Check out how the hell we ended up in Tokyo: here
After saying goodbye to our three furry housemates, our comfortable and luxurious accommodations, and our last stable base for a while, we headed out in our rental car to make our way to LA. The drive down I-5 was surprisingly far more scenic than I could have ever imagined.
Last time we were in Cali, we made the way to LA driving on Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast. But truthfully, I-5 is just as worth seeing. Due to the massive amount of rainfall, everything was blooming and bright green. It was a great ending to our time in Cali and a nice beginning to our new adventure.
The 12-hour flight went a lot better than expected. After enduring our first flight together getting to Cali, Boris seemed to have gotten much better with the whole experience.
We purposely took a red-eye so that we had a better chance of sleeping, and we did. Even if for a few hours, it was enough to make the flight bearable and had us ready for the journey ahead of us.
As soon as we touched down in Tokyo, the realization that we were in another country so far from where we just were started slowly creeping into our consciousness. Until then, it really just wasn’t hitting us.
Maybe it’s our consistent attempt to live in the present or the fact that we don’t really research or prepare ahead of time that we just couldn’t believe we would be there until we finally arrived.
The main thing that you hear about Japan and especially Tokyo is that it will be a shock to your senses. And even after hearing that multiple times, we still had no idea what that truly meant.
Until we arrived.
We jumped on the train from the airport and headed towards our Airbnb. It was right before rush hour and the sun was just slowly beginning to rise. People were boarding the train, others were well into their third dream, and here we were, sticking out like sore thumbs in our brightly colored hats and backpacks to match.
We observed in awe as the entire train was silent. No noises, no sounds, no one eating or drinking, just people passed out on the way to work or maybe on the way home from the bar.
Either way, it was so peaceful, I almost didn’t want to get up. We, too, could’ve fallen asleep right there and just rode around until we were asked to leave.
“This is our stop.”
Boris snapped me out of my trance, we got up and headed to the outside world.
“It’s so quiet here.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but with a city of so many people, I would expect something, anything.
Did I lose my hearing on the plane? Did my ears pop without realization? What was going on?
Coming from New York, we are constantly drowning in sound. People honking, cursing, yelling, singing, screaming, crying or just humming. It’s a complete shock to your senses just to experience silence where you would expect to hear noise.
And that was just the first surprise.
We followed the directions we snapshotted on our phones from our Airbnb host. We had no Wi-Fi, no map, and once again no plans. We just had an address written in Japanese and a few photos with large red arrows attached.
It started off fine, but one wrong turn and we were lost.
“Well, that didn’t take long.”
We were in a residential neighborhood that was more reminiscent of Europe to me than an Asian country. Narrow, cobble streets, bicycles everywhere, and laundry lines hanging from the rails. Not that Asian countries don’t have that, clearly they do. But, it just was so unexpected.
We were in Tokyo, the land of people, high rises, and constant activity, and yet it felt as if we were in a small village in Italy, France, or whatever other stereotypical European country you could think of.
Except, everything was covered in foreign characters that we couldn’t even begin to guess what they were saying.
This was our first official day with the backpacks and, boy, were they heavy. It felt as if we were lugging around bricks already wrapped in cement.
As I quietly cursed myself for packing such heavy crap, I thought about what things I could just start laying out in the street and get rid of so I wouldn’t have to take another step with that weight.
“Look, a 7-11!”
One of the well-known aspects about Japan, is their abundance of 7-11s. Granted, the only thing 7-11 about this store, was the name.
Everything was different, and of course in Japanese. And at this point in time, our only knowledge of Japanese was the incorrect version of “thank you” and “sayonara”. But, given that everything was in Kanji, even that didn’t help us.
There were two tiny stools in front of 7-11, which we automatically used as rests for our bricks.
Not only were we tired, lost, and sore, but we were freezing. Our method of following the weather during car camping, quickly was tossed as we embraced a traveler vs. tourist mentality.
We don’t travel where it’s high-season, comfortable or convenient, we just go where we are led by the universe. And, this time it led us to Tokyo in March.
Boris went inside to grab us something hot, hopefully hook up to Wi-Fi, as I stayed outside and guarded our stuff. Guarded against nobody as I realized later on, but guarded nonetheless.
Within a few moments, Boris comes outside followed by a kind-faced Japanese man with the 7-11 logo on his shirt. All of a sudden, the man ran down the street, leaving the store unattended and us in awe at what was happening.
“Where is he going? What did you say to him?”
“I think he’s going to help us. I showed him the address and he just got excited and left.”
Little did we know, that this was far from the last time that this would happen to us. When you ask Japanese people for help, they don’t just point you in the right direction. They lead you there, literally.
“Should we follow him?”
“Oh, look, there he comes.”
After sprinting about two blocks from the store, he makes his way back towards us.
With a relieved look on his face, he reassures us with his body language that our Airbnb was just around the corner and down the street.
We thanked him the only way we knew how, by bowing lowly, repeatedly and with grateful eyes.
And, off we went to our Airbnb.
Check out Part 2: here