Tokyo Getaway

Dan and I took a trip with Demi and Edison to…….. Tokyo! Sure, it’s not the most surprising thing to do when you’re in Japan, but Tokyo is the best. It’s so much fun. What we ALSO did, which is the reason why we left Misawa in the first place (as though we wouldn’t want to leave Misawa), we climbed Mt. Fuji!! I probably should have started with that: We climbed a giant mountain that you have definitely heard of.

I have a lot to write about. A capsule hotel, an owl cafe, climbing Mt. Fuji, Golden Gai, Tokyo Disneyland/Sea, Harajuku, and sumo wrestling!

I’m not talking about Fuji yet though. I’m going in order, and that starts with going to Asakusa and staying in a capsule hotel called Book and Bed. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I didn’t see pictures or anything beforehand. I just knew it was a hostile type of thing with books. We went up an elevator to the sixth floor of a random building and emerged into a narrow, dark, dank hallway. There was a woman sitting on the other side of a booth that had, what I think, was a sort of chain-linked fence separating us from her. There were very dim lights where she was. There was also a wall to our left that was made up of four small grey lockers you would see in a high school gym locker room. We checked in with the lady behind the booth and I wondered if we would go on a different floor because there was absolutely nothing but cement walls around us. Then something mind-blowingly cool happened: Somebody squeezed behind us and stepped over our bags to use her key card TO OPEN THE WALL OF LOCKERS THAT WAS ACTUALLY A DOOR. I watched the door shut and said, “I fucking love Japan.”

It was time to enter. We went from an extremely dark small space to a very lit open area with a long bar, couches, walls covered with books, and little boxes to sleep in! That sounds uncomfortable, but it was actually very cozy! The mattress was about a twin size, and your individual room was maybe the size of a full size bed. Maybe smaller. There is a curtain to cover the opening of your room. We were all on top capsules, so we had to climb a ladder to get into our rooms. The ladder is in between two rooms, so your first step out needs to be sideways, and it was a little scary. It wasn’t high up, but it wasn’t too easy to get up and down. My room was next to Dan’s so we would sometimes knock on the walls that connected, or poke our heads out to say hi. That was fun. There was also a little cafe where you can order their specialty food and drinks made with coconut charcoal (so everything was black). You didn’t have to order the charcoal stuff, it was just a fun little option. Also, behind a curtain was an area with a bunch of private bathrooms, private showers, and two long sinks that everyone used. It was interesting to sort of live with a bunch of strangers. At night and in the morning people lounged around on the couches with their slippers and read. I would probably get tired of it after a couple of nights. It was definitely a cool experience though.

Besides the capsule hotel, we walked around Asakusa. We have all seen the temple before so we explored other parts of the city. Dan watches this guy on YouTube who does woodblock prints who is located in Asakusa, so we found his store and talked to him. We ended up buying a print too. After that we went to an owl cafe! From what I know about the different animal-focused cafe’s in Japan, it is mainly just a room full of that specific animal, like cats, hedgehogs, etc. It turned out being this big place with trees and leaves and all kinds of animals. There were tiny little owls that I passed at the entrance without even noticing. Actually the first thing I saw when we walked in was a capybara sitting in a water bath! “I guess that’s where she’s chose to hang out right now,” said a woman in front. There were owls all over and little fennec foxes in a cage, meerkats in a cage, and a monkey jumping around all over the place. I felt bad for all of the animals because they were all either in cages that were too small, or their leg was tied to a post that they were to sit on. The capybara and monkey had free range of the whole place though. They would probably be happier in a more natural environment. The people who worked there seemed to be very knowledgeable about the animals, and they seemed to love them, so that made me feel a tiny bit better.

Demi and I fed the capybara and monkey. The monkey kept trying to get into the capybara’s cups of food. He was a smarty. He kept jumping on our arms. I had a cup of soda and he took the cup and stuck his head in it! I didn’t know how to get him away from it, so he drank some soda. His feet were oddly soft. I did not expect that. It’s weird to have an animal on you that uses its hands to grab stuff. I don’t know why, it just is.

Alright, Mt. Fuji time! It was a beautiful day. We took a train to Shinjuku where we took a bus two hours to the fifth station, where you begin climbing. You could start from the very base of the mountain, but it would probably take you 4+ hours just to get to the fifth station. At the fifth station there are a few restaurants and shops to buy souvenirs, little oxygen tanks, and your hiking stick. Dan and I didn’t get any of those things. The hiking stick is cool though– as you climb up, you stop at different huts and get your stick branded with a cool design. People get oxygen tanks for potential altitude sickness, but we witnessed that not working in someone’s favor (he puked, probably from alternating between a lot of and little oxygen). Hiking ended up being very expensive. We thought we would just buy big water bottles at the shops before we began, but they only had small expensive bottles. And on the mountain, each bottle of water cost 500 yen, which is almost 5 dollars. So that sucked.

