I don’t need a lot when I first arrive at a travel destination: a clean, warm, safe place to sleep tops the list, and everything after that is gravy. Unfortunately, our first night in Japan I also wanted something with a good location: close to food and particularly so close to Tsukiji Market that I could walk there. I was worried I’d never find something in my price range, but then I stumbled on Viainn Higashi Ginza.
♫Access to sushi and night clubs and gardens / Good transportation and beds for a bargain / Locking my room up at night with a key / These are a few of my favorite things…♫
After the quiet of Meiji Shrine and the noise of the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, we found we were running late to meet Yu, a friend of Shannon’s. Yu is a Tokyo native and was excited to take us around his hometown, even if only for one night. We made our way to Shinjuku station and met Yu just outside the West Exit. It’s bad enough getting into Shinjuku late, but trying to meet someone there will only make you later. Luckily for us, Yu was forgiving and ready to dive into the night life.
Travelling in Tokyo, it’s easy to feel sympathy for the Grinch: all the NOISE NOISE NOISE NOISE will drive you mad! Ads blaring on every corner, pachinko parlors ringing every other block, political activists driving around town shouting over bullhorn, motorcycle engines revving all hours of the night. In the depths of Shinjuku or Shibuya, it’s easy to think that you’ll never have a quiet moment again, but as loud as Tokyo can be—like a toddler on amphetamines—there are also pockets of quiet sprinkled about the city. One of the biggest and most lovely is Meiji Shrine, an important cultural and religious site set on 175 acres of hushed forest in the heart of the city.
Japan is known for so much, but in the American mind it might be best known for its bizarre fads. From bagelheads to pillows shaped like breasts to eyeball licking, if it’s weird, Japan gets the blame. Almost all of it is undeserved, of course: although these things undoubtedly exist, many don’t originate in Japan and they definitely don’t permeate the culture the way they’re made out to. That said, Tokyo is pretty weird-tolerant, which is how you get things like the Yankii in Yoyogi Park and the eye-popping Harajuku fashion scene. Tokyo’s weirdness is easy to see but hard to participate in, so if you want to dip your toes, I recommend a visit to a maid café.
I’m a pretty quiet person. My favorite Friday night pastimes vary wildly from staying at home to read a book, to staying at home to watch Netflix. My husband doesn’t understand it; I mean, who wants to spend Friday night somewhere the drinks are cheap and you can choose which songs to skip, amiright? But as much as I love my books and my cheap wine, I have a serious weakness for clubbing. I can have fun even at the most boring clubs, but if the music is good and I have space to dance, the experience is transcendent. I discovered my love for clubbing at the dearly departed Velfarre, but found my clubbing true love in AgeHa.
It had been quite a day already. Delicious sushi breakfast, a visit to Sengakuji Temple – the resting place of the famous Forty-Seven Ronin – and to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. We’d checked into our hostel and wandered Inokashira Park. We were jetlagged and tired, dizzied by Tokyo’s blinding light and speed, but we couldn’t stop quite yet. We rushed off to Roppongi to wind down with a Japanese tea ceremony.
The sun hadn’t yet risen when we stepped onto the silent streets of Ginza. Tokyo never sleeps and even at five in the morning there were still people out, but compared with the crowds and noise of day, pre-dawn seemed downright post-apocalyptic. Why wake before dawn and shamble alongside hungover salarymen? Two words: Tsukiji Market.