Tokyo… the city of many faces. You wander around aimlessly and end up in the most beautiful gardens, amusement parks right around the corner or narrow alleys with tiny restaurants and bars, and there’s always people. No matter where you look, you see beauty – carved ornamental door frames, flower plantings in the smallest of spaces and even the sewer lids are decorative. People are polite and friendly, yet keeping their distance, and somehow the multimillion metropol rarely feels crowded. History and tradition go hand in hand with modern technology and western influences, forming a unique atmosphere of simulatenous calamity and buzz.
Traveling to Japan had been a dream of mine for years. Now was the perfect time to travel alone and experience something new and I must say, just doing it was one of the best decisions I’ve made recently. Of course traveling alone to a country you’ve never been to, where you know nobody and where they speak a language you have only elementary skills in, can be a bit intimidating. But starting from the first step on Japanese soil, it was clear that it would be ok. The Japanese people were smiling and helpful and everything was so well organized that there was no trouble finding where to go to.
I spent a bit over two weeks in Tokyo. My home for that time was a cute and cozy Japanese style guest house called Kagaribi Inn near Kita-Senju station. So I wasn’t staying right in the middle of everything but in a quiet area where there aren’t that many tourists. And actually, I really liked it that way.
I definitely wanted to stay at a hostel in order to meet new people since I was traveling alone. Kagaribi was the perfect place for this because the owners also stayed at the hostel and many guests spent time in the common living room. I got new friends from France, Australia, China, Japan and even met people from India and Timor. Some stayed for only a few nights and some longer but everyone was made feel welcome.
During the first day of my visit, I walked almost the entire day. I started by going to see the Senso-ji temple (Asakusa kannon temple) which is the oldest temple in Tokyo and one of two temples that have survived from the Edo era. Obviously it is a popular tourist attraction nowadays but also actively used for religious purposes by numerous locals.
From the Senso-ji temple I found my way to the river and from the river bank I happened to see the Tokyo Skytree somewhere in the distance and decided to walk up to it. As I got there, I figured I could go all the way up to see the entire city and catch a glimpse of the majestetic Fuji mountain. It was a sunny and clear day so I was lucky – the view was simply amazing.
Coming down, I took a tour in the shops at the root of Skytree. This is when I saw for the first time that it is actually true that Japan loves Scandinavia and Finland. There’s Finnish words here and there (like a fashion store called “Keittiö” which means kithen in Finnish) and at some of the most popular sights, Moomin cafes. Moomin are Finnish cartoon figures that seem to be very popular in Tokyo.
During my stay, I saw so much, went to so many places and met so many people that I cannot quite recall the order of things. The first half of my stay I dedicated to being a decent tourist – sights, good food and relaxing – and during the last days I spent mostly dancing, going to dance events and hanging out with friends.
I went to Meiji jingu; one of the biggest temples in Tokyo, the Akihabara electric town, the Yanaka ginza; an old world market street, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ueno… Two weeks wasn’t nearly enough to see and experience everything the city has to offer.
A special place for me was the Korakuen garden which is one of the oldest Gardens in Tokyo. Even in winter time when only one flower was blooming and many trees didn’t have leaves, the garden was stunningly beautiful. Having had some turmoil in my personal life lately, itas been difficult to find peace of mind, but something about this place made me feel calm and hopeful. Spending time outdoors, feeling the warmth of the sun, seeing birds, flowing water and kids playing traditional Japanese games, walking around on quiet paths and feeling the history around me had me staying in the garden for hours without really doing much.
During my dancing adventures, I participated a battle called the Ultimate Dance Battle. It was a small dance event on the side of a massive hiphop event. There were thousands of people swarming outside of Studio Coast and at first I thought they were all dancers. I hadn’t realized that most of them were coming to see an MC battle and only a small bunch were dancers. But because none of the organizers really spoke English and my Japanese is so elementary, I didn’t quite understand where was I supposed to be and when and got in late as the preselection was already in full swing. I saw the skill level of the dancers and figured I didn’t lose so much just watching. So I just danced on my own in the corner as the cyphers were going on. The DJ was playing incredibly good music and I felt really good since there was no pressure and so it happened that one of the judges saw me dancing and wanted to put me through into the battles anyway. Well, I battled but lost in the first round. Good times nevertheless!
Besides UDB and dance classes, I also went to Juste Debout Japan. This time I just watched since I didn’t have a dance partner but I enjoyed myself tremendously! The technical level in the competition was amazing and especially the kids were incredible. I was very inspired by the dancing and actually it was nice just to watch for change. It was also nice to meet some friends and spend time with them and new acquaintances.
I met so many nice people, did so many interesting things and saw so many beautiful places that it felt like I would have stayed in Tokyo way more than two weeks. At the same time I felt like I could have easily stayed way longer and coming home, I was already planning my next trip. I still have the sakura blossoms to see…