Going to Tokyo was one of those dreams I never thought would come true. Even with the news of dirt cheap plane fares, guesthouse-type accommodations, and more lenient visa rules, the Tokyo-plan remained in the airspace of dreams. The trip just had to be perfect, you know? Sakura blossoms raining from the sky, sushi platters floating in the air towards me, and maybe Oguri Shun escorting me around the city. That kind of perfect. This year, however, I realized I cannot keep waiting for the perfect timing, or the perfect weather (or the perfect celebrity bishounen date. Sad face), or else I will never get there. I just needed the perfect travel buddy, and the perfect excuse.
Touchdown Narita. I wanted to touchdown in this airport because of Hanazawa Rui, okay? It’s not as pretty as Changi in Singapore or even Incheon in Seoul, but that was where Rui kissed Makino on the forehead, and it brought me to Tokyo, so no complaints. We got dirt cheap tickets too. Paid only P7k for a two-way fare via Cebu Pacific (oh yes), booked on February for an August trip.
Hazel and I were staying with a friend who lives in Chiba, and his instructions were to find the train and get off at a station where he will meet us. From there, we hopped on another train, got off at Shim-Matsudo station, and promptly tried to memorize the correct way to embark and disembark a bus (some brain reprogramming needed as buses elsewhere in the world operate quite differently from the super fun Manila buses).
We arrived in the cutest neighborhood in Chiba, where old people wander the streets in the morning, cars are sparse on the road, and you can ride a bike to the grocery. A few minutes’ walk from the bus stop and we arrived at our friend’s place, which was this apartment that looked right out of an anime episode–from the narrow hallways to the talking toilet and the efficient cabinets. Otaku mindblown moment. Day 1 and I was already dreading the thought of leaving.
Meeting Chiba-jo, our first Japanese castle. The Manila-Tokyo commute ate up half our day, so we decided to just look for Chiba Castle which should be less than an hour away from the apartment. ‘Should be’ because of course we got lost on the way. Took the right train and got off the right station, but from there we couldn’t find the bus stop. We found it eventually, thanks to very nice locals who helped us even though they spoke very little English and my Nihongo was limited to ‘Chiba-jo doko wa desuka?’ When we got to the castle though, the very polite guard told us that the place was closed, so we made do with exploring the gardens outside. It would have been nice to see the castle interiors, though the pristine garden did not disappoint.
City lights, 12 floors of Uniqlo, and Ultraman in Ginza. It was only 6pm when the mosquitoes in the garden started trying to eat us, so we had time to go elsewhere. Not caring (or maybe just not fully aware) about distance, we took the bus and the train, this time out of Chiba and straight to Tokyo proper for a night stroll in Ginza. We went straight to the 12-story Uniqlo flagship store because we wanted to see it, and by ‘see’ we meant we wanted to shop. We spent not less than 2 hours scouring all the floors, and came out with yeah, lots of stuff. Things were way cheaper there and they had a summer sale too! By the time we left the building, the rest of Ginza was closing shop (dang it!) so we just walked around until the rumble in our tummies reminded us to get dinner. After the cutest set meals in Mitsukoshi Department Store, we headed back to Chiba (which was pretty far, yeah), wrapping up Day 1 of our Tokyo-drifting adventure.