This is where it all started.
I had always wanted to travel. I just thought that more than one big trip per year was impossible. I saw people on Instagram traveling all the time. I just figured they had multiple large incomes compared to my single modest one.
I had just gotten out of a 4 year relationship, and you know when you get done with a break up and you just wanna get busy doing something? This was my something.
I had time coming up off from work, and I thought to myself, “I should just pick a place and go.”
I decided 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 picked Tokyo, and it was a winner.
Table of Contents
“Lost in Translation” is one of my favorite movies. Have you seen it? Bill Murray, Scarlett Johannson. So good. Ever since I’d seen it I’d had a thing for Tokyo.
Tokyo is a city that’s capable of being both quiet and introspective and outrageous and spectacular all in the same breath.
And this was my opportunity to go. I figured if I could survive Tokyo on my own, I could survive anywhere.
Arriving In Tokyo
Let me put it this way, just getting to your hotel after arriving in Tokyo all by yourself for the very first time is an adventure in and of itself. Especially when you’re like me and you don’t plan these things out figuring you’ll just be able to wing it when you get there.
Once I got my luggage at baggage claim, I googled how to get from Narita airport to my hotel. I’m guessing a cab ride was too expensive, so I went with option B which involved a 40 minutes bus ride to Tokyo station and then a subway ride to my hotel.
The bus ride was 40 minutes of silence.
Not even the small children made a sound the whole trip. I just stared out the window thinking about how I was on the complete other side of the world from everyone I knew.
When we arrived at Tokyo station that silence gave way to the sound of people. Lots of people. And they were all packing themselves like sardines into the subway.
This was Tokyo station, and now, completely tired and not understanding a word anyone was saying, I had to figure out how to get to my hotel.
I want you to picture a raging sea of asians. No joke. Like thousands of army ants all on a mission. And right smack dab in the middle of them stands a 6’4″ dude from Texas wearing a batman t-shirt with a huge backpack on his back and the expression of “How am I going to do this?” all over his face.
I could see the automated ticket machines but there were long lines and of course everything’s in Japanese and I just wasn’t ready for that yet.
I needed to find a person behind a counter.
Thankfully I found one and he spoke just enough English for us to communicate.
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 herrreeeeee” while pulling out a folded paper from my pocket with a picture of a hotel on it.
He said something to the effect of “Yes, one moment”, turned around, typed something into a computer, 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 for a million other wide eyed tourists.
Now, paper ticket in hand, I turned the corner in the direction he pointed me.
Everyone is racing super fast through the ticket stalls, each of them just scanning a code off their cell phone and racing through.
But I don’t have a cell phone code to scan. I have this stinking paper ticket in my hand and I’m holding it all by myself like some kind of abandoned orphan from the 1920s or something.
I needed to wait and watch for someone else with a paper ticket so I could figure out how to do this.
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 the ticket in, the little doors in front of her opened, she walked through, then her ticket popped out on the other end of the machine where she grabbed it and went on her way all in one fluid motion like she’d done it a million times before.
Ok. I got this.
I walked into this ocean of army ants. You ever been at a packed concert where people are diving in, crowd surfing over people’s heads, and you’re holding two beers trying to navigate through it trying not to get kicked in the head? That was me.
The massive crowd becomes slightly more organized the closer to the ticket stall you get, but they’re still just zooming through.
And now it was my turn. Was I going to have a thousand angry asians unsheathing their ninja swords at me cuz I had caused a jam in their well oiled machine?
I stuck my ticket in where the blinking light was, watched the ticket get sucked in, the little doors opened in front of me, I passed through, and in a smooth, fluid motion grabbed my ticket as it popped out on the other end like a champ.
I was finally officially on my way to a cozy bed for the night.
A Walking Food Tour
The hotel I stayed at was nice. I stayed in Sugamo at the APA Hotel Sugamo Ekimae.
Tokyo is a massive metroplex made up of all these wards like Shinjuku, Shibuya, etc., and when I appeared at street level in Sugamo after walking up the stairs from the subway station I was only a minute’s walk away from my hotel.
In typical Japanese hotel fashion, my room was extremely efficient; a low to the ground bed taking up 90% of the room, a tiny bathroom, a flat screen tv, and a flat but comfy pillow.
I slept hard.
