“If you don’t go out tonight you’ll spend the rest of the trip hiding.”

That’ what I thought my first night in Japan while contemplating what to do for dinner. The hostel I was staying at had a bar/lounge on the first floor. It would have ben so easy to stay within the safe, English speaking walls of my hostel. I knew what I did that night would set the tone for my entire trip. Will I stay in, or will I got out at 9pm, travel to the other side of Tokyo to grab dinner because I’m 26 and I can do what I want gosh darnit.

I’m constantly in between wanting a life full of adventure and a life spent in a comfortable bed watching Netflix and eating cookie dough. God, how I love the comfort of my own bed and the familiar voice to Liz Lemon. But oh how I long to live a life of adventure.

I went.

I spent 40 minutes on the subway, walked down a dark road, and found the place I was going to have dinner. The moment I opened the door and heard the sing song welcome from the staff I knew I had made the right choice.

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This trip to Japan was made on impulse four months ago. A coworker nonchalantly said that there were tickets from LA to Japan for $600. Did I mention I work with people who track flight prices for fun? Anyway, $600 for a round trip ticket. Only rule was that it had be booked by the end of that day. I had been praying constantly to God to guide me, to help me get out of a funk I had been in for a couple months. The moment my coworker mentioned this I knew it was God’s answer my prayers. By 2pm that day I was booked to go to Japan.

Tsukiji Fish Market

One of the main things I wanted to do in Tokyo was go go the Tsukiji Fish Market and watch the tuna auctions. You have get there by 4am to be part of the 60 or so people they let into the auction. As I went to bed that first night I set my alarm for 3am excited for the following morning.

I woke up at 8.

Despite waking up late (I really shouldn’t have been surprised) I made it to the market by 9:30 and it was still pretty cool. Yes, the auction was hours over, but the market was still open and there was a lot to see.

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Meiji Jingu Shrine

The Meiji Shrine was built as a dedication to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shōken. That’s what Wikipedia says anyway.

The shrine is located in the middle of a beautiful and ginormous park. (I’m not sure ‘park’ is the right word. Forrest? One moment…Wikipedia says ‘forrest’ so I’m going to go with that. ) The shrine is located in the middle of a beautiful and ginormous forrest. What’s really awesome about this shrine and forrest is that’s it’s located in the middle of a city. The contrast in the aerial image is amazing.

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Map!

Japan is hot in May. Hot and humid. The shaded walk to the shrine was much needed for this out of shape individual who does not do well in humid weather.

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Super proud of my navigation skills during this trip.

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Ueno Park

Marina and Troy, fellow solo travelers and newly made friends, and I ventured over to Ueno Park. I’m not sure how to best describe Ueno Park. Coming from San Diego I would compare it to Balboa Park. Like Balboa Park, Ueno Park encompasses great walking trails, museums, and a zoo. Though I’m a proud San Diegan, I will admit Ueno Park outshines Balboa Park (please don’t revoke my San Diegan card). Like most nature areas of Japan, it’s gorgeous. Green trees, happy families, laughing students, artists, and tourists filled the walkways of Ueno. A big highlight of my trip happened in Ueno Park.

Marina, Troy, and myself were walking through, on our way to the Tokyo National Museum, when a man and woman stopped us. The man said they were art students and they would like to draw us. Just like in Titanic when Jack drew Rose except it was nothing like that. I’m thinking we were good subjects because, as foreigners, our features are very different from those they would regularly draw. We were all game.

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I’m not going to lie, I felt like a celebrity when they were drawing me. People walking by would stop and and stand behind the artists and just watch. And when the artist were done drawing the gathered crowd would clap. Obviously, it was the artists that drew the crowd in, but I’ll take whatever validation I can get.

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The final results were interesting. Okay, from an artist’s perspective they were very well done. But did they have to include my double chin? It’s like when you hear a recording of your voice and it sounds nothing like you think it should sound like. What I saw in the drawing didn’t match up with what I see in the mirror. But the thing is, and this is how I know I’m growing, after the initial shock I got over it. I’m starting to realize that I don’t need to take everything personally. Don’t get me wrong, I still take way too many things personally, but not as much anymore. The drawings I received from these two strangers are pieces of art created by artists. Knowing that and sharing the experience with new friends made for a really awesome day.

That’s it for now. I know, you came here for some jokes and profound statements and there weren’t any. Or you probably came her because you just wanted to see photos or you’re my mom (Hi Mom!). Stay tuned for Part II where I talk about stalking people, transit, a robot restaurant, making friends, and hostels (definitely not the movie).

Til next time.

Much love. Always.

-Sam

[quote source=”Amelia Earhart” rating=”0″] The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.[/quote]