back in august 2017, marcus and i took a 10-day trip to japan. the original plan was to make it out for obon festival, but for some reason, we ended up doing a bunch of other things besides finding an obon festival to attend.

passed this record store every single day. our airbnb was a couple minutes from here. shibuya, tokyo

unlocked bikes outside our airbnb

shibuya crossing

inside meiji jingu

japan is a special place and there is much about the culture, people, and food to admire. from what i experienced on the trip, it's a safe travel destination, many people are generally polite, and willing to help despite my english-japanese language barrier, and food is accessible 24 hours a day in the form of ramen, yakitori, gyoza joints, quick, delicious, and fresh grab-and-go convenience stores, and probably more i didn’t see.

i learned there's been a rise of shoplifting senior crime in japan - either because they live alone and seek companionship and community, and/or live on the verge of poverty. read on in this photo essay

sake barrels in meiji jingu

spotted: invader washere

fushimi inari

spotted: zio ziegler somewhere in harajuku

on any given night or early morning, we saw men dressed in work attire passed out, sprawled out at train stations with their phones and briefcases next to them. people walked past and no one touched their stuff. (also, @shibuyameltown is a good account to follow) 

marcus' cousin mo, who lives out there, told us that since the trains stop running around 1 am, don't start running til 4 am, and taxis are pricey, most people drink through the night and into the morning. many of them either decide to sleep at the stations or serendipitously end up finding a place to safely pass out. it's like me on drunk autopilot somehow finding a way back to my room at the end of the night, except people in tokyo also have the unofficial option of crashing at the local train station to catch the first train out. smart

we also heard this story from mo's buddy about him losing his phone while riding a moped around the city. he didn't realize it fell out of his shirt pocket. when he traced his route a couple miles back, the phone was placed on the curb as if someone saw it in the middle of the street and moved it for him to find.

the one night we stayed out late, we walked home from the club around 5:30 am. walking from harajuku to shibuya takes 20-30 minutes, and there were ramen shops open, music playing from clubs and apartments, people out on the streets. it all felt like was the same daytime city with the lights off.

i love being hungry in this city. 7-11/lawson's/family mart for onigiri, strong zeros (cool no open container law), and chicken karaage. cheap and good kaiten sushi. ramen everywhere, any hour of the day, even at the summit of mount fuji

the city is made up of a dense network of bus, subway and train lines. the loop line called the JR yamanote connects multiple city centers, making it incredibly easy to quickly get around tokyo on public transportation with minimal walking. trains are clean, frequent, on time, and the people getting into them are fast, organized. it's rare to find anyone eating or talking on their phone. i liked that there was a jingle that played when we were getting to a stop, the doors were opening, or closing. i wouldn't mind hearing all that on my morning commute to work.

the crowd at the train station after the tokyo giants game

this is my favorite trip to date. we stayed busy, ate a lot, drank enough, tried to be nice people. japan's got a lot of flavor in so many ways...
there's a lot to cover in 10 days. here's what stands out:

  • taking the bullet train, escaping the city, and buzzing through beautiful countryside japan – open fields with scattered, small towns and houses, and the occasional small outdoors temple or cemetery

panasonic office we saw while riding on the bullet train to kyoto

  • hiking mount fuji and sleeping overnight in a "mountain hut" with a few hundred other people to catch the sunrise in the early morning. we crashed in long bunk beds side-by-side with other hikers. 
  • at the summit, there are vending machines, ramen, coffee, sake, and beer, and a post office.

    hiking fuji could very well be a day hike if you prefer, considering it's about 12 miles roundtrip. sleeping in a mountain hut is still a really cool to experience simply for its novelty. seeing the sunrise didn't work out on the day we were there - it was very foggy. the hike on the way up got really busy, even though we hiked on a wednesday. hiking season generally tends to get really busy since mount fuji is only hikeable for a limited period, between july and september. 

trailhead at mount fujij

one of the stations on the way to the top of mount fuji. this one sold cup noodle, sodas, tea and other drinks. others also sold candy, sake, and beer.

we stayed at the 8th station, the taishikan mountain hut, where we bought instant ramen as soon as we got a chance to rest. they served up dinner too - curry rice, eel, picked vegetables, and a soft cakey dessert. 

sleeping situation. there must have been 4-6 rooms like this to accommodate overnight hikers

our sunrise view

  • watching tuxedo at the billboard live venue in roppongi, which my friend who lives there describes as a district for dirty tourists. it is quite glitzy. the venue is a sit down spot, but people got up to dance. however, i noticed hardly anyone was dancing with drink in hand.
  • the night after seeing tuxedo, going to a small hip hop club to find jake one spinning that night. there must have been only about 40, 50 people there. music was good, drinks were moderately priced, and we later ate ramen at 3:30 am. at that club, people did dance with drink in hand.
  • getting really blitzed and going to tokyo tower, strong zeros in hand

focus reflects the strong zero feeling

  • eating onigiri from the lawson near our airbnb almost every day for breakfast
  • having a rowdy time at robot restaurant like you are supposed to
  • traveling to kyoto so marcus could pick up japan-only samurai selvedge denim. we entered the bottom-floor shop through wooden sliding doors, walked further downstairs, and took off our shoes and put on store slippers made of old denim scrap
  • seeing a yayoi kusama exhibit in kyoto after randomly seeing a poster on the street while waiting to eat at a gyoza restaurant. the museum was not busy and required visitors to remove their shoes, so we walked barefoot to check out the 2 floor exhibit of colorful, patterned paintings of sealife and of course pumpkins, and even a lifesized boat she covered with phallic-shaped objects wrapped in fabric. i'm fascinated by her creative eye and felt lucky to see her work in her home country. it seems like her shows in the states tend to get very busy and almost always require waiting in a long line.
  • staying at a ryokan in kyoto and bathing in a private ofuro

  • eating fresh unagi, ahi, and salmon at tsukiji market
  • seeing, eating, and drinking with friends from SF!!!
  • checking out barry mcgee's exhibit at watari and nobuyoshi araki's exhibit at the tokyo photographic art museum, which was the heaviest exhibit i've ever seen. he documented his life with wife, yoko araki, from the day he got married through his wife's cancer diagnosis and the dark years following. 

  • experiencing individual dining at ichiran ramen for breakfast
  • meeting someone at a flea market in shimokitazawa who found out i was visiting from california and then got excited and told me tycho is his favorite artist
  • having food options at every train station
  • last meal: tsukemen for the first time at haneda airport and having no other tsukemen come close yet...

tentatively planning the next trip for 2019 –

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