The next morning I woke up well rested and ready to go. A few weeks prior I had booked a morning walking tour of Sunamachi Ginza for this day. This was a spectacular 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, a sweet older woman who was incredibly nice and super helpful.
When the excursion ended she even walked with me back to the subway and taught me how to navigate the automated ticket machines!
I really wish I remembered her name. That’s her standing in the picture with me.
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 the rest of my stay.
We had a blast during our full morning together and I ate a ton of good food (always a good start to any vacation)!
The rest of the day I took the trains all over the city armed with this mega-confidence now that I knew how to navigate the subway.
I popped in and out of different stations, walked around, people watched, then I’d dive back underground to do it all over again.
I was really doing it. I was in Tokyo, on my own, getting around, and it was legit!
This night would be my first night out in the city, and I had a reservation that evening at the Tokyo Robot Restaurant. Trust me, when you go to Tokyo, the Robot Restaurant show is an ABSOLUTE MUST!
This is a spectacular show and a perfect Tokyo experience. I highly, highly recommend it!
Watch the Video
at the end!
Filled with all the incredible spectacle you’d expect from Tokyo, including explosions, truly bizarre storytelling, live action, robotic dinosaurs, plenty of alcohol, (did I mention the robotic dinosaurs breath fire?), yeah, 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. Too good to miss!
When this show ends you’re on an absolute high. An announcement was made that if anyone wanted to continue the fun (which I obviously did) their sister bar Ren was only a short walk away.
This is where I met the beautiful and amazingly talented Yuki.
The Hottest Girl in Japan
Little did I know that 2 years later I’d take Yuki out on a date right here in Shinjuku. But that’s a whole other adventure.
On this night, I walked into Ren and saw that there were only 5 or 6 people in the whole place. But none of that mattered, because on stage was a 3 piece jazz band, all dressed in white, with Yuki front and center. It was a whole vibe, man.
First of all, just like everything else in Tokyo, it’s sensory overload.
Check out that stage! Lights everywhere, video monitors showing random clips of New York City, the Las Vegas strip, that MASSIVE chandelier above. And in the middle of the spectacular stage singing random Whitney Houston ballads was the hottest girl in Japan.
I’ve already told you that I end up going out with this girl, right, but that’s TWO YEARS in the future.
On this night I didn’t even get a chance to talk to her.
Not my fault, though. While the band was on stage playing, I vividly remember thinking to myself, “Look at where I’m at…”
Here I was, sitting down in a random, mostly empty dive bar in Tokyo, one of only like 6 people inside, listening to 80s power ballads sung live by this beautiful Japanese singer.
And make no mistake about it. She was singing TO ME. I was convinced she noticed me. I mean my chances were pretty good with only 6 people there, right?
I remember they had a special on Heinekens. Why I remember that I have no idea, but I just vividly remember holding that green bottle as I sat and made the decision that I was going to talk to this girl when she was done with her set.
Maybe about 15-20 minutes passed, they finished their song and looked like they were about to take a break. Perfect.
Yuki stepped off stage, waved and smiled at me and then she disappeared backstage.
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 couple of beers, sure enough the trio came back out and started setting up for their next set.
Why is there another singer now?
It’s the same piano player, same bass player, but WHY is there a DIFFERENT singer on stage 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 disappeared?
I ask the waitress about her and she gives me the bad news. “Ohhh, yes, she leave.”
What do you mean oh yes she leave???
So you’re telling me that wave she gave me was a wave goodbye? This. Always. Happens. To me. Unbelievable.
I thought to myself, “You know what? No big deal. I’ll just come back on another night to see her perform again. And if she’s not working when I come back, I’ll just keep coming back until she is working. I could literally come back every night if I wanted. This is a nice spot. I’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 AND GOING OUT WITH HER 2 YEARS LATER?” you’re surely shouting to your screen right now.
And this is the awesomeness of my adventures. When I travel, things have a really weird way of working out for me.
So how did I manage to get in touch with her? How did we go out on a date when neither one of us even spoke the other’s language? 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 Tokyo 2018 blog post. (Coming soon! You’ll love it!)
So let’s quit skipping ahead and get back to 2016, 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.
Left Behind in Tokyo
My next day in Tokyo was an 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 boat cruise on Lake Ashi, to a once in a lifetime view from atop Mount Hakone, this was an INCREDIBLE day.
