For my 21st birthday I had the opportunity to travel to Tokyo, Japan. I could not imagine a better way to spend such a special day than immersing myself in the culture of Japan. My mother and I decided in late December to book tickets to Tokyo. The culture shock of landing in another country was immense. I had imagined that there would be some English or at least some English-speaking people we could communicate with. To my shock, in Japan everything is written and communicated in Japanese. Who would have figured?

Japanese writing on the walls

We struggled to navigate outside the airport. Looking back on it, there was a thrill behind not knowing where you are or how to get to your destination. At the time however, it was quite frustrating. I was able to find a woman who could barely speak English and she purchased train tickets for me. From that day on, I was blown away by the efficiency and ease of transportation in Tokyo. Compared to the public transportation in the USA, Japan had perfected the art of transit. Even without being able to speak Japanese, we could follow the colored lines in, out, and on top of the subway stations. This system was so efficient that even after leaving the subway we could follow the same colored lines on the sidewalk and streets to navigate around Tokyo. I could only imagine how helpful a system like this would be in New York or Los Angles.

Eventually, we managed to check into the hotel. We then realized how out of place we truly were in this country. The first mission was to acquire food. I spent a lot of time trying unique cuisine in Japan. A lot of it was organ meat like heart, kidney, or lungs. To be honest, this was not my favorite food, but it was filling when served over a bowl of rice. Sushi was not a staple like I had imagined. Restaurants frequently served rice, broth, noodles, and other carbs with light amounts of protein. Probably the most interesting part of eating in Japan was the vending machines. These vending machines contained everything. The term everything in this context is no exaggeration. The vending machines in Tokyo contain drinks, food, and absurd toys and trinkets.

The following day was filled with sight-seeing. Tokyo tower was the first attraction on our list. The large structure was not only historical and functional to the city, but a constant sight in the skyline. Tokyo tower is a communications and observation tower in the Shiba Koen district of Minato, Tokyo. As the second-tallest structure in Japan this tower is used for public broadcasting of tv and anime. This knowledge helped me adjust to the sheer number of trinkets and toys being sold in the basement. I used this opportunity to buy statues of my favorite anime characters.

Leaving Tokyo Tower, I witnessed groups of students dressed in cultural and formal clothing. It dawned on me that we might be touring the city during a cultural holiday. After a quick chat with the tour guide it turned out that it was the “Coming of Age Day”; a Japanese holiday held annually on the second Monday of January. This celebration congratulates all those who have reached the age of majority (18). I was lucky to snap a picture and unlucky because I decided to save it in greyscale only.

The following day was dedicated to Mount Fuji. We hopped on a bus with other tourists for a long drive to the mountain. This was a beautiful trip that took us through the defining parts of japan. Once we arrived at the mountain, we had to take a lift to the sulfur springs next door. The sulfur from these springs are used to create the ever-popular century egg. This is a completely black egg.

From the sulfur springs we could witness the grandness of mt Fuji. Unfortunately, with the snow outside we were unable to actually hike near mt Fuji. Leaving the sulfur mountain, we took a boat ride back to the mainland. This majestic boat gave use multiple angles of Fuji and the sulfur mountains. At the end of the day we took the bullet train back to Tokyo to avoid the long bus ride home. I knew that the train was traveling very fast but due to the darkness outside it was impossible to tell. One of my regrets was not taking this train in daylight. The bullet train turned the day long bus ride into a quick 30 min transit ride.  

The following day we did our best to catch a sumo wrestling match. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a single ticket to the event. This is another of my regrets as sumo is a huge sport in Japan. Instead, we spent the day in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. Akihabara is the coolest part of Japan for tech geeks and comic nerds. There was so many colors and sounds that it almost reminded me of New York. From Akihabara we visited some famous Shrines and gardens. The forests, gardens and shrines were the most tranquil places in the bustling city.

We ended our day visiting a Kabuki theater. Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama that is choreographed by an all-male cast. The music and the dancing were beautiful. It made me wish that I could take pictures indoors, but it would have disturbed the story. This was my last night in Tokyo and I couldn’t imagine a better end to such a wonderful trip. I now know what I wish to do next time I return to Japan. Maybe I will adventure further outside the city and I will definitely catch a sumo match.