My last full week in Japan I decided the only smart and responsible thing to do when I should be cleaning my apartment was run away for a bit to Tokyo. Originally my plan was to make it a solo trip and do my normal “one prefecture a day” schedule. However, one of my co-workers ended up being able to come for the second day, so I had to change plans a bit.
First up, I got to the airport and checked in using my super cool watch. I do feel pretty awesome when everyone else has to pull out their phones to check in and I can just use my wrist. I still had a few hours to kill and it was almost dinner time, so I decided to stop by one of the restaurants that I always forget exist on the top floor of the airport. I got myself some really good chicken nanban (the prefectural dish) and soba. As I was loudly slurping my noodles and mentally patting my back for getting so skilled at it (I rarely end up splattering my glasses anymore!), I realized that that was one of the skills and habits I am really going to have to unlearn.
I made it through security without any issues. I was a little worried when I received a notification that my seat had been changed due to a change in aircrafts, but I was happy to see that we had been upgraded to a bigger plane. That meant that a lot of people (myself included) were able to get our own rows.
I got to Tokyo, grabbed my bag, and found the right train.
Then the trouble started. First, I couldn’t find my hotel. I tried to ask someone on the street for help, but he pretended he didn’t hear me and then actually took a few steps away from me. I was livid, but there was nothing I could do really. It took a little more wandering but I did eventually find it. I checked in, excited to just shower and sleep.
But then I got to the room.
It was disgusting. Apparently the hotel’s policy did not have room cleaning services. Guests were supposed to be responsible for that and I can tell you no one took that seriously. Everything in the room was stained (sheets and couch included) or had mold on it. It was almost midnight by this point and all I wanted was to sleep, but there was no way I was sleeping in there. I marched myself right back downstairs to the front desk. I politely asked if there were any other rooms I could switch to because my room was unacceptable.
The front desk worker’s response was that this hotel was old and that all of the rooms were like that. It was ridiculous. After making sure I would get a refund for at least the next two nights, I returned the disgusting room to book a new hotel (and to call my mom for emotional support). After I had a new room and my refund in hand, I spread out one of my shirts on the pillow and tried to curl up in the cleanest part of the bed. The room was making my allergies go crazy so it was still another hour before I could sleep. I will say this: as awful as the room was, the front desk staff was very polite and helpful.
I woke up after only three and half hours to my alarm. I had to go check in to my next hotel. When I arrived, there were two men berating the front desk staff. After waiting about ten minutes listening to the conversation and catching such highlights as, “Sir, please stop pounding on the bell,” and “Do you want me to call the police?” one of the men started talking to me while we were waiting for the staff to come back out after escaping to the back room. Apparently, the worker was a new employee who kept making a lot of mistakes. The latest mistake involved cancelling the other man’s reservation in the middle of his stay.
Eventually someone else came out and I was able to get my bag put away in their storage, even if check-in didn’t start for another 10 hours. I headed out to find the train station and made my way to Tokyo Station to meet up with my tour.
I made it on my tour just fine, but I was so groggy that I did not really enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The first place we visited was crowded and it was rainy which made things so much worse. Besides, all I could think while I was walking around the temple was think, “I’ve seen a lot of these.”
However, I ended up reflecting on what seemed to separate me from the other tourists on the tour: I had seen a lot of those. And I had navigated them myself without the aid of a tour guide or a translated audio tour. The reason there was nothing new or wonderful about visiting this temple was that to me, this was just home. My home happened to be filled with temples and shrines, but it was home all the same. And though seeing shrines had become mundane and ordinary, they also felt comfortable. I knew I would make none of common mistakes when washing my hands before entering or stepping through the gates and that made me happy. Even though it was raining and crowded, I slipped away to take a few pictures by myself and found myself smiling.
I was having another moment of saying goodbye. Moving out of the country has been such an enormous event that I could never process it all at once time. Processing and saying goodbye came in bits and waves. Because, truthfully, I am dealing with a loss (the loss of my current life) and with it comes the various stages of grief required for processing what is happening. The trip really helped me come to terms with the fact that this was actually happening. I was actually moving.
The second half of the tour was self guided. I took a free shuttle bus from the temple to the historical theme park. If I was on a date or with kids, I would have had a lot more fun at the theme park. After wandering around and taking some pictures, I decided to catch an earlier bus to the train station and see if I couldn’t get back to Tokyo early.
A reserved seat on a train was part of my tour, but the train I was supposed to take wasn’t for another three hours. I walked into the ticket office, explained that I wasn’t feeling well (true) and needed to get back to Tokyo early. I paid a small ticket change fee and was all set. I picked up a really good ekiben (station bento/ prepacked lunch box) with some of the local beef for my ride back.
The three hour train ride back to Tokyo was incredibly peaceful. I passed the time taking pictures out the window and enjoying my lunch. It was just what I needed.
It also put me in a really good mindset for my next day at Disney with my friend from work / Japanese older sister.