This first stop of this full day excursion was the Tokyo Tower. Imagine a replica of the Eiffel Tower, only smaller and bright red.
Tokyo Tower had one of those really cool observation decks at the top where you’re standing on glass and can look straight down. Have you stood on one of these before? They’re pretty cool.
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.
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 searching for any Tokyo souvenirs and I see nothing.
I do remember standing in line at the register 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 am.
It’s ok. I got 4 minutes.
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.
I take another 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 to the bus itself. If I’m at the actual bus, there’s no way it can leave without 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, there it goes.
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 obviously part of the tour group CUZ HE’S HOLDING BAGS OF MYSTERY SOUVENIRS, PEOPLE!
Didn’t anyone on the bus see me? Like hey maybe we shouldn’t leave this guy behind cuz he’s obviously with us? I wasn’t a football field away. I was right there.
Look at my souvenirs! STOP DRIVING AWAY FROM THE TALL GUY WITH THE SOUVENIRS!
And as the bus rides off to the next destination (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.
All I had besides my bags of souvenirs was a paper ticket for the tour bus that said “Sun Tours”. I remember seriously thinking, “Do I just go home? Call it a day?” Cuz think about this: I had no idea who to contact. I bought this excursion weeks ago online 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.
And now here comes an amazing example of the Japanese culture being so completely accommodating it was unreal.
As I try to explain what happened to the staff it’s apparent that they understood enough of what I was saying to show sudden alarm on their faces.
And I mean it, like true alarm.
As I’m explaining everything, calm as can be, one of the female staff literally SPRINTS out the door.
I hadn’t even finished explaining myself. Was she gonna chase down the bus or something? Meanwhile, another staffer asked me me if I remembered the tour guide’s name.
You know what? I did.
You know those first moments when you get on a bus for an excursion and the tour guide grabs the mic and says, “Ok, good morning everyone. Can everyone hear me alright? Welcome to Sun Tours! My name’s ‘so and so’ and I’m your guide.”
Somehow I remember her name from that intro.
I gave them her name and the ticket stub that said “Sun Tours” on it and that was enough for one of the staff behind the desk to make a phone call and literally 5 minutes later hand me the phone with the tour guide on the other end whose name I remembered!
(Did that girl who sprinted out the door ever come back?)
[Me on the phone]: “Hi! Yes! It’s Eric, I got left… yeah, here at the Tokyo Tower… Ok… Great, yes, I can do that… Happoen?… Happoen Gardens? Ok… Yeah, ok, I can get a taxi… Yes… Ok… Thank you so, so much, I’ll get a taxi and meet you there… yes, ok… I’m very happy too… thank you. Bye!”
The millisecond I said “taxi” another member of the staff, no joke, 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 Gardens” 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 when I walked in with a hug and we had a laugh.
Guess who’s side I never left the rest of the excursion?
Suddenly the other passengers are all interested in my well being. “Hey you! Where’d you go? We were wondering where you went? How’d you catch up with us?”
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 so grateful for the awesome staff at the Tokyo Tower for reuniting me with my group and for that girl who is possibly still sprinting out there somewhere.
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.
The Tequila Party
As I write this, it’s dawning on me how ABSOLUTELY FILLED with adventures this first trip was! So far all this happened in 3 days. We’re not even close to done yet.
The next night exploring Shinjuku was especially fun.
You know how New York City has its boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, etc)? Tokyo’s the same way with its wards. Each ward has its own vibe.
One thing that’s a constant is that there’s people EVERYWHERE.
Tokyo’s home to around 28 million people. And with the amazing lights and skyscrapers of the big city, it’s a ton of fun venturing out at night.
I found this really cool English style pub to hang out in. You can’t go wrong with a pub. It had a Guinness sign in the window calling my name, so I went in.
I walked straight to the bar to order a beer, 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.
Asian people are EXTREMELY polite and non-confrontational. I was very politely and respectfully guided to the “order spot” where I placed my order and then received my perfectly poured Guinness.
Now it was time to kick back and people watch.
“Tequira party!” said a grey haired asian gentleman with a heavy Japanese accent as he stood next to me at the bar.
