Ahko May 3, 2019

Since I decided that clearing my prior blog posts in preparation for the blog redesign was the right thing to do, I thought I’d post about my trip back to Japan to fill in the void that is the emptiness of the blog section of my new website.

On the 28th of March, I took off to Tokyo to see my friends and old band-mates. It was a long time coming and for the first time, I’d be going to Japan to mostly fool around. The flight there was just as exhausting as I remember it being. It was something like 12 or 13 hours straight and there was no interesting media I found loaded onto the on-flight entertainment system because I flew American Airlines. Funnily enough there was plenty of good stuff on the way back (even though I flew American Airlines back as well). During the flight I made the mistake of buying on-flight WiFi because I thought I could at least browse the internet, but the WiFi was so slow it would barely load pages over the course of several minutes. I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same for every airline that offers in-flight WiFi.

In any case, when I finally arrived in Tokyo it was cold and drizzling. It was raining the entire first week coupled with strong winds. My skin was not enjoying itself whatsoever. On the upside, I really enjoyed my stay at the capsule hotel I booked into. The hotel was in Akihabara and while I wasn’t expecting much from the experience, I have to say that I’m very well sold on the “luxury capsule” experience. The price was very reasonable, the capsules were roomy and comfortable, and best of all—the included bathhouse was amazing. Because I am a huge fan of onsen and bath houses, I was absolutely overjoyed. I’m relatively certain I’ll go out of my way to stay at the same capsule hotel the next time I visit.

Vegan Cheeseburger in Shinjuku

Of course, the best part of the trip (or the best parts) were the meeting of friends and the delicious, delicious food. During the first part of my trip, I met up my friends Ryan and Amar. We had an absolute blast simply being in each others’ company. We ended up going to this vegan burger place that we visited once in the past back when I was living in Japan. Their burger was just as good as I remembered it to be. A strange thing I noticed was that the “meat” would slip and slide in between the buns, making the burger quite difficult to hold. Why are vegan cheeseburgers so slippery? Truly a mystery.

My friend Amar looking like an album cover

I will say that while eating out and visiting places in Tokyo was exciting and memorable in it’s own right, my absolute favorite parts of the trip were the hours spent simply walking around random parts of town with my friends. There is nothing quite like it. I’m really looking forward to the next time my friends and I can walk around again. In any case, here are a couple of hanami photos I took while walking around with them…

After spending our days walking around and being hypnotized at the sight of some gorgeous sakura trees, it was off to Osaka to spend a couple of days with my friends down south. And so, Amar and I got on a Shinkansen and rode off to meet some more close friends.

After Amar and I arrived in Osaka, we met up with our good friends Kate, Joe and Yamada, who kept me company as Joe and I checked into our hostel in Namba. We checked in, and promptly left to fool around with the rest of the crew for the only night we were all able to make it. Unfortunately, Joe and I were too busy having fun to take pictures of all of the awesome meetings and places we experienced, but we did manage to snap photos of the Fushimi Inari Taisha and of course, the Matcha House in Kyoto—both of which Joe and I traveled to later in our stay within the Kansai region.

Mushroom Risotto at Cafe Absinthe in Osaka

One of my favorite places I visited while hanging out with the entire crew was this wonderful cafe called Cafe Absinthe that my friends Amar and Kate (whom are both locals) happen to frequent. Cafe Absinthe has a wonderful variety of awesome dishes. One of these dishes, is their Mushroom Risotto and it is to die for. In fact, I went out of my way to write this paragraph because I wanted to show you the awesome risotto that I ordered twice (maybe thrice, maybe) when I was visiting. I could sure go for another order right now.

The odd part about all this is that I remember visiting Cafe Absinthe years ago back when Amar and Kate first flew into Japan to start their careers. I never recalled Cafe Absinthe being so delicious, but it most certainly was this time around. Perhaps it was just the mood I was in? I’m not entirely sure myself, but I want to go back. In any case, after our delicious affair at the cafe, Amar and Kate commuted back home, and Yamada returned back to his hotel to prepare for his return trip back to Tokyo. It was time for Joe and I to travel on our own.

Some gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine

The first place Joe and I went to was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. I have to say, it may be the most aesthetically pleasing shrine I’ve ever been to. I was quite pleased to see that it was as large as I’d heard it was. Luckily, the weather was still quite chilly during our visit, as climbing any amount of the steps in the heat would have spelled disaster for both of us. It was a long and uneventful, but absolutely gorgeous walk in the afternoon. We exited through the street food stalls and ate our way out. My favorite was the grilled miso rice cake (the camera shutter was too slow to capture the rice cake before it entered our bodies).

Maccha Tiramisu at the Maccha House

Being in Kyoto, we also visited the Maccha (I usually spell it matcha?) House. How could you not? I really shouldn’t consume dairy, but I couldn’t help myself this one time.

After spending another day experiencing Osaka through eating lots of delicious ichigo daifuku and tea, Joe and I took a shinkansen back to Tokyo to meet up with Ryan.

Tantanmen at Nakiryu

Having arrived back in Tokyo, we settled into our last hostel and set out to eat some delicious ramen. Ramen is quite possibly my favorite thing to eat, so I made it a point to introduce Joe to as much delicious ramen as possible. While we didn’t exactly get to eat a whole lot of ramen, I was able to take him to a few spots, and among those few was my favorite ramen place called Nakiryu. Ryan, Joe and I all got the tantanmen and it was absolutely incredible. Regretfully, we couldn’t attend the dinner service due to time constraints, so as a result we couldn’t order my favorite tofu appetizer. I was happy (or at least content) anyway.

Sushi no Midori in Umegaoka

Most of our trip was spent doing what I loved most, which was (as mentioned before) simply walking around and talking. We managed to grab sushi, meet up with my old housemates, and managed to find an awesome kebab spot during our “bang-bang” in Shibuya.

There is however, one thing that I told my friends I couldn’t leave Tokyo without—and that was a visit to the Tokyo Digital Art Museum by Team Lab. Something I was really looking forward to since I initially landed in Tokyo.

I am really looking around in my head to find the correct words to describe the experience I had, but the experience is quite difficult to convey the without actually having been there yourself—but I will try anyway.

To start off, it was without doubt a good decision and easily one of the best demonstrations of modern visual arts I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

As you probably already know, I’m a huge fan of the idea behind visiting a world that isn’t our own, or at least the feeling of it. Team Lab did an amazing job doing just that. Walking into the exhibition was like walking into a world completely alien to our own. 3-4 hours went by in the snap of a finger as my friends and I walked around aimlessly (in a good way) looking at all the evolving art shows. The best part of the experience is that it simply gave us a place to get lost in as we were already well behind the idea of walking around and enjoying our time together.

A few days and many more delicious meals later, Joe and I flew out of Tokyo on the same day. Unfortunately, it was raining super heavily the hour I left. I can only hope Joe didn’t have it as bad. We did manage to stop by the coffee bar right next door to our hostel for the first time the day before we left. We had been meaning to, but never really found the right time. We absolutely regretted not doing so earlier as the owner’s house coffee blend was the best coffee we (or at least best for me) had ever had. I never thought drinking black coffee could be so pleasant, but here we were. It also came paired with a wonderful waffle! Thanks for the treat, Joe!

My gateway an hour before flying out of Haneda

Anyway, I flew out and that was that. I’m going to miss seeing everybody.

Special thanks to Tara for taking the time to hang out with me in the middle of his weekday lunch break. The ramen was delicious! If you’re reading this, congratulations, and I hope you enjoy your trip to France!