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Anyway the first half hour of the hike wasn’t bad. It was mostly flat land, but the dirt was very loose so our boots would occasionally slip when we reached any elevation. None of us got altitude sickness, but we quickly experienced labored breathing as we ascended. We stopped often to catch our breath. The trail went from loose dirt to big chunks of volcanic rock, which made it easier to go up, since our boots could grip onto something. There were very long stretches where the trail was extremely steep. My legs would instantly get tired, probably due to the lack of oxygen. It was definitely a tough climb, but as long as you take it easy, it isn’t so bad. There were points where we almost had to wait in line to climb because there were so many people working at different paces. We saw some people doing it alone, which I would not recommend. An elderly Chinese woman was doing it alone! She asked for help a few times when we had to climb over big rocks, and Dan helped her. I found myself worrying about her the rest of the time and looking out to see if she needed help. But then we got too far ahead of her and I hoped that other people would help her.

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After four hours of hiking, we reached the 8th station where we would sleep. That was a pricey stay, especially when we were just sleeping in a big room with a bunch of people. The old woman made it there, which I was happy to see. They almost didn’t let her stay there because she didn’t make a reservation! It was dark out and it began to rain and it was very cold outside. We were freezing, unless we were by a big stove. Edd and I didn’t sleep at all. Demi didn’t sleep too well, but Dan seemed to be asleep most of the time. We went to bed around 830 or 9 pm because we were planning to wake up at 3 am to hike two hours to the summit to see the sunrise. Hikers who had stopped outside of our hut talked loudly and the beds weren’t comfortable. I wanted to do a big SHH! to everyone outside. I was so tired and wanted to sleep, but I just couldn’t. By 1 am, I had completely given up and went out into the common area with my sleeping bag, just to sit and look at my phone.

At this time, the wind was howling and it was pouring out. What was supposed to be good weather ended up turning into a storm. Groups of people all woke at 3 to climb to the summit but the weather was not looking good. Some put on all sorts of rain gear and decided to brave the conditions, while others decided to wait. Edd flipped a coin to decide whether we would go up or not. The coin said we would. We didn’t. We decided to pass on seeing the sunrise and wait until daylight so we could at least see where we were going. We thought it would be too dangerous because of the wind. Once we decided this, I went back to the bed and was able to fall asleep for a couple of hours. It turned out that check out was at 6am, so we were getting booted out. It was still storming out, but we had to leave. There was no way we were going to reach the summit. The man who worked at the hut asked us if we were ascending or descending, and we said descending, and he was like, “Ok good.” For those who wanted to ascend, he was telling them not to because of how strong the winds were. I don’t know what that old woman did, but I hope she’s okay.

So unfortunately we did not go to the summit of Mt. Fuji. And we did not go to Aokigahara (otherwise known as suicide forest) like we wanted to. It’s an extremely dense forest that is very quiet. It is nicknamed the suicide forest because of the amount of suicides that have taken place there. I mostly just wanted to go because it’s a bit spooky and I love trees. Another name for the forest is Jukai which means sea of trees. I just thought it would be an interesting experience to be surrounded by so much green and so much eeriness. The plan was to end up there on the way down from the mountain, but we could only reach that path from the top. That was disappointing. By the way things were going on our descent though, we were glad we decided to leave. My pants got soaked before we made it to the hut below us that sold rain gear. The wind blew me over a couple of times, and that could have been bad. Luckily I just fell on my butt and I was okay. As we made our way down, we saw some people going up. I don’t think they knew how bad it actually was higher up the mountain. When we made it back down to the fifth station, we saw an ambulance carrying somebody on a stretcher. They broke their leg on the mountain. We talked to a man that worked there and he said it was a good idea for us to go down. The station was going to be closed down for the day because of the storm. We made it just in time before they did that, so we could get out of there.

That was quite an experience. It sucks that the weather is so unpredictable on the mountain. It was supposed to be sunny with little chance of rain, but obviously that wasn’t the case. I think I would do it again and just be more prepared, like get water before you even get on the bus to go to Fuji and bring serious rain gear. I don’t think I would bother staying in a hut again. I would just try to climb in one go and plan to reach the top to see the sunrise. Although even with flashlights, I don’t know how well you can get through all the rocks in the dark. Plenty of people have done it though!

After this arduous journey we made it back to Shinjuku where we had an air bnb waiting for us. We all showered and felt human again, and were ready for a week in Tokyo!

Golden Gai is an area in Shinjuku where there are a bunch of really tiny bars that could probably only fit about ten people at the very most. We have been to a few where 6 people made it feel like we were sardines in a can. Have you ever seen sardines in a can? I have not. I don’t know why I used that metaphor. It sounds about right though. I don’t even think I’ve seen sardines period. I digress. We walked around during the day and everything seemed really trashy. But at night, everything is lit up and really cool. We went to a rock bar owned by a couple. They play a bunch of rock music and the man is a musician and makes little origami figures that he kept in a little bucket for people to take. There was a young Japanese guy who sat next to Dan and he said he was working on his English, except his English was super good, especially compared to us who don’t know a whole lot of Japanese. We suck… Except Demi. Out of the four of us, Demi is the most knowledgeable of the language and culture. Another bar we went to had a young bartender who remembered Edd and Demi from the last time they were there, which was awesome. He was a lot of fun and he too claimed his English wasn’t good, but he seemed to understand a good amount. Everyone (except for me, of course) was pretty drunk when we went to this bar so everyone was cracking up over everything. I think I absorb the silliness from everyone else because I was laughing at everything too. It was like that until we went to sleep. That was such a fun night. The thing I like about these little bars is that you are sort of forced to talk to the bartenders and other people around you. It’s sometimes uncomfortable for me because I could be really socially awkward. I am uncomfortable unless I am with friends who really like me. Then I don’t care and am not afraid of making a fool of myself. I still didn’t talk much though.

