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Konnichiwa, Tokyo!

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“Tokyo.” The word has always sent shivers down my spine. Tokyo isn’t just any big, exciting city. It’s the biggest and most exciting city in the world. The thought that we were about to spend three months there filled me with both happy anticipation and a sense of dread. 91 days is usually enough time to comprehensively explore our new homes, but this wouldn’t be the case in Tokyo. And we knew it.

A couple months beforehand, while we were lounging in hammocks on another lazy afternoon in the Yucatán Peninsula, Jürgen said, “You know, it’s about time we went to Japan.” I immediately agreed. Neither of us had ever visited the country, and it was long past due. We narrowed our choices to a handful of cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka. Each was given due consideration, but in all honesty, the decision had been made as soon as there was a decision to make. It was always going to be Tokyo.

91 days in Tokyo? Yes, we can do this! I dove into researching the city and soon confirmed the bleeding obvious: no, we can’t do this. Not thoroughly, at least. There’s no way. 35 million people live there. There are 100,000 restaurants, and probably twice that many shops. We might, might, be able to adequately cover a single one of the city’s 23 wards. For example, if we concentrated solely on Koto, where we had rented an apartment, we could possibly do it justice.

And then we arrived, and I understood that even a single ward might be too much. More people live in Koto than in Iceland, an entire country to which we had recently dedicated 91 days. Perhaps it was the jet lag, but on that first night in Tokyo, dragging our suitcases behind us as we walked to our apartment, I started to shiver. The lights, the noise, the people, the indecipherable language, the cuteness, the insane sensory overload, the sheer size of the city. It was too much. “Go to sleep,” I told myself. “It will seem more manageable tomorrow.”

But it didn’t. On our first full day, we visited the Tokyo SkyTree and its shopping mall, and I understood that 91 days wouldn’t be enough to cover just this single complex. Seriously, we could do “For 91 Days in the SkyTree” and still have to leave things out.

How do you explore a city like Tokyo? Where do you even start with the process of adjusting? Usually, we try to become as local as possible, learning a little of the language and trying to fit in. We attempt to truly understand our temporary home, sync with its culture, and thoroughly explore it. This, however, is impossible in Tokyo. Three months isn’t nearly enough time to come to grips with Japanese culture, nor experience even a fraction of what Tokyo has to offer. But as we began this new stage in our travels, we felt good; the upcoming 91 days were going to be stressful, crazy, busy and strange, but it was a safe bet that they’d also be a blast.

Fun Toys From Japan

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March 12, 2014 at 7:04 am
7 comments »
  • March 12, 2014 at 7:59 amNot Hemingway’s Spain

    Tokyo! Japan! How exciting! I think you should forget writing or photographs and get a helmet cam to wear on your heads whenever you go out. Constant coverage. No, wait! Get two cams for the helmet, because you’ll not want to miss what’s happening behind you either. Tokyo! Fun! I’ll be following along on your entries, and excited to see you guys there soon!

  • March 12, 2014 at 1:11 pmIan

    Yes, the great thing about Japan is that, as a visitor, you could probably have a good time all the time but there will always be more and more things that would suit even someone just looking from the outside. So even for people who only have a few days to spend there, I always say don’t worry about wishing you had more time, the thing you can guarantee is that you’re not going to run out of things to do!

  • March 12, 2014 at 11:16 pmRick

    I am awaiting revisiting Tokyo through your eyes (and great photos). So much to see, I am sure you have too long a list already. Try to fit in a visit to Zojo-ji Buddhist temple. Tokugawa Graves and the unborn babies memorial. Both still remembered by me after 10 years.A morning at the Tsukiji market..I remember sitting there having a bit of unfiltered sake from one of the brewers stalls.

  • March 13, 2014 at 5:27 amEwerthon Tobace

    I totally agree with you! I live here for 13 years and every week I find something amazing walking around in the city. Ok! this is my job (I am a journalist and I have to think about articles all the time), but I am always impressed about Tokyo. Have fun here! If you want some help you can contact me! cheers

  • March 13, 2014 at 3:18 pmjoel jason

    I’m so happy that you’re in Tokyo. I’ve never been, and don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I’m very curious. I’ll be looking forward to your posts about this intriguing city for the next three month. Have a blast!!!

  • March 15, 2014 at 9:58 amGlen Anderson

    I adore Tokyo and Japan in general. Had three weeks in the country seven years ago and have been yearning to return ever since. Only did five days in Tokyo I think and I didn’t even scratch the surface. Loved every last minute of it. Will you be having a cocktail in the Park Hyatt hotel like in Lost in Translation?

  • March 15, 2014 at 12:48 pmDan Secrest

    Wow, 91 days? That is awesome. I will be flying to Tokyo in mid-April as part of a RTW business trip that starts in Europe. Will spend one week in Tokyo/Osaka regions visiting numerous Japanese aerospace & defense companies. It has been nearly 7 years since my last trip to Japan. I used to travel their frequently and it has always been one of my favorite places to travel (amongst many). I wander how much has changed in 7 years.

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Konnichiwa, Tokyo! "Tokyo." The word has always sent shivers down my spine. Tokyo isn't just any big, exciting city. It's the biggest and most exciting city in the world. The thought that we were about to spend three months there filled me with both happy anticipation and a sense of dread. 91 days is usually enough time to comprehensively explore our new homes, but this wouldn't be the case in Tokyo. And we knew it.
For 91 Days