For the second week that my sister was in Japan we flew to Tokyo. It was my first time doing anything in Tokyo outside of the airport, of course. I was completely daunted by the task of navigating Tokyo. Tokyo is the largest city in the world when the entire metropolitan area is included with a population of over 37 million people. That fact alone is scary for an introvert such as myself, but on top of that, the borders are now open to travelers AND it was Spring Break. We had no idea what we were about to experience, but we were both nervous and excited.
We flew into Tokyo March 24th. Which was night one of two of Harry Style's Love on Tour in Tokyo. He performed in Ariake Arena which was built for the 2020 Olympics. We stayed in a really nice hotel a few blocks walking distance from the arena so we didn't have to worry about public transportation after the show. By the time we landed, navigated the Tokyo subway lines, checked into the hotel, and got ready for the concert it was time to leave. We ended up getting to the arena early, however, we ended up getting stuck in a line that wrapped around the building and felt like an hour to get inside. Once we were inside, we then had difficulty finding out where our seats were. As soon as someone showed us to our seats, Harry came out on stage, no joke! We had no time to settle in, grab drinks or snacks if we wanted to, nor look at the merch.
This was my first concert since the COVID pandemic started, it was also my first concert in Japan. Since the pandemic, it seems that in order to buy tickets for big concerts you have to do so through a lottery system. Basically you have to pay for a membership before you can even buy the tickets or else you'll be buying tickets from a scalper at 10x the actual price. Also, since it is a lottery system you don't get to choose your actual seat. This meant that for our night one, we got stuck with floor seating towards the back of the arena. Most of the time we couldn't see anything. My sister kept asking me "Where is he? Where is he?" With all that being said, I am glad we got to experience Harry Styles in Japan together. During his performance people were so quiet that we could actually enjoy Harry's singing, something that I would never get to experience in probably any other country. The volume of the music also didn't seem as loud as concerts are in the U.S. But also for this reason, it did make it seem like overall the energy was low, which might've felt weird for Harry! Getting out of the arena was just as challenging as getting inside. There were doors all around the arena, but they were only letting people out of one exit, so it felt like we were just walking around in circles in a very humid arena.
Day two of Love on Tour was earlier in the evening, doors opened at 3pm and the show began at 5pm. So the only thing I did before the show that day was eat lunch at the mall near our hotel and searched for items that would complete our outfits for night two. We decided that we were going to be glowstick men. That is exactly what it sounds like. We shaped glowsticks in the form of a stick figure and used shipping tape to tape it to ourselves. It is probably the most ridiculous thing Japanese people have ever seen. While the idea was great, (we were trying to get Harry's attention!!) it didn't actually come together as we had hoped. I had bought a jumpsuit from Don Quijote and the tape just didn't want to stay onto the surface. Meanwhile, my sister was taping it directly to her skin and it still wasn't working. We kept trying to fix it and the time kept getting closer and closer to 3, so eventually we just left with what we had. We wanted enough time to check out the merch. While we did make it to the merch tables at 3, most of the items were already sold out. I am wondering if Harry only ordered enough merch for night one... anyway, I ended up buying a physical CD of Harry's House that came with a special pop-up card specifically for Harry's concerts in Japan. This CD has been living in my 2014 Honda Fit and it is currently the only CD I own in Japan. After that, we were able to get drinks (highballs in honor of Harry's favorite drink) and find our seats without rushing. Night two was a lot better, we were in raised seats and could see Harry the whole time. Our stick figures didn't make it through the show, but we are almost certain Harry noticed us, as we did seem to be the most lit (literally) people in the arena. Even if he didn't see us, we are still telling ourselves he did!
The following morning we woke up early and headed over to Tokyo Disney in Chiba prefecture. We made it just in time to wait in line for the park to open. It was raining. We weren't carrying umbrellas either, so as you can imagine we kept getting bopped by umbrellas as we were getting soaked. As soon as we got into the park we bought ponchos and head bands (instead of the classic Mickey ears). Mine looked like the monster that Boo dressed up as in Monster's Inc and Sarah's looked like the three eyed aliens from Toy Story. I hadn't been to Disneyland in a decade, but Tokyo Disney is honestly not that much different. The rides are very similar with often little to no change. I was only a little disappointed because Pirates of the Caribbean was under construction. Tokyo Disney also reminded me of old school Disneyland in a way because rides like the Swiss Family Treehouse still existed as well as Splash Mountain. Lines were long, as to be expected, and we ended up staying until closing. We were absolutely exhausted! I am not sure how we used to do that *almost* every summer as kids growing up.
The following day we headed over to Tokyo Disney Sea. Just like Disneyland in California, Tokyo has two different parks: Land and Sea. Unlike California, the park entrances are separated a bit further and park hopper passes are not an option, which is the main reason we decided to turn our Disney adventure into two days. While it's name, Disney Sea, sounds like it would be all water related, it actually encompassed a lot more than that. The architecture was quite beautiful, it was designed like other countries around the world. For example there was an ambiguous European design in one part of the park and an ambiguous Middle Eastern part of the park in the other. Don't get me wrong, it did have water themed areas such as the Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and some rides from
a 1950s movie called 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It also had some familiar rides such as the original Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones, and Soaring. Soaring is a little different than the one in California because it is based on different countries around the world as opposed to focusing solely on California's landscapes. I was really hoping to go on both Tower of Terror and Soaring, but the lines for each of the rides were over 3 hour wait all day long. Fast Passes are no longer available for free, at least in Tokyo Disney, you have to pay extra to get a shorter wait time... times have truly changed! We ended up not making it through the whole night at Disney Sea.
