it's a rare wednesday night that i get to stay home by myself and use the laptop without grace's interruption so i shall be semangat and update my blog for once! it helps that ana is currently in tokyo and her instastory of akihabara (and some japanese announcement blaring from the loudspeakers) inspired me to get my lazy butt off the couch and start writing about my experience before it all goes down the drain.
early last month, i finally achieved my lifelong dream of visiting japan! as cliched as it may be (whatever judge all you want) JAPAN IS NUMBER ONE ON MY LIST since forever. i like going around asking people random questions like 'if you had to spend ten thousand bucks in a day, which mall would you go to?', 'what's your dream home like?', 'if you win a hundred thousand in the lottery, what are the ten things you'd spend it on?' and so on. it's a good ice breaker.
and one of my favourite questions: 'what are your top three dream destinations?' AND MINE IS ALWAYS JAPAN AND TURKEY. ok maybe iceland or new zealand but i'm quite meh about those.
I'VE ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT JAPAN. (and turkey, well cause robyn eckhardt makes it sound so amazing in her blog) BUT JAPAN IS NUMBER ONE.
since my primary school days of watching GTO during sunday afternoons on NTV7, or some japanese drama about pretty office janitors (lol no one seems to remember this show), and years of watching japanese dramas (waterboys! nodame cantabile! hana kimi! proposal daisakusen! gokusen!) and reading manga supplied by margaret during class (sorry i was that kid in school) in high school, I HAVE HARBOURED A DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE FOR JAPAN. anyway hope you get the drift lah.
well, but to actually go there has always seemed like an impossible dream as my meagre writer's salary definitely can't live up to the exertions required of a trip there.
but finally last year during final my days of deep desperation at work, ANA Airways began running their promotional ads on facebook and i finally decided to take the leap as a farewell trip for myself. and that's that! liz signed up to become my travel partner (and after some cajoling, peggy managed to get tickets on the same flight too heeheehee) and fast forward a few months later, HELLO TOKYO!
SEE EVEN THE SKIES AND THE CLOUDS AND THE SUNLIGHT ARE AMAZING.
also ANA AIRWAYS AND THE DREAMLINER ARE AMAZING but the food is quite meh but anyway i spent all my time catching up on movies AND IT IS THE BEST. managed to watch whiplash, miss hokusai, the intern and i couldn't stop thinking about the gorgeous art in hokusai. if you've watched it, come let's have a discussion over kopi and toast.
here's what happened on the day of our arrival:
bought suica card and a data sim card (just enough till we get to the airbnb which provides pocket wifis) at narita, loaded up on tokyo brochures and maps, took awhile to get to the city centre from narita, struggled with our luggage but managed to navigate tokyo station successfully, marvelled at the amazing subway system and finally checked in to our airbnb after waiting for the host at the wrong station LOL (there was an extra 'shin' in the name which no one noticed LOL) around 9pm.
we then braved the stupid cold for some ok ramen and gyoza for dinner.
after dinner, we dropped by (and marvelled at) the neighbourhood grocer's to stock up for breakfast! here liz picking the fattest strawberries. \
look at those genius mini cheese platters and personal bottles of wine JAPANESE GROCERY STORES ARE THE BEST.
OK NOW DAY ONE BEGINS FOR REAL:
GOOD MORNING TOKYO YOUR SKIES SO PRETTY I LOVE YOU MORE ALREADY
this is the view from our airbnb. see the train tracks? there's always a train or two rumbling past.
time to explore the city!
but first, lemme introduce my travel partners:
i went to nanjing and shanghai with peggy in 2016, and liz has always been my travel partner for all the volleyball team outings since our college days AND THEY ARE MY FAVORET TRAVEL PARTNERS. peggy is also my high school mate. the two of them are primary school mates. world is smallllll.
here's the view from the top. tokyo is incredible, y'all. spot the film cameras at the corner. i was trying to sneak this shot for cyndi who recently got into film photography (check her out @leecyndi_)!
one of my goals was to get a film camera in tokyo but sadly that didn't happen. but maybe i intentionally planned it so that i have more reasons to return heheheheheh
the observatory deck sells tons of cute stuff (like these multi-coloured birds) and sanrio and ghibli merchandise but it's all super expensive.
the only thing we could afford?
