Kon’nichiwa lovers! Due to a five week stay in a country with a 30 day visa restriction, I found myself in need of a visa run while residing in Thailand. Many Earharts went about this different ways – some when to Cambodia to take in the culture of Angkor Wat – others took to Laos to visit breathtaking temples – one crew even went to Disneyland in Hong Kong. After touching base with a flyboy from back home who was being stationed outside of Hiroshima and a fellow Remote festival goer I met at Tomorrowland currently living in Kyoto, I decided my government mandated break from Thailand would be facilitated with a 10 day trip to Japan.
I really need to stop booking early morning travel, at least for the rest of my time here in Asia. My trip was not off to a good start after a late night work sesh followed up with some bourbon imbibing had me miss my flight to Kuala Lumpur. Luckily there are about 30 Air Asia flights a day from CM to KL, so I paid my stupid tax and hopped on a later afternoon flight. My layover in KL was still pretty hefty, and I unknowingly entered the “cheap” air international transfer terminal – which is a desolate wasteland of nothingness – too early and was stuck, bored off my ass, for HOURS waiting on my overnight flight to Osaka. My rocky start continued when I arrived in Osaka, fell asleep on my train and missed my intended stop. Disoriented, frustrated, and stuck in the rain, I booked the nearest hotel to Namba station that I could find – which just happened to be a sex hotel, complete with tie ups, a “mini-bar” of sex toys, mood lighting, and of course, in-room karaoke. I can’t make this shit up. I’m surprised I didn’t have to pay by the hour. Kink aside, I have to say it was a good spot, which was lucky for me because not only had I landed with a yacht week level cold (see Choose the Positive) but Typhoon Lan was LITERALLY raining on my parade. I spent the next couple days catching up on some writing, catching up on some Netflix, and wandering the streets of Umbo-Namba eating all of the street foods.
I’d had my fill of Osaka, so I headed to the train station, procured my Japan Rail Pass and boarded my first Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. My favorite part of the Shin is getting to see the gorgeous Japanese countryside. This place is epically beautiful. I even managed to snag a sunset view of Mt. Fuji. Upon arrival, I navigated the Tokyo subway system on my way to my Air BNB in Shibuya. I step out the the station and am greeted with a Times Square like view, complete with the NYCesque energy and vibe – liking Tokyo already. Momma Joe is also here, so I grab a bowl of duck ramen at a spot right around the corner from my digs that had a very Waffle House feel before meeting up with him and his friends to catch the show at the Robot Restaurant. As promised, the show is unlike anything I have ever seen before, and Momma Joe and I agree that there are no pictures or words that can even come close to describing the experience. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you ever find yourself in Tokyo – and report back to me on just how many times you think/say WTF. After the show, we grab a few drinks at Scramble (diner by day, club by night) where some locals bravely proposition our table for kisses and end the night at some back alley bar where I have some of the best pizza I’ve had since being on this trip.
A coworker from my new firm also happens to be in Tokyo, so the next day I have my first in person meeting from HPC as he and his hubs take me to their favorite Japanese curry spot – Japanese curry, btdubs, very different from Thai curry, but delicious in it’s own right. Once again, my ignorance when it comes to the metric system bites me in the ass and I over order – can’t wait to tell Starbucks about my repeat of the this – he’s already made fun of me for it in his latest post. After curry, we grab dessert, take selfies to make the rest of the HPC crew jealous, and then I head off to work for the evening. The food at the aforementioned Waffle House raman shop was so good that I went back, set up my digital douche office and worked alongside a bowl of pork raman with a side of gyoza.
Waking up to a dreary and rainy day in Tokyo was my cue to catch the Shin to Kyoto and hang out with RY group Kaizen for a couple of days. After a solid evening of society contributing, I’m invited to join the crew at World for drinks, dancing and debauchery with an Aussie band that one of the Kaizens knows from home. After some Jack, some Jose, (and one drunken Jack with Jose), we hit a McDonalds that does not serve burgers before calling it a night, er, morning. I spend the next day exploring, eating all the foods, creeping on all the people in Kimonos, and relishing in how romantic Kyoto feels. That evening, I join the some of the city team and some Kaizen for dinner at Mizuiro Club, a super quaint art cafe that you would never be able to find on your own. We order the menu (which only contains about 6 items), and discuss everything from tattoos to the Yakuza to childbirth while sipping sochu and tasting all this place has to offer, my favorite of which was the Japanese curry. The night before my departure is debauchery round 2. Kaizen’s level of boozing and boogying is right on par with Earhart, and since we are all in KL next month, I have some fears for our livers. Good thing I am stocked up on Drinkwel.
