Homestretch. Here’s where the story ends after eleven days of roaming around. An overnight bus from Nagoya dropped me off at Shinjuku just before sunrise. It was a very chilly morning and the busiest train station in the world had yet to open. Even then as expected, the city was already awake. More so, the crows. I, on the other hand, was still dazed and sleepwalking. Only to be saved from the cold, from my heavy backpack, and from my sleepy self by a 24/7 McDonald’s. All warmed up and after some coffee, my whereabouts had finally sunk in…
Hello, Tokyo! We meet again. :)
Second servings are such. The arrivals aren’t as giddy, and that’s ok. Things are definitely calmer when the the pressures associated with first times are gone. Like having a long list of “musts” or the perpetual state of having to figure things out. In hindsight, it was a good call to make Tokyo the last stop of this long-ish trip. Here’s how things panned out up to this point, the story so far…
- Falling for extreme roller coasters at Nagashima
- Osaka in less than 48 hours
- Kyoto and its memories
- Magome & Tsumago: Of samurais and almost forgotten towns
For this final leg, I made simple plans. First agenda was to dedicate a day for Murakami fangirling. Second was to spend the rest of the time hanging out with friends who were arriving from Manila and starting their Japan trip in Tokyo. But then again, why settle for simple? The universe intervened somehow and so just like any other great story, a last minute unexpected plot twist took this already incredible trip to another level. More on that later though.
Starting things off in Koenji, in search of two moons…
To any other person, this is just an ordinary playground. But to a Murakami junkie, that’s his slide. That’s her hideout apartment. Tengo’s and Aomame’s – at least according to fellow “Harukists”. Please excuse me while this fangirl hyperventilates from feels overload.
In its critical moments, Koenji is the center of the 1Q84 universe. Ground zero to an encounter so epic it gave birth to a second moon in the sky. In real life though, it’s somewhere left of the middle – away from the city’s limelight even if it’s just a few stops away from Shinjuku station along the JR Chuo line.
As one of those alternate universes to all that’s touristy about Tokyo, Koenji is lowkey cool where shotengai is king, vintage and secondhand shops abound, and is home to the subculture types. Being able to spend some quality time here, I knew I struck gold. And along with Shimokitazawa and Harajuku, Koenji now completes my Tokyo triumvirate.
The Tokyo we know with people I know…
After a few days of traveling solo, it was great to see familiar faces again. My friends Pong and Macky finally arrived from Manila, and together we went for aimless wanderings in some of Tokyo’s tourist staples: Shibuya, Harajuku, Omotesando, Ginza, Akihabara, and Odaiba.
Macky had this kid-like obsession for Shibuya crossing that he wanted to witness it from different vantage points every single time we were in the area. To be fair, this Tokyo scramble is a sight to behold and most definitely one of this city’s cheap thrills.
Pong, who is my tropicana BFF, was battling the cold autumn weather. Come to think of it, in the many times we traveled together this is the first time that we had layers on. Bikinis and bare bums are our norm, so consider this a milestone for our friendship. Haha! Missing Gin (1/3 of the tropicana trio) in this kawaii photo-op, so there’s Macky the proxy. Joke lang, hehe! ☺☺☺
We were also supposed to meet up with two other friends, Japh and Coney, but just like how we are in Manila, we make plans and for one reason or another, we don’t push through with them. A bunch of logistical nightmares we are. Oh well, at least we’re consistent.
In other news, guess what else didn’t push thru? My flight back to Manila.
Yep. The plot thickens.
Stranded diaries, Japan ed.
A no fly zone was implemented because of the APEC Summit in Manila, which basically meant I was going to extend my stay for a couple more days. Good thing I had enough yen left and I was issued a 30-day visa. Downside is Pong and Macky were already set to leave for Kyoto, while this city wanted more time with me.
And so, Tokyo and I bonded over the mundane stuff. I immersed myself in its parks and neighbourhood districts. Finished a book (Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru) and watched a movie (Inside Out). Checked out local stores and hung out at cafes. Walked, walked, walked. Changed trains and ate ramen in between. Interestingly, the more I searched for normal, the more the extraordinariness of Japan becomes apparent.
Those extra days of alone time in Tokyo firmed up my belief that I was a Japanese in my past life. Seriously, for real! I couldn’t quite explain how exactly, but a friend once told me that I could be one of the characters in Murakami’s novels. I think so too. For all its loveable quirks and sometimes scary tendencies, to me there’s comfort in Japan’s strangeness. I understand it somehow, and I guess let’s leave it at that.
That being said, it’s quite obvious that I will be back for more. Sooner or later. This story really didn’t end when I left Tokyo. Rather, it’s on an indefinite pause. Until then, I have a treasure trove of memories from this trip. I can live with those for now.