Helloooooo Tokyo! I’ve finally landed in a place I’ve been wanting to visit my whole life. Since my grandmother was from Sapporo, I’ve always wanted to visit Japan and get a feel for the culture and to see the beautiful land.
My flight getting here, however, was the worst of my trip thus far. Ironically, it was the most similar to a U.S. airline. The seats were made out of plastic, they weren’t in good condition, the seats were very narrow, not a lot of leg room, the food was not included in the ticket, and I had to pay for my checked bag. Doesn’t seem so bad if you’ve never flown internationally, but just wait until you do. Fly China Airlines and you’ll love it. Fly Hong Kong Express (this flight) and you’ll feel like you’re flying in the cheapest of coach seats from SFO to JFK.
Enough about that. I arrived at the airport and made it through immigrations, baggage claim, and customs. But this time, instead of getting stopped for a random search, I was stopped by a local TV station who wanted to interview me. It was called “Welcome To Japan!” The host asked me a few questions about my visit, where I had planned to go, if I had any friends in Japan, and how long I was staying. You should have seen how wide his eyes got when I said 2 days! I thought I was the only round-eyed Japanese person…
After my five minutes of fame were over, I was on pursuit of a pocket wifi, preferably one that worked this time. I got connected and received a rush of messages. The one I was most excited about? Antonio was meeting me! A super late addition to the trip, he booked his flights and set out on this Asian tour. He met up with Nick the day prior and decided to fly out to Tokyo to experience the city with me.
We found each other and got our SUICA cards (the Japanese version of Octopus cards) then hopped on the train to Nippori Station. The Tokyo transportation system is really difficult to navigate, especially when compared to Hong Kong. Fewer signs were in English and Google Maps has a hard time giving directions. We made it to our Airbnb and were excited to find our host there! She welcomed us and gave us the rundown. She wouldn’t be staying there during our visit but wanted to make sure we were set. We chatted, had a cup of tea together, then Antonio and I met up with my good friend Toshi for dinner.
Now Toshi, this guy is a G. I met him when I was 17 when he stayed with us to learn English at MIIS, the international school nearby. He quickly became a part of our family and has visited us twice since then. However, his last visit was in 2013, meaning this was the first time I’d seen him in 5 years! Needless to say, I was excited.
He met Antonio and I at our Airbnb. From there we walked about 2 blocks and found ourselves at this tiny restaurant that we never would have found without him. Toshi told me what kind of meal it was but I can’t remember the exact name, but it was similar to temppanyaki. Now THIS was a very authentic Japanese meal. The little old lady who was working/owned the place was adorable. She brought out each dish, explaining everything, and even cooked some of it for us. Toshi translated. She was so excited to have use there and gave us such great service.
Throughout the evening, Toshi cooked, we drank, we all ate. We got to try a Asahi on tap as well as a Japanese vodka. Everything was delicious. I even tried all of the mushrooms! We had grilled mushrooms, asparagus with cheese, beef with bean sprouts, and Japanese pancake. Again, there are no words to describe this deliciousness except oishi, which means delicious in Japanese.
After dinner, we went to a sake bar. Because, why not?
We tried 5-6 different sakes. Some filtered, some semi-unfiltered, and one very unfiltered. All delicious. I don’t know if my tastes are changing or I’m just being adventurous, because I don’t like mushrooms or sake but I loved everything I’d had that night. We talked and laughed then eventually parted ways.
Antonio and I headed back to our place to rest up for the next day’s adventures.