Tokyooo!! Guys, Tokyo is incredible. If you're not too familiar and you want to experience complete culture shock, that's the place to go. I was one of those people who never really looked much past the cultures I grew up around and especially never really cared for what Japan was know for, like Nintendo and Geishas. So when I decided "F**k it, let's go" I truly felt like I was on a different planet. The moment we arrived to the metro central station and had to get into one of the city trains, I immediately got sucked into a river of people going in one direction, accordingly to the arrows painted on the flow. I had to literally squeeze into a train and stand upright, like sardines in a can. In that moment, it hit me that I was in Tokyo and that I knew nothing about this place or what to expect.
When we finally found the street that we were staying at, that was another moment. The street had it's own archway with neon lights and a screen reading "Takeshita". Finding the Airbnb felt almost impossible, because all the signs were in Japanese and you couldn't even see the smaller streets because they were blocked off by tons of people and tons of stores. Everyone was extremely colorful and unique. It seems like in Japan, style was a competition of who can be the "most different". I mean I guess it's only fair since they're also extremely orderly and hard working (everything closes around 8 on week days). The school kids all wear the same uniform for probably their entire student career, so I'm sure its a way to show off their otherwise covered up personalities. It's an interesting thought.
The one thing I was very familiar with was the food: Sushi!! I was excited for that, until I realized that American-ized sushi is way more elaborate than traditional Japanese sashimi. You know those pieces of sushi that are literally a ball of rice and a piece of raw salmon? Variations of that are basically everywhere and it seems like raw food is all they eat, besides like ramen noodle bowls. I felt adventurous when I first got there and going to Tsukiji Fish Market was on the top of my list (I love samples). One day, we made our way there and I basically picked up anything that was offered to me. Some of it was pretty sketchy, like these slabs of fish that were just sitting there with toothpicks in them, but if that's how I'm meant to go then so be it. "Oh, Barb died in Japan of food poisoning" that's cooler than dying of old age. To prevent further chances of death, I bought myself a variety of grilled skewers of fish and shrimp, which was great. Then, some sort of mollusk that was prepared right in front of me and served on it's original shell, after being seasoned with some sort of pink sauce. I felt really cool walking around, eating out of a shell with chopsticks, in freaking Tokyo.
At night, I wanted to walk around and see what it was like on Takeshita Street. This was probably the coolest part because everything is just so fun. The stores are the most interesting things to take tours of because you never know what to expect when you walk in through those doors. I found these random stairs going down, under one of the shops, that me and my mom followed some giggly girls to, and we find about 20 photo booths where it edits you to look more doll-like. We actually sat there and did it, but instructions were in Japanese so the little photo slip came out a little funny. Cool souvenir thought! Another shop I walked into by myself, this time, was upstairs and when you walk in all you see is probably a thousand plush toys of the same hamster/teddy bear thing. Like what?? Do you know how funny it felt walking into that? I just giggled and walked out before anyone asked me if I needed help shopping.
What I really like about this place is that it's kind of liberating not knowing about anything and constantly questioning what you knew to be "normal" before. Giant Anime teddy bears, fluffy colorful things, hidden photo booths, crazy sea food, and sailor moon school kid outfits. There is no place like it anywhere else, and whats even better is that us westerners are just as unfamiliar to them as their culture is to us. After this trip I still can't say I fully understand it, but I'm glad I at least have scraped the surface.