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We spent a couple of days roaming around Harajuku. It is probably one of my favorite cities in Tokyo. It is a huge shopping district but it is also represented by bright colors, wild fashion, and things like cotton candy, bears, and I guess baby things? That’s not all over Harajuku though. It’s mostly on a specific street called Takeshita street. It’s a lively area with a lot going on. I don’t like being around a ton of people but it’s like that everywhere in Tokyo. I just wouldn’t want to live there.

Also in Harajuku is a renowned tattoo shop where Edd got tatted up. It’s called 3 Tides. You can tell they are amazing artists because they take careful consideration in making sure that the tattoo flows with your body well and looks perfect. Edd said that the artist that did his tattoo, Ganji, kept adding things to the tattoo instead of doing exactly what he initially drew up because he wanted to make it perfect. Very cool. ALSO in Harajuku is a restaurant called Eggs n Things and it’s da bomb. Go there for a good breakfast or lunch and a giant mountain of whipped cream to go with your pancakes. I must also include the bar that revolved around Portland’s airport. Edd and Demi are basically from Portland. I learned that people were devastated that the airport changed its carpeting. There was an actual piece of the old carpet hung on the wall. I found this, so interesting.

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I realize this is already a very long post… I’m thinking of it as making up for the whole time I have NOT been blogging. I’ll be done soon enough. Maybe.

I’m writing a lot because we did a lot!! We even went to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea. I have written about these two parks before, but I didn’t get to go on as many rides as I did this time around. First I have to say that I would get very frustrated because there were so many crowds of people who would just aimlessly walk around. Don’t they know there are rides to go wait in line for?! Having a time limit always makes me want to be able to do everything I possibly can. It gets stressful! I should not be stressed out at Disneyland… So my favorite ride at Disneyland was Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. First of all, it was super cute. There were giant book pages from Winnie the Pooh and we rode in honey pots. Second of all, it was the coolest ride ever. The honey pots moved around a smooth floor in random ways. There was no track! So we were all like, “How the hell is this happening?!” Lastly, it was trippy. On top of not having any idea how the pots were moving, there were lots of colors and big Heffalumps all over the place. I don’t think we ever actually found Pooh’s honey, but he somehow got it in the end. I’m glad.

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We looked up how the ride works and basically there are a bunch of sensors on the floor and on the honey pots. There is a master computer that works in real time and generates a random path and steers the pots. So every time you go on the ride, it’s a little different. We knew that it must have had something to do with sensors because every time we came too close to another pot, we stopped abruptly. So cool.

My favori– I realize how likely it is that nobody really cares about my favorite rides and insignificant details that I write. If you’re bored, you can stop reading or skim over. This is mostly for me and for my family to see what I’m up to. Plus I like talking about things that don’t matter 🙂 So my favorite ride at Disney Sea was Journey to the Center of the Earth. I have never seen the movie, but the ride was a lot of fun. It was kind of like a roller coaster but not really. What made it like a roller coaster was the fact that there was a track, sometimes speed, and a nice drop that made me scream. It was in a big volcano. Like Mt. Fuji! I liked it because it actually got me… There was real fire and fake lightning (duh) that spooked me! And there was a big monster that was way too realistic. I knew it was fake but it was so life-like and I was yelling at it saying how real it looks and how scary it is. No joke, my heart is actually racing as I think about this ride. It was so much fun. It was the last ride of the night and we rode it twice. The lightning flash spooked me the second time too. My response was, “God damnit.”

On top of everything we did, we went to a sumo wrestling tournament! That is something I said I really wanted to do when I got to Japan, and we did it! And it wasn’t even expensive. Granted, our seats were in the nosebleeds. There is so much to sumo that I had no idea about. Like they do crazy stretches, they have rounds where they just look at each other trying to intimidate their opponent, and they throw a handful of salt onto the ring to bless it I think. The actual wrestling takes about ten to fifteen seconds. Except one took about 40 seconds and that was really exciting. Did you know that women are forbidden to touch the ring? They let Gaijin (foreigner/non Japanese) sumos compete and women aren’t even allowed to touch the ring. Whatever dudes. Women in Japan started their own wrestling thing. I would definitely go again and pay more for a better seat. Just not too close to the ring or I’ll be in a lot of trouble. Here’s a terrible picture I took. It was the most my phone would zoom in…

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Woo! So that was my trip! It was a great little getaway and I am so glad that we got to spend so much time with Edd and Demi. They are leaving in October. I don’t want to talk about it.

Maybe later.

Thank you for reading. I can’t believe you have made it this far. Brava.

P.S. Instead of a crazy crowd of people surrounding the subway, Japan has lines for people to wait in! What a concept.

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