He and his young blonde companion were having a great time. He was buying her shot after shot after after shot of tequila and she was downing them all like a champ.
I seriously watched her take like 6 tequila shots in 2 minutes. I don’t know how she was still standing.
Right around this time I see a couple of guys being very respectfully guided to the “order spot” at the bar just as I had been minutes earlier.
“Same exact thing happened to me, “ I said.
They were two brothers from London. They joined me and soon we all had eyes on joining in on this tequila party going on next to us.
“You two have room for 3 more in your tequila party?” I asked.
“Sure! I come back with more tequira!” the asian gentleman yelled out.
These Tokyo pubs are an instant party. Everyone has the same mindset, everyone is getting along, and in any given pub there’s a global crowd inside with people from all corners of the map.
“You know he’s trying to get you drunk, right?” I said to the blonde as he went to get more shots.
“He better be!” she said with her English accent.
Turns out she’s also from London and is now living in Tokyo as a teacher. The older asian guy is from China and works with her.
She had apparently decided he was going to get lucky that night, and the tequila was helping her to confirm that decision. The two London brothers were there on holiday, and I rounded out our group hailing from Texas.
The older asian guy came back with enough shots for a small army, and yes, this is where all the fun began.
Now, I’m no rookie to drinking. But I tend to stick to beer. I’ll drink every beer on tap from lagers to stouts and porters to IPAs and double IPAs.
But tequila… good god tequila is a sworn enemy.
That being said, if I’m out on vacation I’m not going to turn down opportunities like this. When do you have a chance to have a tequila party with strangers 5 minutes after walking into a Tokyo pub, right?
Shots went down and drinks went bottoms up. The London brothers started ordering these ginormously tall beers, so I did too. (Watch the clip below!)
More people started joining us. It was now myself, the two London brothers, the older Chinese guy, his blonde London date, a husband and wife from the UK and Thailand respectively, and a couple Japanese guys who were locals and understood enough English to join our party with us.
And the best part about having the local Japanese guys in our party was that they could be used to bring in local japanese girls into our party.
Of the two Japanese locals, one’s name was Yo. That was easy enough to remember. 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 Jim? I AM JIMMMMMMMM!” he screamed. He was so friggin happy. I wish I had pictures with Jim.
We started using Yo and Jim and their smooth Japanese speaking skills to bring over some Japanese girls to our group.
Yo brought over this gorgeous girl (pictured above) and with her came a Japanese guy who spoke English.
“Ask her if she thinks I’m cute” I said. He turned and spoke some words to her in Japanese.
“Thank you!” she said in English.
Huh? Things were getting lost in translation here.
“No man, ask her if SHE thinks I’M cute.” I told him.
“Oh, ok.” he said, “But she is my girlfriend.”
“She’s your girlfriend??” I couldn’t stop laughing.
This guy was literally putting up with me telling him to ask his own GIRLFRIEND if she thought I was cute.
“Dude, man, I’m sorry, I had no idea!”
Meanwhile, I also had a master plan of finding an all night karaoke bar where we could sing the night away.
I was THIS CLOSE to making it happen, but ultimately, it got really, really late, we were all pretty much hammered, and my master plan fell through.
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 while understanding 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.
Dude I Just Missed the Bullet Train to Kyoto
I was soooo excited about this Kyoto excursion.
The meeting point was at Tokyo Station really early in the morning. I’d jump onto a bullet train that would take the excursion group to Kyoto at a blazing 200+ mph. We’d tour 3 amazing temples, eat, and then come back on the bullet train that same evening.
I got home from the pub after 4 and I vividly remember considering the idea of just staying awake and sleeping on the bullet train.
But, I thought to myself, even just a couple of hours of sleep would really help. So I set my alarm for 6 and crashed.
Before I knew it I was waking up. No sounds of an alarm. Just me waking up on my own. Not a good sign.
I sat up in bed, looked at the clock and it was about to be 8. I was so upset.
You know that feeling right? When there’s NOTHING you can do about something that’s already happened. It’s a feeling of complete helplessness.
I kept thinking about how much I had been looking forward to this excursion. I sat at the edge of my bed and just stared at the bullet train ticket that I had set out on the nightstand just a few hours before.
I had actually received this bullet train ticket in the mail about a week or so before I left for Tokyo. 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 I was just staring at it in my hand.
