I thought very briefly I was the kind of person that wanted to do new things, to travel to new places, all the time. But what I’ve realized is I’m not that kind of far flung traveler. I’m not interested in climbing mountains, or trekking in a tiny van to a remote village, at all. I’d be a terrible travel influencer because I like visiting cities and living in them for a brief period just like I live in New York City, without a lot of fancy circumstance. No thank you, resort lifestyle, I’ll take a giant metropolis. I just like walking all day in unknown but familiar city until I’m ready to sleep in exhaustion. And I really really really like Japan. I just want to visit Tokyo, a lot.
I went to Japan for the first time in 2015 with Brian because we both shared a long held love of everything Japanese. I blame the Boston Children’s Museum for seeding my Japanese wanderlust. I was obsessed with their exhibit featuring a Japanese subway car and a typical Japanese house. We realized as two adults with not a lot of responsibility and office jobs we could just go there why not.
This past January we went again on a cheapish ticket layover to Taipei deal. The winter in Tokyo turned out to be a calm, tranquil time to visit even if we were wearing our winter coats. The off season meant we were often the only Americans wandering the less traveled parts of the city. We sticked to our usual eat, drink, explore giant department stores, and look for ephemera items in Tokyu Hands, avoiding a lot of big tourist site. This time we decided to do less touristy things and just hang out. But I kind of love that fishbowl haze you get from being lost in time across the world. We got very familiar with eating those delicious 7-eleven pancakes though.
I highly recommend getting lost in what feels like a normal day in Tokyo in the off season. We found ourselves the morning crew in Shinjukuo Gyoen with an elderly group waking for exercise. We spent a lot of time drinking really great coffee and eating strange, weird, indulgent desserts that I think teenagers are the most obsessed with. If the last time we were on a grander tour, stopping at traditional sites and temples, this time we stuck to a mostly low-key city life. It was a respite in the middle of a giant city. We snagged tickets to the Yayoi Kusama museum ahead of time. It was nice to be in a relatively low-key situation and finally see one of those very viral infinity rooms, too.
Where we stayed:
I highly recommend the business hotel we stayed in Hotel Niwa. It’s in a less touristed neighborhood which provided for an adventure of roaming around trying to decipher what we could eat at small Izakayas and gyoza restaurants.
What we did:
Eight Cafe for third wave coffee in Shinjuku
Shinjuku Gyoen for a traditional garden walk
Beams for the hip Japanese department store vibes
Happy Pancake because why wouldn’t I want a wiggly soufflé-like pancake
Ghibili Museum as a must see for the bucket list
Kichijoji for the lanes and some greasy spoon gyoza
Genki Sushi because we had to repeat our favorite cheap robotic sushi
Craft Beer in Shinjuku at Goodbeer Faucets
Yayoi Kusama Museum if you want to see an infinity room and not wait in lines with influencers
Tokyo Ramen Street in Tokyo Station for great ramen