When I was little I dreamt of going to Japan. My parents began taking me to sushi bars as a baby and I have flash back memories of sitting on the sushi bar eating small bowls of tobiko, staring at the cat clock whose eyes flicked back at forth with every second. I remember being called “sushi baby” and the time I finally advanced to eating actual sushi, and not just the eggs. I remember in third grade the teacher told us it was international food day and to bring something from another culture. There were no Asian kids in my class and my family has a bit of Filipino heritage so my mom and I took it upon ourselves to bring sushi for the class and represent all of Asia. I remember my grandma Aiko- a name she had chosen to give herself as she pretended to have Japanese blood but was really Mexican and Filipino. We had a sister school in Japan and every year a group of girls would come visit and stay with families. My senior year there was a girl without a family. I spoke French but opened up my home to her. We never communicated because she didnt speak English but my fascination for her culture deepened even more. During college I studied art and I remember the first time I saw a traditional Japanese scroll exhibit at the Denver Art Museum and first saw the work of Yayoi Kusuma. These connections to Japan seemed constant, and yet, rumors of how difficult and confusing the country was and how expensive traveling there was prevented me from buying a ticket. I have been traveling consistently since college but Japan was always on the back burner. I felt that I one day had to be wealthy enough to go and appreciate it fully— to get the whole experience.
This spring I moved to Oahu, the closest major airport to Japan and the hub for the Japanese tourism community in America. I was surrounded by everything Japanese- the food, the people, the language, the religions. Everything was calling me to finally take the leap and explore this place. And then if by fate, ticket prices to Osaka dropped below $400RT and a new guy came into my life that shared the same desire to visit this country- he was even half Japanese. I took a leap of faith and did something I have never done— I planned a trip with a guy I didnt even know. We booked our tickets and I said I would handle the rest of the itinerary and travel arrangements. I would pay for the hotels if he would pay for the train passes. His only catch was that we had to go to Disney- he was a big fan. I loved rides and theme parks so why not! The plan was set for a few months away and I got to work planning my real life Japanese adventure.
I feverishly researched Pinterest, Instagram and Blogs, compiling a list of everything possible I might want to see, just in case I had time for additional travel. When I realized how much there was to see and do just in Tokyo and Kyoto, the plan changed to mostly dividing our time between these two places. There were some minor bumps in the road and the dates of the trip had to be changed, but once it was all sorted out we were on our way to Osaka!
(we took lots of phone photos. Definitely bringing my lightweight Sony camera next time)
Arriving at the Osaka airport, we were confronted with Japanese signs, Japanese people and very bright lights. Our flight had been delayed over an hour and we had to convert our train papers into a train pass, figure out what train went to Tokyo, find the train, then make it to Tokyo and our hotel. We were starving and were about to embark on a 4 hour journey that would take us from the airport to Osaka, where we needed to switch trains and board a train for 3 hours to Tokyo.
Prior to boarding the train to Tokyo we were lucky enough to stumble upon a mini convenience store next to the track which sold a variety of stuffed white rice balls with seafood. Dinner was served! When we reached the train station in Tokyo at last, our brains were too mush to navigate the rail system so we sucked it up, hailed a taxi, and headed towards our hotel-- so excited to finally collapse into bed and attempt to adjust to a new time zone.
The next two days we hit the streets HARD, pounding out over 10 miles a day and taking hundreds of photos. We visited parks, gardens, shrines, crazy tech stores, bars, underground restaurants, markets and shops. Everywhere we went was different, I was constantly blown away. There was such a mixture of nature and city, culture and technology. We ate so many delicious things and saw nearly everything on the list we had put together. Sadly, one of the art exhibits I had wanted to see wasnt open yet and one of the museums I had wanted to see required reservations well in advance- but its ok, it just means ill have to go back!
Our last was spent at Tokyo Sea and Tokyo Disney. Chris is a big fan. BIG. its adorable. So I had to give him a full day of nostalgia after he obeyed my 9am-9pm for two days! I will say that some of the rides were AWESOME-- specifically the Indian Jones ones. I thought it might be weird to have all the characters speaking Japanese but it was actually HILARIOUS and made the entire experience even better. Our only regret was not dressing up together as a couple-- this seems to be something that is very common and we definitely felt lame in normal clothing. Next time ;)