I had remembered to pack it, and yet, as I held it, it felt completely worthless.
And then I noticed something in the fine print: “This ticket is good for 24 hours…”
The ticket had my assigned seat on it and was for the 7 am train that I had missed. But apparently, just in case you happened to miss the train because of an all night tequila party the night before you could still jump on any bullet train for a full 24 hours and sit in the open seating section!
I couldn’t believe what I was reading!
I looked at the clock. It’s around 8. Kyoto is a 6 hour drive from Tokyo, but it’s only a little over 2 hours on the bullet train. I could seriously be in Kyoto by noon easily!
Ok. I could totally do this, right? I mean I’m all the way in Tokyo by myself, so why should going to Kyoto by myself be any different? I had learned the subways. The bullet train shouldn’t be much different.
I was off to Kyoto!
The bullet train ride was legit!
You’re traveling at 200+ mph and somehow you don’t feel the incredible speed at all. You look out the window and you’re seriously zooming through the Japanese countryside. So cool!
The train pulled into the Kyoto station a little before noon. I walked out and found a McDonalds of all places within walking distance of the station. I sat down, ate, and game planned how I was going to see the temples that were on the tour.
It turns out of the 3 temples that were on the tour, two were pretty small and were only quick stops. The biggest and most popular temple, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, was only about a 25 minute walk away from where I was sitting.
I wouldn’t even need a taxi. I could walk there, spend as long as I wanted in the temple, and walk back to Kyoto station when I was done.
This was going to work!
Walking around in Kyoto was so cool. Very tranquil, not many people on the streets, it was a real departure from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
But it was a cool quiet, you know what I mean? There were small shrines everywhere I could walk right up into and check out. There’s a real peacefulness to the city.
And when I got to the temple, I was so happy I’d made it there. This is where everyone was.
The shrines within this temple were grand, ornate, and detailed. People all around were taking in the beauty of the temple. Some were taking pictures of everything they saw like I was, while others found quiet places to meditate.
I loved that I was there on my own with no time restraints and no guide to corral me back to a bus. I took my time to appreciate every second of it.
Even though I had already proven to myself that I could solo travel all the way to Tokyo, it was this time in Kyoto that really solidified solo travel for me.
Even when things go wrong, like getting left behind on a bus or oversleeping and missing a bullet train, everything works itself out. I realized right then that I could go anywhere on this globe and I’d be just fine.
In my brain, right in that moment, in the peacefulness of Kyoto, I realized I had just unlocked the world.
Godzilla Road & Shibuya Crossing
My last day in Tokyo was a perfect, chill day.
I jumped on the subway and went out exploring. I randomly found an amazing sushi spot for lunch that was dirt cheap.
No one in the place spoke English, so I pointed at pictures on the menu and they brought out all the delicious sushi I could eat.
Good sushi here in Texas can be a bit pricey. But sushi is so prevalent all over Japan that you can get SPECTACULAR sushi and it costs next to nothing.
I ordered a couple of rolls, some nigiri, a nice big soup, beer, some appetizer shrimp and the whole thing cost me $20. I was in heaven.
As I walked out of the sushi place, I see a sign that says, “Godzilla Road”.
Sure enough, at the end of the road, there he is, a ginormous Godzilla head peeking over the Toho Cinema building.
Could I go up to the top?
I did a quick Google search and found a review that said “You gotta make it to the roof of the building when Godzilla roars!”
When Godzilla roars? I had to see this. 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 I walked right by the security guy at the door like I owned the place and he didn’t ask me a thing.
I noticed a sign on the door that said Godzilla roars every hour on the hour starting at noon.
I looked at my clock: 12:53 pm. Perfect!
Seven minutes later, I’m face to face with Godzilla as he roared and bellowed smoke over me and his city of Tokyo. How cool is that?
Watch the clip below, it’s his legit roar too!
After I got my fix of Godzilla, I made my way to Shibuya Crossing.
In just about every video you see of Tokyo, you’ll see the famous Shibuya Crossing. This is the worlds busiest intersection where every few minutes THOUSANDS of people cross all at once in this controlled chaos that disperses just as quickly as it started.
I couldn’t help but find a comfy spot and people watch. So many people from so many different parts of the world, all in one spot.