My last weekend in Japan is reserved for catching up with my flyboy in Hiroshima, so another day, another bullet train. Hangover brain strikes me hard, and after taking the train from Kyoto to Osaka where I need to switch, I hop on the wrong train and go right back to Kyoto. Face palm. Back again, and this time I’m in no mood to wait for the next train my rail pass lets me on, so I take the advice of a fellow remote, sneak on the Nozomi, and pretend I’m asleep when the ticket agent walks by. After checking into my hotel, the flyboy and I roam the streets of Hiroshima in the rain looking for a bite to eat before hitting the karaoke joints (because when in Japan) and drinking all the Japanese whiskey.
I want to breifly mention that finding a bar to drink at wasn’t as easy as it sounds. If you read this blog, you most likely know me, or have at least seen pictures of me. As a white female, racial discrimination is not something that I have ever experienced until that night in Hiroshima. The flyboy had warned me, but it wasn’t until we were denied entrance to a couple places and straight up asked to leave another that I realized he wasn’t kidding about certain establishments not serving white people. It was an odd feeling, but I shook it off and we found an amazing joint run by two women from the Philippines who were so accommodating, it erased the bitter taste in my mouth from being denied based on race.
My hangover brain is even worse the next morning, but I get my shit together enough to visit the Hiroshima War Memorial and Museum, and for a second I almost understand why we were asked to leave. It was humbling to sit and hear the survivors recount that day in 1946 – it reminded me of my walk through the 9/11 Memorial – only this time we were the dicks that caused the pain. I make a mental note that war sucks and I catch the tram to Hiroshima station and my Shin back to Osaka for my flight home.
Fun fact about Osaka – it is home to two airports – and they are not close. Hangover brain strikes again landing me at the wrong airport, and I’m thankful I decided to head to there early, because now I have to take an hour bus ride to get to the CORRECT airport. Ah well, up until this point I had ridden the the bullet trains, regular trains, the monorail, subways and trams, but no busses – so I was merely rounding out my Japanese mass transit profile. I’m busted at check in with an overweight carry-on and get my first taste of in-airport baggage fees – the stupid taxes here are really adding up, but I booked a seat in the quiet zone and I *had* the row all to myself until this woman decided she didn’t like her seat….. she apologized when she caught me giving her the stink eye, so I chose not to hold it against her. When I landed in KL, Momma Joe was there as we were on the same flight back to Chiang Mai. We grab some overpriced beers and chat about this crazy life before boarding our flight back to our Thailand home.
I ended up loving Japan a lot more than I had anticipated. When it wasn’t raining, the weather was a perfect high 60s/low 70s, so it was a nice escape from the oppressive heat that was Vietnam and is Thailand. The public transportation is surprisingly easy to navigate, and runs like a well oiled machine – much like everything else in Japan – the whole place is so neat and orderly. The majority of the people were super friendly, the landscapes were majestic, and the food was everything I hoped it would be and more, placing Japan on the short list of places I’ll return to. Outside of Japan, it’s food and the Japanese themselves, Kaizen made me feel right at home, fortifying my faith even further that the Remote Nation is a unique society of those of us who really understand what life out here is like, and how we make the most out of every second while still trying to exist as human beings who need to eat, sleep, and contribute to society through our work. I won’t go down that rabbit hole here, but IT’s latest post delves deeper in if you want a good read – you can also get a taste of Angkor Wat, another spot I intend to return to this part of the world to see.
My faithful Lovers, I know I’m behind on the adventure. Despite being surrounded by beauty, Thailand has brought a good bit of writer’s block to me – and not so much the inability to articulate the experience, but rather a lack of initiative and desire to devote the time to it. That said, I won’t leave you hanging. There are posts in the works, so stay tuned for island adventures, all that is Chiang Mai, and the upcoming lantern festival.