirelessly for hours as long the climate and environment are cool and clean enough. We also learned that in really-really bad times, we can hug instead of arguing; which we tend to forget.
I looked for the first sign of a charging station in the airport, plugged our phones, squeezed my hiking bag, and fell into a dreamless sleep. We will definitely return here and be captivated again. But with less misadventures. Ideally.
*More photos will be uploaded on IG.