And in typical Japanese fashion, even with all these people crossing all at once, there’s no sounds of angry honking horns when the light finally turns, there’s no pushing or shoving, it all just works.
I must have crossed a dozen times.
I'm Sitting in the Bar from the Movie
That night, being my final night in Tokyo, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
I had seen and done so much during this incredible trip! I had been out all day and there was a split second where I was thinking maybe I should just stay in and rest up for the long travel day the next day.
But you can’t stay in on the last night of your epic trip to Tokyo, right?
I started googling the best things to do. 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 in the first place.
This is where THE Bill Murray and THE Scarlett Johannson first speak to each other.
This is THE hotel where so much of the movie takes place in.
This is THE movie I’ve seen dozens of times that put Tokyo on the map for me!
Dude I gotta go!
It was around 8 o’clock. Would I need a reservation? I called the number but of course all I got was their machine and, of course, it was all in Japanese. So I said “Ching chow chang chong” into the receiver and hoped for the best. (I’m kidding.)
I decided to make my way there cuz even if they’re packed there’s gotta be room for 1, right? I got dressed, and took off.
Arriving at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, I went up multiple elevators to finally get to the 52nd floor. As the elevator doors opened I walked through and was greeted almost immediately.
“Welcome to New York Bar. Are you staying with us?”
Not gonna lie, it felt amazing to be here. “No, I’m not staying here,” I said.
“There’s a $28 cover charge. Is that ok?”
“Sure, is there any wait?”
“No sir, I can seat you now.”
Just like in the movie, live jazz is playing against the backdrop of all the lights of the city of Tokyo shining from behind the floor to ceiling windows just behind the band. I’m walked to my seat, front and center.
I’m sitting right where Bill and Scarlett sat. This. Was. Perfect.
As I sat there I couldn’t stop smiling. I had maybe 3 drinks and a little cup of fancy looking peanuts and my tab was around $80.
Totally worth it.
The vibe, the ambiance… it was the culmination of a week of PURE ADVENTURE!
This was my first solo travel!
I never thought for a second that I’d ever be sitting right here right now. And from this trip sprung all the rest.
When you have an opportunity, no matter what it is, no matter how difficult it may seem at first, just take it.
Don’t overthink things. Just go for it. You’ll thank yourself later.
I can’t think of any better way to end this post than with this video you’re about to watch. Get comfy, grab some popcorn, kick back and hit play.
I hope this video inspires you to not only add Tokyo to your travel bucket list, but to get out of your comfort zone and EXPLORE!
Nothing beats the feeling of solo travel. Enjoy!
Let me know what you think in the comments section below! Scroll down and leave your questions, comments, and anything else you want to share!
I love reading them and I always respond. See you in the next adventure! Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog!
Amazing solo adventure, Eric.
It is awesome. I am so thrilled to read this post. Japan is one of the most loved countries we wanted to be in. My daughter spent 1 year in Tokyo for part of her education. She enjoyed it a lot. WE have so many pictures and statues of Lord Buddha in our home.
Should I visit after reading this blog of yours! You did it pretty well not knowing the language. How do you compare our New York subway to Japan subway? I heard the bullet trains come at the scheduled time always? Are the portions of food you eat in a restaurant smaller because people are smaller?
I have seen you on Instagram many times. Your description of a situation is so lively and feels so much real-it stays in mind. Thank you for showing me Japan, Tokyo, Kyoto, and the temple.
I will watch “Lost in Translation” for sure!
Both subway systems are hectic and filled with people, but once you figure out how it works, it’s no problem at all. Quick, easy, and convenient for sure. Super cheap way to get all over Tokyo. The bullet train is separate from the subway. It’s awesome! Thanks so much for the comment and I hope you’ll sub!
I enjoy travelling alone. I feel I can do anything I want without depending on third parties. It looks like you have a fantastic time in Tokyo. Japan hasn’t been part of my travel plans, however, after your story, I would love to go there!
They have such a wonderful culture, so different that this part of the world. Plus the language barrier, makes Toyo a must-to-do trip.
Thank you for sharing your adventures.
Thanks so much! I fell in love with Tokyo instantly. Thanks for the comment and I hope you’ll subscribe!
What an amazing travel story. I love it so much I am soon buying a ticket to Japan. I like how you super calculated all your excursions. That was smart. Thanks again for a beautiful insight into Tokyo and beyond. Loved it.
