My ‘not so bad’ decision led me on a three hour walk through the streets of Tokyo. On its own, it would’ve been fine, but I had sack full of clothes and computers strapped to my back. Walking in the opposite direction to the river and crossing the train tracks, my trail continued westward. The first section continued as I expected. Little streets wound their way through the outskirt suburbs of the city. Cars that looked too small to be cars petered past me as I clung to the side of the road, dodging lamp posts and telephone poles.
My first marker was the bridge that crossed the Naka River. In the distance was the first real sign of the massive city that awaited me; the Tokyo Skytree. I cranked the volume of my music, adjusted my pack and powered on. It was far from raining or cloudy even. Hot sun beat down relentlessly and sweat had already started beading on my brow. It had been thirty minutes.
An hour in and the scenery had barely changed. Tight roads and tall building made for a claustrophobic atmosphere. Two hours in and I had to stop, get off my feet and take a break. Though I desired to, I knew if I took my shoes off I wouldn’t have the will to put them back on. Pounding back the last of my sweat water, I found the last bridge. Crossing and looking back was quite the view. The Tokyo Skytree was now behind me.
Hiromas https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/244469585 was a cozy little place. This was my first real capsule hotel. My room had about thirty beds, stacked two high with a coed restroom and a pair of little shower closets. The lounge was nice and comfy too. Fellow guests kept generally to themselves, leaving very little room for interaction, even with the other foreign travelers.
Half an hour away, down the main street I would soon become familiar with a little section of the city called Akihabara. It’s known primarily for two things, one of which is its nickname; electric town. The assortment of goods from computers and video games, to cell phones and home appliances was astonishing. Nintendo consoles and games thirty years’ old filled shelves. Neon light, cameras, radios, security system; literally everything; if it had a battery or could be plugged in, it was there. The other half of Akihabara is dedicated to the otaku culture: anime, manga, maid cafes and other things of the sort. It took me over an hour to climb the ten floors of the largest and most impressive building, Radio Kaikan, going through trading card, manga and model shops. Merchandise from hundreds if not thousands of franchises (half I recognized, half I didn’t): from the tiniest tokens to clip to your backpack to life-size figures that cost more than my plane ticket to Japan and everything in between. I only got halfway through the district on my first go, but after half a day I was spent and had to drag myself back to my room. I would still be in Tokyo for at least another week or two. I knew I’d be back.
Diving into more traditional Japanese culture, I walked back to Nakamise Shopping Street, dating back hundreds of years. I’d come through here on my walk between hostels, but now I had the freedom to explore. Music played from loud speaks and vendors lined streets. A steep variety of foods were displayed as well as all sorts of knickknacks and ornaments, such as traditional dolls, folding fans, shoes, lucky tokens and ornate garb.
Beyond a first then a second gate, Senso-ji Temple crowned the district with its massive wooden structure, stained a deep red and trimmed with white. Upon visiting, I learned that this shrine is Tokyo’s oldest temple at over fifteen hundred years, making my experience that much more serene. Outside was purification a spot: a trickling fountain with a statute at its center and nearby, a deep basin that exhaled incense and smoke. The five-storied pagoda only added to the temples beauty and awe inspiring décor.
There is so much to see here, so much to do, so many new things to experience. I’m planning on staying the full 90 days and taking everything in. But I do have a job to keep working on, and a novel to finish. Research must be done and there should probably be time to just relax.