While we were hopeful for more vegetarian options in Disney, we still had a hard time finding vegetarian food besides pasta, pizza, and sweets. Overall, though, Disney Sea had some really excellent restaurants. One Italian restaurant we visited was along a canal and we enjoyed our lunch while the gondolas went by. My sister also had a really good dessert in Disneyland that was designed after the green aliens in Toy Story. They were mochi and flavored vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. Disney in Tokyo is also popular for it's popcorn, just like California, and they also have churros, which you can skip and get the mochi aliens instead.
The next day we were still extremely exhausted... and broke... but we finally went into the city. Both Ariake Arena and Disney were outside of the main city. As you may know, Tokyo is huge geographically and there are many districts within the city. We mostly stayed in Shinjuku which is where our hotel was. Before heading to Shinjuku, though, we went to TeamLab. TeamLab is an art/technology exhibit. It started in Tokyo, but it has since popped up in many other prefectures and countries including China, Singapore, the United States (to name a few). The exhibits also routinely change. We went to the Planets exhibit. Our favorite room was the garden. It has hundreds of orchids hanging from the ceiling. The flowers move when you get close to them. So, for example, if you are laying down on the ground they will get lower, but if you are standing they will move closer to the ceiling. Both of us could have stayed in there for a long period of time, unfortunately, we were only allowed in the garden room for a short period of time.
Afterwards we had some vegan miso ramen. I thought it was okay, but my sister really enjoyed it. I will say the broth was good! It had a bit of a bite to it. Then we headed over to Shinjuku. That evening we had dinner, saw Godzilla, and enjoyed drinks at an outdoor bar. One thing that Japan doesn't have enough of is outdoor dining and drinking. It is something that my foreign friends and I routinely talk about missing. Bigger cities like Fukuoka, Osaka, Tokyo do have *some* outdoor dining, but it's still not super common. The reasoning behind this might be that the streets are narrow and sidewalks are often nonexistent, but also it rains a lot in Japan. So any chance that I can, I try to enjoy outdoor venues!
The next day was our final day of our trip. We started by going to a restaurant called Shogun Burger that had vegetarian options on the menu. Even though we went as soon as it opened, they were out of the veggie option. We ended up staying anyway she got some sides and I had a wagyu burger. It was probably the most expensive burger I have eaten but it was delicious none of the less, they also had really good fries and the hot sauce was actually hot! This restaurant first opened in Shinjuku in 2018 and has since added other locations in populated areas in Japan. Afterwards we had to stop at the conbini so that my sister could get some snacks, more onigiri was a must. We then stopped at an arcade where I won TWO medium sized claw machines! This was my first time winning a claw machine in Japan and since they are all over the place I have attempted several times.
Then we did some omiyage shopping which included stopping at Tower Records. Yes, I said Tower Records, as in THE Tower Records. As someone who grew up in Sacramento this has been on my bucket list since I got to Japan. I remember saving up my allowance as a kid and taking trips down to Tower Records to purchase the latest pop or alternative rock album. I also clearly remember when Tower shut it's doors and watched how rapidly physical music shifted to digital music. In my first semester of photography I took photojournalism and was also assigned to watch the 2015 documentary All Things Must Pass. This movie tells the story of both the rise and fall of Tower Records. At the end of the film, it mentioned that there is still a Tower Records location operating in Tokyo, this is what put it on my radar in the first place. While Japan is viewed as futuristic with all of their breakthrough technological findings, Japan still very much holds onto their old school ways. For example, my daily schedule gets faxed to me... You heard that correctly, FAXED! Additionally they prefer to have physical copies of music and movies. Because of this, stores where you can rent or purchase CDs and DVDs are still quite common. When I first got to Japan, a teacher was shocked that I didn't have a TV and DVD player. They asked me how I watched movies if I didn't have a TV and DVD player. Streaming movies is very slowly starting to becoming a thing in Japan. Netflix seems to be the main streaming service out here. Anyway, I found out that there is not one Tower Records, but that there are TWO in Tokyo. Both of them are multiple stories too! We went to the one in Shinjuku. I didn't buy any albums, but I did get a pin with their slogan "No music, no life." and placed it onto my camera bag.
We couldn't end our time in Tokyo without going to an animal café. We went to Harajuku Terrace where we pet chinchillas, hedgehogs and otters. I even got to feed the otters and was surprised at how loud their voices were. Their little hands felt so cute when they were reaching for food!
The next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed for the airport. Our time in Tokyo seemed extremely quick and we barely scratched the surface of Tokyo. I will most likely go back at least once before my time in Japan comes to an end.
My sister and I flew out of different terminals. This time it was difficult to say goodbye because I do not know when I will see her again. I do not have plans any time this year to visit the U.S., and while she hopes to come to Japan at least once more before I leave, we do not know when that will happen. Until next time ♥