In the beginning when I first started traveling I definitely filled my itinerary with excursions. Now, to be honest, I love having free days to just go and explore. I want my vacation to FEEL like a vacation, know what I mean? If and when you get to Tokyo you’ll LOVE IT! Thanks for the comment! I hope you’ll subscribe!
This article is great and contains a lot of useful information. Tokyo, Japan is a lively metropolis with plenty to do and see. A city that everyone should see at least once in their lives. And the Robot restaurant looks fantastic. My next trip to Tokyo will be planned. Thank you for sharing your single vacation and transporting everyone there with your article.
I appreciate it man. Thanks for the comment!
My goodness! What an amazing trip! The video is sooooo goooood, this trip looked insane! I had planned to go to Japan in 2020 but that obviously didn’t happen. And I’m kind of grateful, because I knew I wasn’t prepared haha!
I’m actually really glad I stumbled across your blog because this gave me a lot of insight as someone who has always wanted to visit Japan but doesn’t know much other than the research I’ve done from my book, the few language flash cards I have and anime.
Kyoto and Osaka are pretty high on my list of cities to visit as well as Tokyo. But kudos to you, I don’t think I could do it alone! I have social anxiety so the crowds are something that make me a bit nervous but I have plans to meet up with friends in Tokyo so I think that will help a lot.
I’m really glad you enjoyed it. And yes, the video is a favorite of mine. Tokyo is definitely packed with people, but there’s so many things to distract you I think you’ll still absolutely love the experience. Thanks for the comment!
Thank you very much for sharing part of the story of your travel to Japan. I was particularly interested in your trip to Kyoto. I would also like to take that bullet train that goes zooming through the Japanese countryside and you don’t even feel the movement. Kyoto in particular is famous throughout Japan for its kaiseki cuisine with its refined and delicate taste. I would like to try it!
Kyoto was amazing! My day trip there was perfect, completely serene, and there was something cool about being alone and on my own having missed the bullet train I was supposed to be on earlier, lol. I didn’t get a chance to try their food though. I’m a huge fan of asian cuisine, I’m sure I’d love it. And yes, the bullet train is LEGIT! Thanks for the comment!
Wow man now that is an adventure. I have never been to Japan, but it is on my bucket list, especially after reading your adventures.
I have a good buddy who I was in the Navy with who taught English in Japan for a couple of years, he ended up meeting and marrying a girl from there. Really great people.
Gonna have to go read about your date with Yukie now man! 🙂
I feel like Tokyo should be on everyone’s bucket list. That’s awesome about your buddy. I can totally see that happening! The ‘how I met Yuki’ story will eventually get published, but I have to work on all the adventures leading up to it first. Thanks for the comment!
This sounds like the trip of a lifetime. I love your subway story as it reminded me of when my mother and I were using the subway system in Paris. It’s all good once you get the hang of it! Then your story about Yuki? I’m headed over to that article as soon as I’m done here to see how that turned out!
All in all, this was a fun story about a great adventure. Thank you for sharing.
It was! The continuation to the Yuki story comes soon… I’ll eventually get to publishing it, I just have to tell all the stories leading up to that second trip to Tokyo first. 🙂 Thanks so much for the kind words!
Hi there Eric,
Before I saw the photos of you in Tokyo, I was just visualizing everything you were saying and I felt like I was there watching your every move. You’ve got quite fascinating storytelling skills. I am so inspired by your courage to do the solo travel and I think I am actually going to do it as well. Wish this fellow orphan good luck. 🙂
Ha! Do it, brother! There’s nothing like it. It’s by far my preferred way to go. And I appreciate the kind words. I try my very hardest to tell the story so you feel that you’re there, so that means a lot. Thanks man!
Wow-what an adventure! That was so brave, just to take a ride and go! Such a lifetime experience. Thanks for a movie recommendation, I’ll go ahead and watch it. I have to confess, I had a feeling wanna go to Tokyo now while I was reading through your article. There is a reason for this. I went through a similar experience but it was Italy instead 😉 Like Eat, pray, love story!
I’ve heard a lot of people say that about Italy and that movie! I never saw it, but Italy is AMAZING. I need to get back. Sharing stories like these just makes me want to travel that much more. Thank you!
