Posts tagged ‘Japan’

Adventures in Tokyo

tokyoIt was almost 2am and I had just finished my shift at the language school where I was teaching English. I had come here just over 3 months ago through a teaching agency that found me a good school to teach in. The students are great – mostly they are adults who are learning English for their work and i get along very well with them.

Well anyway, I was walking home at 2am – tonight I had vowed to politely refuse the karaoke bar offer from colleagues – I really needed sleep. The language school is in the Sumida district downtown and I live in Minato. The bus was late for some reason so i started walking keeping an eye out for a taxi on the road to hail.

I had barely taken 15 steps when I heard a barely audible voice say “Kane!”, while I felt something sharp pricking up against my back. I tried to turn around by now a hand grabbed my shoulder and shook me while poking harder with the sharp object, urgently saying: “Kane! Kane!”

It was obvious the man wanted my money. I knew that much in Japanese even though I’d only been here a few months. I was extremely nervous, but I slowly reached into my jacket while saying “ok” and turned around.

It was a kid just a bit younger than me with a Justin Bieber style hairdo. He looked really uncomfortable with his stanley knife in hand and gave me a shy grin. I looked at him and asked him: “You want a drink?”

He nodded. I walked with him to a bar across the street, got him a cocktail, ordered a beer and then we started to talk.


I traveled to Toktoshogu shrineyo in the middle of May so that I’d avoid both the busiest tourist week and the rainy season. While I was there I wanted to see a few of the cultural landmarks that both defined the city and how I’d always thought of it.

The first place I went was Akihabara. It was crowded, noisy and pricey but that’s what I went there to see. Essentially, it’s an area dominated by computers, electronics and anime with tons of shops both big and small. They cater to tourists as well as locals so it never felt like a shopping center meant purely to placate tourists with cheap souvenirs. Instead, there was some fantastic merchandise but since I’m not all that knowledgeable about the latest electronics, anime or computer parts, I didn’t actually buy anything. My trip there was more to enjoy the sites and sounds than to purchase merchandise and I justified it because it was only four or five minutes away (by rail) from Tokyo station. I did however stop in at one of the maid kissaten for a coffee. It was certainly an interesting cultural experience I could only enjoy in Japan.

My time in Akihabara was brief and I spent most of that day in Ueno Park. Regrettably, I missed the cherry blossom season by a few weeks so I didn’t get to see Ueno Park’s 1,000 cherry trees in bloom. However, there was plenty to keep me busy since the park is home to a number of museums, a zoo, a temple and much more. The highlight of my trip to the park was visiting Toshogu Shrine.

The shrine is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu who founded the last Japanese shogunate. There are apparently more than 100 of these shrines scattered around Japan but I doubt they’re all as intricate as the one I visited in Tokyo. There was a small admissions fee in order to enter the shrine itself but it was worth it. As a nerd who has always been interested in Japanese history, being in a shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu was pretty cool.

The next day being a Sunday, I stopped at Harajuku station. The Harajuku area is home to a number of up-scale fashion boutiques and also functions as a place where young, fashion-conscious Japanese young people hangout. I took a brief walk around the area and while I didn’t want to be rude by staring at individuals, I did find the culture on display to be fascinating. The costumes of the cosplayers were quite elaborate and the odd combination of Victorian and gothic dress was fascinating.

The whole time I felt as though the outfits belonged in a museum but the fact that people actually dress that way made it a totally unique cultural experience. These were just a few of the places I visited while in Tokyo but they made the greatest impression on me. I’d wanted to see them for years before I actually went to Japan in May and I have to say that the wait was worth it.