Tokyo Trip 2024 – Day 1

It is wonderful to be back in Tokyo again. It was a very long flight but my energy returned once I stepped off the plane. Even though I come here every summer there are always things I forget with the first being if I should take Skyliner or the Keisei line from Narita. Skyliner was in my head as the correct one and after asking ChatGPT I was right. I took Zipair and being an economical airline we arrived late (8:00 PM) and in Narita not Haneda. So getting to Tokyo quickly was the priority and Skyliner is the fastest and thus more expensive.

I was debating to go to The Hub or just enjoy the sento at my capsule hotel but being Saturday night I would have been disappointed with myself if I didn’t go out so I did. It was also the right call as it was packed with people. I got the last standing table but it wasn’t possible to really meet anyone. However, soon a non-Japanese Asian was squeezed into a few inches of the wall in front of me so I decided to invite him to my table which he accepted.

I should have known better because in any gaijin bar the gaijin are usually pretty drunk. I had already had a few words with a drunk Turk who suddenly appeared in front of me and started to talk. He didn’t linger and soon I found myself speaking with a guy from Nepal who was already very tipsy. He tried speaking in English to me but I understood zero percent of it. So I switched to Japanese and could understand 50% as he had a very heavy accent. He was in a suit and so had obviously just gotten off work. I asked him if he liked his life in Japan and the answer, as I expected was a resounding no. Work is hard for foreigners here and I was pretty sure he didn’t make much.

After speaking about Nepal – China relations, American presidents, and his work, he was looking to pick up some girls and asked me to join which I politely declined three times. He then went over to a table with three girls that were leaving and followed them out. They weren’t interested and seeing as he didn’t come back to finish his drink I wonder if he ended up getting lost?

That was a good thing because I was ready to go back to the hotel, shower, take my sento (shower, heated bath, sauna and cold plung, then go to bed.

I woke up at 3:00 AM and wasn’t able to fall back asleep really. I dragged it out until 5:00 AM, got another sento and was out the door. I have planned out my two ‘free days’ here in Tokyo very well and have accomplished half my list by midday and now find myself at a lovely cafe right next to a canal thus is aptly named “Canal Cafe.” There is a Japanese and other Asian sitting next to me speaking English. They gave me a brief look almost invitingly but after seeing me banging away on this post have carried on with disjointed conversation with many long pauses. I assume they’re out to practice English together an normally I might join in but I want to write this post as well as send a few e-mails to my friends her apologizing for not being able to meet up this time. I’m glad I found this cafe as I really needed a rest and was hoping for a nice setting instead of the usual cramped chain coffee house.

The first thing I did this morning was head to my old neighborhood of Mejiro in the pouring rain. I was unable to find the Japan Times so had to settle for The Japan News, a Yomiyuri publication I hadn’t seen before. Then it was off to my favorite Doutor for a coffee and light breakfast.

My second stop was to Hie-jinja as I was interested in seeing all those red tori gates and getting my 朱印表 (shrine seals).

Next was Zōjō-ji temple famous for its involvement with the Tokugawa shoguns. There are six of their graves right next to the temple even including the son of Ieyasu Tokugawa, Hidetada Tokugawa. I’ve always been interested in Japanese history but perhaps even a little more-so with the remake of the mini-series “Shogun.” Getting to this place required taking a bus which put me off a bit as I’m not so familiar with bus lines and how it all works. However, Google Maps has improved tremendously and all I had to do was follow the directions and consult ChatGPT to confirm if I could use my IC card for payment. It is hard to imagine how I got around back in 2002. I did have help then with my Palm Pilot and metro software but busses were a non-starter for me back then.

At this temple I also enjoyed the little Jizu dedicated to protecting children, especially those that never got a chance to live such as with miscarriages and stillborn. I stopped and reflected on that quite a bit. Standing in front of those little statues I felt very sad for all those little souls who never got a chance. I’m a spiritual person and wonder if those souls were reincarnated or in some other plane of existence.

Sidebar: Right in front of me is a Japanese woman speaking with a young, rather small foreigner in English. We made brief eye contact, I shared a polite smile, she shared a big smile and then I went back to banging away on this post. The foreigner turned around to look at me and I’m not sure he appreciated not being the center of attention for a moment. That’s how it is here in Japan, many foreigners like to think of it as their own and can get a bit jealous when other foreigners are around.

Back to my day. The third stop was Kagurazaka, where I am now enjoying some beautiful ambiance right next to a canal. I was interested in visiting this place as it’s an old geisha district with narrow cobblestone alleyways. I followed the path a YouTuber had taken and thankfully he also provided a map. The map was great but since I was so busy following it I don’t think I was able to soak in all that historical ambiance as much as I’d like. But without the map I would have gotten lost.

It is interesting that the cafe I chose and the particular spot I chose along a very long pier lined with tables, is where the only other people are having language exchanges. It is a beautiful spot so I can’t blame them.

The time is now 1:28 PM and the only other thing on my list today is to go to Shinjuku and scope out a few places I’m curious about. The first is Golden Gai which seems to have a seedy reputation and is overly touristed. I think Omoide Yokocho is better but I’ve only seen both on the internet, not been there in person so going to check them out. I also need to get to Shibuya Sky as I plan on taking my family there and want to know where I’m going. Both of those shouldn’t take more than two hours and then what am I to do? Since I arrived yesterday, I’m still jetlagged and afraid of getting too tired. I also don’t really want to drink beer as I had some last night and don’t want to be groggy tomorrow. If I were to go back to the hotel I would certainly fall asleep and wake up at 1:00 AM. Just sitting here I can feel the sleep creeping up on me since it is now 9:30 PM San Francisco time.

Anyway, I’m going to write two e-mails and get going.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/