Tokyo, Japan. September, 2016.
For my first ever solo trip, I picked a winner. This is where it all started. I had just gotten out of a 4 year relationship, and you know when you get done with a break up and you kinda wanna get busy doing something? Well this was my ‘something’.
I remember asking my buddies at work, “Should I go? Should I do this?” I had a month of vacation coming up (thank you awesome fire department schedule), and there was no better time than now to just get away. I just had to pull the trigger.
I wanted to travel somewhere I had never been before, somewhere where I didn’t know a single person, and where English wasn’t the primary language. I wanted every single person I knew to be thousands of miles away.
Ever since Lost in Translation I’d had a thing for Tokyo. Have you seen this movie? Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray. Soooooo good. You seriously gotta watch it.
If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this blog right now and go. I’m serious. It might be on Netflix. I guarantee after watching it you’ll be lusting for Tokyo and you’ll have the right mindset for the rest of this story.
I’m serious. Go watch it. I’ll wait…
Ok, quick plot summary: Lost in Translation isn’t a thriller or laugh out loud comedy or edge of your seat drama. It’s more of a glimpse into two people’s lives. Quiet, and funny, and PERFECT, all set in a city capable of being both introspective and completely spectacular, all in the same breath.
Scarlett Johansson is gorgeous, of course, and young and plays someone trying to find her way. You feel what her character feels. She’s married, but her husband is always working, so she’s alone, in this ginormous city, far away from home, feeling lost.
In her hotel bar one night, she meets Bill Murray’s character. He’s an actor doing spokesperson spots on tv and Tokyo talk shows, but you can feel it with him too. He’s lost. His job doesn’t challenge him anymore. His wife and kids are far, far away. He’s alone in a city packed with people.
When they meet each other, it’s exactly what they both need at exactly the right time. The time they spend together connecting and being human and getting into spontaneous adventures is EVERYTHING. Their chemistry is PERFECT, and seemingly without even trying, Tokyo is a tangible character in this.
It’s the perfect backdrop with all its colorful lights, the skyscrapers, the people, and its whole vibe. The soundtrack is also so good, and that’s so important with these quiet indy movies, and when it’s done, you’re like “I’ve got to go to Tokyo.”
And this was my opportunity to go.
Now, the idea of solo travel can be a bit daunting, buuuuut when you think about it practically, as guys typically do, it’s totally doable. See, traveling with a girl on any kind of regular basis becomes expensive, quick. But traveling solo?… All I’d have to worry about is me!
I wouldn’t have to sync schedules with anyone, I wouldn’t have to worry about another person not being able to get off work. I could just go whenever it was convenient for ME and DO ANYTHING I WANTED! The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was something I had to do.
So I did it! I wasn’t sure just how often I’d be able to travel, but I figured if I could survive Tokyo on my own, I could survive ANYWHERE!
Arriving In Tokyo
Arriving in Tokyo for the first time and getting to your hotel is an adventure in and of itself. Especially when you’re like me and you don’t think ahead of what it’s going to be like and you leave everything up to how the cards fall on the day of.
Once I got my luggage at baggage claim, I googled how to get from Narita airport to my hotel. From what I can remember, I’m guessing a cab ride was too expensive, so the option I went with involved a 40 minute bus ride from Narita to Tokyo Station, and then a subway ride to my hotel.
The bus ride was chill. In fact, it was uuuuuultra chill. Like silent. Every single person, even kids, were 100% quiet. Zero noise.
It was almost eerie. As soon as the bus ride ended, that silence gave way to the sound of people. LOTS OF PEOPLE. All packing themselves like sardines into the subway.
This was Tokyo Station. And now I had to figure out how to buy a subway ticket.
I want you to picture a SEA OF ASIANS. Seriously. Like thousands of them! And right smack in the middle of this churning sea of asians stands a 6’4″ dude from Texas with a huge backpack on his back and the expression on his face of “How am I going to do thiiiissssssssss?”
I could see the ticket machines everywhere but of course they were all in Japanese and, while I’m sure they had an English setting, I was way too intimidated to stand in front of one and try to figure it out with, literally, a churning sea of asians behind me who all seemed to be in a hurry.
