I Spontaneously Decided to Go to Tokyo with My Best Friend

We were having lunch at The Works when Maddison brought it up. I didn’t take it seriously at first. She told me she was going to visit her cousin, who teaches abroad in Shinjuku, and her mother had backed out of the trip. Apparently, she had jokingly told Maddison to take me instead.

Over the course of the next two hours, we decided to do exactly that. My rationale was that it wouldn’t be nice (or safe) for Maddie to travel on her own. It would be much better for two equally clueless 20-year-olds to wander around Tokyo.

My mum was supportive, which was quite a shock. I casually brought it up at dinner that night and she told me to go for it. She thought that if I had the opportunity (and money) to travel, I should. Bless her heart and soul.

Within two weeks, Maddie and I had booked our flights and hotel. Neither of us had been on a trip without a parent before, so this was bound to be a fun adventure. I couldn’t tell the difference between my excitement and my anxiety.  

We spent 4 hours every week in the library, hunched over travel books and Pinterest boards. We had YouTube playlists dedicated to learning the basics of Japanese so we wouldn’t be completely lost. The only word I got down was sumimasen (which means “excuse me”). We only had 2 months to plan and we wanted everything to be perfect. This was the trip Maddie had been dreaming of for the past 10 years and I was determined to make it as awesome for her as possible.

The night before our flight we got 4 hours of sleep. When our parents told us we needed to take better care of ourselves while we were abroad, we rolled our eyes but we reassured them that we would.

After 18 hours of sitting on a plane watching endless episodes of Korean dramas (in my case) and The IT Crowd (in Maddison’s case), we were in Tokyo. Both of us were exhausted. I passed out on the subway on our way to the hotel, so I needed time to recover. I highly recommend carrying a water bottle around if you visit Tokyo in August. It’s like a sauna (and this is coming from a girl who once spent a summer in India).

On our first day, we followed our itinerary to a T. If you’ve met me, you know I’m absolute BTS trash. Although my boys are from Korea, there was a BTS-themed café and store that I desperately wanted to go to. Thankfully, Maddie put up with me and even wound up buying some merch herself.

This is me on the day I almost died from happiness.

It was difficult for me to find things to eat since I’m a vegetarian, but I managed. We tried kushikatsu, which is a Japanese delicacy of skewered meat and veggies that you deep fry yourself. I was also determined to buy matcha Kit Kats while we were there (which Maddie told me we could get in Canada after I had already spent 1200 yen on them at Narita airport).

The biggest surprise was how amazing Japanese Seven-Elevens are. We visited one every night, browsing the bakery aisles. They had donuts, cookies, croissants, everything I could have asked for. We loaded up on everything and ate in our hotel room when we didn’t want to go out and find a restaurant. It was also a good way for us to save money.

Over the next 7 days, we did almost everything we had planned. We visited a cat café, every museum we could find, the Hachikō statue outside Shibuya station, and many more. Akihabara (“electric town”) was one of our favourite spots. We spent over 3000 yen on claw games and won nothing, but it was still a major highlight of our trip. Maddie’s cousin also took us on a day trip to Kamakura, where we got to see the iconic giant Buddha. There were multiple temples and shrines we visited too, which were beautiful.

My favourite place we visited was Tokyo Skytree. It’s like the CN Tower and Eaton Centre combined. There were endless stores inside, including the Pokémon centre, which had a bunch of plush toys we couldn’t afford. However, going up to the top was the best part. The view from every spot was amazing. We got there just as the sun was setting. It was a good day in terms of weather, so we were able to see Mount Fuji in the distance.

After walking around the entirety of the floor, we visited the gift shop. They had an entire wall of postcards. We wouldn’t have thought of buying any if there wasn’t a little desk in the corner with stamps and a letter box. We bought some to send to our parents, which I completely forgot about it until I came home and saw mine on the fridge.

On our last night, while Maddie and I ate at a pizza restaurant in Shinjuku Station, we were both sad to leave. Although I found Tokyo to be similar to Toronto, I would love to go back some day. We didn’t have the time or money to visit places outside of the city. Next time, I would travel around the whole country. I’ve heard Osaka, in particular, is beautiful, and I would love to go back and spend time there.

After another 15 hours of Netflix and terrible plane food, we were back to reality. We both had 4 days before school started again, but we tried not to think about that. When we were back at Pearson waiting for our luggage at baggage claim, I turned to Maddie and said three words.

“Where to next?”