I’m writing this from the passenger seat of a rental van, on my way to Akita in northern Japan. This is the final stretch in the country move marathon: take worldly possessions to parent’s house. After a week of farewells and family time, I’ll be gone.
It’s strange to think that 2 years have passed since I moved to Tokyo. Even weirder is that I’ve spent 5 of the last 10 years in Japan. Sometimes I wonder whether I’d be a different person if I’d stayed in Australia? Or chosen a different country altogether? Like, am I now 1% culturally Japanese? Either way, this place has dug its heels in—it will always be an intrinsic part of my identity and my home away from home.
But, here I am, leaving again, and I think this time’s my last. After a 15-year battle of the heart, Japan has finally been defeated. Australia wins for a mixed bag of reasons including its informal culture, self-deprecating tendencies, active citizenry and multicultural make-up. But most of all, it wins because I feel like I belong—there, I know where I am and how I fit, and I truly feel at home.
Moving country is always an emotional rollercoaster ride; at the moment, sad, happy, excited and nervous are on constant rotation. Thankfully, I have work to distract me, as well as this blog post—which is also a welcome opportunity to reminisce and capture some of my best memories for all eternity.
So, after 2 years in this crazy city, here are my top 20 favorite things to do:
- Eat a Sunday breakfast of cake from Sunday Bake Shop
- Sip cocktails at Kinfolk Lounge or Bar Trench
- Check out the latest exhibition at the Mori Art Museum
- Down a Gibraltar coffee at Amameria or a macchiato at Fuglen
- Boogie to sweet rockabilly tunes at a Little Elvis gig
- Picnic in Yoyogi Park (with fresh bread from Tarui Bakery in nearby Sangubashi)
- Impress visitors at the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
- Stock up on magazines from home at Daikanyama T-Site
- Delight in the simplicity of soba at Fujita
- Enjoy Taiyo’s tonkatsu—the best in Tokyo
- Avoid crowded trains by biking EVERYWHERE
- Find exactly what I’m looking for at Tokyu Hands
- Bump shoulders with Tokyo’s elite in Isetan’s depachika and purchase at least one fancy cake/onigiri/bento
- Get a haircut by Chie at Watanabe
- Snag second-hand designer bargains at Ragtag Shibuya
- Escape to France at Au Temps Jadis
- Travel back in time with Hashiya Hatagaya’s salted cod roe and squid spaghetti
- Pick up a fresh sushi bento at Umegaoka Sushi no MIDORI-SOHONTEN to eat while watching skateboarders at Miyashita Koen
- Be captivated by the Koenji Awaodori, Tokyo’s most spectacular summer festival
- Relish the heavenly combination of piping hot yakitori (grilled chicken) and cold draught beer (Miyazaki Shoten is a recent great discovery)
Thank you, Tokyo. I’m glad I had the chance to know you better. I can’t wait to return as a tourist, this list in hand, and take a walk down memory lane.