I needed to find a human to sell me a ticket.
I finally found a ticket counter and YES! A real person! The person behind the counter spoke some English, but not very much and it was pretty broken. I showed him that I needed to buy a ticket that would get me to my hotel by slowly and deliberately saying “I neeeeeed a ticket to herrreeeee” while pulling out a folded paper from my pocket with a picture of my hotel on it and pointing at it in true ‘I don’t speak the language, I’m sorry’ fashion.
The dude behind the counter said something to the effect of “yessss, one moment…”, turned around, punched up something into a machine, KARATE CHOPPED ME RIGHT TO THE FACE (jk), handed me a paper ticket, and pointed around the corner like he’s done this a million times before with a million different wide eyed tourists.
Thank god for the human ticket guy, seriously.
I don’t remember how I even paid for the ticket. Did I get cash at the airport before I left? Did I pay with my card? Who knows, but I now had a paper ticket in my hand and as I turned the corner in the direction where he pointed me, I see the sea of asians has now become A RAGING OCEAN OF ASIANS all in a perfect storm of fast moving lines at ticket readers.
If you’ve ridden subways all your life, maybe this would be a breeze for you. But for someone from Texas, the subway system is alien. I had been on a subway a looooong time ago in New York, but that was nothing like this. And when you take away English from the equation, yeah, you can imagine how this felt.
First, everyone in line seemed to be just scanning their phones across a reader. But, my ticket was a tangible one. It was made of paper and had a number on it. I was holding it in my hand like an abandoned orphan from the 1920s or something.
I needed to wait and watch for another orphan who also had a paper ticket so I could figure out how to do this. Again, I didn’t want to come up to the machine and not know what to do with thousands of rushing asians behind me. I just needed to watch for a paper ticket being used and I’d be good.
It didn’t take too long at all. A lady with a paper ticket just like mine put it in the machine where there was a blinking light. It sucked it in, the little doors in front of her opened, she walked through, and then her ticket popped out on the other end of the machine where she grabbed it and went on her way.
She’s probably done this a million times because this was all done in one smooth, fluid motion. I’m so glad I paid attention to her because I wouldn’t have thought intuitively that I’d need to get the ticket back once the machine sucked it up. Grabbing it as you pass through turns out to be an important step because ultimately you’ll need it when you get to your destination station to get out of the subway.
So there I went, jumping into the ocean with no life jacket, just my huge backpack that I could use as a floatation device should things go south. I got to the front of the line, and in a much less smooth and much less fluid motion, I stuck my ticket where the blinking light was. I watched the ticket get sucked in, the little doors opened in front of me, I passed through, and like a champ I grabbed my ticket as it popped out on the other end.
Success! I was through! I had officially arrived.
Robotic Dinosaurs, Meeting my Japanese Love, and Getting Left Behind on a Bus Tour
(That, by the way, is a 100% normal headline when the context is Tokyo.)
So after getting to my hotel and checking into my tiny room which was pretty much just a low to the ground bed, a tiny bathroom, and a flat screen tv, all very efficient, I got a much needed good night’s sleep so I could hit the ground running the next morning.
A few weeks prior, I had scheduled a morning walking tour of Sunamachi Ginza. This was a spectacular first excursion and I highly recommend it!
Sunamachi Ginza is a shopping street where I got to eat tons of delicious food while walking through the local street markets. By my side was my lovely guide who was incredibly sweet and super helpful. (When the excursion ended she even walked with me back to the subway and taught me how to navigate the ticket machines so I no longer needed humans!)
I really wish I remembered her name. (That’s her in the picture.) I was the only one on the excursion that morning and she really made me feel like a VIP. She shared so many stories of Japanese history and tradition with me, and thanks to her I felt totally comfortable getting around Tokyo on the subway. We had a blast during our full morning together and I ate a ton of good food (always a good start)!
The rest of the day I took the trains all over the city armed with this mega-confidence now that I knew what I was doing. I popped in and out of different stations, I’d walk, I’d people watch. I was basically practicing getting my bearings so that the rest of the week when I was doing this (probably buzzed) it would be that much easier.
I was really doing it. I was in Tokyo, on my own, and it was really, really, really cool!
