My Week in Tokyo

Carl Cheng

April 2015

Upon embarking on my six-week trip around the world, I had a lot of anxiety. I was no longer at my job I had known for over 5 years, and I had never done a trip of this magnitude, much less alone. Even though I would be meeting up with friends and family throughout the trip, I was beginning this journey solo.

After the amazing and refreshing first class JAL flight, that anxiety washed away and I later discovered that Tokyo was a great place to travel solo as the culture and lifestyle are rather well suited for that — many people eat alone with lots of cheap and quick bites, there’s so much to do and see without needing a tour guide, and transportation is convenient (except in that awkward gap between the last train and the morning work rush ~12am-5am).

The amazing thing about Tokyo was the abundance of free wi-fi. A majority of the train stations and department stores offered free wi-fi so I was able to stay connected quite often during my daily adventures, which was helpful if I ever got lost.

I also only found out about this after my JAL flight but booking a flight through JAL does give you access to additional wi-fi access, which you can learn more about here. You can also do this through TRAVEL JAPAN Wi-Fi and get a premium code from certain locations throughout Japan.

Upon arriving, I had posted on instagram and a friend from NYC saw it and happened to be in town so we actually ended up meeting up later that night and danced until sunrise. This also happened to be the week that apparently everyone was in Tokyo, as I knew three other people visiting and was able to catch up with some of them as well.

If you do make it to sunrise, there are a lot of 24 hour restaurants, and it’s quite a sight to see everyone in night clothes in broad daylight getting some much needed nourishment to soak up the alcohol. My friends and I ended up going to a sushi place at 6am before returning home.

One of my biggest goals for this Japan trip was to see the sakura (cherry blossoms), which only blooms in the early Spring. The blossom time depends on weather and location.

Unfortunately, the timing is always a crapshoot, with a small window, and I happened to come a bit too late to see the bulk of it. I went to a bunch of possible locations but did end up finding some at the Hanazono-jinja Shrine and more successfully along the Meguro River.

Japan is also well known for its eccentric fashion — with a large variety of styles like goth, kawaii (cute), or visual kei. While it’s not my personal style to do a full outfit in any of these styles, I was hoping to find unique pieces that I could wear as accents to my overall wardrobe. I found some amazing pieces while shopping with a friend at the LINE Friends Store and Q-Pot in Shibuya.

If you are unfamiliar with LINE, it is a messaging/call app similar to Whatsapp but with the addition of cute stickers/emoticons (whose characters have since been adapted into its own anime). The app is very popular in Asia but has become increasingly popular in the US with promotions on America’s Next Top Model and its use by celebrities and companies like Taylor Swift and Buzzfeed to send updates to followers.

When my friend suggested to visit the LINE Friends Store after lunch, I was initially uninterested because I didn’t think there would be anything there that I would want. I was wrong. This place is beautiful and brought out the inner kid in me with all its adorably large character statues.

From cups to magnets, I wanted everything. Everything was so damn cute. But I reined myself in and only got what I believed were essentials — magnets of the bear (Brown) and rabbit (Cony) characters as gifts and Brown-patterned socks for myself. A nice bonus was that with my purchase, I got a special download code for Harajuku-themed stickers to use in-app.

My friend also suggested we go to Q-Pot, which is an accessory brand that specializes in food and fantasy and has featured collaborations with Disney and Sailor Moon. It has also since spawned its own whimsical café featuring actual desserts based off its designs. I was instantly drawn to two rings: the Melt Ring and the Cheese Ring.

While shopping, remember to bring a foreign passport with you because at certain places, you can get tax exemptions on your purchases.

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