Hello Tokyo (Part 1)

Tokyo. It was everything I expected it to be. And more 

When I arrived that night, I knew I wasn’t in 2018 Los Angeles anymore

yasukini dori street in shinjuku tokyo
yasukini dori, the street in shinjuku famous for its neon lights

Instead, I was transported to the future. I had just time travelled, 16 hours light speed ahead into what was akin to Blade Runner’s version of a futuristic Los Angeles on crack- Tokyo

The neon lights

The Japanese hieroglyphics 

The insane amount of people walking shoulder to shoulder across the busy intersections

The pulsating breath of the city

The wide eyed busty girls plastered on vertical shimmering LED screens

pachinko parlor (japanese pinball gambling machines) in shinjuku, tokyo
flashing animations and sounds of pachinko parlors

These elements hit me all at once when I stepped out of Shinjuku Station, the busiest railway station in the world

As the busiest train station in the world, Shinjuku Station is estimated to have 3.5 million people use it each day

And I had just survived this public transportation madness of hyper-speed bullet trains and efficient subways, arriving during the busiest time in Japan- Cherry Blossom season

kabukicho district, shinjuku, tokyo

The colorfully lit skyscrapers were dazzling

I was in awe throughout¬†my journey to meet up with Angus, Pekkle, and Vouy at our AirBnB in Shinjuku, one of the 23 “wards” in Tokyo

I kept walking until I saw a 7-11 then I turned the corner to step foot into our tiny AirBnB, which I’m not sure whether to consider cozy or claustrophobic

shinjuku station, busiest railway station in the world
stepping out of shinjuku station

After dropping off everything I had, which I had somehow stuffed into just a backpacking backpack and duffle bag, Vouy and I ventured into Tokyo’s urban playground in search of our first meal¬†

We gravitated to the heart of Shinjuku- Kabukicho District (Japan’s second largest red light district)

Slowly and surely, we found ourselves at the entrance of Omoide Yokocho, a laid-back eating and drinking establishment in Shinjuku

With approximately 60 small bars and restaurants connected by narrow alleyways, it was the perfect place to unwind after a long day

omoide yokocho, collection of bars and restaurants in shinjuku, tokyo
omoide yokocho (memory lane) aka ‚Äúpiss alley‚ÄĚ

Omoide Yokocho, which translates to¬†“Memory Lane”, was established in the 1940s post World War II era

It was rebuilt after being torn apart by a fire. To this day, it remains one of the few old school places in Tokyo,¬†hence its name, ‚ÄúMemory Lane‚ÄĚ

Funny enough, Omoide Yokocho¬†is also¬†referred to¬†as ‚ÄúPiss Alley‚ÄĚ, due to the lack of public restrooms available, which led to people urinating in the alleyways

Although, I didn’t think it smelled like piss…

Maybe it was the thick smoke that covered the smell

Maybe it was the mouth watering yakitori that covered the smell

Or maybe it was everything going on at once that distracted me

Amid the hustle and bustle of it all, a¬†group of drunk but polite Japanese guys emerged from the entrance and started teasing me and Vouy (they asked us if we were from China¬†ūüôĄūüôĄūüôĄ)

omoide yokocho + drunk japanese boys

After this encounter between a really drunk group of Japanese locals and a very sober pair of Chinese tourists, the friendly guys bid us farewell and wished us a great time

Finally, we stepped into the corridors of Piss Alley, unaware of the time

I checked my phone- 11:30pm. This was when many of the tiny dive bars were starting to close

Bar after bar, we kept getting rejected due to the time and lack of seating available

omoide yokocho alleyway in shinjuku, tokyo
businessman in omoide yokocho, shinjuku, tokyo

Down the piss alleys Vouy and I went, searching desperately for anything available. ANYTHING. After all, we were two starving Chinese tourists who had just flown in from the other side of the earth!

Finally, we laid our eyes on two open seats at the corner of a tiny restaurant and THANK THE LORD, they were able to squeeze us in

food at restaurant in omoide yokocho, shinjuku tokyo
pork belly wrapped veggie skewers + beer

We ordered a variety of things: tender grilled chicken thigh, chicken skin, pork belly, beef tongue, and vegetables

Right in front of us, the owner of this joint and her son flipped the skewers on a grill

The bars and kiosks were so small and tightly packed (each one sits about 5-10 people) that Vouy and I had to stand up several times for customers to get in and out

The mouth-watering skewers- nothing short of appetizing

chicken skewers at omoide yokocho in shinjuku tokyo
crispy chicken skin skewers + edamame

It was nothing but cheap food and cheap booze. And it was awesome

beef tongue and pork belly skewers

As a first timer in Tokyo, I had always dreamt of this place and it was surreal that I was finally here

It was an attractive, welcoming, and safe place to explore, to wander lust, and to get lost in

The strange and foreign places I encountered on the first night far transcended the Tokyo I’d¬†imagined in my mind. And I was excited to take it all in¬†that I couldn‚Äôt sleep for the rest of the night

art in shinjuku, tokyo
“what if nothing exists and we’re all in somebody’s dream?” read a mural I passed by in shinjuku the first night

10 hour flight

4 hour travel time from Japan’s Narita International Airport to Shinjuku, Tokyo

3 movies watched on the plane

1 hour of sleep

 

My body was exhausted from the jet lag and lack of sleep but my mind was so stimulated by the visual grandeur of the city

Underneath the night sky at 2am, I stepped out of Memory Lane and back into foreign cyberpunk chaos

famous street in shinjuku, tokyo
yasukini dori, shinjuku, tokyo

High-pitched feminine voices saying something in Japanese blared over loudspeakers

The jubilant chimes and beeps of the Pachinko Japanese Gambling machines of winning yen encouraged me to try my luck

Lively chatter among seas of pedestrians greeted me

Back into the modern city of high-speed trains and robots I went

I was finally here in the glorious, the beautiful, and the weird and¬†I couldn’t help but to look up at the neon lights in the horizon and whisper

Hello Tokyo

sakura in omoide yokocho tokyo april 2018
cherry blossoms in piss alley

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