Ben and I traveled to Tokyo today.
Originally we were going to take the speedy Shinkansen train that would have brought us here in just 2 hours.
However, since I already had the experience of being on the fast train earlier in the week on our trip to Hiroshima, I suggested maybe we look at a different way to get to Tokyo.
Also, the train is very expensive – about $150 one way.
I thought maybe we could fly to Tokyo instead as the flight is very short and I think it was in the $50 range from what I remember when looking it up months ago.
Turns out the flight was $90 because not only were we going to book it very last minute but it’s also Golden Week here in Japan (a national holiday week). It also would cost another $30 to get from the airport to the hotel. So, for all the hassle, we would only save $20 – not quite worth it.
Then I said the two words I never thought I’d say again…
Yes, I asked about it even though my experiences with them on this trip have not been good. I never sleep and end up in the city way too early in the morning all groggy and irritable.
Ben looked it up and it was only $55. Now that was a substantial savings! I figured it was worth the savings and, besides, the roads here in Japan are much better so I should be able to sleep on the bus.
The $55 bus had narrower seats than the next bus available at $80 a seat. The lady at the counter was trying to convey that they were pretty narrow seats but I found what I assumed was a sample seat in the lobby and it seemed more than adequate so we booked the tickets.
Turns out the sample seat wasn’t the one we were getting on our bus.
As we loaded up onto the bus at 12:45am I soon found out what nightmare I had ahead of me…
Not only were the seats very narrow but, with no arm rest in between you are virtually squeezed into your neighbour’s elbows.
I guess it could have been worse as my neighbour was my brother and not some stranger but, still, it was a tight fit.
And I didn’t sleep…
For 8 hours…
When we arrived in Tokyo at 8:30 in the morning I knew that the decision to save some bucks was the wrong one.
I was tired. I was cranky.
And I was irritable.
Just the right ingredients for a bro fight…
I won’t go into details because, frankly, it’s private and it’s not something I think should be shared out here in cyberspace.
All you need to know is that we were both frustrated with each other, we had a fight, said some words and spent the day apart before reconciling later on in the evening.
Now, we’re all good again. Apologies have been made and we’re moving forward.
Anyway, after walking for a bit, we had our fight around 9:30am and parted ways.
I was here in a big unknown city and I had to figure out everything for myself after relying on my brother for everything here in Japan.
Checkin at our hotel wasn’t until 3pm so I had a few hours to spend before going there.
First I just found a quiet place to sit to relax and calm down a little from our fight. There was an area just outside the subway station where some stores hadn’t opened yet so I just sat on the ground in a little alcove, put my bags down and just watched as people went by.
I probably sat there for a good 20 minutes before I had calmed down and had things figured out for the day.
Simple plan really – find a locker to put my bag in, find wifi, look up something to do for the day, figure out how to get to the hotel, checkin and then sleep.
After dropping my bag at one of the nearby lockers, I went out in search of wifi.
First I grabbed a quick bite of breakfast at KFC of all places. They had an pretty damn good ham and egg sandwich on their breakfast menu here in Asia.
No wifi there though. I walked further down to a Starbucks to use their free wifi.
Well, while it’s free here, you have to first sign up online for an account. Of course you need wifi to go online so it kind of creates an ugly vicious circle. I’ve had that experience a few times, namely in airports, and still have no solution for it.
It would seem getting wifi would be a little harder than I thought.
I went back to the subway station and headed over to the information booth instead.
I only had the name and part of the city the hotel was in but no address. Well, I did have the address but it was out in cyberspace and I couldn’t connect to the internet.
The girl at the information booth was so helpful. She could speak English which made everything so much easier. She looked up the address online and actually printed out a copy of a map of the area where the hotel was and highlighted where it was in relation to the subway station I would get off at.
She gave me that along with a color coded map of the enormous subway system here in Tokyo.
I then, on a whim, asked her if there was some park nearby where I could just sit down for awhile.
To my surprise she was quick with an answer. Even though I was prepared to take the subway to some place on the outskirts of the city she told me to just go down the main street for about 10 minutes and I would come upon the National Park.
I walked for 10 minutes and, sure enough, all the hustle and bustle of the city turned into a huge space of greenery.
Picture Stanley Park and times it by 1000. Not that it was that much bigger than my beloved park back home but it had all sorts of flowers and plants, bodies of water, bridges and buildings.
