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Silence in a city of 40 million people

Wednesday, Nov 14th

Well, walking around the first night in Shinjuku, after arriving in Tokyo, and navigating on a train from the airport to Shinjuku station, I had no idea what to expect in a bustling city of nearly 40,000,000 people

What I found is not at all what I expected.  It’s a weird clash of hustle and bustle, electric energy, visually stunning sites meshed up with calm, order and errie silence for a bustling city.

It didn’t hit me until I was walking around on Thursday morning what the difference is compared to so many other cities, especially American.

There is no honking. There is no sirens. No one seems to be an extra ordinary hurry although everyone is certainly busy.

Thursday took me over 27,500 steps and included:

Shinjuku Niagara Falls

Govt buildings

Meiji Jingu

Shibuya Crossing

Hachiko Statue

Japan National Stadium

Shinjuku National Garden

Olympic Symbol

It was a truly enjoyable day finished with some late afternoon ramen, a Hong Kong iced tea (similar but different to sweet tea with a stronger lemon flavor)

By 6p I needed a cat nap, and unfortunately didn’t find a cat cafe so back to the hotel I went to get recharged.  What I haven’t told you up until this point, is my luggage handle on my large roller bag broke or got bent on the flight over. Unable to fix it, I had better suck it up and go buy a new bag.  Having to drag it thru Tokyo and the rail system before boarding the cruise ship on Friday, a broken suitcase seemed less than ideal.

A suitcase and not a pair of flip flops became the travel casualty of the holiday.  New category on the travel scoreboard anyone?

I walked back to Shinjuku Station and located a Samsonite story nearby and $335 USD later we were back in business.  Frustrating yes, life altering…no.  Not exactly how I wanted to spend money but a reliable suitcase is a worthwhile investment and the one that “died” had to be over 10 years old so I guess I could say I'd gotten my money' worth out of it.

After getting back to the hotel, I downloaded photos, relaxed and readied myself for a night out on the town.  There are over 300 gay bars in Shinjuku Ni-Chome, making it one of the highest concentration of gay businesses in the world.

Every single one of these neon signs on just this one block is a gay bar.

As a former Red Light District, it’s not a New Orleans vibe.  It’s relatively quiet, and each one of the neon signs represents another establishment.  Located on the street level, upstairs, sometimes multiple stories up or underground, there’s literally something for everyone.

I found myself at the foreigner’s bar where I rubbed elbows with gays from Brussels, Ireland, Canada, the US and Australia. I learned more about the thriving gay scene in Tokyo and then was brought to Caseito Bar, a karaoke bar on the 2nd story with bottle service.  The space itself would be about the equivalent to 2 or 3 normal sized American bedrooms, small for US bar standards.  The energy of fellow bar flies was wonderful. The hosts turned into friends as we all took turns singing karaoke.  I had to bring some American Country into the fold, while they sang Billy Joel and several 80s Japanese hits.

1a+ approaching, I taxied back to the hotel to to get some rest before having to navigate and get an hour and a half away to Yokohama where the cruise ship would dock on Friday.

It was a very fun night.  So appreciative of the friendly crowd and rice liquor that seeks to hydrate while you drink.

Japanese are known to go out with their coworkers and bosses 3-4 nights a week.  The city rail system shuts down at midnight, and taxis are generally too expensive, so it’s perfectly normal to get a pod hotel for $15-20 and sleep until transit starts back up at 5a.

Not sure that would fly in much of the world.

Rested and relaxed, breakfast at the Hilton Tokyo before I packed and caught a taxi back to Shinjuku Station.  On the way into the city, I rode the Nairita Express train from the Airport to Shinjuku Station before walking the twenty or so minutes to the hotel. Due to the heavy rain on Friday morning, I wasn’t about to deal with lugging my bags thru the soggy streets, so a taxi was in order.

Upon arriving at the station, where keep in mind, it is the busiest station in the world with over 3.5 million people passing thru every DAY. It's a little intimidating as an unknowing American tourist to locate where you are going (think shopping mall + major transportation hub on multiple levels) but thankfully Google maps and some extremely friendly locals help insure you make your way.

And that’s really the thing, as busy as they are, everyone is friendly, things are orderly, you step aside if you need to stop and look at your phone to keep everyone else moving and things running smoothly. You leave with enough time to ensure you aren’t in an overt hurry and inconvenience others due to your lack of planning.  It’s refreshing.

And that, my friends, is how a city of 40 million people can be silent.  Going back to a statement that I shared while visiting Africa, wander quietly or wander loudly if you must, but, wander...  in Tokyo, wandering quietly is definitely preferred.

So with that, I’ll catch you up on days one and two of the cruise on my next post, and hopefully have photos to share for Kagoshima, Japan, our next port of call!

Cole from Colorado

In a Tokyo state of mind

Travel to Tokyo was onboard American Airlines, and I was fortunate to secure a free systemwide upgrade due to loyalty point benefits.  My economy class seat was upgraded to a business class pod with a lie-flat seat.  It was a remarkable way to spend nearly 15 hours in the air.  Unfortunately all good things just come to an end. I’ll likely be back in economy on the return flight as my upgrade hasn’t cleared yet

Tokyo Hilton - Junior Suite upgrade

Tokyo City Highlights



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about me:

Hey!  I am Cole from Grand Junction, Colorado. In 2023 I stepped on all seven continents, in a single calendar year, solo!

The year continues to shape my life and my lust for travel.