I wanted to stay in Bali until all of my stitches were removed, so we abandoned plans for Hong Kong (and possibly Taiwan) in order to minimize how many non-refundable flights and hotels we had to cancel or change (plus I was still hoping to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossoms). We wound up taking a red eye from Bali to Tokyo as it was the only non-stop option. (We were also trying to minimize how much hobbling through the airport I needed to do.)
Unfortunately, the flight was full so we landed at 8:30am, fairly discombobulated from lack of sleep. Tokyo felt delightfully dry compared to Bali’s intense humidity, but going from 85° to 45° was far less pleasant. It was immediately obvious that we didn’t have the right clothing for this weather.
The German was trying to handle most of the luggage on his own, given my broken rib and still unsteady right leg. It basically took us 3 hours to get from Narita Airport to Roam Tokyo (involving trains, lots of walking, and eventually a taxi). However, I was pleased that my rusty Japanese was sufficient to navigate us there, plus purchase the advance tickets we needed for the shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto.
We decided to spend a week at the Tokyo branch of the coliving place we loved so much in Bali. Having fellow travelers and a friendly staff seemed like a great way to ease into our Japan experience.
The Tokyo location has only been open a couple months. It did feel like the staff were still figuring things out, though they were incredibly friendly and helpful if we asked for anything. The rooms were huge (by Tokyo standards) but pretty sparse – pretty much just a bed and a bonsai, but it had a very zen feeling to it.
We didn’t get as strong of a sense of community as we did in Bali – it may have just been our timing, or perhaps Tokyo is so exciting that people spend more time exploring the city than hanging out on the property. Still, we really enjoyed the folks we did meet, the kitchen was fantastic, the location was great, and the wifi was blazingly fast.
Though we were exhausted from the red eye flight, we didn’t want to miss a chance to see our friend Celine (whom we last saw in Lapland). She was in town for a gaming conference and was also exhausted (from an intense week of meetings and conference after-parties) so we thought we would have a low key dinner and then call it a night.
Having no reservations on Friday night in Tokyo, we wound up at a pizza spot that served only two types of perfectly crafted pizzas. The whole place was barely larger than their wood oven. As anticipated, they really had made pizza an art form, and we all agreed this was some of the best pizza we have ever had.
Halfway through dinner Celine got an invitation to join some folks for a drink. One thing lead to another and we ultimately wound up at a night club where our host ordered a jerobaum of champagne:
So there we were at the club, me with my broken rib and fleece shirt, surrounded by stylish Tokyo-ites dancing to hiphop. It was a hilarious yet fantastic way to kick off our time in Japan!
We were fortunate to arrive in Tokyo just as it was hitting peak cherry blossom season. Despite the chilly temperatures and regular rain, the locals didn’t hesitate to spread out tarps in the parks to picnic beneath the blooming trees.
People would often queue at certain spots, just to get the optimal perspective for a photo.
And on weekends, it was common to see kimono-clad ladies strolling together, pointing out especially beautiful branches of blooms. As The German noted, it somehow felt similar to Christmas.
At night, certain spots would be overflowing with people strolling past the trees, sipping pink sparkling wine and taking tons of photos.
While the trees were undeniably beautiful, the people-watching was just as much fun.
Fun with Friends
We were excited that we had a steady string of friends who would be in Japan at the same time as us. In addition to seeing our Finnish friend Celine, we also met up with my pal Dan from SF.
Here we are enjoying modestly sized bowls of udon:
We also spent several hours wandering around Tokyo, which included a stop at Uniqlo where we purchased their signature down jackets:
Due to a the bizarre rules and some communication confusion at a popular cake spot, we wound up eating strawberry cakes while the Incredible Hulk loomed in the background:
It’s always nice to see friends while we are traveling, and especially fun to have wacky adventures in Japan with them!
Though I am feeling better every day, I am still moving at a pace that is considerably slower than normal and my knee doesn’t have the stamina for long periods of walking. At times, it’s frustrating – I’d love to be out and about exploring Tokyo all day, but I know my body is still healing. On the plus side, I see improvement every day: moving from sitting to standing no longer involves an awkward baby-giraffe-like dance, my left knee is looking almost normal, and I no longer need to take the pain killers to get a decent night’s sleep.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from spending a day shopping in Harajuku, getting a much-needed haircut, eating sushi delivered by a mini tram, taking countless photos of cherry blossoms, and drinking the most hipster cup of coffee ever.
Now we are off to Kyoto, where I hope to see even more cherry blossoms and find some Japanese classes.
As your reward for reading this far, here are some random funny things we saw in Tokyo: