It’s time I take a cue from Lena and start posting the über delayed photos from our latest trip to Japan. She’s been diligent with her consistent publishing and I have not. The photos have been sitting around on my hard drive for a while and I hate that.
I hate it so much that the first time we visited Japan we created a site to force us to publish photos and thoughts in real-time, which you might know already, but if you don’t pay it a visit on 19 Days in Japan. We loved the experience but we felt that it took too much of our time there — time that is precious when you’re physically so far away from home and culturally so removed from anything you know. Time that should be invested in exploring and strolling around, relaxing and not thinking about responsibilities.
Trust me, I wouldn’t trade that experience or the time we devoted to that project, but we felt we had to go back one year later, while everything was still fresh and we could think of it as a big single trip. If not anything else, it was a damn good excuse to go back one more time. So, a bit less than a year later, we went ahead and took the plunge once again into the land of the rising sun.
This time we booked airfares even more in advance and actually got really decent prices on Emirates. The trip itself was a bit more exhausting because we had our connection in Dubai way into the middle of the night. We landed in Narita, really tired, at around 5:30pm. It was time to get our luggage, the SIM cards we had ordered in advance from eConnect again, our Japan Rail Pass goodness, and a couple of Narita Express tickets so we could head to the Airbnb and get some much needed rest.
But the day wasn’t over yet, and after laying down and freshening up a bit we couldn’t just stay inside knowing we were in Tokyo again. We started walking towards Shinjuku which had become one of our favorite neighbourhoods, had a quick bite, and finished the day in the appropriately named Tokyo’s Memory Lane (aka Omoide Yokocho/Piss Alley).
It’s a narrow couple of streets with the largest concentration of yakitori restaurants, izakayas, bars and overall fun in the most authentic expression of Japanese salarymen nightlife you can imagine. We ended up in Albatross drinking a few gin and tonics, chatting up with the owners and a young couple who was eager to test their english skills on us, and admiring the intricacies of the endless vintage decoration in such a small space. Needless to say, trains in Japan don’t run too late into the night and, with so many distractions, we ended up walking home.
After a much needed rest in the lovely Airbnb homely house we got in between Harajuku and Shinjuku, it was time to rise and shine. The first order of the day was to visit Meiji gardens and temple, on the other side of the train tracks. We found out another garden that we hadn’t seen before, with a very subdued entrance that led to the Kiyomasa’s Well — as it is customary, we had to pay to get in, but it was well worth the price.
After leaving the Meiji grounds through the north exit, we passed by Yoyogi to end up in the hectic area of Shibuya.
After walking around a bunch, it was time to get some food in, but with so many options it was hard to pick a place. Suddenly people started getting out of offices and the streets got packed pretty quickly. Fearing we wouldn’t get a table or a place in a counter, we chose this izakaya spot where selection was abundant and beer kept flowing.
Had some edamame, takoyaki, okonomiyaki and yakitori — all of it delicious and not that expensive (except for the beer, of course). Next to us, a group of co-workers, clearly salarymen and women given the awkwardness amongst them. After a couple of drinks though, no one could tell and everyone was having a blast. We were back in Japan.