Taiyaki is one of many famous sweets in Japan. It is a yummy pastry with sweet red-bean filling, traditionally shaped like a fish!

A week ago, I left home on a year-long (at least) adventure around the world. My first stop was Tokyo, Japan. After my 11 hour flight from San Diego to Narita, I dragged my surfboard bag around the airport, frantically (sweatily) looking for a place to store it for the week. I knew I would be taking trains for the majority of my time here, so it would have been impossible to bring my boards with me into the city.

After making sure my boards were safe and sound for the week, I left the airport to go to my first hostel in Nishiarai, a suburb just outside of Tokyo. Three train transfers later, I made it to the hostel, and immediately passed out in my dorm bed.

For my first full day in Japan, I thought I would take it easy, so I went to a fun area called Asakusa, which is home to the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Sensō-ji. I was still a little bit jetlagged, so walking around a touristy area, eating noodles and pastries sounded nice and relaxing. Well, I didn’t really account for the fact that Tokyo is a big walking city, and by the end of the day, I had covered over 10 miles by foot! There was so much to do and see, I forgot how exhausted I was. I went back to my hostel, packed up, and rested for the next day’s destination: Harajuku.

This five-story pagoda is a very special part of the Sensō-ji temple.

Harajuku is famous for fashionable young people wearing crazy, colorful outfits. As soon as I got off the train, I walked down Takeshita street, which was SUPER busy and colorful, with J-pop music blaring from every corner. It was a sensory overload, and I walked onto a less crowded street to find some lunch. To my surprise, I stumbled upon the vintage shopping district, which reminded me so much of all the second-hand clothing stores at home!

The adorable entrance to Takeshita Street is a strong indicator of the cuteness level in the area.

One of my brother’s closest and oldest friends, Maxx, who is basically a part of our family, happens to live and work in Japan! Of course, I had informed him that I would be coming to Tokyo months ago, and we had made some plans to hang out in the city. Although I had only been traveling alone for a couple days so far, I was so excited to see a good friend from home in such a far-away place! We met up in Harajuku and later that evening went out in Shibuya, a well-known hub for nightlife in Tokyo. Maxx was able to get a few days off of work, so we spent the next day at Yoyogi Park, which is absolutely massive! We saw a beautiful shrine, and found some fun festivals - a Thai water festival, and the Latin Summer Fest! It was so fun to see latin dancing all the way in Japan!

Let me tell you, there is no shortage of dogs in strollers over here.

Maxx lives outside of Tokyo, in a small beach town called Zushi. Zushi is right next to Kamakura, which has some of Japan’s most popular longboard waves, but unfortunately doesn’t see much swell this time of year. This area has a fun atmosphere and some amazing historical monuments, such as the great Buddha at Kōtoku-in temple. It was cool to check out a beach town over here, and it definitely felt like the Encinitas of Japan!

This 43 foot-high bronze Buddha was completed in the year 1252!

Overall, my experience in Japan has been amazing, despite a couple of hiccups with getting lost in trains and getting caught in the rain (piña colada, anyone?). This has been a fantastic week of eating great food and exploring, and it was the perfect start to my big journey. I can’t wait to see what happens during my next leg in Indonesia!

Sorry for the super close up selfie, but this seal donut was too cute not to share. His flippers were made of almonds! (hat by Roxy)

Written by: Stephanie Schechter