Halfway Point.

I can’t believe I’m going home tomorrow (temporarily)… While I’ve only been traveling for 2 months it feels more like 6 months (in a good way). Sharing rooms, talking to strangers, getting lost, leaving my comfort zone, seeing new things, having little routine, etc. has become my norm.

I took the bullet train back to Tokyo and I felt good knowing already where my hostel was because I chose to stay in the same one. I was beyond happy to see my large bag was still there! I checked in and someone managed to fit all of my things into either my big bag, backpack or carry on shopping bag. I had signed up last week for a futsal tournament that was for 6pm today. It was 45 minutes away by transit and I was feeling a bit lazy but I told myself I had to go. When else was I going to play soccer in Japan? Also, it was only 5pm and it was too early for bed.  So, I went.

It was beautiful out and the games would be played outside! I wore my soccer shorts, which I had brought as pajamas and my T-shirt that I got after bungee jumping in New Zealand, also used as pajamas. I only had tennis shoes, but luckily it was short carpet turf so I wouldn’t slide around too much. The field consisted of boards put over a swimming pool and covered in sheets of blanket turf. Not the best or safest, but I was just eager to play! There were about 18 of us there, 3 teams of 6. I was the only girl. I haven’t played a game in 5 months, and I haven’t been working out much either so I was a little nervous. I could tell they were kind of judging me too, hoping I wouldn’t suck and screw up their game. I was asking a few about themselves as we warmed up and they were giving me short answers. Sorry fellas, I can actually play and talk at the same time 😉

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The game started and it didn’t take long for them to realize I was here to play. I was in my element, playing well and having a blast. My fitness level was actually okay too! I had a couple goals, many assists, a few nutmegs and fake-outs. I even had a few impressive defensive stops. I was proud when I heard one of them call me a warrior. Once, while taking my rotation as goalie one of them took a shot and it hit me hard square on the leg. He apologized multiple times, but I just told him if he would have shot the ball even harder he might have actually scored 😉

After 2 hours of play, we ended and said our goodbyes. I went to head back to my train station when I realized that my 2G of data I had bought must have ran out. Perfect! I had never been to this area before! I did get on the wrong train, but eventually managed to get on the right one and 25 minutes later that it should have taken, I made it back. I showered and then went to bed, or least attempted, I can never sleep before a big flight!

Halfway point.. there are several things that I’ve realized.

Did I get bored? Never! There are too many things to experience out in this world to feel bored.

Did I feel tired? At times, yes, but no more than I would at home. I’ve done a good job of taking time to rest and not feeling guilty about it. I also move around enough and a new city refuels my energy.

Did I miss home? Of course, but not enough to call it quits. I would love see some friends or family but the amount of new people I’m meeting here kind of fills that void in an obviously different way.

Have I spent more money than planned? Only in New Zealand, but that was a conscious choice to experience specific thrills. And then maybe some of the shopping in Japan 😉

Did I pack the right things? For the most part yes. I could have used more winter clothes in Japan. I didn’t need to bring laundry detergent. Of course, I could have used a few more clothes, but I really didn’t have room.

Best part? Meeting new people and experiencing new things with them. The people I met were in the same mindset as me and that was perfect. Everyone was open, appreciative and excited. I loved seeing all of the beauty, culture and landmarks that each city had to offer, but just as beautiful were the connections I made along the way.

Worst part? Nothing. Little things went wrong along the way but that is life and that made it interesting. Perhaps I just had the right attitude, but that’s okay too.

 

 

Harajuku!

Harajuku!

Since being up so late, I slept in this morning which was nice. I walked around my neighborhood until I found a little cafe and I sat and wrote for a bit. In the afternoon I decided I wanted to check out Harajuku so I headed there via train. I got off at Shibuya and walked from there to Harajuku which was less than a mile. I’m glad I did because it was the coolest little neighborhood. I ended up popping into an “anime” café, where food and drinks were anime themed. It was one of the most relaxing cafes I’ve been to. Probably because it was super small and cozy and they were playing anime cartoons (only set to music) on a television. There were two boys doing their homework next to me and I could only think that I’d choose this over the library as well.

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Continue reading “Harajuku!”

WanderLOST in Japan ;)

WanderLOST in Japan ;)

I admit, my first two days in Japan included me getting lost a lot. Regardless, I was enjoying the experience because I usually stumbled across something interesting. My first impression of Japan is that the people are very formal and polite and that the city is very clean and well organized. I opted for a taxi because it was late and I didn’t have a working cellphone to use for navigation. It cost me though, that, or I just wasn’t used to paying so much after being in Thailand for 2 weeks.

