I can't imagine there being a greater contrast in environments than going from the island of Gili Meno to Tokyo.
Arriving in Tokyo for the first time is quite a rush. Especially when you arrive at 10pm and you have to arrive at your hostel by 11. We got our baggage, and looked at the subway system map. It looked like this. Like, this is the actual Tokyo Subway PDF. Take a gander.
This is when we looked for someone who put of the vibe with a healthy ratio of "friendly to knowledgeable". Someone tried to explain to us, but I decided to just go for it and look at it section by section. I knew for sure we had to get on the first train, so I figured we'd start from there and find more friendly and knowledgeable looking people. When we were on the train I saw some friendly looking people and asked them as politely as I could, how in the God's name to get where we needed to get. The lady was extremely gracious when she kindly let me knew that I was speaking too loudly and that in their culture people do not talk on the subway at the volume I was speaking. Oh man, this just isn't getting any easier. We realized we had no ability to get to the hostel in time, and I sheepishly asked the lady if I could borrow her phone to call the hostel and let them know we were arriving after-hours. She told me to call between subway stops as doing anything else would be looked at as extremely rude- whoa.
Finally we get to where we needed to get and walked up the long steps to the road. Our first feeling of chill January air for the first time in over a year. It definitely caught us by surprise, but it was time to keep our heads down and walk through the dark alley which led to a larger branch of roads. It wasn't time to shop around, I grabbed the first taxi I could find and struggled at communicating with the driver as to where to go. He was extremely generous with trying to work with me and find where we needed to arrive. It was quite something being in an entirely different world than the remote island in Bali that probably had a couple hundred residents, now we were in the most populous place on earth.
We arrived at Tokyo Space Hostel and were greeted with a warm welcome. We quickly found our beds and slept wonderfully. It was easy to notice right away that the Tokyo Space Hostel wasn't kidding. They were very specific about their rules, which resulted in a very professional and restful environment. I'll never forget how each shower had its own various types of soaps and shampoos for both men and women. The water and beds were warm and fresh. There was a rooftop area where you could see the surrounding city.
The next day Kathryn began to get sick, and honestly we ended up not doing all that much because of how the quick weather change affected us. This turned into a cozy retreat prior to returning back to the USA, something we both knew would be another huge change. Neither of us had met the other's family, and we had a wedding to plan.
We found an absolute gem of a cafe at Iriya Plus Cafe (イリヤプラスカフェ). I never knew I would love pancakes and meatloaf together, but this was possibly the best thing of my life. It was this kind of warmth that I'll remember Tokyo for. We had initially struggled to find the cafe, but a stranger walked a quarter of a mile just to show me where it was. We encountered the kindest Japanese folks during our time. We hadn't had a homey meal like this in quite some time. Much of our time was spent at small coffee shops or cafes as we were just trying our best to keep warm.
Though we missed out a lot on much of Tokyo, we still experienced the famous Shibuya Crossing, and Tokyo Tower. It was amazing just how many people would cross that street as we sat at the nearby starbucks to watch. The rustle and bustle of Tokyo really does make one feel alive. It was a beautiful example of a world-class city. Thankfully I had learned to navigate better and better the subway system. Tokyo is a rough place to go and only stay for 3 nights. This is another place we must go back to, but I'm so glad we did it, even if a lot of time was spent recovering and sleeping. I remember the day our flight was to leave, Kathryn was so ill that I honestly wasn't sure if we were going to make our flight. I tried my best to find the right drugs at the pharmacy store because she was burning up so badly. Poor girl then had to endure the 5 hour flight to China and then the 18 hour flight to New York.
I've learned to not have expectations when arriving in a place. I simply want to make my self available to whatever city or whomever resides there. Some would definitely consider this trip a waste because of the fact that we (especially Kathryn) weren't feeling very well the entire time. But it was simply a time to be spent with each other and for me to take care of her in what happened to be Tokyo. When you have the opportunity to travel more than once or twice a year, the pressure is lifted off of each individual experience, and I believe it gives you the opportunity to just be in the present and take situations as they come. Still though, I want to go back to Tokyo and experience more! Cannot wait.