Recently I took my first solo travel trip abroad. I learned some amazing things and have some great stories from this trip that I thought I’d share with others! Of course, there are plenty of other stories, but I’ll just highlight some significant ones here, starting with Japan!
So for a start, I had an overall advantage in this trip. My boyfriend is in the U.S. Navy and is stationed in Japan. Luckily, because of this, 1) I had already been to Japan for a visit and kind of understood the train system a little 2) I already had a place to stay in Japan and 3) I had a personal tour guide who had been living in the country for years to help me out.
In late December I flew out to Japan, and thus my journey began. Obviously here, I was not alone, but I was able to travel a few amazing places with my other half. 🙂
On New Year’s Eve, we took a last minute trip up to Yokohama. We were able to go ice skating at the red brick warehouse there. Now Scott used to play ice hockey, so you can imagine how much he blew me out of the water (or ice I should say), but it was still awesome!
There’s also some pretty cool, chill bars in Yokohama that we have been to a few times. One is The Hub and the other is Craftsman. I particularly like Craftsman because they have blankets!! I’m always cold, so that just amazed me. We’ve actually been there a few times now, they have a great beer selection!
Some other things that we had done while in Yokohama the last time I had visited Japan included the Cup of Noodles museum (you get to make your own Cup of Noodles!) as well as taking a ride on the Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel which gives you a beautiful view.
Another adventure we took was a little further south to Jogashima Island. Here, we experienced the BEST raw, fresh tuna I have ever had. And trust me, we have both eaten a a lot of sushi and sashimi. We also spent the day hiking around the island. We were able to see Mt. Fuji in the distance as well, which was my first time actually seeing it! This was our first time heading south on the trains instead of north towards Tokyo. It was also our first time taking a bus from the train station. They actually work very similarly and just as easily as the trains do, it just took us our first time to figure out that you need to swipe your Pasmo/Suica card at the station you get on at (duh) or remember which stop you got on at so you can pay in yen.
My first practice solo adventure came when I decided to visit a friend, a Japanese local, on my own. We met up in Tokyo and thankfully she was able to meet me to help me navigate the Tokyo metro system (I had yet to do that). Whenever I had traveled before, we had screenshotted the google maps version of where we needed to go and what trains, etc. That is definitely a helpful tip, it just may not always be right for when you get to the station (if you miss the one you screenshotted). So anyhow, we met up in Tokyo and checked out the Edo-Tokyo museum since it was a rainy day. Not everything was translated into English, but a lot of it actually was!
After this, we decided to go to grab food at a restaurant offering food that was more of an “Okinawa style.” We tried a bunch of different foods and I even tried Habu sake! That’s snake liquor/wine! I really thought it was a joke at first, but it wasn’t. Apparently it is said to be good for your health. Personally, I tried with and without honey, and I liked it with honey to sweeten it up a little. Either way though, I can’t say I will be getting it again, haha.
After leaving the restaurant, THIS is where I really started to get tested. My friend dropped me off at a station that made it super easy to get back home, or so I thought. The Japanese train system stops running close to midnight, with fewer trains as the night goes on. Mind you, I was at the train station at 9:00 pm and it was only about an hour to get home, so I had plenty of time. I stood at the station waiting for the train I knew I had to get on. After about 20 minutes, it came! I got on, sat there, was super pumped. We sat there for about 2 minutes when a worker came and told everyone to get off. They were running up and down the train and yelling. I couldn’t understand since it was all in Japanese, but basically, they ended up making the train “out of service.” Okay, no biggie, I decided I could just wait for the next one. Meanwhile, on the screen, I saw “Delayed” with some Japanese writing after it. I checked the timetable still and decided I would still be fine to wait, another one would be there soon. So I waited. 40 minutes past and I was kind of curious as to why another one of my trains (Limited Express) hadn’t come. Many others passed that were slower (Express and Local), but of course I could have easily taken them. Finally, I decided to just get on the Express train and re-direct myself a little, meaning I would have to get off at another station or two instead of having a direct route home. I think I ended up getting off at 3 or 4 different stations, switching from Express to Local to Express to Limited Express. It took me over 2 hours to get home and I literally JUST made it to the last train. CRAZY! I was so nervous the whole time, but I kept my cool. Luckily, I knew some of the stops and I knew I would have at least enough money to take a cab if needed, or if I really needed, I could get a hotel somewhere. This was my first experience having trains delayed (because they were delayed up to 10 minutes at some of the stops I was at). It was scary, but I did it, and I was super exhausted, and very thankful, once I got home.
