3 Favorite Things About Living in Tokyo, Japan

I’ve visited Japan more times than an average tourist would, but that was because to me, Japan was, for a short while, home. A lover from a lifetime ago had lived in a pretty two-bedroom house in Tachikawa, Tokyo, and in the course of a year, I had found myself coming back to that place and making it mine as well.

Typing all that down made my heart hurt a little bit, if I’m being honest. Have you ever felt that? Emotional pain so vivid that you can faintly feel it in your chest, even twelve months later.

But alas, there are no ragrets. Not even a single letter! ;)

So let me try to go through my old memories and see what I can present to you today. While things didn’t quite work out between us, Japan will always be the country where I found my independence and my direction. I’m pretty grateful for that.

Ayn Bernos in Tachikawa

Drinking in Japan

“Nama beeru futatsu,” I would say — already drunk thanks to 4% kombini chu-hi’s. Or roadies, as we liked to call them. It’s the only Japanese phrase I could recall today, a phrase that allowed me to order two beers for two people: myself and the reason I had moved my life to the eclectic city that was Tokyo, Japan.

I loved that drinking is not at all frowned upon in Japan, and it never felt like something that could destroy the peace and order of society. If anything, it was gaijin like me who threatened that peace, and drunkenly, too, as usual.

A normal night out involved running to the station, grabbing cans of Strong Zeros and a couple of onigiris, and finally catching the train to Shibuya or Shinjuku. We’d meet up with friends, get hammered, and take the last train home to Tachikawa. When we’re feeling a little more adventurous, we’d stay in clubs and go all-out until the first train the next day arrives. On one occasion, we slept under a tree at Yoyogi Park. We woke up the next day with a cans in our hands, dirt in our hair, and a bird photographer stoically eyeing us from a distance. It was quite the life.

Structure and order

What I loved most about my life in Japan was how it brought structure into my life. The city itself is every control freak’s dream, because the Japanese have somehow found a way to get their shit together better than anyone else. Rough estimate, but still. I doubt a lot would argue with me.

I loved that I didn’t have to think about tips, because payments were always exact. I loved the train’s pretty tight schedule. I loved that everything started and ended on time, despite my Filipino ways. I loved that information was so easily accessible, too. I loved the fast internet, and the no-nonsense way I could walk into a ramen shop, eat what I want, and leave.

I loved my routine in Japan. I woke up at around 7AM, headed downstairs and found freshly brewed coffee waiting for me. I loved going for morning runs by the river next to our house, and I loved seeing the same old man taking his morning walk. I loved going to the grocery store across the street right before lunch time, cooking something really mediocre, and then working non-stop on my IKEA desk in the middle of the room. I’d end the day eating cereal while watching an episode of The Simpsons. It was simple, quiet, and it was our life everyday.

Bite-sized Adventures

But it was never always just about the routine. Oftentimes, and usually on weekends, it was easy for us to find bite-sized adventures away from the bustling city.

For example, there was Ozawa Brewery in Ome, a picturesque piece of paradise where you can sample sake while lounging by the Sawai river. We had gone during the summer, and I was feeling hot and sweaty in my hiking outfit — tank top, short shorts, my favorite Merrells, and my 8-liter Deuter biker backpack. We only had to hop on the train, and there we were.

We also did the Spartan Race Sprint in 2017, which was pretty damn challenging I must say!!! My 2017 self was not even remotely athletic, and I was thrown into a fun race with military and CrossFit friends. It was interesting, challenging, and definitely memorable. Mud, sweat, and tears!

And then, of course, there were trips to cities like Kyoto and Hiroshima, and ski resorts like Nozawa Onsen. There was Summer Sonic, the music festival, and beach trips to Enoshima. These were bite-sized itineraries that ultimately introduced me to different sides of Japan, sides that I would never have been introduced to if I weren’t with an equally strict planner like my once-other half.

Enoshima Beach
Tachikawa, Tokyo
Summer Sonic 2017
Nozawa Onsen
Enoshima Beach

Like the old cliché goes, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” My life in Japan feels like a lifetime ago, and I do think I’ve changed immensely, but the gratitude I feel towards the people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve received will never change.

Muchas gracias, arigato, Japan.