So, one of the things that happens when you procrastinate and get lazy is that a ton of cool adventures go left unrecorded. I recently decided that I wanted to revamp my blog by adding a “live light” page to supplement the “travel light” theme. As a result, I spent a solid hour looking through old photos (scary!), and seeing what advice for living light they inspired in me.
Luckily, I also tend to get easily distracted, so when I came across my photos from Japan, I had another thought: “Yegawds! That was almost a year ago…and I never wrote about it. Woops.” How can this be a travel light blog if I don’t write about travel? HUGE derp moment for me.
Luckily enough (times 2), we live in the social media generation of “Throwback Thursday”, which gives me the wonderful opportunity and excuse to talk about all of those travel tidbits I never got around to. So, without any more sidetrack narrative, I begin the “Throwback Thursday Tales” sequence with a small look back at my trip to Japan for Buddha’s Birthday.
Last May, my friend Chanel and I jetted off to Tokyo for some much needed R&R…and a lot of not so needed rain. Seriously, it rained the ENTIRE time we were there. I don’t think I could see 20 feet in front of me, and forget about getting a decent shot of the Tokyo Sky Tree; and that river cruise we took to enjoy the skyline? We enjoyed it from inside, taking great advantage of the all-you-can-drink bar since we were also the only non-couple on board.
I also probably shouldn’t mention that we booked an awesome 1 day tour to see Mt. Fuji, and rode the 2 hours on the bus only to be turned away at the road entrance to the 5th station because the rain made the pass too unstable.
I actually did have a great time in Tokyo, but if there’s one piece of advice I can give you it’s this: ALWAYS, ALWAYS check the weather forecast. Ask yourself the most important question: “Is it rainy season, and how rainy is rainy?”
For me, Tokyo – though super cool with it’s giant robots outside shopping malls, cutesy maid cafes, and awesome temple traditions – would have been 10x more enjoyable with just a little less rain. Or if I had actually worn my Hunters every day we were there…WHY didn’t I wear my rain boots? I can only assume it’s because I’m a girl and I didn’t want them to “clash” with my outfit, or maybe it’s because – as my mom knows – I am never, ever prepared for the weather.
Regardless of the rain though, Tokyo offered up some pretty unique experiences that made the trip totally worth it.
The trip started off on a funny note, with Chanel and I taking separate flights over; because she arrived first, we didn’t realise that we had arrived at different terminals…and thus ensued a half hour broken telephone race to find each other. Once we had our respective travel buddy in hand, we hopped on the train into the city; the best part of the long train ride was our first view of actual, 2- story houses in almost a year! In Korea, most people live in apartments (definitely a space saver!), so seeing homes reminiscent of North America was really, really cool. And if I sound totally lame for putting this as an early excitement point of our trip, then you haven’t been away from home long enough and should go pack a bag and buy a ticket ASAP.
After I made us get off the train needlessly and then back on, we finally made it to the heart of Tokyo. The next few days were jam packed with temples, drums, smoky fortunes, free tours, 15 minutes of fame on Tokyo’s tour tv network (seriously), spas, green tea ceremonies, and sushi.
We started that first night, however, with something that kind of sticks out from everything else: we went to a maid cafe. The maid cafes are, for the most part, found in the gaming/electronic center Akihabara. We were told that this was a really cool place to visit (and it was, I found Luke Skywalker light saber chopsticks, and green tea kitkats!), but what we weren’t told is that if you’re a girl, you should probably visit the area during the day. The area wasn’t dangerous, but it was very, very weird.
At night, the seedier parts of the sexy time shops and the maid cafes tend to rear their cringe worthy heads, and we got an eye full at the maid cafe we decided to have dinner at. We were first greeted by cutesy ladies in maid outfits on the streets; we should have realised when they were handing out flyers to mainly men that we probably were best staying clear for the time being; but, we were foreigners, so what the heck did we know?
So, in we went! We awkwardly went inside, and became the only female diners in the joint (ok, there was one other woman, but she was there with a guy so it was mainly a treat for him). In some maid cafes, you can pick which lady you want to have serve you, here we were assigned the one with the least tables and were promptly served food in the shape of cute teddy bears and rabbits…she even drew smiley faces on it with sauce! To add to the cuteness factor, we had to wear fuzzy animal ears and say “very, very cute” in Japanese while moving our hands like cat paws before we could take a sip of our drinks.
So far, not too bad. BUT THEN. One of the specials on the menu is a song and dance from the wonderful servers…and of course the 5 or so all-male tables just ALL needed to have a special song and dance. I don’t know if the song lyrics were sexy given that it was all in Japanese, but the dance certainly wasn’t..or at least it wasn’t intended to be. Even still, there was something a little off about how excited the men were getting about the routine…if ya know what I mean.
When men started coming in on their own to order some food and a song, Chanel and I decided it was probably high time we paid our bills and hightailed it out of their. Thus were we introduced to Japan and it’s awesome, sometimes weird, and certainly unique culture.
Catch the next Throwback Thursday Tales installment for some great stories about the more traditional parts of Japanese culture, and to meet some truly wonderful people.