It has almost been a year since I made that trip to Japan. The memories are starting to blur but recollecting them for these blog entries always lights a smile upon my face.
Last year I managed to scratch ‘celebrate birthday overseas’ off my bucket list.
Many people around me thought I was “outright ridiculous and being emo”. They said: everyone wants to celebrate this special day surrounded by loved ones, and you chose to celebrate it alone?
And maybe I was but here’s the real deal: I was also beyond elated and felt alive during those moments. Isn’t that what birthdays are meant to be? A celebration of your life, of your existence.
Following up from my previous entry – Japan Day 3, we ended (or started) my birthday getting lost in translation.
Aside from that, it was time to leave Nui Hostel and move onwards to my next accommodation – Kōenji Town!
I’d done some light reading prior to booking my accommodations and chanced upon Kōenji.
Located in West Tokyo and just a short distance from Shinjuku, Kōenji is a lively and trendy residential area that is known for its alternative youth culture.
There are live bands and cheap eateries dotted around the train station. Besides that, it is a haven for retro used-clothing, if you’re into those kinda stuff aka më.
Of course, I got lost on the train again making my way down to Kōenji but first, let me
cry at my stupidity take a selfie.
One of my favourite activities while in Japan is observing the way their train system works. I thought it marvellous how the trains ALWAYS arrive and depart on time. There are the occasional delays that happen but are frowned upon by the community.
Also, no one gives a shit about the train master that pulls in and out of the station yet they move with such systematic efficiency it is like catching a performance that replicates itself onto the many different characters cast in it.
In time, after watching them for days on end, I found their rigidity rather stifling. There were moments when I had to hold myself back from trying to “surprise them” in an attempt to evoke emotional expressions off of their faces.
Yes, that was what I felt observing them during my stay. Mindless faces trudging on mindless spaces.
After depositing my massive luggage at the new apartment, I had time to spare before check-in. Feeling adventurous, I explored the new town on the hunt for some good food to fill the tummy.
Weaving in and out of Kōenji’s back streets, I soaked in the refreshing weather. The breeze was cold with a hint of warmth and it was a good day for outdoor activities.
Everyone was bustling about carrying on with their daily business, yet there was nothing anxious about it. Unlike its sister Shinjuku, the concept of time in Kōenji is re-written and encapsulates in an invisible sheath of tranquility.
I chanced upon Tiger Gyoza Hall and was immediately seduced by the vigorous tiger logo that seemed ready to pounce and drag me head first into the restaurant.
Just kidding – I am a huge fan of Gyoza and the sizzling sounds emitting out of the restaurant was like a dope-ass lullaby calling out to me and I was tranced and unknowingly walked in without hesitation.
NO REGRETS. The gyozas were soooooo güd I died in food heaven and was reborn as a fucking Chinese dumpling.
(Editor’s note: e.s. just had her cuppa kaffe and is bordering between extreme excitement and insanity)
On a serious note, Tiger Gyoza Hall is a great place for Gyoza lovers. I believe there are a variety of unusual gyozas available like the ‘black pork gyoza’ or ‘green veggie gyoza’ which seems to be a popular choice among customers.
Tiger logo luring me in (Pic grabbed off Yelp)
Black Pork Gyoza (Pic grabbed off Yelp)
Green Veggie Gyoza (Pic grabbed off Yelp)
I’m sure most of you must have heard of Airbnb by now (and if not you’re fucking dense) because I swear by Airbnb for my travels. So it should come as no surprise that I secured most of my accommodations via Airbnb.
I discovered Kōenji Place on Airbnb and booked it for the following 3 nights in Tokyo. Toshi and Henry, my hosts, were very helpful before and during my entire stay.
Kōenji Place is located just a 5 minutes walk from Kōenji station. Situated slightly off the main road, it sits next to a Kebab shop that serves pretty decent kebab. Also one night, the kebab dude paid for sex with a prostitute and told me: a man is a man and has needs to be satisfied.
I never find trouble, trouble always seems to find me.
View of my room! (Pic grabbed from Airbnb)
Killer staircase (Pic grabbed from Airbnb)
Henry-san and I bonded over green tea where he shared stories of his home country – Spain, and what it feels like working in Japan.
The culture exchange was both delightful and informative, and I stayed longer than I had intended. We parted ways with Henry’s recommendation for my visit to Omotesando and/or Harajuku.
Still, I decided to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Building at Shinjuku.
I recall getting lost searching for the Tokyo Met. But the weather was lovely and I was not going to complain.
It was my birthday and I could sense spring’s earnest desire to break out of the mould and welcome her people with awakening breaths of warmth.
Tokyo Metropolitan Building (Pic grabbed off Andy Sim)
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building is a popular tourist attraction as it offers free observation decks that opens up to a panoramic view of Tokyo. With that, I’d read up that on good days, you would be able to see the majestic sunset against Tokyo’s backdrop and was immediately drawn to it.
The landscape was indeed filled with a gorgeous hue of glowing vermilion. The view from above was breathtaking and everyone gathered across the glass window in an attempt to capture the moment.
It might have been the lack of company but the sunset did not thrill me the way it does on most days. Maybe being on my own was starting to take its toll on me? Or having to catch the lone sunset on a special day made me feel especially alone?
Or maybe experiencing these lone moments will allow me to better appreciate the presence of someone when they finally arrive.
I believe it is the latter.
To be continued…