I love to invite people to travel with me even though I'm a solo traveler on most occasions. Across the miles and over time, friendships can endure.
In a random series of circumstances, another of my best college pals happened to be traveling months prior to this trip through the city where I was living and we had a chance to reconnect which we try to do when we are in the same place at the same time. In that conversation, I talked to her about my sabbatical trip to Japan. She had never been there and had some vacation time to use so I suggested she join me for the first part of the trip.
Having been to the country twice before, I acted a bit as a tour guide on our first few days until we ventured into brand new places for both of us. It was really wonderful to share this experience in this way. Our first day and a half was in Tokyo staying in the Ueno district. This was primarily as an introduction and a sampler platter of the megalopolis.
I arrived at Narita airport a few hours prior to Kristie and navigated us through the process of redeeming our JR passes, the train into the city and finding our way to the Oak Zen Hostel. As I had spent about a week in this area and using the train station with my study abroad group, it was really wonderful to be in a familiar place again. I was so happy to share this with Kristie and was able to connect with Jordan, my cohort on the study abroad, who invited another American in Japan, Sandra, to join us for dinner.
I was looking for a particular restaurant that I remembered on a second or third floor, but I couldn't find the exact sign location. So we decided to go into a small spot on the street level in this very busy and dynamic area called Ameyoko which features shopping and a plethora of dining options. We were tucked into a corner at a small table for the four of us and the introduction to the hospitality and customs of this country began.
When you have a chance to indulge in your favorite things, do it! Favorite food. Favorite places. New experiences. Special times.
TSUKUNE - I'm in love with these little chicken meatballs cooked yakitori style. Once I discovered what it was on the menu (in my previous trips), it became my go to choice as often as I could find even without an English menu. Yakitori is a strong second and we indulged in a variety of the options. My sampler platter tour included favorite foods and some scrumptious sake too.
UENO - A district in Tokyo on the Yamanote JR line. I coordinated a study abroad trip for 14 students prior to this sabbatical. My colleague at the time, Jordan, now resides in Japan and he met us for dinner in Ueno. I really love Ueno as well because it is a Shinkansen stop making it super convenient for our next leg.
History of Ueno - dating back to the 1880s which is the Meiji Era (1868 to 1912) when Ukiyo-e was a prominent art form (my fave!). The train station opened in 1883 while the park here was the first public park in the country in 1876. Gosh, I really want to go back and explore even more!
Post dinner, we had a few candid shots on the illuminated streets and made our way back thru the station to walk to our hostel and say goodbye to friends. Tomorrow will be a long and exuberant day!
Yes we are tired. And yes, it's hard to take good night time shots.
OUR STAY: OAK HOSTEL ZEN
This is a lovely little hostel and is currently closed due to covid19. I truly hope that they can survive and reopen for future guests. Hostels are really wonderful options for travelers not just on a budget, but those who just need a place to sleep and shower.