That night would be my first night out in the city. Weeks before I had reserved my spot at the Tokyo Robot Restaurant. Trust me, when you go to Tokyo, the Robot Restaurant is AN ABSOLUTE MUST! This is a great show and a perfect Tokyo experience! I highly, highly recommend it!
Check out the video at the end of this post and you’ll get a true feel for the close-up, live action of Robot Restaurant! It’s truly epic! I don’t even know if the video does it justice, but it’s an INCREDIBLE show!
Filled with all the incredible spectacle you’d expect from Tokyo including explosions, epic, truly bizarre storytelling, live action, robotic dinosaurs, explosions, plenty of alcohol, (did I mention the robotic dinosaurs breathe fire?) you definitely get your money’s worth.
I guarantee you, every time I go to Tokyo, this will be a critical part of my itinerary.
When the show ended, an announcement was made that if you wanted to continue the fun (which I obviously did) you could walk to the Robot Restaurant’s sister venue called Ren. Ren was billed as an American style jazz bar, and this place had my name written all over it.
I made my way back upstairs to street level (did I mention the Robot show takes place like 5 stories underground?) and after a couple tries (not my fault, I had been drinking) I found my destination.
This, ladies and gentleman, is where I met the beautiful and amazingly talented Yuki. Little did either of us know that 2 years down the line, we’d go out on a date. But that’s a whole other adventure.
I walked into Ren, which was totally dead by the way, maybe 5 or 6 people inside not including the staff, but amazingly decorated. I mean check out this picture: huge chandelier, lights and video monitors everywhere. The lack of people inside didn’t even matter.
And in the middle of the spectacular stage, dressed all in white, singing random Whitney Houston ballads, was Yuki.
We hit it off, eloped, and had 1.5 kids that night or whatever the legal limit is in Japan. There’s not really a legal limit is there? Anyway, I’m kidding. I’ve already told you that I end up going out with this girl, but that’s TWO YEARS from now.
Don’t worry, I’ll fully explain all that. It’s actually a really good story. But on this night I didn’t even get a chance to talk to her. Like at all. Not my fault, though.
So I walked into Ren and Yuki is on stage as part of a 3 piece jazz band. They’re really good. All 3 are dressed in white. One is on piano, one is on bass, and Yuki is singing.
I sat down, and I vividly remember thinking to myself, “Look at where I’m at…”
Here I was, sitting down in a random, mostly empty dive in Tokyo, one of only like 6 people inside, being sang 80s power ballads to by this beautiful Japanese girl AND IT WAS AWESOME! I was so glad I had taken this trip.
And make no mistake about it. She was singing TO ME. Since there were only like 4 tables sat, she would take her time and basically sing to each group for a good portion of each song. I was convinced she noticed me.
“Keep bringing the beers…” I told the waitress. She spoke and understood enough English that it wasn’t too difficult to communicate. I remember they had a special on Heinekens. Why I remember that I have no idea, but I vividly remember holding that green bottle as I sat and made the decision that I was going to talk to this singer when she was done with her set.
Maybe about 15-20 minutes later they finished a song and looked like they were about to take a break. Perfect. This is what I was waiting for. Yuki stepped off stage, waved and smiled directly at me (I’m serious, she didn’t wave at anyone else. I knew she noticed me…), and then she disappeared backstage.
It wasn’t closing time yet. She’d come back out right? I asked the waitress if the band was just on a break or if they were done for the night. “They come back for more,” she said. And after another beer, sure enough the trio came back out and started setting up for their next set.
Except there’s one thing wrong with the picture here. There’s another singer now.
Ladies and gentleman, we’ve just lost cabin pressure.
Whyyyyyy is there another singer now? It’s the same piano player, same bass player, but whyyyyyyyy is there a different singer now? Where’d mine go? Why is THE ONE GIRL in this place that I’m wanting to talk to suddenly the ONLY ONE who disappears?
I ask the waitress about her and she gives me the bad news. “Ohhh, yeah, she leave.”
What do you mean oh yeah she leave? So you’re telling me that wave was a wave goodbye? This. Always. Happens. To me. Unbelievable.
