When my sister asked me “do you want to come with me to Tokyo for my birthday?” I immediately jumped at the chance. She and I had been planning the trip with our friend Ruby, who lives in the city. Ruby would play tour guide while we prance around and be our girly selves. But the trip took another twist when my brother, who has been living in China, got wind of our plans and decided to join along. We had all grown up together as siblings who got along very well (minus a few back slapping episodes) so the idea of all of us meeting up in Tokyo, wandering about and making our own memories and adventures just sounded too cool to resist. The three of us hadn’t travelled together since we were teenagers, let alone as full grown adults in a foreign country. Once the plans were made we started calling each other more, video chatting and getting hyped for the upcoming adventure. We all documented the trip in our own particular way. Armed with my Canon, I was prepared to capture what was sure to be one of the best trips of my life.
Day zero is clouded in misty rain. It was beautiful in it’s own particular way. The rain lends a dreamy glow to the little winding streets, full of neon signs and singing crosswalks. Blade Runner and Ghost In The Shell are real here.
We arrive to our swanky little hotel, situated in Akasaka. Up the elevetor, we’re shocked to see that the hallway is open air, and looked out into a dazzling view of industrial building set up against a glowing city-scape that sprawls forever.
A peek through the blinds of our hotel reveals the misty canyon and river of red lights below.
We venture out in search of something to eat. The options are endless, but we go for a suggested Korean BBQ spot. Bumbling around, we finally stumbled upon the place, but on the wrong floor. After being directed downstairs, the three of us finally seize a spot amongst an entire room filled with smashed salary-men. The atmosphere is jovial. Its highballs and black bean noodles for all!
The next day. Its beautiful. It’s the best weather I’ve had in months. So far everything is delivering. Just a stroll through our neighbourhood is full of so many things to see, you could spend hours checking it all out. Just nearby was the Hie Shrine. Of course we were completely unaware of it until we spotted these immense white arches below a yawning flight of stone steps leading up to a tree covered temple. Atop the shrouded hill was pristine red shrine, covered in pale pink petals.
It’s completely quite up here. Just the sound of some crows and sweeping monks. Then again it’s still so early. The jet lag/excitement levels got us up at 5:30 in the morning. So we had the whole city to ourselves. Before the hushed crowds and tourists filled the streets, the three of us would explore in search of some magic feelings.
The cherry blossoms are literally everywhere. Its like someone had sprinkled the most delicate pale pink confetti across the streets. There are so many that people sweep them up into precious pink piles, where they are disposed of. They call it a Sakura Storm when the wind picks them up, blows them off branches, and swirls them in air.
The Hie Shrine was an absolute treasure trove of beautiful things to experience. Inside the shrine walls we see a great plaza and huge statues of monkey spirits flanking the inside of the doorway. It’s just us and the monks. After the prolonged visit, we head towards Shibuya to see the famous crossing. Along the way we stumble again onto a shrine, this one dedicated to foxes. Fox statues were at every corner, leading through to the inner sanctuary where a ceremony was being held. The monks were beating a drum and chanting a hypnotic rhythm. I could stay for hours, but the pulse of the city beckons us to keep moving.
We finally make our destination to Shibuya Crossing. Some guys in Mario Carts whizz by. Once again, Tokyo is delivering. Our friend Ruby is waiting for us by a hello-kitty themed train car permanently parked near the crossing. Shes been living in Tokyo for a few years now and has the deets on all the best places to go. My sister and I had been here before, but it feels new and exciting each time, and to have someone show you their favourite places is added bonus. The next few hours are spent ooing and aahhing over cute dresses at IO9 and worshipping at the alter of materialism. Time and money well spent! After the shop-fest we grab a drink at this crazy monster bar, where you eat pink cat food under jellyfish arches and glowing baby bottles.
The next day is Odaiba, an artificial pleasure island full of immense buildings that house arcades, malls restaurants and rides. We accessed the island by a private monorail that snakes through and over high rises. You get these incredible little glimpses into office buildings, balconies, and school playgrounds of people living their lives. The ride is a destination in itself. You get this incredible birds eye view over the harbour and the ocean. The three of us are whispering in a half full train car, trying not to totally loose our minds over each amazing vista.
One of the coolest places is Pallet Town. It’s this humongous arcade full of games, both familiar and completely novel, a candy coloured ferris wheel, bowling alleys, haunted houses, photo-booths, and a concept car show-room. We all grew up playing video games in arcades, so gunning down digital zombies and riding racing simulators in in our DNA.
The surrounding area of the island has cherry tree lined walk ways and bright gardens that meander across wide plazas…and a statue of liberty. Because, why not? The light is getting golden and it’s time to head back to town for dinner with Ruby and her boyfriend Kei.
We meet up later that evening at a classy little Yakitori restaurant. Along the way we’re getting drunk from gross Chew-Hi drinks and getting lost along the way…google directions are more of suggestion than a clear path. No matter, the back alleys are so much fun to explore that getting lost is half the charm.
Day 3 comes and its time to leave our cozy high-rise nest and head to the old capital, Kyoto. JoEllen and I are feeling rather fresh and do a photo-sesh on the top floor and stair well. Once again, I could stay here for hours snapping pictures. But we got a bullet train to catch. Unfortunately this is where the photo adventure ends for me. As we left the train station in Kyoto, I had forgotten my camera on the train! Luckily we were able to retrieve it by having it shipped to Ruby’s apartment in Tokyo, but only after spending 2 incredible nights in Kyoto and another in the picturesque town of Hakone. I’m just happy to have gotten my camera safely returned to me…but at the cost of missing out on photographing some of the most beautiful scenery and moments I’ve ever encountered. You say “Mary, you could of used your cell phone”. Yes, you’re right. But I have to admit that I’m a lousy phone-photographer and every attempt to capture something was a frustrating exercise in futility…so I just decided that I was going to soak it up and enjoy every moment that was left.
But I know I will be back again. This was my second trip and I’ve barely scratched the surface. It was crazy fun adventure and it really brought us all together in a way that will be uniquely mine, Aaron’s and JoEllen’s. Next time we see each other we can laugh our faces off over all the silly things we did in Japan. I’m truly lucky to have had such an experience!