How To Have The Best Day Ever In Japan in 3 Steps

Audrey Phillips
February 15, 2020
Pavilion in Tsuruma Park

It’s cold outside - that’s a fact. The wind is bracing on my cheeks, nose, and fingers. Most of the plants around me are brown, or simply not there at all, but the trees are clinging fiercely to their leaves and in the distance there’s a large, vibrant bed of Japanese lilies blooming. A group of older men is quietly harvesting vegetables from a patch in the middle of the park and pushing the greens around on large wheelbarrows. The birds hopping on the ground and bathing in the pond bring bursts of energy into the world around them; there are so many crows cawing to each other and flying near me that I imagine myself as the woman in Kiki’s Delivery Service who lives in a cabin in the woods with only the crows and foliage as her company. I am utterly enchanted. This is my best day ever.

Bed of Japanese lilies surrounding a statue of a ballerina

Reading the title of this blog, you might have thought to yourself: “I bet she went somewhere really exciting” or “she must have done something supremely exceptional for sure”; unfortunately for you, you’re wrong. My best day ever (so far) took place in the backdrop of Nagoya, a few subway stops away from my university, on a day that began with me going to class. But before you judge, I promise you it was the perfect, most fulfilling day I’ve had in a very long time. 

Here’s how you can recreate Audrey’s Perfect Day all for yourself:

STEP ONE:

Finish your obligations early in the day, before you go anywhere. 

My day began in my hour-and-a-half long Japanese class. That was my only obligation, and after it was over I was free to do whatever I pleased. My friend had to go to our local Ward Office, which is scary and hard as non-Japanese people, so we went together and got it over with with little to no problems. 

Regardless of what your obligation is, you won’t be able to truly have a perfect day if it’s hanging over your head, quietly building anxiety up in the back of your mind. You want to be able to focus all of your energy on having a good time. Also, it’s my perfect day that you’re recreating so do as I tell you and just scratch everything you can off your to-do list. Establish an emotional baseline as free from anxiety as possible so that you can come into your day with a clean slate.

STEP TWO:

Discover a cute cafe with your friends.

I’m an independent person, and I know that I can have a perfectly good day by myself; but if I’m being honest, I can’t have The Best Day Ever without a friend by my side. My friends and I had been hearing non-stop about this supposedly delicious cafe right by our dorm, so we decided that we should just go and give it a try (also, I was itching for a burger, and I had heard rumors that this particular cafe had delicious burgers, so I simply had to try one). 

The outside of Downey Cafe in Nagoya, Japan

I can say, without a doubt, that I am in love with the Downey Cafe in Nagoya. It’s small and cute and it gives me the same feelings as all the homey cafes I frequent back home. The lighting is warm, and there’s an open wall at the back of the restaurant that faces out onto a tiny garden. There’s a mix of American and Japanese magazines for sale, and the walls are covered in artwork and music posters - a surprising number of which are inexplicably of the American band The Eagles. I adore the weird mystery of it, especially since my dad hates The Eagles with an unmatched passion. 

Of course, the food was good as well, and everything we were given was presented cutely. By watching the other patrons, my friend and I were able to learn that the weird slip of parchment paper-esque material we were given was to wrap our sandwiches in and avoid getting anything on our hands (genius!), which I’ve never seen in a restaurant before. 

Eating good food and drinking good drinks in a comforting place is the absolute best way to establish a happy tone for the rest of your perfect day. 

STEP THREE:

Get out on a whim; be somewhere you’ve never been before. 

Main Pond in Tsuruma Park, Nagoya

My friend and I found a park I had never heard of, which is now my new favorite place, after deciding to simply wander in a random direction off of a subway station we had never explored. We found a wild wedding venue on the way that was staged to look like a massive cathedral and looms ridiculously large over all the surrounding, non-European style buildings. Then we stumbled into large, historic Tsuruma Park, and we wandered amongst the old folks and young couples for as long as we could stand the cold, and then a little bit longer. It was wonderful and refreshing and I got to see almost everything that brings me joy (i.e. plants and birds). 

We didn’t worry about never having been to this area before, or being the only foreigners around; we just walked. I don’t regret a minute of it, as I now have a precious memory that I can also share with someone else. 

And that’s really it! That was my best day: hanging with a good friend, eating good food, and wandering around a place until I found somewhere where I felt like I could spend forever. I didn’t mean to have the best day ever; it manifested at the moment I think I needed it the most. If you’re in Nagoya, you could follow my steps exactly, but really these 3 steps can be applied wherever you are. I promise that at the end of the day you will have fond memories to last you for the years to come. Sometimes things don’t have to seem the most exciting to be the most fulfilling.

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Audrey Phillips

<p>My name is Audrey Phillips and I'm currently an East Asian Studies major at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts! I'm originally from the south which means that my favorite food is biscuits, hands down. I love birds and cats and anything pink and my favorite person on Earth is probably Dolly Parton (my favorite musician is Mitski though)!</p>

Destination:
Term:
2020 Spring
Home university:
Mount Holyoke College
Hometown:
Atlanta, GA
Major:
Asian Studies
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