But you know what? I had a moment of clarity. I thought to myself, “It’s alright, Eric. This is but only the beginning of your week in Tokyo. You’ll just come back on another night to see her perform again. And if she’s not working, you could come back another night after that. Hell, you’ll could come back every night to talk to her. This is a nice spot. You’ll see her again.”
But here’s the kicker: I didn’t see her again. Long story short, I never got back to Ren the whole rest of my trip. I didn’t get to see this beautiful singer for the rest of my time in Tokyo. I left and returned home to Texas a week later without even knowing this girl’s name.
“WAIT, SO HOW DO YOU END UP MEETING HER?” you’re surely asking your phone right now (or computer screen). “AND WHAT ABOUT THIS DATE 2 YEARS LATER?”
How did I manage to get in touch with her? It’s actually totally impossible, but it happened. And that, my friend, is a story for another day. You can check it out in my Adventures In… Tokyo 2018 post. (You’ll love it! Here’s a glimpse…)
But let’s get back to 2016, shall we, and how the very next morning I got left behind on a full day bus tour excursion after just the very first stop. Yes, this is my existence.
The next day in Tokyo was a really complete and AMAZING day of sightseeing. I booked a full day excursion that took me all over the city and surrounding areas. From Tokyo Tower to Happoen Gardens, to Mount Fuji to an amazing cruise on Lake Ashi, to a once in a lifetime view from atop Mount Hakone, this was an INCREDIBLE DAY.
The first stop of this full day excursion was the Tokyo Tower. Imagine a replica of the Eiffel Tower, only a bit smaller, and bright red.
It had one of those really cool observation decks where you’re standing on glass and can look straight down. Have you stood on one of these before? They’re legit.
The tour guide told us we would have about an hour or so here, and that the bus would leave for the next destination at 10 am sharp.
I just didn’t realize how sharp she meant by ‘sharp’. After taking lots of pics and video from the observation deck she told us we had some time, maybe 15 minutes, to go to the gift shop if we wanted to.
I never get souvenirs. It’s just not my thing. I feel like it’s impossible to get stuff for everybody and I never know how I’d even bring them back. So yeah, I just don’t do it. But for whatever reason, on this day, maybe because it was my first solo travel, I don’t know, I decided the gift shop was a good idea and followed some of the rest of the my group to check it out.
What did I even buy, though? I’m seriously looking around my house right now as I type this on my living room couch. I have no idea what I bought. But I do vividly remember standing in line at the register with apparently mystery items and taking a casual look around the gift shop. “Why do none of these people look familiar anymore?”
This was the beginning of that feeling of impending doom.
I looked at my phone. 9:56. I finished up at the register and started making my way down to the 2nd floor where my tour guide said we’d all meet. I look at the clock again. 9:58. I take a look around. WHY DO I SEE NO ONE FAMILIAR?
You know what? No reason to panic. I’ll just go down to the parking lot and to the bus itself. If I’m at the actual bus, all the familiar people will come to me, right?
In fact, everyone’s probably walking down there right now cuz it’s almost 10. I’ll just make my way down. No big deal.
I go down to the parking lot and YES! There’s the bus! And as I start walking towards it, YES! There it goes…
The wheels on the bus go round and round, driving away from the 6’4″ dude in the parking lot who’s holding bags of mystery souvenirs that I’ll never remember.
Didn’t anyone on that bus see me? I wasn’t like a football field away. I feel like I was close enough for someone to say, “Hey isn’t that tall guy with us?”
Yeah the tall guy’s with you! Look at my souvenirs! Stop driving away from the tall guy with the souvenirs!
And as it rides off to the next destination (and, by the way, I have no idea where that next destination is), I’m just standing there in the parking lot. What do I even do?
Nowadays, it’s pretty common to have digital tickets for your excursions on your phone, and on that ticket with the QR code there’s phone numbers, etc. But back when I was just starting my travels, I wasn’t a pro yet. I wasn’t prepared for the off chance of being completely left behind on a tour.
There I was, an orphan again, with a paper ticket for the bus and all it said was something like “Sun Tours”.
I remember seriously thinking, “uhhhhhhhh. Do I just go home? Call it a day?” Cuz think about this: I have no idea who to contact. I bought the excursion online weeks before on Expedia. I have no idea where the bus was going next.
