Blaming the time and money consuming visa/e-passport experience, my excitement about this trip was already passed its euphoria when I left Jakarta. I didn’t prepare much other than re-learning the language I used to study in high school – which apparently didn’t do much since my kanji reading is so poor.
Well, enough for the bad news. Let’s start with the trip. I didn’t really keep in detailed track about my itinerary, so I’m only going to highlight the most interesting places and experiences. I arrived at Kuala Lumpur and had to stay there for a night to catch my flight to Tokyo. Turned out that the capsule hotel I stayed in wasn’t bad at all. It was a 2 x 3 x 1 meters “room” with nice bedding where you can snooze for 3, 6 or 12 hours with decent clean shared bathroom.
Trip from KL to Tokyo was pretty challenging as well. I forgot how big KL’s airport is, and I’ve had sprinting competition with boarding time a few times before, but yet I repeated the same mistake again. Donkey indeed. Lucky I didn’t miss the flight; we flew 4 minutes after I sat down and buckled up. Boyfie has been in Japan about 30 times for his biz, so he was pretty much a local there and fluent with how-to-get-somewhere thing. He arrived there a day before I arrived, so we set up a meeting point in Nippori area and he gave me a detailed instruction about how to reach the station… which I f***** up, took the wrong train, and made him wait for 2 hours I assume, since I realised I had to change train when I was already 12 stations away from the right station. Sorry, baby! :p
We went to Nikko, a hilly area 2 hours north from Tokyo, to experience more snow and onsen (hot spring) in a traditional Japanese hotel, Ayatsumugi, which apparently priced per person instead of per room. This hotel was the most enjoyable experience for me in Japan. They have a TWELVE course dinner which probably the biggest meal i’ve ever had in my life: Apart from private onsen in every room, the hotel also had a public onsen, where you have to be naked in public and enjoy the heat of the water while snow falls on your traditional japanese hat. As weird as it sounds, the onsen was amazingly addicting. It makes you feel warm, even after you get out from the water and walk back to your room with a thin yukata covering your skin.
In the next morning we had to go back to down closer to Tokyo by bus to visit boyfie’s friend’s house and to spend the new year’s eve in the shrine. We still have some time to wander around since the bus came 40 minutes after we check out. So we decided to take a little walk to the hill and built a snowman.
Back closer to Tokyo, we crashed boyfie’s friend’s house which apparently a gallery that has such a connection with Studio Ghibli prduction. If you’re otaku enough, I’m sure Hayao Miyazaki, and all his touching animated films ring a bell in your head. So this gallery was Miyazaki-san’s childhood house, which brought lot of inspiration to him, and a lot of scenes in his movies were taken in this house, where we had our drinks and dinner before hitting the shrine for the new year’s eve.
Unlike new year’s eve in the rest of the world, Japanese takes this event sacredly and spiritually. So, do not expect a festival full of amazingly designed fireworks during the new year because they are busy to go to shrine to pray. Shrine was super packed during new year’s eve. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people queued to throw coins and pray in front of the shrine, continued by taking an omikuji to find out how their fortune for the next year, The omikuji paper was then hung in a tree to avoid bad luck. I didn’t take good pictures here since it was dark.
We spent the rest of the trip hanging out in Tokyo, going in and out stations and visit festivals, book stores and little cafes:
# Asakusa: Since it was New Year, this area was full of food and souvenir stalls. Boyfie’s favourite was oden and mine was rice on stick, covered with bacon!
# Harajuku: Tons of people were here to shop, we could barely walk without feeling a little bit claustrophobic. This area is full of fashion shop, especially weird stuffs.
# Shibuya: The biggest station, felt like it has no end when you try to walk it. Although in front of one of the exit gate, there was the famous Hachiko statue, dedicated for a dog who waited for years in that station, waiting for the owner to go home.
# Daikanyama: A station away from Shibuya, there was this cute area full of French style cafes. A little walk from the station, Tsutaya bookstore soon became my favourite place. We stayed there for hours to read and have a cup of coffee.
# Golden-dai: This would be a very interesting area… if I didn’t come during the new year. This area is full of little bars and every bar has its own style, music and characteristic. When I visit, most of them, including the cat cafe (where you can pet them) was closed and there were only 3 or 4 bars were open for us to hit ourself up with alcohol and get wasted.
# Roppongi: The second best Tsutaya was located in this area, where you can sit, sip some hot drink and watch the traffic from the 2nd floor. At night, a few pimps mysteriously appeared in front of the bars and offered you some boobs and beer.
Overall, this Japan trip was enjoyable even though I think it would be a better trip if I come in different timing. I will definitely visit Japan again!