It was beautiful.
It was perfect for what I needed at that very moment on this very day.
Because it was Golden Week, the normal 200 yen ($2) admission to the grounds was free. Of course, the park was also busier but it was filled with locals and not tourists. And they were all happily enjoying the park along with me.
I found a huge tree by the entrance and just sat under it for an hour. I closed my eyes and just relaxed and thought of things.
By the time I arose I was in such a better state. I didn’t feel frustrated or angry or anything anymore. I wanted to contact Ben, tell him sorry and tell him to meet me here at this fantastic place.
Alas, I had no wifi, so I went on to explore on my own. I actually had hoped that maybe Ben had gone off to the same place and we would bump into each other here but it never happened.
I walked around for almost 2 hours. I can’t really describe how beautiful the park is as well as photos do, so here’s some from the park:
Just before 2pm I left the park on the lookout for an internet cafe.
I wanted to contact Ben and let him know all was good with me and that I was feeling much better and was going to head to the hotel.
I found an internet cafe nearby, paid my 300 yen ($3) for a little cubicle complete with a wifi password.
Ah, internet – how I missed you! Please don’t ever leave me again! Yes, I know there is so much wrong with that statement.
I found him on Facebook and he told me to meet him at a restaurant near the subway station by our hotel.
I picked up my bag and travelled to the station. I was so proud of myself for figuring out everything with the subway and arrived to the station in virtually no time at all.
While I was busy patting myself on the back for a job well done, I soon found that getting to the station was only half the journey.
He had said he was at a restaurant at the Roppongi Hills building. I followed the signs at the subway for where the exit was to Roppongi Hills and exited to the street.
I walked over to a building that said Roppongi Hills North Tower on it. It looked like an office building although there were a couple of cafes out front. The fact that it said North Tower on it kind of led me to believe that there were more than one building with the name Roppongi Hills.
Sure enough, I went inside and it was an office building.
I walked down a little further and there was another building with those words on it but this one only had 2 floors on it and I was meeting Ben on the 5th floor.
By the fourth building I had been walking from building to building for a good 20 minutes. Considering the subway trip only took 10 minutes, this was taking alot longer than expected.
The fourth building was the right one though so I went up to the 5th floor, shaking my head at how crazy that search was.
I was ready to sit down with my bro, talk it out, and tell him about the day I ended up having.
Well, that didn’t quite happen.
He was still mad. I guess I never thought about how my actions had affected him.
We got into an argument at the restaurant and, even though I had some pasta on the way, I paid and got up to leave.
It seemed we still had stuff to work out but I didn’t want to do it there and I wanted to do it after a little bit of a cooling off period.
I walked out into the street to find the hotel and checkin.
The map the girl at the information booth had given me for the area was written in Japanese but you could still get an idea of where the hotel was in relation to the subway station.
I figured I’d walk in that direction and ask people along the way to hone me in closer to my destination.
Problem was, the subway station she had circled on the map wasn’t the subway station I had actually gotten off of to meet Ben and I was heading in the wrong direction.
Luckily an Aussie living here in Tokyo saw my perplexed look and pointed me in the right direction.
His directions were so good in fact that I soon found the hotel. Of course it had been a good 40 minutes since I left the restaurant and in all reality the hotel was only 10 minutes away.
But still, the walk was good to clear my mind and calm down a little again.
I found out Ben had checked in about 20 minutes before. We each had our own room next to each other but I asked the man at the front desk if I could move to a different floor just to give us a little space. I really didn’t know how this was going to turn out.
We had fought before and gone long periods without talking and I didn’t know if this was going to be the end result again.
I sat in my room with two paths in front of me.
One, I could just say screw it and just spend my days here in Tokyo on my own and go through another cold freeze with my brother for a few years.
I could send him a heartfelt apology and hope to reconcile this quickly so we could move past it.
I opted for option two.
I send him a message around 6pm and heard back from him soon after.
We met in the lobby at 7pm, hugged, said our apologies and went out into the Tokyo night.
We traveled to the Shibuya area of Tokyo which is the busiest part of the city with the busiest intersection for pedestrian traffic anywhere in the world.
To cement us moving forward, we stopped in a bar and I bought us a couple of tequila shots.
Now, you know how much I don’t really drink so me doing a shot meant something…
It meant we were back on track…