I decide to go to the front desk of the Tokyo Tower and try to explain my situation.
This was a solid example of the Japanese culture being so completely accommodating it was unreal. The staff understood enough of what I was saying to show sudden alarm on their faces. And I mean it, like true alarm. One of the staff literally sprinted out the door as I was talking. She literally sprinted out the door! Was she gonna chase down the bus or something?
Another staffer asked me if I knew the tour guide’s name. Somehow I did. Somehow, in those first moments when the bus is taking off and the tour guide grabs the mic and says, “Ok, good morning everyone. Can everyone hear me alright? Welcome to Sun Tours! I’m ‘so and so’…”
I remembered the so and so!
I gave them the tour guide’s name and the ticket stub that said “Sun Tours” and that was enough for one of the staff behind the desk to make some calls and literally 5 minutes later they hand me a phone AND IT’S THE TOUR GUIDE ON THE OTHER END WHOSE NAME I KNOW.
Did that girl who sprinted out the door ever come back? Was that even for me?
[On the phone]: “Hi! Yes! It’s Eric, I got left… yeah, here at the Tokyo Tower… Ok… Yes, I can do that… Happoen… Happoen Gardens? Ok… Yeah, ok, I’ll get a taxi… Perfect!… Yes, I can do that… Ok… Thank you so, so much, I’ll get a taxi and meet you there… Yes… yes, ok… I’m very happy too… yes, thank you. Bye!”
The millisecond I said “taxi” another member of the staff sprinted out the door and hailed one. They all rushed me outside and threw me into this cab which was the cleanest taxi I had ever seen. Now, this taxi cab driver spoke ZERO English. But as I said “Happoen Garden” the semi-confused look he gave me was at least a start.
Miraculously, he got me there and it’s like I hadn’t even missed a beat. My tour guide greeted me with a hug and we had a laugh. Guess who’s side I never left the rest of the excursion?
Now, suddenly, the passengers who I GUARANTEE AT LEAST ONE OF THEM SAW ME AS THEY DROVE AWAY are like “Hey you! Where’d you go? How’d you get here?” “Yeah, so I got left behind at the Tokyo Tower. I was the one walking to the bus when you were driving away. You didn’t see me? I took a taxi here.”
“Wow! You hailed a taxi and caught up?! How? How did you even know where to go?”
I was suddenly Mr. Popular and that lasted the rest of the day. Probably out of guilt.
And what an incredible day this was! I’m sooooo grateful for the awesome staff at the Tokyo Tower for reuniting me with my group, and for that girl who is still sprinting out there somewhere. Thank you! I would have missed all this…
Just look at these pics! (When you watch this part of the video at the end of the post your jaw will literally drop.)
A Tequila Party, Dancing on Tables, and, Of Course, Missing My Bullet Train to Kyoto
As I write this, it’s very much dawning on me that this first solo travel was ABSOLUTELY FILLED with adventures! Seriously, so far all this happened in 3 days. We’re not even close to done yet.
One of my nights exploring Shinjuku was especially fun. Kinda like New York City and how you’ll go from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and so on, in Tokyo you’ll be in Shinjuku, then Shibuya… they’re all great. There’s people everywhere and there’s all the lights and skyscrapers you imagine when you think of Tokyo.
So I found this really cool English style pub to hang out in. It had a Guinness sign in the window (and I do love me some Guinness), so I went in. I walked straight to the bar, but was then politely shown that you don’t just order from anywhere at the bar like we do back home. In this bar, there was a specific spot where you ordered.
I ordered my Guiness and kicked back and people watched.
“Tequila party!” said this one older gentleman next to me with his heavy Japanese accent as he bought his blonde London girl (pictured) shot after shot after shot of tequila.
I seriously watched her down like 6 tequila shots in 2 minutes. I don’t know how she was still standing.
A couple more Londoners happened to walk in, two brothers, and after being escorted in the exact same way I was to the ‘ordering spot’ at the bar, they found themselves just outside the tequila party right beside me.
“I did the exact same thing,” I told them. We all started talking, slowly inching closer and closer to the tequila party, and before we knew it, we were in.
