Between the fall '17 and spring '18 session I was able to attend the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) winter school on the origins of life in Tokyo, Japan. This was an interdisciplinary training course for graduate students and post-docs that included lectures from experts and hands-on training in field techniques and computational approaches related to Earth-Life Science, from planets to microbes and beyond.
Prior to the start of the winter school I arrived 6 days early to become accustomed to the time difference (a complete 12 hour shift from Boston!) and explore Tokyo on my own. These are some of the pictures of my experience.
Waiting to board the plane at Boston Logan airport. Flight JAL007 departs 12:30 pm and arrives 4:20 pm +1 day!
Arriving at Narita
14 hours later 🥴 Luckily I was able to sleep for maybe 2 hours on the plane.
I arrive at peak rush hour in Tokyo
From Narita airport I took the KESEI Skyliner rail to Ueno Station where I transferred to the Japan Railways (JR). I then took the JR Yamanote line to Shin-Okubo Station to reach my hostel. This line does a full circle around Tokyo, so if you get on the wrong one, you’ll eventually reach your destination.
Arriving in Shinjuku
I’m greeted by bright neon lights and a bustling neighborhood. I then make my way to the quieter back alleys and look for my hostel.
Home for the next 5 days
I was able to snag a single occupancy room for the week for less than $200 😎 (Hikari House)
After I check-in and unload my stuff I’m on a mission to find a place to eat. I stop at the first 7/11 I see and grab a mystery onigiri (riceball and nori with stuffing) to snack on. I think this one was spicy tuna.
Let's find some ramen!
I open google maps, look up “ramen”, and i’m not disappointed.
How do I order food?
I notice that a lot of restaurants have these ticket machines outside. I don’t know what they’re for and I nonchalantly seat myself at the bar. Inside I’m greeted by a very confused chef/attendant speaking to me in japanese, I think he’s asking for my order so I say “ramen onegaishimasu” (ramen please) with 2000 Yen in hand. Then, one of the patrons inside slowly and gently pulls the bill from my hand with his thumb and index finger in one large motion as to not startle me. He goes outside, inserts the bill into the machine, makes a selection, comes back in, gives me the ticket, and counts my change. The chef takes the tickets and 5 minutes later…
Welcome to Japan
The best ramen i’ve ever had (Nagi Ramen)
The next day...
I’m awake at 3 am so I decide to hang out with the locals outside the hostel. Most places are not open until 9 am so I spend the early morning planning my day.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
The Metropolitan Government Building has a free observation deck with a small cafe that serves expensive chocolate cake.
That’s the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower on the right.
Mt. Fuji in the distance
You can find pretty much anything here. Vintage Digimon figures? 16,800 Yen. Seiko Steve Jobs Watch? 200,000 Yen. Actual Samurai Armor? I didn’t go into that store.
What did I just tell you?
Goodbye stipend 💸💸💸
Taiko no Tatsujun (Taiko Drum Master)
Arcades are alive and well in Japan. I probably sank $50 playing Taiko Drum Master throughout my stay here.
'Your Name' tourism
I'm not joking, go see 'Your Name' already!
Peak Jet lag at 1 pm
I could’t give them my name at Starbucks so they drew my face instead.
7/11 in Japan
7/11s are heaven on Earth in Japan. In the US, however, you gamble with your life every time you have a slice of $1 pizza.
Tokyo tower was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It’s also painted orange to comply with air safety regulations in Tokyo.
View from Tokyo Tower
View of Tokyo Tower from Roppongi Hills
Amazing open 360-degree view of Tokyo (Roppongi Hills)
Super Potato in Akihabara
It’s more of a vintage video game museum than a store. You can find super nintendos, playstations, and other rarities at a fair price.
The Fabled Pokemon Green Version
When I was in elementary school there were rumors of a green version of Pokemon where you could enter a secret laboratory and catch Mew, Mewtwo, and Mewthree!! Using strength on the parked truck by the S.S. Anne never worked in Red or Blue…
Tsukiji Fish Market
I was able to visit the original Tsukiji fish market before it moved to its new, larger location.
Probably the most visited Buddhist temple in Tokyo.
Don’t forget to visit a cat cafe while in Harajuku where cats are paid to ignore you!
Hedgehog Cafe Harry
I also shamelessly visited a hedgehog cafe…
The jerk dug right into my hand with his sharp little teeth seconds after the previous picture.
Odaiba Gundam Statue
Theres a light show every ~30 minutes when the Gundam robot opens up and flies around.
Total lunar eclipse on January 31, 18
View of the eclipse from Shinagawa.
View from Gotemba City.
Is an active volcano with widespread hot spring and fumarole activity. It is also known for its onsen or hot spring eggs that are hardboiled in the natural hot springs.
Mt. Hakone Black Eggs
Legend holds eating just one of these black eggs can add seven years to one's life. I think the heavy metals may have reduced mine…
No trip to Japan is complete without numerous karaoke sessions!