When I was in Japan, I didn’t plan my stays; the night prior, I’d simply read reviews about hostels and book and go. This applied to Tokyo, except that since everything was widely dispersed and there really wasn’t one best area to stay, all that mattered was that I was close to a subway station. And luckily for me, I was. Only, after reading more reviews about my district one night, I realized that I was in the vicinity of love hotels. “Oh, great,” I whispered to myself.
Something to note from my experience is that even in the midst of streets crowned with love hotels or the random anime sex shop — which I later learned that my abode wasn’t actually that close to — there wasn’t a time when I felt a sense of unease or discomfort. In other places of the world, I probably would have — but certainly not in Tokyo. Everything felt normal to me. Sometimes I’d even see parents and their kids or an elderly couple walking by these joints — life resumed as usual. These perks were part of Tokyo’s idiosyncratic identity in all its rays of colour, and frankly, I appreciated it.
The only glitch I experienced in Tokyo emanated from my own inadequacy as a human being. I had mentioned it in a previous post, but my sense of direction is abysmal. It was a common theme for me to do a tour around the world before settling into my abode. Again, I couldn’t find my hostel when I arrived in Tokyo, so I ended up walking in circles, and in the process, discovered some interesting love hotels. (Insert sarcastic laugh here.) “Not too shabby,” I thought as I walked into one to inquire about directions. The mysterious lady behind the reception desk and the warm air and smell of cigarettes made me think of Murakami’s novels (as does everything I encounter in life).
If there’s something I appreciated deeply about Japan, it’s the people. This was the second time I couldn’t find my hostel, and the second time strangers would go out of their way to ensure that I arrived at my destination. Even if they didn’t know the directions themselves, they’d ask fellow passersby for help. As with Kyoto, in Tokyo a stranger dropped what they were doing and walked me to my hostel. It’s been my experience that no matter where I went, I found home in the hospitality of the people around me.
After checking into my hostel and doing my laundry — because that’s the first thing everyone would do when they arrive in Tokyo — I was on my way to Ueno Station to sniff out the Ameyoko Market, which I learned was similar to a Bangkok-style street market. There was a lot of food, stuff, and people. Especially people — so much so that our heels would kiss. Suffice it to say, I left immediately.
Across the street from Ameyoko Market, I came across a sign outside of a bakery that advertised these cute animal-shaped sweet buns. “My people are calling me home,” I thought as I excitedly walked in. Look at those pandas! I couldn’t resist so I bought one and enjoyed it at Uneo Park. It was a pleasant surprise because it had a sweet custard in the middle.
Here I could get a glimpse of Uneo Station, the entrance to the Ameyoko Market, and even the bakery selling adorable panda buns. Behind me was a set of stairs leading to Ueno Park, one of my favourite places to unwind in Tokyo.
What’s neat about Tokyo is that the hustle and bustle and the serene parallel each other at every corner. If I wanted to escape an overly crowded commercial area, then nature was awaiting me somewhere, and oftentimes it was only a few steps away.
Tokyo must’ve been quite a glamorous sight after dark with its usual hustle and bustle, its bodies of people and cars in constant motion, and its infamous nightlife. But I don’t have a single photo of Japan at night — and that’s because I was never out after dark.
If there’s something you ought to know, it’s this: my sense of direction needs crutches, and on top of that, I have poor eyesight. Those two factors mingling together, and you have me: a lady sloth roaming aimlessly at night. I had to take photos of the streets surrounding my hostels just so that I could find my way back; and if that proved challenging during the day — I walked in endless circles every day by the way, which was quite the workout — then when night rolls around, I ain’t comin’ home, that’s for sure.