Our last weekend together before my solo journey, my boyfriend and I decided to take a weekend trip somewhere we hadn’t been before. We had a few places in mind, specifically Hakone to stay in a Ryokan, but because it was last minute, everything seemed to be full (the ones we wanted at least). We decided to check out Hachioji and the surrounding area.
On Saturday, we headed up to Hachioji. I had looked up this “Illumillion” event at Sagamiko Pleasure Forest. It was absolutely freezing and we definitely weren’t prepared for such a cold night, but, it was definitely worth it. It was beautiful to see all of the lights, and it only cost I believe 800 yen per person, meaning about $8 USD. We ended up not exactly timing the bus right at the end, so we stood in the cold for longer than expected, but there was an onsen here to warm up in as well as a restaurant in case you need to kill time before the bus arrives!
On Sunday we decided to go for a hike at Mt. Takao! This is the most hiked mountain in Japan, just outside of Tokyo. Granted, there is also a cable car lift that takes you about halfway up, past all of the difficult parts as we noticed. Many people seemed to choose this option, it definitely requires less sweat and allows you to get to the top faster! We chose to hike up route 1, which was definitely a hike, but it is well-paved. We would have preferred to come down this way at the end instead of hiking up it, though.
Once we got to the top, there’s a cute little town area that you can check out a few things! Not to mention it was a beautiful view! We even got to see monks heading into their temple at the top (I think that was what was happening).
On the way down, we took route 6 which took us through more of the nature aspect of the hike. It was beautiful, not paved, required stepping on some rocks over water and what not. Because it was January, though, it was a little icy in places! I slipped a few times, which wasn’t fun, but hey, it happens.
After our hike down, I was really starting to get cold (always cold, I tell ya!) so we stopped inside at a place to get some soba noodles. Thankfully the waiter told us we were about to order the cold soups, I think he could tell we were freezing since we hadn’t taken our hats or gloves off yet, haha. We ended up just sharing one meal because we had plans for dinner after, but it was a nice way to warm up a little before heading back to our hotel.
We stayed in the middle of Hachioji just a few minutes from the train station. The bar scene was not exactly “popping,” but we did find another Hub bar as well as a Sherlock Holmes bar that we tried out! All in all, we were excited we discovered Hachioji.
After this weekend, I began my solo adventures to Thailand and Bali, Indonesia. You can find those blogs soon on my site! 🙂
I am actually back in Japan as I type this article up. I haven’t really done much except relax since I have been back. It’s amazing how much you miss a country when you travel to others. When I returned in Japan, I had spent the previous 2 weeks traveling solo in a constant subconscious state of fear. That’s the truth. I returned to Japan with smiles from the employees and such a welcoming and helpful attitude. I felt so safe and happy again. I slept SO well that night, it was crazy! I’m not saying I was truly threatened in the other countries, I was just generally fearful of being a small, white, blonde American abroad (especially during the specific two weeks I decided to do it).
Since I have been back, I’ve tried some more amazing food and candies. I definitely recommend anyone to try out as much food as they can, just because some of the stuff is so different! I have had curry with melted cheese (yum!), chocolate green tea candies (different, but kind of good), an acai-chia-yogurt drink, a few different cheeses, and even some tofu nuggets. While I haven’t yet re-indulged since I have been back, I also highly recommend trying ramen and sushi (obviously) while in Japan. And if you’re brave, go to an authentic Japanese restaurant to try some really Japanese food, like fish cooked right in front of you that still looks like a fish but tastes kind of like chicken.
Anyways, I look forward to spending more time in Japan and exploring. It has overall been a great country. Not to mention it is so clean! And did you know people wear masks if they’re sick so they don’t get other people sick? It just makes sense, right?
And by the way – in case you haven’t heard of it yet – I have used Honey to help me save online, sometimes even when booking flights! You get a percentage back or money off on a ton of different online purchases, without searching for the coupon yourself. It’s super easy and I love saving money 😀
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my experiences! Thailand is up next..