GACHAPON. this is us looking super aunty BUT LEMME TELL YOU THIS PEGGY HAZ MAGIC POWERS. throughout the whole trip, from this point onwards, PEGGY GETS THE TOY WE WANTED AT EVERY SINGLE GACHAPON MACHINE WE TRIED. SHE MAGIC.
don't forget to get a stamp at train stations (and observatory decks) to commemorate the occasion!
i spotted a little flea market from the tower so we headed there afterwards. BEST DECISION.
the flea market is so much fun! this little guy was sniffing around.
you can see all these little stalls set up in the park. according to a flea market guide i googled up later, this market only happens once every two months, and only non-professional sellers are allowed. that explains the chill vibe, the unbelievable prices, and the interesting mix of items on sale. liz wouldn't shop at shibuya afterwards, and kept moaning that how come we couldn't find more flea markets like this one hahahha
wanted to buy all the records but then remembered that i don't have a record player :(
PLATES FOR RM2! SHOULD'VE BOUGHT EVERYTHING THEN OPENED A RESTAURANT.
hehehehe gachapon stuff heheheheh
then we found the secondhand clothes:
liz cleared some good stuff! nice dresses, vintage tops, a bally bag in super good condition.
peggy didn't get this yellow kimono afterall. but she got a pretty golden bag that only she could carry off and a gorgeous velvet wine-coloured skirt that i spotted but i couldn't fit lol
i got that kimono jacket thingy, a leather satchel for rm15, a green bag from saturday by kate spade, and some plates lolol my arms had such a workout afterwards.
well. we had so much fun haggling and digging and shopping that we basically forgot about lunch! by the time we realised that we had spent enough time at the market, it was already late afternoon HAHAHA. the stalls were packing up! we then decided to walk on to meiji jingu.
here are some scenes captured along the way:
the entrance to the gate! no vehicles of any kind are allowed through the gates. i saw a father who was cycling in with his baby daughter strapped to the bike basket and this super semangat staff just went sprinting after the dad yelling 'jotomate! jotomate!' HAHAHA.
miss japan so much!!!! while the evening sun is pretty, it doesn't quite help with the cold. this oversized zara jacket is a lifesaver.
there was a traditional wedding going on though and ALL THE TOURISTS WHIPPED OUT THEIR CAMERAS AND BEGAN FOLLOWING THE PARADE. the bride is gorgeous with giant hydrangea-like flowers in her hair!
i wouldn't want to have that many tourists at my wedding though.
sake bottles wrapped in straw for optimum temperature and all that.
these are gifts from the best sake producers for the emperor :)
when you exit meiji jingu, you're at harajuku! here's another train zooming by.
harakuju was okay. didn't see any interesting fashion going on. peggy says it reminded her of sungei wang lol but we had fun queuing up for ice cream and terrible crepes.
THEN WE FOUND THE PURIKURA SHOP. GOOD LUCK DESCENDING TO THE PASTEL SPARKLY PINK DEPTHS OF THE PURIKURA PARLOUR AND GIVE UP ALL SENSE OF TIME.
PURIKURA IS A MUST-TRY JAPANESE CULTURAL EXPERIENCE OKAY.
after multiple purikura sessions, it was already sometime around 8pm and harajuku was so quiet it felt like 10pm.
so, time for dinner.
we braved the cold streets to get to maisen tonkatsu, a place recommended by sher reen in her super comprehensive tokyo guide. thanks for the tip! maisen tonkatsu was also one of the only places i managed to visit from her list HAHAHA
i'm pretty useless as a tokyo guide but from what i remember maisen tonkotsu serves some really special pork in limited portions. the pork comes from a super-rare heirloom breed that's been revived so they only sell the pork chops in portions of ten or thirty a day. figures. revive rare breed for nice chops. anyway we were there late (you have to get there when they open to secure the limited edition babi) so we made do with their normal pork BUT IT'S AMAZING I WANNA CREI
WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT CRISPY BREADED PORK CHOP AND IT'S SO JUICY AND THAT MOUNTAIN OF SHREDDED CABBAGE SO CRUNCHY AND FRESH AND JUICY AND EVERYTHING IS AMAZING AND WORTHWHILE AND IT'S THE BEST
we also got mini rice bowls and croquettes ALL AMAZING AND DELICIOUS EEEEP
by the time we left, it was almost closing time, they still gave us free ice cream! here's liz wandering around looking for internet connection so we know which direction to head home. finally we accosted a random passerby who was kind enough to lead us to the station and make sure we get on the correct train AWWW JAPAN YOU SO NICE
sorry this wasn't the most informative post but do check out timeout tokyo for the detailed and fun stuff. my trip was mostly just three girls bumbling around tokyo fawning over everything and forgetting to eat lunch so i don't think it's the best guide out there lol.
PS: in case anyone's interested, here's how our airbnb looks like. it's so compact but well-designed i'm wondered how the rest of the world lived before this but more on this next time!