My flight from Dallas to Tokyo went great. Well, as great as one could ask a 13 hour flight to go. I touched down at Narita airport in Japan around 4:30 P.M. After getting through immigrations an hour later I was unsure of where I was going to go.
I’m comfortable enough with traveling at this point that I don’t care to do excessive research and planning beforehand. I prefer to simply show up and explore once I’m there. There were dozens of potential destinations I could visit from the train in Narita, but as I had booked a hotel in Asakusa I decided I’d head there and explore the rest of Tokyo the following days.
I got to Asakusa just over an hour later. It’s perhaps 7:30 P.M. I’ve dealt with severely rationed airline food for the last 24 hours so I decide I’ll get dinner. I walk around Asakusa looking for a place to eat. I see Denny’s. No thank you. I see a few other westerners eating inside, however, and I’m amused that they’d go to the effort of traveling to the other side of the world only to eat the same food we have back home. It’s something I’ve never understood.
I walk down the street, however, taking a couple turns as I explore. I eventually stumble to an inexpensive, yet authentic looking Japanese restaurant. I sit down, and being conscious of the fact I’m no longer accustomed to Asian foods, I order a simple cashew chicken dish.
I sit back in my chair, relaxing. Feeling grateful to finally have the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the nomad lifestyle again after working a lot and living a fast-paced lifestyle this summer. My food arrives and it’s delicious. Yum. I’ve missed you Asian food.
I pay the bill, head out and decide I’ll start looking for my hotel. It’s just after 8 P.M. I head back the way I came, remembering that the Denny’s I passed was in the background of the picture I’d seen online of my hotel. I get back to Denny’s and begin my search. I cross the street, because it appeared from the picture online that the hotel was on the other side of the street.
I look around, however, and am unable to find my hotel. I pull up the Maps app on my phone, but without internet access I’m unable to find anything. I continue to search, looking for a pretty slummy place as my hotel was only $16 for the night. After walking through several alleys and being unable to find my hotel I conclude that perhaps I’m just looking on the wrong side of the street.
I explore the other side of the street and find a nice hotel with Asakusa in it’s name. That’s too luxurious to be mine I think, but it’s been an hour of searching already so I silently pray. I walk through the doors of the hotel and ask the front desk if I’m at the right hotel. I’m not. Damn it.
Fortunately, the Japanese are known for being among the most helpful people on Earth and I can say that they without exception lived up to their reputation. The receptionist at the front desk not only points me in the general direction of my hotel, but she also prints out a map for me, marks where I am and where I need to go, and she even finds a picture of my hotel online for me.
I’m grateful for all of this, but I can’t help but nervously laugh as she shows me a picture of my hotel in a new light. Hehehe. I’d expected my hotel to have shitty beds or lack modern toilets. I thought non-private rooms and poor amenities was a fair compromise in exchange for $16/night in a good location. Maybe not. My hotel was a ghetto brick building with graffiti sprayed over the front of the building. Maybe my brother was right. Maybe I am staying at a prostitution house.
As formal and polite as the Japanese are I can’t help but sense the sweet receptionist wants to unleash a laugh of pity at my accommodation for the night. I don’t blame her.
“Ummm thank you.”
I head out and go back to the other side of the street again searching the various alleys for hours. I asked countless people if they knew where my hotel was. Everyone tried to help. They’d all look at my map and point me into a different neighborhood, but my hotel was elusive.
By about 1:00 A.M. I all but gave up finding my hotel. I thought about walking into another hotel and getting a room, but decided against it. For one doing so is expensive, but I also thought I was in the midst of a cool adventure and I thought that if I kept going I’d at least have a cool story to tell.
I needed a break though. Five hours of walking while carrying a backpack with your entire life in it gets tiring. I walk down several streets looking for a suitable rest place; eventually finding a closed restaurant or perhaps it was a coffee shop. I’m unsure. Regardless it has tables outside so I take a seat. I use wi-fi from the hotel connected to the restaurant as they’ve left it unprotected.
I begin texting my girlfriend. She lives in Vietnam (where I’d lived for 2.5 months earlier this year) and it’s difficult to describe how excited we are. We still have several days before we see each other, and we’re still two time zones apart, but just knowing that we’re no longer on opposite sides of the world is comforting.
Being as transparent as I am, I admit to her that I’ve been unable to find my hotel and am wandering the streets. Maybe it would’ve been better not to tell her that, but I just have this urge to tell people the truth regardless.
She panics and to comfort her I say, “Hey, why don’t you video chat me? That way you know I’m ok.”
She does and I’m incredibly excited to see her face again. While we’re talking I notice two men who appear to be homeless walking past. One continues walking down the street and I don’t see him again. The other homeless man decides to camp out and lays down on the bench 30 feet in front of me.
I continue talking to my girlfriend thinking nothing of him. After a few minutes, however, he stands up and begins walking towards me. He stops perhaps 10 feet from me with only the short metal fence of the restaurant separating us. He stares at me, seemingly annoyed and my girlfriend notices a change in my facial expression.
“What’s wrong baby?”
She turns her head and squints her eyes. I know this look. The game is over. She knows there’s more to the story.
“Umm… there’s a homeless man by me. I think he’s mad because we were talking too loud and woke him up.”
I can’t remember her response, because I was focused on trying to read this man to see if there was any real danger. I couldn’t sense any, but I identified the whereabouts of my backpack on the chair next to me, and grabbed my computer in case I needed to run.