“I come back with more tequila” said the older gentleman. “You know he’s trying to get you drunk, right?” I asked his blonde companion as he went to get shots. “Yes. He better be.” she said. He came back with enough shots for all of us, and, yeah, this is where the fun began.
Normally, I stick with beer. Beer is my friend. Shots, on the other hand, and especially tequila, good god, they are definitely not my friends. Buuuut, that being said, if I’m out and about on vacation, I usually don’t turn down opportunities to party with locals, or other tourists for that matter.
Tequila shots went down. The London brothers started ordering these ginormously tall beers, and so I did too. More people joined our group. It was now myself, the two London brothers, the older Chinese ‘tequila party’ guy with his blonde London girlfriend, a husband and wife from the UK and Thailand respectively, and a couple guys who were Japanese locals who understood enough English that they wanted to party with us.
Of the two Japanese locals, one’s name was Yo. That was easy enough. He managed to make it into the pictures. The other guy’s name was impossible for me to pronounce, so I named him Jim. “You’re gonna be Jim tonight, buddy.”
“I AM JIMMMMMMMM!” I wish I had pictures with him, he was so excited, lol.
We started using Yo and Jim and their smooth Japanese speaking skills to bring over Japanese girls to our group. “Tell her I think she’s pretty and then ask her if she thinks I’m cute” sort of thing. We all had a SPECTACULAR time! I was trying so hard to get everyone to do like an all night karaoke thing and I feel like it was THIS CLOSE to happening, but ultimately, it fell through.
It’s all good though. It was 4 am and we had survived a tequila party, the blonde from London almost got thrown out for dancing on a table, Yo and Jim’s recruiting missions were all successes, and I had met so many Japanese girls and understood zero of what they were saying.
That, my friends, is a great night out in Tokyo. So great, in fact, that I woke up late the next morning and totally missed my bullet train to Kyoto.
This would come to become a theme in my solo travels.
Don’t Tell Me I Just Slept Through Kyoto
And I was soooo excited about this Kyoto excursion.
It was going to be a meet up at Tokyo Station really early in the morning where we’d jump onto a bullet train that would take us to Kyoto at a blazing 200+ mph, we’d tour 3 different amazing temples, eat, and then come back on the bullet train that evening.
And because of my partying, I had overslept and missed it.
I remember waking up and realizing it instantly. There was no alarm going off. (This is always a bad sign when you’re supposed to wake up bright and early… to an alarm.)
I sat up in bed and I was so upset. But you know that feeling right? When something has already passed and there’s NOTHING you can do. You’re completely helpless.
I kept thinking about how much I had been looking forward to this excursion. I just stared at my bullet train ticket.
They had actually sent me the ticket in the mail about a week or so before I left Texas. Maybe it was because I had booked the excursion like a month in advance, I’m not sure, but it was one of the things that I was most afraid I was going to forget to pack.
And here it was. I had remembered to pack it, sure, yet as I held it in my hand, it felt completely worthless.
And then I noticed something in the fine print: “This ticket is good for 24 hours…” Wait, what??
The ticket and my assigned seat were for the 7 am train. But just in case you happened to miss the train because of a tequila party the night before, YOU COULD STILL JUMP ON ANY BULLET TRAIN FOR 24 HOURS AND SIT IN THE OPEN SEATING SECTION!
I couldn’t believe it!
I looked at the clock. It’s around 8. Kyoto is 6 hours away, but on the bullet train it’s only just over 2. Dude, I’ll be in Kyoto by noon easily! I’m all the way in Tokyo by myself, why should going to Kyoto by myself be any different?
I’m there, dude.
I was off to Kyoto, and it was the BEST!
To be honest, I think the experience was even better going it alone. I’m not kidding. I got to see a much more intimate, quiet side to the city which seemed totally appropriate once I got there. (This whole Kyoto portion of the video at the end is a real favorite of mine. I think you’ll love it.)
And speaking of getting there, the bullet train ride was legit! You don’t feel the movement at all and you are seriously zooming through the Japanese countryside, sometimes at 200+ mph. So cool!
The bullet train pulled into the Kyoto station a little before noon. I found a place to eat within walking distance and started looking up the temples that were on the tour. It turns out of the 3 temples, two were pretty small and were only quick stops, while the biggest and most popular temple, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, was only about a 25 minute walk away.
