I have been beyond excited for this moment, I don’t think there is a word that can best describe my emotions. To finally be able to walk to streets of Tokyo and open my mind to new surroundings is the best form of education. You can’t learn about this culture truly from a textbook, and lets be honest, you can only learn so much from the internet. You have to dive head first into it and adapt. For YEARS I have dreamt of visiting Japan and had always envisioned what it would be like. Finally being here, its what I expect, but more. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I'm in a different country, even though everything is extremely futuristic in my opinion- it just feels surprisingly normal. I think thats just because I’ve been living this moment in my head for so long that it’s just became a normality to me. Or, it’s the fact that everything is so organized, safe, and clean that I don’t feel so much of a culture shock slapping me across the face. Going to Thailand or Peru was a big culture shock, but Japan I guess I just expected it to be outrageous. Looking back at my experience now, I have to say that there really wasn’t anything familiar or normal to me.
Japan should be on the top of everyones “must visit” lists. If you don’t have a list, start one now and put Japan at the top. I don’t understand how there are people in the world who are comfortable enough to stay in their hometown for the rest of their lives. Holy shit I would go insane because I am the complete opposite of that. Honestly, I get antsy if I can’t explore other worlds. It’s my most expensive addiction aside from fashion. The culture is remarkable, the food is just outrageously delicious, the fashion is inspiring on so many levels, and the people are so kind. The most important note is that Japan really is safe. Sure, there is crime and I’m sure there own type of mafia or drug lords, but walking the streets alone was nice because no one bugs reached other. Why wouldn’t you visit Japan?! Walking the crowded streets of Shibuya it seems overwhelming but there is a rhythm to the madness. People are courteous and couscous of one another. They leave space between each other in lines, they look out for each other in the rain holding umbrellas, they form single filed lines for escalators on the right letting all traffic on the left move faster, I mean I can go on forever. America, you need to take notes and learn a million or two things from this culture. Maybe that’s how we can make America great again…
A week in Japan isn't long enough; a week in Shibuya one could argue is plenty- not for me!! Absorbing all the city structures and streets, taking in all the big bright lights and crowds of people at every direction. The thing I found most fascinating about Shibuya were all the restaurants and little bar/club/lounges. They were so small and if you were a group of over 6 people you basically had the entire place to yourself. AND, you could pretty much be there all night to the early early early more! I'm talking 6am early- and yes, this is written based off of experience. I flew to Japan in October to celebrate my friend Yoshi's birthday, he lives there a majority of the time and was the perfect tour guide. He even took us to places that he had not seen before. Being with him and his friends was what made this experience so worth while. Feeling like a local is the best feeling in the world- you truly get the authentic experience. Seeing day to day life of another culture with them. It's so fascinating to me. Of course, not many of you know locals, so you will be a tourist 100% of the way! This I recommend you having on you at all times or being prepared for:
1. A napkin or rag for all the public bathrooms- they do not have a paper towel dispenser.
2. A purse or pockets for trash - there are no trash cans ANYWHERE! It's the cleanest city I have ever seen and there are no trash cans. It's amazing to see!
3. If you're jet lagged and hungry before 10-11am, go to a 7/11 and get a little rice ball to hold you over because nothing opens before 10am. Yes, a rice ball. Not your typical american breakfast, but you're in Japan. Why not try something different to your eyes, but a normality to others.
4. If you're like me and bring power bars wherever you go in case you are hungry and your blood sugar just drops in a split second, you have to stop at a destination and eat. They do not walk and eat at the same time. Same goes for smoking, not many people walk and smoke at the same time. There are little destinations designated to eating and or smoking.
5. There are basically no vegetables anywhere, so if you're like me and need your fruit smoothie every morning, good luck! You can find some green restaurants, like farm to table restaurants, but you will just need to do some research on Yelp for each neighborhood.
6. If you plan to see other cities like Kyoto, plan to stay a few days down there. I went for a day and that wasn't enough, it was a joke really. I only saw 2 places and the 2nd was basically a bust. Beautiful of course, but I would have rather spent my time exploring a temple than the bamboo forests. Honestly, if you plan to see more than just Tokyo, expect to get another hotel room and be there another day or so because there is so much to explore. I highly recommend visiting the Temple of the Red Gates.
7. Taxi's will automatically open the door for you, do not open it yourself and it is only the left side that opens. And pass on using Uber, they never pick you up, they get lost and taxi's are cheaper.
8. Escolators: the right side you stop and stand in a line, and the left side is meant for faster traffic to move through.
9. To get onto any train, you wait in a single filed line. Anything that has to do with a line you wait in a single filed line and leave space between you and the person in front of you.
10. If you are paying for anything, you have to put the money or your credit card on the tray that they hand you. They will not grab anything directly from you.
11. If you look anything like myself or my friend I went with, Tracy (tall blonde model type), than be prepared to have everyone stop and take a photo of you in Kyoto. This didn't happen at all in Shibuya, but in Kyoto it happened a lot.
12. In most, maybe all restaurants, you do not wait for a waiter to order from, you use the iPad displayed on the table to place an order. Sometimes a machine will delivery, so you won't have any human interaction. It was a trip at first, let me tell you. Google translate will be our best friend!! The app that uses photo translate needs some working on, but if you go to google and type in the word for help, that will be your best way to translate everything. I took a photo of the menu using the app trying to figure out how to order water, and some how ordered milky water. It was thick, citrusy, and just not hydrating.
13. If you do not have an international phone plan, than I recommend a pocket wifi and an external battery. You will need these because you will need google maps. There are no street names in Shibuya. I am so lucky that I'm visual because I got to know the streets within a few sort hours just getting lost and walking in circles.
14. Everyone is friendly, and generous enough to help you if you are lost. So do not be afraid to ask a local for help.