As I predicted, however, after continuing to ignore him while keeping my girlfriend calm he walked away and left me alone with the entire street to myself.
My girlfriend and I continued to chat for another 30 minutes; continually having to reconnect as the wi-fi I was grabbing from the hotel was quite spotty. We eventually finished talking and being the caring, protective girlfriend she is said,
“Cam be careful.”
I decide to rest for a few more minutes. I take advantage of the wi-fi and read several self-development articles on my phone.
It’s past 3 A.M. by this point. I’m supposed to check out of my hotel by 10 A.M. Any chance of a full night’s sleep is dead by this point, but I decide to head back across the street and search the neighborhood my hotel is supposed to be in one last time.
I search for 30 minutes unsuccessfully. I’m not surprised that I’m unable to find it. I’ve already been down most of the streets and alleys in this neighborhood a half-dozen times. However, when walking down one the narrow streets I notice something I hadn’t seen before. It’s a hotel with Asakusa in it’s name!
To be fair, the part of Tokyo I’m in is called Asakusa so many of the hotels have Asakusa in their name. Since arriving I’d already been to 3-4 hotels that I thought could’ve been mine but weren’t. Therefore, I’m not sure if this is my hotel. It’s in the same general area but I can’t seem to spot the sketchy graffiti it’s supposed to have. I don’t think it’s my hotel.
Regardless I try to enter through the front doors. Damn it they’re locked. I read some instructions, however, and they say if you arrive past 2 A.M. you can still enter through the back doors. I walk around the block and climb some stairs to get to the back doors. They’re unlocked. I’m in.
I find it incredibly bizarre that I’ve somehow made it to the second floor of the hotel without checking in and without anyone aware of my presence. I find some stairs and walk down to the first floor hoping to find someone to check me in. Instead I’m greeted by a few slightly drunk backpackers getting ready to get in the elevator.
“Hey mate what’re ya doing?”
“Looking for the front desk to check-in.”
“I don’t think anyone’s around anymore. But hey, there’s a nice chair in the lobby. It’s got some nice cushions. You can probably grab a good nap there.”
I take their advice. I lay in the cushioned chair. It’s 3:45 A.M. I don’t think this is my hotel and I’m made slightly nervous by the 10,000 yen trespassing fee sign they’ve hung on the wall. I decide that I’ve got a map and a good alibi though if worst comes to worst. To be on the safe side I’ll just take a quick nap as well so that I’m able to get out of here before the morning staff is up.
I set an alarm for 4:30. For the next 45 minutes I enter a blur of semi-consciousness. I’m awake enough to know I’m not asleep, but I’m asleep enough to not perceive much of anything around me.
My alarm wakes me through my headphones and I’m surprised that I’m not feeling tired. I am slightly delirious; at least I think I am. Maybe I’m too delirious to tell. I can’t find a place to leave on the first floor so I head back to where I’d entered on the second floor. Upon preparing to open the door I notice another sign, however.
If opened this door will sound an emergency alarm.
Shitttt. I debate whether I should just give up and go back to sleep on the cushy chair downstairs, but I decide against it. As I get ready to open the door I mentally prepare myself for the events I’m anticipating. I vividly imagine a thunderous alarm sounding and having to run out of the building Hollywood style as I seek to make my escape into one of the nearby dark alleys.
I reach out, bracing myself as I turn the door handle. I clench my teeth as I bend my arm pulling the door towards me. I’m pleasantly surprised. No alarm is perceptible to me. I’ve not noticed any change. I still head out quickly as I feel I’ve overstayed my visit.
I walk briskly through the various alleys; taking several turns and attempting to put as much distance between me and the hotel as possible. I escape back to the main street through a side alley. I cross the street heading back to the neighborhood where I’d poached wi-fi from the hotel and met the homeless man.
I head back to the table I was sitting at, collapse onto the chair, and stare blankly into the sky as the sun preps itself to rise. I’m in disbelief at the strange sequence of events my homeless night in Tokyo entailed, but I’m amazed by the adventure it brought and I can’t wait to tell others my story. For that reason, and not knowing what else to do I decide to record a video (the one at the top of this blog post) on a very jet lagged 45 minutes of sleep.
My night made me realize something. You can improve at story-telling by developing your public speaking skills or by learning the technical elements of how to tell a story. I don’t deny that and I don’t think anyone would. If you care to tell better stories you certainly should do those things.
There’s another thing you can do as well, however, that I think less people cover. You can say YES. When you try to talk to a girl and she’s mean to you at first don’t stop there. See if you can flip things around. When you’re a writer and you only have two days before vacation don’t use that as an excuse not to write. Finish an ENTIRE ebook in those two days so you’ll know you EARNED your vacation. When you can’t find your hotel don’t give up looking. Take the opportunity to experience being homeless.
Be smart about things (A big reason I was willing to go homeless for the night is that I was in one of the safest countries in the world) but say YES. Put yourself in circumstances where you’ll experience CRAZY things, experience things that will ignite TREMENDOUS personal growth, and I guarantee you’ll make AMAZING memories for yourself, and always have THE BEST stories.
After a few more days in Tokyo I moved back to Saigon, Vietnam at the beginning of August. I’ve finished a few writing projects during that time, one of them being a new ebook on how to get your first girlfriend.
I’ve also got a novella under a pen name as well as the book I wrote last month about how ANYONE can sustain an enjoyable life of travel for themselves.
(Pictures taken July 2015 in Asakusa, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan)
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