You’ve never seen hustle and bustle until you’ve taken a walk through the world-famous Shibuya Crossing. My first time stepping off the sidewalk and onto the road made me feel anxious and scared. I was afraid that I might walk too slow and either get run over by a car or get in the way of an angry pedestrian. This was my first dose of Tokyo, Japan.
In May 2014, I had the chance to travel to Japan with a couple of cousins. This was my first-time visiting another Asian country other than my parent’s hometown of the Philippines. To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect going in, but that’s the best part. I was a blank slate and was ready to absorb what Japan had in store.
The moment we landed we were greeted with a “Kon’nichiwa” or “hello” in Japanese. Once all the baggage claim was done we headed over to the money exchange to grab a couple of Yens (because I’m always curious to what different currencies look like). Had a little pit stop at the nearest restroom and stumbled upon this:
At that point, I was confused about whether I entered the right restroom or not. Nope, I was in the right one. This. Is. A. Toilet. I won’t go into much detail about it but to use this toilet requires you to squat. I scooted over to the next stall with an actual toilet in it. Japan stays true to their technological reputation with their fancy porcelain thrones that includes a plethora of buttons, a heated seat and a water spray. For sure, these are toilets that are rarely found in your typical Winnipeg public washroom. We headed out of the airport and hailed down the shuttle to bring us to our home away from home (hotel).
Without even getting settled into our rooms, we headed out for an evening of exploration. Our first stop? The subway station. One thing that stood out to me the most was that the streets and stations were very clean. Not one piece of litter on the sidewalks or roads. For some reason, it gave me a feeling of safety. We loaded up our cards, boarded on the Green Line (Yamanote Route) and got off at the Shibuya Crossing.
It might not mean that much to some, but being a girl that is from a small city, I was amazed that I finally got to see something that I’ve only seen in movies (don’t lie, you were thinking about Fast and the Furious’ Tokyo Drift). There were billboards on billboards, lights on lights and so many people! Stores had 3 stories of windows (they ran from ceiling to floor) where you could peer inside and see the colourful clothes displayed. People were crossing the street in a fluid action, without bumping into each other. Is this how it works everywhere else? Everything about my first sights upon Tokyo left me awestruck. This place is definitely a place worth exploring.
After picking up my jaw from the amazement, we grabbed a bite to eat. We found a small resto that sold ramen, vending machine style –no server needed. All you had to do was press the button for your choice of ramen then it’ll get delivered right in front of you moments later (by a human of course). Once our tummies were warm and full, we loaded up on snacks for the night. What seems to be popular in Tokyo was matcha green tea. At their 7-11’s they had anything you can think of made with matcha. I almost bought everything on the shelf.
As the evening turned dark, the lights became more hypnotizing and bright. There was not one building that didn’t have some type of lights around it. What impressed me the most was that the surrounding locals were not phased by the beauty of it all. This must be an everyday thing and my “tourist-ness” was showing.
A person could only look at bright lights for so long without getting tired. Being a tourist is exhausting. I was jetlagged and tired from the moments I had to taken-in from first landing. It was time to wrap up the night, take a quick metro ride back to our hotel and reload on energy for the next couple of days ahead. I said “see ya tomorrow, Tokyo” as I boarded the metro ride home.
Dear reader: This is the first of my mini vacation series. Trust me, I’d like to sit here and type hours on hours about my trip to Japan, but where’s the fun in that? I like to keep things spicy and tease you with bits and pieces.
Stay tuned for Part 2!