This was going to work!
I could take my time walking through Kyoto, make it to this incredible temple, and then make my way back to the train station with ease.
And the walk was awesome! Kyoto was so still, so quiet. But it was a cool quiet, you know what I mean? There were small shrines everywhere. It was such a departure from everything I had gotten used to in Tokyo.
I really think that experience in Kyoto, even though I was already loving my trip up to that point already, really solidified the solo travel experience for me. I realized right then that I could go ANYWHERE ON THIS GLOBE and it wouldn’t even be a thing.
In my brain, I realized I had just unlocked the world.
Tokyo Comes Full Circle
My last day in Tokyo was a perfect, chill day. I jumped on the subway and went out exploring.
I had an amazing sushi lunch that was dirt cheap. No one in the place spoke English. It wasn’t a tourist spot at all. I pointed at pictures on the menu and they brought them out. I was in heaven.
As I walked out of the sushi place, I see a sign that says, “Godzilla Road”. And sure enough, at the end of the road, there he is, a ginormous Godzilla head peeking over a building.
I don’t know what made me do a quick Google search in that moment of Godzilla Road and the Toho Cinema and hotel he was peeking over the top of, but the review I read was like “You gotta make it to the roof of the building when Godzilla roars!”
When Godzilla roars? Sounds good to me.
I made my way to the top of the hotel and was face to face with this life size Godzilla head. Apparently you’re supposed to be staying at the hotel to be able to go out onto the roof, but the security guy at the door didn’t ask me a thing.
I noticed a sign on the door that said he roars every hour on the hour starting at noon. I looked at my clock: 12:53 pm. Seven minutes later, I’m face to face with Godzilla like a champ as he roared and bellowed smoke over his city of Tokyo. How cool is that?
That night, being my final night, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I started googling the best things to do on whatever night of the week it was. Maybe I’d get lucky and find a really good night spot.
And then, guided by destiny (and maybe Godzilla himself), I found what was 100% meant to be. On my phone it read: “New York Bar, 52nd floor, Park Hyatt Tokyo, as seen in the movie Lost in Translation.”
Are you kidding me?
This was the bar from the movie that made me fall in love with Tokyo. This is where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson first speak to each other. Oh my god, I had to do this!
According to the website, it was a) expensive, b) you normally needed to make a reservation ahead of time, c) pretty expensive, and d) a bit pricey. Just like in the movie, there would be live jazz playing as you overlooked the lights of the city of Tokyo. GOOD GOD I HAD TO DO THIS!
And so I did.
This couldn’t have been dreamed up any better. There I sat, in this amazing bar, (did I mention it was expensive?), at the same long table, front and center, where Bill Murray sat, listening to smooth jazz and sipping on delicious beer. Everything was identical to how it was in the movie. This was so perfect!
The cover charge for those who aren’t staying at the hotel is $28. I had maybe 3 drinks and peanuts and my tab was around $80, but it was totally, and I mean TOTALLY, worth it.
I was there for hours and I was so happy. The vibe, the ambiance… it was the culmination of a week of adventure and I couldn’t stop smiling.
This was MY FIRST SOLO TRAVEL! And here I was, at New York Bar, straight out of the movie that I had watched so many times before that put Tokyo on my map in the first place. And out of all those times I had watched that movie, I never thought for a second that I’d be sitting right here right now.
And this expensive beer tasted soooooo goooooood.
And from this trip sprung all the rest. This is the trip that created a ripple effect and the wave I’m still riding. This is the trip that started it all.
Moral of the story: when you have an opportunity, no matter what it is, no matter how difficult it may seem at first, just take it! That’s what living is! Don’t overthink things. Just go for it. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.
Wanna relive this trip? It’s time for this amazing video. Go get your popcorn and hit play. I love me some Tokyo!
Have you ever been to Tokyo? Do you think you could go it alone? Did the video do the Robot Restaurant justice? Were you suddenly transported across the world just watching it? Let me know what you think in the comments section below! Give me your questions, your comments, anything you want to get off your chest. I love reading them and I always respond! Thanks again for checking out my adventures!