Christmas 2009 – Caitlin and I flew to Tokyo, Japan for the long weekend. It was during our shopping trip in H&M Tokyo that we heard this song for the first time and it quite literally came to be the theme of our trip.
Luckily Christmas fell on a Friday this year, so this meant a 3 day weekend! Caitlin and I caught the early flight out of Busan – leaving at 8 AM, arriving at Narita International around 10 AM. From there we took the bullet train to Akasaka, Tokyo where we checked into our ridiculously nice hotel. We booked the hotel on expedia about a week prior to our trip, and we were lucky enough to find a 24 hour half price sale on what would have been an very very pricey hotel in a great area!
We checked in and quickly hit the streets to do some exploring. We walked for hours (literally), and ended up getting a bit turned around and lost. But there was absolutely nothing to worry about as every one we met and spoke to were more than helpful and spoke perfect English. We decided to ask for a recommendation as to where to order and eat the infamous dish – Ramen – and quickly made our way to a nearby restaurant to try the specialty. We went in with high expectations and unfortunately, at roughly $10 a bowl, we were not satisfied. We left the restaurant, unsatisfied and in awe of the high prices!
After dinner we made our way to some of the famous areas of Tokyo. We started with the Shibuya area – known as one of the fashion centers of Japan – at the Shibuya Crossing – an intersection where literally thousands of people, cross the street, in all directions, every couple minutes. It is also home to the infamous statue of Hachikō, a popular meeting area for people (One of the most well-known stories concerning Shibuya is the story of Hachikō, a dog who waited on his late master at Shibuya Station every day from 1923 to 1935, eventually becoming a national celebrity for his loyalty) —- (SIDE NOTE: Richard Grere is in a movie about this!) We grabbed some starbucks and took in the sights of Shibuya Crossing. I literally could have sat there all day. The people were so unique and the hustle and bustle of the city was intoxicating.
From there we decided to walk to Harajuku Station – a fashion capital of the world renowned for unique street fashion. Literally all it is is Japanese youth dressing up in unique, uncommon styles. It’s fascinating! This is also where Gwen Stefani adopted her “Harajuku Girl” dancers from. It really is a lifestyle. We were so intrigued that we ended up coming back here the next day, and of course, making our way to the Harajuku shopping district.
Finally after figuring out the super complex subway system, we made our way back to our hotel to get ready for our Christmas night out. We got dressed up and made our way to a heated patio which was within walking distance from our hotel. Based on the expensive prices, we opted to share a salad and treat ourselves to a Christmas bevie. Soon after we were roaming the streets before turning in for the night.
The next morning, we took our time getting ready for the day and spent some time skyping with friends and family back home, since it was now Christmas Day back in Canada and the US. It was still really hard to grasp the fact that it was actually Christmas – as we were roaming the streets of Tokyo, jacket-less, in plus 14 degree weather. Boxing day held yet more walking as we explored the Ginza District – the main technology area in Tokyo – the Imperial Palace (which is only open 1 day a year, and this day was not that day) as well as met our match trying to track down the only Wendy’s in Tokyo. We were successful in our hunt to find it though, and boy was it worth it! It tasted just like home – but one BIG, notable difference was the difference in serving size – they actually serve what would be considered a healthy amount. (that obviously didn’t stop us from seconds, but it’s the thought the counts). Once we were finished indulging in Wendy’s, we made our way back to the Harajuku district. It was this time that we stumbled upon the Harajuku St (SHOPPING!!!!) as well as H&M and Forever 21. Practicing spending self control, we refused to step foot in Forever 21, but managed to splurge some yen at H&M.
Saturday night we decided to see what the Tokyo night life was all about. Dressed in our new Japanese inspired outfits, we made our way to the Ropongi district. Along the way, we made friends with some locals who offered suggestions on some local places to go. Before long, we were having drinks served to us by a Samari and singing karaoke with our new friends. We also, for the first time, took a ride in the ridiculously expensive Tokyo taxis which was a surreal experience. The fare starts at about 9 dollars US; the passenger seat is actually the driver’s seat; the cars drive on the opposite side of the street; AND the doors open automatically for you! Experiencing this was obviously nothing but hilarious to Caitlin and I. We, once again, turned in at a decent time, knowing we were in for an exhausting last day.
Sunday morning: we woke up, packed up, and checked out the Monterrey Hotel. From there, it was a quick stop at Subway for lunch (obviously had to take advantage of delicious western food! haha). After lunch we headed back towards the airport and made a pit stop in the more traditional area of Tokyo – the Asakusa district. It was here we met our lovable Rickshaw driver, whom we nicknamed Suzuki, and he ran us around the district on a personal tour via the rickshaw. It was a fast and efficient way to see the area in a short period of time. After some photo ops and farewells to Suzuki, we quickly made our way to the train station to head to the airport. And this is where things turned ….
We made it to the train, with what we thought, was enough time. The train made an unexpected, time consuming stop at another station – and once we made it to Narita, Caitlin’s small bladder and confusion took over. Long story short, I ended up on the other side of immigration, waiting for Caitlin to cross after she was turned back to the check in counter. After a few stressful minutes, I asked for some assistance in locating my friend, to which I was informed that she was already checked in and on the plane – and that I was going to miss my plane. From there it was literally a SPRINT through the airport, on the airport train, through immigration – onto the plane that was being held for me. I took my seat in the last row, assuming if Cait was on the plane she would have seen me be the last one to board and would call out my name (as we didn’t have seats together). To my dismay, there was no such greeting. I decided to wait until take off before bothering the flight attendants for her seat number. Once in the air, I did just that, to which I was politely informed – “I’m sorry, I don’t know that name. She’s not on this flight.” – SMILE SMILE SMILE – …. ho.ly.shiat. What did she mean, she’s not on this flight!?!?!?!? A huge sense of regret washed over me as I replayed the whole thing in my head – thinking that I should have turned back when Cait did. I swear, it was the longest flight of my life – even though it was just under a 2 hour flight. As soon as I landed in Busan, I pulled out my laptop and was greeted by a sobbing video from Cait – who was still in Tokyo and would be staying another night there. Basically she was too late checking in and by the time she turned around to go back to the ticketing booth, the plane was full (despite our reserved seats) and the next flight out wasn’t until the next morning. I replayed it all in my head and it was a very confusing process – but I realized, had I turned back when Cait did, as opposed to going though and making the plane, I likely would have had to pay for another ticket home (which, a one way ticket from Tokyo was about $1000) since I was already “checked in”. So it was a good thing I didn’t turn back … but man, oh man, that was a stressful time! hahaha … we joke about it now, constantly, but at the time, it was a bit overwhelming.
All in all, Tokyo was an amazing city. I really did fall in love with it. It was hard coming back to Korea, but once we were back, we had Boracay Philippines to book and plan, so we kept our heads up!