I savoured the last drop of coffee; time to bid Shibuya sayonara and head off to.. *drum roll*
Okay. By now, most of you must be scratching your head wondering where the hell is Iidabashi. I reacted the same way when Ally and I pre-arranged to meet at Iidabashi for some dinner and drinks.
To my surprise, Iidabashi turned out to be a quiet street filled with great food and entertainment. But then again, we’re talking about Tokyo here – of glitz and glamour, and hidden wonders. Paving our way across the sloping Kagurazaka street, we arrived at our first destination.
Craft Beer Server Land is located in the basement of a building. Upon entering the building, I was immediately fascinated by the climb down the stairwell. Most restaurants take you up to the 2nd floor but this place led me down; a whole new different experience!
The affordable price makes it a favourite among craft beer lovers and over the last 3 years, has managed to gather a pool of loyal fans. It was our interest in craft beer that created this opportunity for us to meet thus, the table setting could not do without some. And as the night settled, we arched our backs and conversed in a light-hearted manner.
Ally and I met via Couchsurfing. If you are new to Couchsurfing, it is a platform that allows individuals to open their homes to travellers seeking free accommodation; at the same time, create opportunities for like-minded souls to reach out and interact. It acts as a sharing economy that bridges people of different ethnicity and culture to connect, share and learn while on the go.
Some of my friends are pretty sceptical about this idea, especially as a woman travelling independently on her own. There is the issue of safety and unknown dangers lurking behind closed doors. I often read of women being raped or murdered, or worse, gone missing without a trace.
That aside, there are genuine users whose sole intention is to widen their social circle. They are the ones who are eager to show the world their beautiful country and in return, gain new perspectives through their foreign counterparts.
In all honesty, Couchsurfing, like any other social apps, is a double-edged sword. I liken it to religion – where the purpose and teachings are pure & genuine, but it is the users (people like us) who twist and abuse it for their own selfish gains. Like religion, we have to be cautious and selective about who we allow into our life as they may corrupt and destruct our well-being as a person.
Thankfully, Ally turned out to be an amazing person. He was knowledgeable on a number of topics and our conversation flowed freely. Being with him made me feel at ease. It was then that I realise how much I’d miss being able to hold a proper conversation with someone.
While Japan might open its doors to gaijin, it still holds a relatively reserved mindset and way of living. Most Japanese people understand basic English but face a problem when the conversation dives deep. Being able to meet someone of the same tongue allowed me to express myself and convey my thoughts much easily. We engaged and shared about our life, our family, and our views of the world.
Fun fact: Karaoke was discovered in Kobe, Japan where it evolved into an incredibly popular entertainment. Karaoke is formed by putting two Japanese words together. “Kara” that comes from Karappo and means empty and “Oke”, shortened from Okesutura meaning orchestra. So Karaoke means “empty orchestra” (Karaoke Kanta).
In Singapore, karaoke is a popular recreation that colours our entertainment life. Here, we have a number of chains like Kbox, Teo Heng, Party World, and the list goes on. It is a fun activity that brings people of all ages and races together.
Back in Tokyo, Ally and I were done with dinner and started exploring our alternatives. Apparently, karaoke is also pretty popular in Japan and tends to bring out the wild side of almost everyone. Karaoke outlets are widely available and especially accessible in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
So it came as no surprise that Big Echo, one of the largest karaoke chains in Japan, was conveniently located right above our heads.
Big Echo is one of the more prominent karaoke chains found all over Japan. Naturally, it offers a wide selection of Japanese songs but foreign languages such as English, Chinese, and Korean are also available.
Sauntering our way into the outlet, the first thing I noticed was the smell of burnt cigarette lingering in the air. Ally explained that it was because most places in Japan allow patrons to smoke, and Big Echo was no different. I grimaced at the thought of walking out coated with a layer of stale cigarette. Life’s tough and I guess cigarettes are food for the broken souls.
We picked a package, paid and thereafter, the receptionist politely walked us to our karaoke box. Understandably, I was a little awkward and shy about belting my soul out to my new found friend. The alcohol probably helped a little and soon, we were singing along to some of our favourite songs. Heck, we even did some rap though I doubt I’d sang any of the lyrics correctly.
Like the night before (Japan Day 4), time flowed in strange ways and unknowingly the clock struck twelve. As if on auto-pilot, we scrambled out and walked briskly to the train station. Chasing after last trains seems to be a ritual in my travel diary.
We bid goodbye then but promised to keep in touch.