Japan Trip: Part 2
On day two in Tokyo, I went to the Yayoi Kusama museum. The museum is much smaller than I expected. It’s designed in five parts, or five floors. The first is for ticketing, and the four floors above are for her work.
Expecting it to be a lot like Infinity Mirrors, I was pleasantly surprised on the second floor and see a lot of her canvas work, of which you were not allowed to take photos of but I had to sneak one in. Or two. Because her canvas art reminded me so much of my friend Butt Coffin’s work that I had to show him. Excuse the photo quality (i.e. not straight at all), I had to be sneaky.
The other floors were similar to Infinity Mirrors, not for lack of originality, but because lights and experiential art is kind of Kusama’s thing. And she’s brilliant at it.
The top floor, a rooftop, had a few signature pumpkins, with a stunning view of Tokyo.
Overall, the museum was a cool experience. I did it very quickly, like less than 15 minutes, but it’s a short experience regardless. I think there was only three or four rooms/floors with art. So it’s not the type of museum you spend all day at, but the tickets only cost about $10, so it was well worth it.
Getting to Hayama
I was so nervous the day I was supposed to leave for Hayama. I studied the different routes I could take for an hour. I decided on the one with the least transfers. I stared at the google maps, I wrote it down in my notebook, and I memorized it. At 12:30 that day, I set out for the beach.
I took the JR (Japanese Rail), for two trains until I got to the Zushi station in Kamakura.
Then I had to take a bus, which got really tricky. I didn’t know how to pay for the bus. I asked a station attendant if I could pay with cash on the bus and she said yes, no problem. So, I followed the group of people filing in the back door of the bus and had an internal meltdown when I saw everyone tapping their pass on a machine – no one was paying cash. After a few minutes of sitting on the bus freaking out about how to pay, I started googling how to pay for a bus in Japan. And I will be explaining this all in a separate post, how to use public transportation in Japan, but after a few humiliating minutes of trying to get off the bus, trying to pay, I made it off – one stop late.
My walk to the Airbnb was originally like 12 minutes, but because I missed my stop, I had a daunting 20 minute walk ahead of me, which included HUGE hills. The whole time I was carrying a heavy backpack and my suitcase, sweating my ass off. When I thought I made it, I got to the wrong Airbnb and had to walk another 10 minutes. OMG it was rough. But I was really proud of myself after and wrote a very long emotional Instagram post about it.
My Airbnb was about a less than 10 minute walk to the beach. I went there right away to check it out, which happened to be sunset, and it was beautiful. On my way home, I stopped at the store to get food and wine and had myself a lovely evening getting wine drunk on my balcony.
The town of Hayama, was super cute! It reminded me of a Californian beach town. Obviously, the vibe was way more relaxed than Tokyo. The people were casually dressed and of course very kind. And bonus – the stores all took credit cards! The small-ish town even had a Starbucks, which was nice to have some feeling of home and familiarity while I was there.
My Airbnb host was super nice and sent me a message to check-in on me the next day, and sent recommendations of where to eat and what to do. He recommended Isshiki beach, which was about a 20 minute walk from the apartment. I set out to do that, and it ended up being a very long walk, but it was worth it. It was really beautiful and much more lively than the little beach next to the apartment. Although, no one was wearing bathing suits at either beach. This could be because it was early April, the water was cold, and locals don’t bathe in the sun for fun.
Overall, this mini trip was exactly what I needed and I wanted to stay longer. With all of the big changes in my life, I was already feeling high strung and the Tokyo vibe wasn’t really helping. But after four days/three nights, I headed back into the city.
For Tokyo part deux, I had a new Airbnb, which was in a much cooler part of town – Shinjuku. I was so happy to get in the place and realize that there was a balcony on the fifth floor with gorgeous views of the city. The place was nice, but had a bathroom the size of an airplane bathroom, with a shower. Very uncomfortable. But the balcony + views = 100.
While in Hayama, I turned on my Bumble and started swiping. Surprising even me, I even started messaging guys on there. I started talking to 2-3 guys. One of whom, was very cute and pretty fun to talk to. He asked me out when I got back to the city and we went out the first night I was back.
He is an English Teacher at a Japanese university; actually, he’s been teaching English in Asia (Vietnam and Korea) for eight years. We had a lot in common, but it was really fun to hang out and talk to someone who was the same age as me but had such a different post grad experience, virtually living in Asia the entire time.
We had a great time. He was a nice guy. And I’m glad I completed my first Bumble date abroad.
Here is where my trip starts to get boring. At this point, I had been traveling for like 8+ days – I was exhausted. And my love affair with Tokyo was wearing off. I was getting really anxious about all of the rules, which is 100% my problem and not that of a country and culture. But feeling anxious every time I went out to do something was not how I wanted to spend this very big (and expensive) adventure. Deciding to indulge in some self-care, I spent a big part of a day or two in my Airbnb working on Tall Hair Creative stuff. I did have a lot to catch up on, so it wasn’t that bad, but I felt really guilty not doing more. I was just tired and anxious and needed to do what was best for me.
Yes, I should’ve gone to eat at more restaurants and drink at more bars, and met more people, and saw more things, but I didn’t. I took care of my needs and had a great time. Oh and I also took an Uber to/from a Shake Shack one night. Yes, I’m a garbage American.
My flight didn’t leave until 6pm on my last day, so I had the day to figure out how to get to the hotel I needed to be at to catch my Limo Bus. I also had tickets to the Team Lab Borderless exhibit for the morning. After I dropped my luggage off at the hotel, I boarded the subway to the museum, which was about 45+ minutes away. But holy shit. Taking public transportation in Tokyo during rush hour, which I guess goes until at least past 10:00am, is no joke. The train was so packed. I saw more than one man pressed up against the windows, facing out, with his arm raised above his head like he was being squished by a truck behind him.
When I got on my train, it was so uncomfortable. I lived in Chicago for eight years, with no car and pre Uber, and I think I had only seen a train like that maybe once before. I ended up getting on the train going on in the opposite direction. By the time I got off to course correct, I decided that I would skip the Team Lab and just head back to the area my hotel.
Again, I felt really guilty. And this ultimately what traveling solo is for me. I get nervous and anxious and don’t do enough and then feel guilty about not doing enough. I don’t have someone there with me to help me figure it out or to push me out of my comfort zone when I need them to. Even having someone to hang out with would help in all of this. This is something I’ve gotten better at with time, especially in Europe. I was fortunate enough to go to Lisbon and Brussels in November 2017 and then went back to Europe in May 2018 for two weeks. I noticed a big difference the second time. I was much more comfortable and confident. I think Japan was just so different from anything I’ve experienced, combined with my lack of planning, that I wasn’t as comfortable and confident for the second half of the trip.
But I did go back to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, where I did my photoshoot. I wanted to experience it without a photoshoot; I wanted to be present. Photos below.
After I got out of the world’s most packed train, I explored Shinjuku more. I was about 20-30 minutes from where I was staying, so this was all new to me. The area is actually called Nishi-Shinjuku, nicknamed the skyscraper district.
There’s a lot of skyscrapers and a lot of shopping there. I explored this big shopping area, that was like half outside/market, half regular stores. I can’t fully explain it. There were a lot of restaurants, shops, and these arcades that only had Claw Machines. Seriously, 100s of them, where you can get anything from stuffed animals to tablets to weird looking robot girls.