A welcomed assault on the senses.
I’ve been to Tokyo 4 times before this weekend, each experience immaculate and absolutely unique. Each experience centred around music, fashion and energy. This trip was no different aside from the fact that this time I had absolutely no plan. I hoped to take photos and absorb the city. Simple.
It’s non-sensical that a highly sensitive human such as myself has come to absolutely crave the sensory assault that is Tokyo. It should be overwhelming, intimidating and energy shattering. However, the opposite is true. My current state can be summed up in three words; creativity, spontaneity and high-energy. A perfect match for the moment, tbh. Bus and accommodation booked last minute, no plan, a camera and a backpack. The essentials. Again. I arrived in Tokyo at 9:45pm. An hour later I was being whisked off to Shibuya’s Club Circus by new friends at our temporary Tokyo home – Wise Owl Hostel. “Come clubbing with us?” he said. “Only if it’s techno” I replied. 6 hours (and an Avalon Emerson set; Berghain fans will know) later I found myself walking back across town with a collection of new shazams, dance-enduced endorphins and a handful of new acquaintances from London, South Korea and Berlin.
Tokyo awakes every single inch of fomo within me, every damn time. 3 hours of actual sleep, a cold shower and a punnet of overpriced strawberries later I caught the train to Harajuku. Time to claim the pastel pink souvenir jacket I’d been dreaming of since my last visit. I stopped in at a few of my favourite kawaii fashion shops, a sticker store called B-side Label and my favourite kimono shop before meeting up with a friend for lunch and a visit to Ueno park. Spending time in a city with someone who actually lives there gives one a whole new perspective on the space. Instead of using public transport, we nipped around in a mini and instead of hitting the mainstreet cafes I had the pleasure of experiencing the side-street spots only someone who lives there would know.Admittedly, it’s still surreal to me that people actually live in Tokyo. Everyday. In. Tokyo. I got my first glimpse of Tokyo tower while cruising through the city and I’m happy to report that it looks exactly like the emoji. Naturally.
Back at the hostel I bumped into friends I’d made a few weeks before who took me to an elegant and unassuming sake spot near Shibuya crossing. Undoubtedly the smoothest nihonshu I’ve tasted to date. In between learning English-Japanese slang* and sticking illustrated stickers up on private property, I finally found myself at BPM Music bar. Again, an unassuming underground bar on a Shibuya side street that you’d most likely miss in a blink. I’ve been following the new venue on instagram for a couple of weeks and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a driving force in my timeous return to the city. An intimate venue hosting DJs with low-key attitudes and high-key beats. Perfection. I had a drink with the owner and spent the rest of the morning both deep in conversation and musical appreciation. Sound systems and serendipity.
The next day involved a mission across the city and a hustle of a check-out; you’d think Japan would have taught me to be less late by now but no. I’m South African, now now will never not be a thing.
That said, I’ll see ya just now Tokyo. A pleasure, indeed.
*FYI the English word “swap” is a slang word used, and understood, by Japanese men (not women, just men). It’s understood as the exchange of girlfriends for, well, fun. “Let’s swap.”
I’d used it earlier in the night in conversation with a man, needless to say I cried with laughter when I found out what he thought I’d said to him.