It’s been a long trip but here I am! On Monday, March 27th I arrived at Narita Airport. The flight was 13hours but somehow it felt like 2 days. Welcome to my study abroad journey everyone! I have a lot to tell so I’ll try to keep it simple…
☼ ARRIVAL ☼
To be honest I was pretty nervous before my flight! It’s been 2 years since I’ve been to Japan and I didn’t feel fluent quite yet. I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that my time had come to finally go. The process to get here was long and a bit tedious but I was happy to finally be at the airport. I got myself a green tea latte in the airport to help calm my nerves and prepare for the onslaught of matcha flavored things upon landing.
The flight itself was actually not too bad considering how long it took. The staff were really nice and always so helpful, I had plenty of legroom, and luckily I was seated right by the bathroom! When it came to food I was surprised at how much they gave you. I found myself silently begging for them to stop. All the food was interesting! Some things I knew and others were completely foreign to me. I tried everything and I enjoyed pretty much all of it. Each meal they gave you a decent portion size and a small wipe accompanied it. What amused me most was the one napkin they gave me that was literally made out of green tea leaves. I wanted to keep it but really what would I do with it? Everything was pretty health conscious as well; even the water seemed healthier on that flight.
After landing I saw my trip had just begun. I had a lot more traveling to do before I could rest. First I found my way through customs which took a whole hour and 30mins due to the immense amount of people. Once I got to the booth though they got me out after a good 5 minutes. After that I found my baggage wasn’t at the gate and had to ask a staff member where it went. Luckily they keep unclaimed baggage in a special area so I got it back in no time! I managed to find my way to the JR EAST Ticket Station and purchase my Narita Express round trip ticket. I was able to arrive two days earlier than my KEI Abroad group so I had some time to myself; which meant I needed to make my way back to the airport after my two days. One way from Narita to Tokyo is about an hour but the train was comfortable. From there I fumbled my way through the ever so confusing Shinjuku station and out to the big city! Shinjuku was always been my favorite city due to the fact I’ve been there so many times. Luckily my hotel was painfully obvious from the station so I soon put away my GPS. Coincidentally my hotel was in Kabukicho, an area my native friends warned me to be careful about. I encountered no problems there in my short stay though. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at the fact I could clearly see several host clubs from my hotel window on the 13th floor. I was dressed kinda like a host boy that day so I got a lot of odd looks from the ones on the street.
♪ A LITTLE SLICE OF HEAVEN ♪
Next morning I woke up pretty tired but determined nonetheless. I decided to just wing it and use what Japanese I know and take it from there. At that point I was too hungry to hide away in my hotel and pray for food to appear. I ventured out and found a place called Mr. Donut and got myself some Clam Chowder soup and Melon soda. It was really good and made for a satisfying feeling when I ordered food without exploding from embarrassment.
After that I wandered about Shinjuku for something to do. My favorite stores didn’t open until 11pm and it was about 9am. I ended up walking into a couple bookstores to pass the time. I managed to amuse myself whilst reading what I could of the Japanese all about. Even now when I think back on that magazine with ikemen plastered all over named Potato of all things, I can’t help but laugh. Thankfully I didn’t laugh hysterically in the moment though! The bookstore was dead quiet.
Finally the time came and I marched on over! Visual Kei, a fairly undergrond style of fashion and music is my passion. In Shinjuku there’s about four Visual Kei stores adjacent to each other and two clothing stores. Oddly enough, before even buying anything my bag was so heavy from just free flyers and magazines! Last time I went I don’t remember there being so many.
There were a lot of sales this time around and I took advantage of it! I felt like I bought more merch and CDs than I knew what to do with! However now that I have it all set out it doesn’t look like much but it felt like a ton carrying it home. I spent so much time out and about at my stores that I completely neglected time to eat! I rushed back to my hotel and decided that my first concert was more important. For a while I was undecided if I wanted to go to a concert so soon or not but I felt in the end it was worth it.
That concert will definitely be one of my most cherished memories. The moment I walked through those doors one of my beloved bands were already on stage. For a good while I just stared in awe. The past four years I’ve followed Balalaika’s music and yet here they were right in front of me. It felt so surreal. The venue was small enough that I saw them clearly even from the back. I ended up leaning on the railing since I was getting weak. Even so I can’t really describe how I felt while I watched them perform. They were just as beautiful as they are in their photos. They really were everything I expected them to be!
Once Balalaika left the stage I hurried over to buy merch and basically clung to it for the rest of the show. I admit I was a bit annoyed that once they left the stage more people poured in for the next band. After two other bands I was getting pretty weak from malnutrition and vowed that if the next band wasn’t SAVAGE then I’d leave. The next band wasn’t them but they were so energetic I found myself mustering the energy to head-bang with everyone. Once SAVAGE came on I was so grateful! Somehow they were even more energetic than the last band! Ryuka the vocalist especially was spectacular on stage. I really wasn’t that into the band but I’ve been converted since that night. Several times he beckoned the fans to come on over to the stage and after about the third time or so I crept over only to find he went back on stage. I went back to my spot in defeat. I decided to try one last time and hurried over. Ryuka actually reached out to me and pulled me into the group. Again it all felt so surreal! It was basically a whole crowd of fans huddled together by Ryuka or another member on the other sides of the stage. Once I noticed every leave I left as well. After that I couldn’t help but feel happy enough for one final song and even came closer to the front to dance with everyone else.
I left before the last band because I was sure I’d pass out! I ate at a small restaurant by the station and made it home at a decent time. I collapsed on the bed and slept for a good bit before realizing I needed to repack for my excursion back to the airport. Living off of memories from the concert I was able to smile while groggily packing my things away that night. I’d never felt so happy in my life even thinking back on it. I’ve officially become a band girl.
♥ 久しぶり MEANS LONG TIME NO SEE ♥
Despite being dead inside from the grueling shopping, standing and head-banging, I got up the next day alive and well. That was the day I was to meet my darling friend Madoka! We hadn’t seen each other since I last went to Japan 2 years ago. I was so excited to see her again after all this time. She, of course, remembered my favorite food
(meat) and we ate at a wonderful restaurant that served cow’s tongue! I know it sounds disgusting but trust me you won’t know until you try it. Funny story though, when I first tried it I didn’t even know I was eating someone’s tongue.
Afterwards Madoka helped me get a new cable for my laptop since the plugs here in Japan are have two ports instead of three. Next we set off to Harajuku! Harajuku was always held a special place in my heart since my fashion fits right in this area. I thought since it was a weekday, no one would really be there. However it was during Spring Break so all the students crowded down the one famous Takeshita Dori street. It always amazes me how everyone can just cram in there and shop like normal. Me and Madoka managed so in the end it all works out.
Sadly I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I did run into some interesting finds! The street is packed with all kinds of unique clothes, accessories and even food! The crepes down that street are famous as well but it was too cold to have one. Unfortunately I found another Visual Kei store in Harajuku and ended up buying a couple more CDs. Back home I’m good with spending responsibly but I swear that since I’ve come here I’ve been converted to a shopaholic. Anyway, one of last stops was in my favorite store of all time: Closet Child. Odd name I know. You get used to it when you stay in Japan long enough. At this place they have all the Visual Kei, Gothic, or even more cutesy Lolita style anything you could want! Half the time they have amazing sales and I managed to grab a jacket and adorable onesie for a total of $20.
It was hard to say goodbye but we were both tired and time flew by so fast! This time though it wasn’t as sad to leave as before because we both knew that we’d see other again fairly soon. Besides, I have a new favorite drink to remember her by. Back when we were in the restaurant I thought the water tasted funny and she said it was Mugi tea, which is basically barley tea.