Getting Lost in Tokyo Pt. 1

Monica Vathanavarin

To preface, I have never been a good storyteller. I’m also pretty bad at following stories, come to think of it. So, I’ll just express my thoughts sporadically as they occur.

I feel so inspired by the people of Japan. My favorite moments on this trip can’t be adequately described in words, but can only be felt in those specific instances. Though these photos may lack rhyme and rhythm, I hope that they can convey a fraction of what I experienced!

The neighborhood we stayed in was so cute. Tokyo is a giant city, but the alleyways are short and felt safe. I woke up around 7:30 each morning, eager to walk to my favorite breakfast spot, Yoshinoya.

Buildings fascinate. Small. Different from Shanghai, filled with life.

Jasmine and I decide to take a stroll around the neighborhood, we find kids. I’m nostalgic looking at the playground.

Kinsicho, the town we stayed in, was the perfect balance between city and suburb. It felt like a little playground. It felt comfortable and nothing was really out of place. I would live here.

Jasmine and I decided to go to Shibuya and Harajuku to catch up on exploring since the earlier group had already gone the day before. Traveling without a plan becomes frustrating, fast. I sometimes think we depend too much on our mobile phones to guarantee ourselves “fun”. We’re too focused on optimizing our experience that we end up staring at our phones longer than cherishing the serendipity of the moment.

beauty in the unseen

We meet up with Ning and Tiff to go to Harajuku. Freedom of expression is abundant. I pick up a denim jacket.

We go to the rooftop garden. I imagine this is someplace where I would come often to catch up with a friend.

Walking around Shibuya

I think this was where my feet started to hurt and it got cold. We went to McDonalds and the fries tasted the same. Bought red pepper for 30 yen (worth it).

The McDonald’s here have tiny cubicles. Even someone of my stature found it quite uncomfortable. People keep to themselves and are generally quiet. I like it here but I feel like it feeds the introvert a bit too much.

Still, it is something I’ve been working on. Being okay with being alone. And I kind of appreciated that about this society.

Exploring Aoyama

The waitress had the same haircut as the girl in many of Yoshitomo Nara’s artworks.

I successfully asked her “Where is the toilet?” in Japanese. It is a proud moment.

The streets at night are pretty. We comment on how people here are so well-dressed. Yet, everyone maintains a certain degree of individualism. I wish we could have more of that in America.

In a twist of fate, we stumble upon a magical place.

It’s a beer garden with an eclectic group of people. Live dj’s playing familiar tunes. Jasmine, Tiff, and I drink Sapporos as we ponder deep questions about life — something that only seemed appropriate for this type of vibe.

Happiness, to me, was contained in that moment.

We decide to call it a night after finding out that the bar we wanted to go to was closed for the day. We knock out immediately once we get home.

The next morning we venture off to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market.


Attention to detail is one of my favorite things about Japan.

The way people count their money, the way they hand you the food you ordered, the way they greet you when you exit the bullet train. It’s hard to look down on any blue collar worker because everyone does their job so well, and with such pride. It’s the law of reciprocity. I think that people here generally treat each other with a certain level of respect that I have not seen in any other country.

Why do I want to do what I want to do?

Everyone working at the fish market is doing something very specific. We’re in awe by someone doing a seemingly menial task like grating ice. We watch carefully as a man skillfully uses his knife to trace the insides of a tuna fish. It is strange to me that out of all the professions in the world, that I have chosen to pursue a career as a product designer. I wish I could do one thing well. Very well. To the point of perfection.

After realizing that the Imperial Palace was closed, we headed out to Shimokitazawa, one of the more hipster districts. I loved it. In the words of Tiff, it was a true hipster village because it was rather grungy and quiet. The shops were small, cute, and humble-looking, but many of them carried designer brands like CDG.


Tiff and I came across this jewelry shop with the cutest decor. Surrounding the jewelry were little woodland creatures. A subtle hammering sound permeated through the wooden drawers, coming from a rectangular gap. If you looked closely enough, you could see the owner working on a piece of metal.

The final two stops of the day were the Aoyama Flower Market Cafe and Office.

To be continued…

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