I was moving from the Airbnb to the Manga Capsule hotel today. Although I do massively recommend the place on Airbnb where I stayed, it’s affordable, is in an excellent location for subways and I had my own bathroom, it was however very dated. So I was excited to move over to the more modern capsule hotel. I was not excited about dragging my bags from where I was to Kanda, which was about 20 minutes on the train and then two 8ish minute walks either end. I have somehow managed to gain MORE things even though I have not bought anything. I just need to repack before Osaka tomorrow because I feel like Tokyo Station is going to be a nightmare now I have an extra small bag. I managed to get to the hotel though and dumped my stuff. Check-in wasn’t till 3 so I decided to go to the Imperial Palace Gardens.
I’m trying to visit as many parks and gardens as I can because I know my mum would have wanted to come and do just this. She’s a super excellent gardener and knows everything about plants and honestly, I know my dad seems like the adventurous one out of my parents, but I think I can this travel bug from my mother. Whenever I talk about places I’m going she’s the one that knows all about it and does the research. She really enjoyed watching Monty Don’s Japanese Gardens so I want to go visit them for her, so she can see them vicariously through me. A lot of the grounds were closed, I assume it was the preparation for the Emperor’s birthday, but then I read that had been cancelled because of CoronaVirus, so I guess they were just cleaning up after winter. Nearly half of the park was unable to be accessed but that wasn’t an issue really.
Tokyo can be such a juxtaposition of old and new. You had these super old, super traditional palace grounds and gardens, with these huge shiny towers around them full of offices. It’s also such a well-balanced place in terms of nature and urban. I love the emphasis on nature here, just because I feel that’s what a lot of people lack nowadays. We don’t spend enough time out in nature. This isn’t even me talking about disconnecting from phones or the internet or anything like that, I honestly don’t care if you are taking photos or tweeting, because if you’re out on a hike tweeting at least you’re still hiking. Nature keeps us balanced, and to me personally, it gives me calmness and clarity. I am never more in the moment than when I am strolling in a garden or sitting by a river or hiking. Japanese gardens have a lot of water features and the one at the palace had a waterfall, a pond with giant koi fish in it and then a winding stream. There were stepping stones and bridges for different points of access and it was just magical. I spent a nice couple of hours strolling around and then sitting and just looking at the garden before I had to head back to the Manga Hotel.
I was meeting friends at 5 but wanted to change and charge before that, so was happy when check-in opened at 3. So Manga Art Hotel is a capsule hotel but the walls are all just bookshelves full of manga in both English and Japanese. The bunks are set inside these walls and I picked it because I just wanted to spend a day lying around reading manga. My bunk was spacious and had a locker and a shelf inside, and there was storage underneath for my bags. The place is super clean and modern and has really nice showers and super clean bathrooms. There are two floors, the upstairs is the men’s floor and the floor below is for women. I settled in quickly and once changed and charging things I picked up Anonymous Noise because the cover was a girl holding a guitar. I AM NOW OBSESSED WITH THIS MANGA. I’m on book 6 and there’s 14 here so I have to read it all by the time I leave. It’s about a group of high school kids, unrequited love and punk rock bands, so basically it’s what teenage Maryam would have loved. I need to read more manga. I watch a lot of anime but manga has a different vibe. I changed into my yellow Bakugo shirt and this group of girls who were staying there came up to me and squealed “Kachan! Kachan!” (which is his nickname in BHA) and we all bonded through broken English, broken Japanese and sign language over our love of My Hero Academia. Then they told me my hair was super kawaii and huge and curly, and it is all those things for sure. I wish my Japanese was better so I could hold conversations, it was pretty good at Uni but it’s been about 15 years and now it’s not great at all. I am going to do some lessons when I get home so I can do better next time I am here.
Pulling myself away from Anonymous Noise, I headed to meet Sat, his wife Misato and their friend Shoichi in Shimokitazawa for a punk show. We headed to The Juicy Dumpling first for food, and oh my gosh was this food good. We had two different kinds of gyoza, some chicken stuffed with gyoza filling, this amazing plate that was just coriander (cilantro) with this excellent peanut sesame soy sauce over the top studded with peanut pieces and some horse sashimi. It was a great place, super lively, and we had 90 minutes to eat our fill before heading to the show, also because the restaurant only let you stay 90 minutes per booking. It was hella busy so I can see why! The punk show was in a little basement venue and we got there just as WETNAP were in the middle of their set. It was the album release show of The Guays, and Two Layers Of Paint had come from Sapporo to play. Mugwumps were also playing, and they are Sat’s favourite band which is why we were here and also The Hathaways rounded out the lineup. There were loads of people there, and every band was excellent. If I was generalising I would say it was a pop-punk show, but each band had their own spin and made it exciting and different. I love Japanese punk and was super happy to get to see some bands while in Japan so massive thanks to Sat and Misato and also I guess to Dave Campbell for introducing me to Sat.
After the show, which finished at about 10 as all good shows should, we went to a cute little shop with a lot of anime/manga goods. I was very good and did not buy EVERYTHING EVER even though I wanted to do so. Then we headed to a game centre and did some puri-kura. Shoichi is a pro at puri-kura. All his poses were on point! Puri-Kura for those who don’t know is a photo machine, where it takes your photo and give you a “beauty” filter edit. Then you can decorate the photos however you want and it prints them for you at the end. People collect them with their friends and they are super cute. It was 400yen for one round of photos, which we cut up and shared between us at the end. We headed back after this so we could all make our trains home but I had a wonderful time with everyone and it’s super nice to have friends in Tokyo now, especially my new Japanese best friend Misato-Chan.
This is a two-day post because today I decided I was just going to chill. I got up late (around 9.30 am) and then read manga in my bed for a couple of hours before heading out to get breakfast and then go to the Intermediatheque Museum, which is like a quirky Natural History Museum. I had breakfast at the Japanese version of Denny’s which was okay, not an excellent meal. I did not like the egg tartar sauce on the fried chicken but I did like the tofu salad. The walk down to the museum was nice, lots of big shiny buildings. Intermediatheque itself was super cool, I loved the taxidermy animals. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to go. I love taxidermy birds and they had an Audubon exhibit on which was super cool. I tried to go to the Pokemon DX Store but got stuck in Tokyo Station so decided to just head back to the hotel to catch up on work, organise for Osaka and then chill out and read manga. When you’re travelling on your own sometimes you feel like resting is wasting time, but you really do need to have downtime in your schedule. Packing things out sometimes means you just don’t enjoy things as much, so I am happy to have a small evening of manga and maybe popping out for ramen and strawberry mochi. FYI I got a Sakura Mochi and it was DELICIOUS. I want another one like now.
Maryam Hassan is a 32 year old Photographer, Montessori Teacher, Wearer of Yellow from London who transplanted herself to Chicago in 2015. She likes punk music, hash browns, animal facts and mangoes.
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