~13 hours of travel – Day 1 (Kanpai)
A couple days before I was about to leave for Japan, I found out about Typhoon Hagibis. It was classified as “violent,” and was going to be the worst typhoon to hit Japans since 1958… which says a lot because Japan was hit with multiple typhoons just this year (also pretty ironic because Andrew and I had looked up that typhoon as an example of ‘what was not going to happen’). I really had no idea what to expect! Were my windows going to shatter while I was sitting in my hotel room? Was it going to flood so I couldn’t escape, and just drown? Was I stupid for even getting on the flight?
C’est la vie (I guess) because I arrived in San Diego for my layover, and there was still no mention of the typhoon by the flight staff. I did however, have to book a random, last minute flight to Bali in mid-November because I wasn’t allowed to board until I had some proof I was going to eventually leave Japan. SO MUCH FOR BEING SPONTANEOUS!
Overall the flight wasn’t as bad as I anticipated – I was in and out of sleep, and I had a seat in the first row of economy so I could stretch out, and the old lady next to me didn’t have to awkwardly climb over me when I was asleep. That being said, I wasn’t at all well rested when I arrived in Japan at 4:30. My Airbnb bar hopping experience got moved up to that night, so I knew I had to meet up with the group at 7pm. I don’t know what it is, but starting that day I totally have begun to stress sweat. It’s gross. As I was waiting in line for the limousine bus from Narita to Shinjuku, I could feel my face and legs dripping, and it WOULD-NOT-STOP. One I got onto the bus it wasn’t terrible… It had wifi, and it wasn’t crowded, but because of the rain and approaching typhoon it took about 2 hours to get through traffic. Then from the drop off point it was supposed to take me about 8-12 minutes to walk to my hotel, but because I am directionally challenged, I ended up walking in circles for about 30 minutes in the rain, with a thousand people with umbrellas running into my giant suitcase.
So of course the last thing I wanted to do was go party with a bunch of strangers, and be the last to arrive…but, I guess that’s why I’m in Japan? So once I got to my hotel, I changed my clothes, and was out the door and taking a cab to Shibuya. I’m not going to lie…I was tired. There were a couple lulls in between drinks when I was literally about to fall asleep, but once the sake was flowing things were good. By the time I got home again it was 4:30am! Successful first night? Some highlights were picking out our own sake cups and drinking way too much sake, listening to die antwoord (with a 80 year old man spinning), recruiting some random guy our airbnb host ‘kinda knew’ along the bar hop, and the bartender at Bubbles, who arranged all of his dad’s animal carvings in a circle around a candle to indulge me.
The storm – Day 2 (Snacks on snacks on snacks)
I had talked to a bunch of people at bars, and nobody really seemed concerned about the typhoon…although, there were several bars closing up really early. So when I got up in the morning, I figured my first course of action was to buy enough food and drink to last me at least 24+ hours. I still had no idea what was going to happen at this point, so my deepest darkest fears were that I was stuck in my room and everything was closed for days, and I ended up not buying enough so I was starving (yeah, I’m anxious ok?). When I peeked out to see what the weather was like, I saw the winds start to pick up and people’s umbrellas quickly becoming useless. What really happened was that I sat in bed all day in pajamas, eating weird flavored pringles, occasionally flipping to the news, and downing highballs while I planned the rest of my Japan trip. I think there was a moment around 10 or 11pm when there was an actual earthquake, which reintroduced panic into my system, but overall I would say it was pretty anti-climatic. I was also asleep during the eye of the storm, so I didn’t even get to see any craziness! Booo.
Aftermath – Day 3 (Was there even a storm?)
Thankfully in Shinjuku things were good, but I know in a lot of areas in the North that wasn’t the case. When I walked outside, it was incredibly sunny and humid and the streets were COMPLETELY CLEAN. At that point if you told me that there wasn’t even a storm, I probably would have believed you and thought I made up an excuse to lay in bed all day. I walked around a bit, but evreything was closed until to 2pm … that is except for this store with weird grabber toy things. I ended up playing games for about 30 minutes, until some guy made fun of me for wasting so much money trying to with an axolotl. I reluctantly retreated, but not before winning a raccoon in one try – redemption! After the stores started opening, I walked around and did some shopping to kill some time before my dinner at Tapas Molecular Bar at the Mandarin Hotel.
First of all, I totally saw the difference between my 3-star hotel and the luxurious 5-star Mandarin hotel the minute I walked inside – the service was incredible. If I could have blown $1000 night, I would have dropped my hotel in an instant (also if you’re ever stuck in a typhoon, it’s probably best to go to one of the 5 star hotels where all the restaurants and bars are still open). The restaurant was located on the 38th floor, so it had great views as well.
I was attracted to this restaurant because they use innovative cooking techniques to present and deliver their dishes in an unconventional ways (ie. molecular gastronomy aka so many insta-moments). There was never a point during the 17 course meal where I was not surprised or delighted. and it was an added touch to get to interact and talk to the chefs as they prepared the food. A great first real meal in Tokyo (if you don’t count pringles and 7-11 gyoza and noodles).