4 Days in Tokyo!

I did it! It's been on my bucket list for so long and although I was nervous, I'm so glad I am able to say "I did it once, I can do it again!"

For about forever now I have wanted nothing more than to travel solo. Don't get me wrong I absolutely love traveling around with my friends {and it's still my preference in many instances} but I just wanted to know, for myself, that I could travel alone. Sure my mom stuck me on a plane by myself when I was 9, but I was going to visit family. Yes I've flown across the states alone, but it was always to visit friends. And yes I flew here to Taiwan alone and knowing no one when I got here, but I had people who were expecting me, a job lined up, and assistance along the way.

I wanted to hop on a plane solo and fly to another country knowing no one and having no agenda other than to explore and eat my way through the new cuisine. I wanted to have to depend on myself, to determine solutions to my own problems, and meet people along the way. I wanted to challenge myself...and thank you Tokyo for doing all this and more!

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A month or so ago when I realized that Vanilla Air was offering round trip tickets from Taipei to Tokyo starting at 3,500 {about $109 USD} I knew it was a deal too good to pass up! I juggled some dates around before realizing that after my 6th graders graduate I would have several days without class; so, I put in a request with my schools, booked my tickets, and put on my best pair of dancing shoes and did my self a little happy dance!

I booked my ticket so that my plane leaving to Japan coincided with Mason's plane leaving back to NYC so that when I took him to the airport I went packed and ready to go as well. 

Saturday, June 18
I landed in Tokyo late Saturday night (June 18) and after making my way through customs & security found myself a lovely vending machine to purchase a SIM card for my phone & another machine to change my USD that I brought with me to JPY {the USD to Japanese Yen conversion rate is currently at $1 USD to 109¥} before venturing into what may have been one of the most confusing public transit systems in the world I have ever experienced!

Sadly the SIM card didn’t work right away, so once arriving to the train station I had to rely on the help of 2 drunk European guys to help my find my hostel {such is life haha}. Needless to say it was late and I was tired, so I found my bed, grabbed a quick dinner at the convenient store across the street and crashed HARD for the night!

Sunday, June 19
I’ll be honest, my planning before going to Tokyo was at a minimum and I was more than happy to see what each day would bring. {I know many people that plan out every detail of their trips, but if something goes awry or you don’t get everything in, they dwell on that for the rest of their vacation, thus ruining the magic of the moment! By having no plans, everything turns out much better than “planned”!}

First up for the day was visiting the Meiji Shrine in the Shibuya District. This is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deceased Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern day Japan. The shrine itself is located within a park of sorts with many walking paths winding through a small wooded area. There were several different entrance/exit points around the shrine grounds that were all marked with an arch of sorts {called a torii arch} over its path. Walking further into the entrances, you were also presented with a small fountain of water and several bamboo ladles in which you were to cleanse your hands, arms, and mouth before entering into the shrine.

The shrine itself, as well as the others I saw in Tokyo along with their temples, are much different than the temples that I have come so accustomed to here in Taiwan. One of the big differences I noticed between the two almost instantly was that the shrines in Japan did not let you enter into the shrine itself, but rather pray from the outside. Another obvious difference to me was that instead of offering incense while they pray like in Taiwan, shrine goers were asked to toss several coins into a trough like piece and clap and bow several times before sending their prayers to the gods {I love watching and learning how the different religions worship!}

Just my luck I stumbled upon a wedding ceremony going on at the temple as well and had to stick around long enough to snoop around and get some good pictures! There was also a separate building for parents taking their babies to be offered to the church/baptized/christened (ok I don’t know what it’s called there, but you get the jist! Lol). Afterwards I walked 10 minutes or so through the wooded paths and came to the Miji Shrine Gardens. It was pretty, there was an old tea house there and it was manicured nicely with many flowers and a large pond. I think much of the appeal of this garden though was that it was green space in the midst of Tokyo! ;)

Although Tokyo is HUGE I tried to plan my day worth of sights within a common area. This not only made the day easier, but it allowed me to often walk from place to place {I did A LOT of walking these few days!}. I wasn’t trying to avoid the subway or its tolls, though that was a nice benefit, but rather by walking I found myself in many shops and alleys that I would have missed if I had taken the subway everywhere in Tokyo. With that being said I spent some time checking out various shops around the area before walking into a Ramen shop {think real ramen noodles that are now known as a “college staple” in America!} and ordering myself a bowl of Ramen soup and pork for a late lunch. 

After lunch I headed back to my hostel for a power nap, some A/C, and to grab my things….I was DISNEY BOUND!