LOL, this read like an episode of “Friends”, but then a solo version in Tokyo. I laughed a lot and you made me even more enthusiastic to go to Tokyo in the future. Although, probably, I would like Kyoto more. Or maybe you just choose different things than I would do, and there would also be enough sights for me to see in Tokyo.
What do you think? If my travel would not include bars and high places (I have vertigo) is there enough to explore in Tokyo?
Anyway, even if your way of traveling is different from mine, I loved reading your gripping story. I think an advantage of traveling alone is that it is way easier to meet other people. When you travel with 2 or even more, you tend to stick to each other for comfort. 😉
I’m happy you laughed, cuz it was so much fun to retell this story. To answer your question there’s a MILLION things to do in Tokyo, you’d never run out. I very much agree with what you said about traveling alone versus with someone else. It’s so easy to meet people on solo travels, but when you go with someone, yes, you tend to chill with them the whole time. That’s fine, but I feel like EVERYONE should do at least 1 solo travel in their life. It’s LIVING! Thanks so much for the comment!
WOW. You had such an amazing time in Tokyo. Your writing of your expereinces is so inspirational and I have now made Tokyo as one of my cities to visit on my bucket list when we can after lockdown is eased.
I wen to Phuket on my own in 2015, only for 5 days because I was attending an event. It was an amazing city and I had one of the best times in my life. The event I attended was a leadership event and I learned so much. But, what I haven’t done is write about it and share it with people. After reading your article on Tokyo, I have been inspired to do this.
Keep sharing your experiences and keep inspiring us with your stories and articles. Thank you for sharing.
All the best,
Phuket is LEGIT! You should totally share your experience from your trip there. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I appreciate it and I hope it inspires you to make more solo ventures! Thank you!
We almost felt like we were living there as well, so many fun things and facts that make Tokyo Tokyo and will have to venture off there one day. My wife Deloris and I were looking at the pictures and seems so alive there with too many lights to focus on one.
Do you have to watch out what food you consume there or is it okay to eat everything since they are eating it as well?
Looks like you had a blast, we can not wait to see where you take us next with so many great stories to tell.
We are going to follow your post and articles to enjoy the reading and laughing along the way.
Tokyo is one of my favorite cities in the world. And the food there is incredible. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I think you’ll love the stories to come. Thanks so much for the comment!
What an amazing trip! Now I want to to to Tokyo too, and to Kyoto! That story about the bus that took off was hilarious, haha. Yep, 10 o´ clock sharp means 10 o´ clock, 😉
I am definitely going to watch Lost in Translation now! It’s so cool that you got to see the bar where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson met in the movie.
I’m serious, I was totally trying to keep it under control as I was walked in and sat front and center like a VIP, lol. I was like “it’s happeniiiiiiiing!” lol. I’m really glad you enjoyed this. These stories are so much fun to tell and retell and I had so much fun putting this together. Thank you!
Wow what a ride, captivating read from start to finish Eric and you have sold me on Tokyo. I backpacked a fair bit when I was younger across Australia and most of Europe and like you have many fond memories and a few interesting stories to tell! I am going to watch your vid at some point but will return to read your other adventures. Good to see you are living life to the full. Dan
I appreciate it, brother! Backpacking across Australia sounds like a true adventure. Thanks for the taking the time and leaving these kinds words. Hope you’ll subscribe! Thanks man!
I love Japan especially Tokyo, I used to live there for a year because of work and I just loved every minute of it. I love that movie too, Lost in Translation, the elevator scene killed me every time! HAha! I remembered my first time experience with the ticket machine and also the month pass for the train, it is so complicated and I know Japanese still I need a person to help me with that. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, I want to go now too, now it is the cherry blossom season!
I soooooo want to go during cherry blossom season! The pictures alone would make it worth it. And yes isn’t Lost In Translation the best?! I hope you know how lucky you were to have lived there. Thanks so much for the comment!
This is the most amazing account of a visit to Tokyo that I have read. And it’s exactly what I was looking for. A real travelogue. Thank u so much.
My next destination is japan, and that is why I was searching for this information, and luckily your site came up.
Thank you so much for the kind words. I have a special place in my heart for Tokyo and it’ll always be my first solo travel. Thanks again!