I arrived at my hostel (in Asakusa) and the first thing I needed to do was get a SIM card and warmer clothes. I grabbed my warmest outfit and headed to a Family Mart where the reception said I could buy a SIM. I ended up finding it after a few wrong turns and bought one. I struggled to get it to work but I think I was just tired. I finally realized I needed WiFi to set it up… so I went back to my hostel and set it up. Success! Then, I went to a shopping mall I found nearby and bought a bright yellow sweatshirt. Which later turned out to be a poor choice because it came quite obvious I was wearing the same thing everyday.

I decided I should get a bite to eat too so I wandered around until I found a place that looked cute. It was super small, like San Fran small, and I was seated upstairs next to a table of 12 businessmen enjoying themselves and occasionally standing up to give a speech. My table had a stove on it (Hibachi) so they cooked my meal in front of me as I enjoyed a Sake and tried to figure out how to eat it off the stove with this little tool they gave me. I noticed that the neighborhood was starting to close down which sort of surprised me being that it was only 9:30pm on a Friday, but I was tired anyhow so went back.

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The next day I wanted to see the world’s largest crosswalk in Shibuya so I found a subway station and hopped on one. I was pleased at how easy it was to get there, a straight shot and took about 25 minutes only. In which those 25 minutes I enjoyed the most delicious strawberry flavored bread in the shape of a heart. I’m going back there tomorrow just to buy the one shaped like a sumo wrestler. The subways were super quiet too, but I guess people didn’t really talk on NYC subways either.

After watching people cross, I got a Sakura Pink Milk Latte at Starbucks did some shopping. The first store I went in I could have spent hours in. It was a mix of little snacks, makeup, paper good and they were all so stinking cute!!! I ended up getting the most random things like CosPlay contacts, Thank you cards written on candy, Disney Character lipstick, Peter Rabbit bath salts, and Pokemon surprise inside candy.

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Next, went into this clothing store that was full of teenage Japanese girls, exactly who I want to dress like. I needed warmer clothes anyways so I ended up treating myself to two pairs of pants, 2 new shirts, and new pair of kicks that will cover my ankles (so I don’t have to wear socks with my Toms anymore, it really wasn’t a good look despite my efforts). I worked up an appetite after all of the shopping, so found a spot that served great ramen and plum wine.

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I wanted to checkout Shinjuku and decided to walk there since it’s only 2 miles away. To my delight, the walk passed through a park and then a forest. I entered the Shinto shrine gate and then to the shrine shrine, Meiji Jingu. It was rebuilt after being destroyed in WW2 so it was in good condition. I ended up doing this thing where I could get my fortune. Fortunes are very popular here, but they are all written in Japanese. I’ve learned that Google Translate has a photo option take a picture of words and it translates it for you), so I was able to figure out what mine said!

 

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Shrine Gate
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Hand washing before entering the Shrine
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Sake Barrels

Once in Shinjuku I walked around a bit, but then decided to take the train back to Asakusa. It was not as straight forward as my train there but after stopping to ask for help twice from the information stands I was able to figure it out. Back at the hostel I saw a poster for a place that was nearby and had a DJ playing. The music didn’t start until 8pm but I was hungry so I went early thinking I would just hang out. The place was super cool. The bar tender was a Canadian with dreadlocks and she handed me the menus which were written on old cardboard boxes. I sat down on the couch next to a friendly dog and enjoyed an avocado taco and warm sake.

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After eating I suddenly felt very tired so rather than stay I decided to head to a public onsen bath (comes from hot springs) and then home. The bath was only 1 block from my hostel, and down an alley. I saw pictures of what the store front looked like so I was able to find it. I love the history of the public baths. People went to them not for a spa like experience, but literally to bathe because very few houses had baths in them back then.  I walk in, put some coins into a slot for a ticket and some soap and then head in. I hand a guy at a desk my tickets and he points me to the women’s bath.

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You put your things in a locker, I’m talking everything. Then you head buck naked with your soap in hand into the shower area. After a good washing under a shower that is waist high (I opted not to sit on the stool they provided and just squat which was awkward), I went into the first bath. The water was as hot as a hot tub would be, maybe 102 degrees fahrenheit? I used the jets to massage my back, then went into the electrical bath. If you’ve ever done STEM treatment for an injury that is exactly what it feels like. Your muscles tighten and contract and while some find it painful, I thought it was great. While in there, an older woman started asking me where I was from and then proceeded to read my palm and told me I would make lots of money. Great fortune, but the nakedness of it all made me want to keep moving. I went to one that was semi-outdoors and it was an ice bath! It reminded me of jumping in the lake and after a Sauna. I jumped into the hot one next to it to warm back up. I think I probably spent a total of 20 minutes in all of the baths. I felt refreshed and slept easily.