Before my advisor told me about IES Abroad, Tokyo was my dream study abroad city for years and years. I decided that Nagoya was a better place for me because I get lost easily, I'm a strong introvert, I like smaller cities, and I wanted a more intensive language program, but Tokyo has still been on my bucket list for a good 5 years minimum. And I finally made it!
I've been trying to plan a Tokyo trip since the second I set foot at the Nagoya airport, but it always seemed so overwhelming that I just didn't think about it. It turns out that it only takes about 3 hours by 新幹線 (bullet train) to get there from Nagoya Station (even if you take the cheapest one that stops at every stop, which we did #studentdebtlife #nelnettakepity). Then I found out that we get a week off of school for a week in the beginning of November, so what better time to go?
We decided to stay in Tokyo for 5 days - 2 at Disneyland/Disney Sea, and 3 days in central Tokyo. I'm from Orange County* and have lived almost right next to Disneyland for nearly my entire life, so Disney has always held strong sentimental value for me. I think I'm ruined now though, because Tokyo Disney is just so much better than California Disney. :-( Despite what every article I've read online said, the lines were ridiculously short and the parks weren't crowded at all. Not to sound like a corporate shill, but Disney magic is indescribable and unimitable and I wish I could just live in the park, even if I have to just sleep in a trash bin. My advice: eat the little alien mochi they sell at Disney sea! They look like the aliens from Toy Story and are the cutest things I've ever seen. Also, this was a mistake, but definitely get the souvenir popcorn bucket for caramel corn (each type of popcorn has a different bucket - the milk chocolate popcorn comes in a Duffy box, salted popcorn comes in a Mickey box, curry popcorn in Mr. Potato Head, etc). It comes in a Dumbo box which I swear I'm going to start using as my regular handbag because it's so cute.
After we left Disney (the saddest moment of my young life!), we went over to Chuo, Tokyo (central Tokyo, where basically everything well known is) for our last three days. We went in with almost no plan at all, but ended up accidentally hitting up most major places. I've always wanted to go to Shibuya because I love Shibuya kei**, the music genre, so I dragged everybody there, and walked around so much that we ended up in Harajuku.
Right outside the Shibuya Station there is a statue of Hachiko, the dog who waited for his master to come back even years after he passed away. I first watched the Hachiko movie in Japanese class in 11th grade, and haven't been the same since. This statue turns into a meeting place at night, which is cool, and apparently dog lovers come gather around it once a year to celebrate Hachiko's loyalty. Truly a tearjerker!
Then, of course, we had to hit up Akihabara because it's so well known. Akihabara was interesting because it was so drastically different from my original vision of it. I expected it to actually be a city of electronics, but all the places we saw on the main street were manga shops. Maybe we were in the wrong area? I was reminded of Osu, in Nagoya, more than anything when we were there. In any case, the sashimi we had there was incredible, probably because we were also so close to the famous Tsukiji fish market. That's another thing I didn't expect - everything in Tokyo was so close to each other that we could have gone to all these places in one day if we wanted. I expected it to be so much more spread about, but I'm glad it wasn't. The furthest thing we went to was the big Buddha in Kamakura, which was still also only about an hour away.
All in all, even though I thought 5 days would be short, we were completely tuckered out by the time we got on the train back on the last day. Tokyo was amazing, and I think it imperative to go back some day, but I actually felt homesick for Nagoya while we were away. Bless our less crowded transporation system and our temperate weather! I don't think I'd ever been so happy to come back to a messy dorm before.
*Isn't it so funny how native Californians are completey incapable of ever shutting up about being from California? I feel like I mention it every time I say or write anything. Long live the Golden State!
**The PERFECT song to listen to in Tokyo is the song "It's 7PM in Tokyo" by the Shibuya kei band, Pizzicato Five. The video I've linked to calls it something different, but "It's 7PM in Tokyo" is the literal translation. Listen it to 7PM in Shibuya, it's a great experience!
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<p>Hi, I'm Millie! I'm a Southern California native currently studying Critical Social Thought and Asian Pacific American Studies at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. I love film, art history, and the Food Network - join me as I eat my way across Japan (and hopefully learn some things along the way).</p>