Tokyo ’13 Photo-diary, Part 6: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
My first trip to Japan was when I was in Year 10 in 2005, and for student exchange no less! A high school in Tokyo and ours became sister schools only a year or less prior, and I was so fortunate to have taken Japanese as a language elective at the time and able to go with some of my closest friends to experience the culture and language we’d only studied in books and seen in media. The whole experience only lasted a couple of weeks but in my sweet-16 year old memory it was and is unforgettable, one of the best of my life, and just amaaaazing! We were so lucky to have enjoyed a slice of Japanese school and home life, and it really was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities.
We had host families to stay with for a week (where we got the utter joy and privilege of receiving and showing off to one another a bento/packed lunch by our host mothers, relaxing in the ofuro/wooden bath nightly, trying on kimono/traditional wear, eating traditional meals, and putting into practice learned customs and speech with our host fams) then travelled around Tokyo (Tokyo Disneyland ftw!), Hiroshima and Nara (aka Deer Land) via shinkansen/bullet train for another. We visited an incredible array of shrines, temples and other traditional and heritage-listed sites and it’s a blur, always taking photos, being a biiit rowdy, and eating all kinds of delicious treats in view. In hindsight I really have to give credit to the epic few teachers who organised the whole trip and tour-guided all of us – they honestly couldn’t have done it better!
But even better (the best by far, actually!) was the week at our Japanese host families’ homes and attending our sister school! I rode a bike to and from high school daily with my host sister/buddy, attended some classes like art and gym with the other Japanese high schoolers, attended special classes set for us, befriended so many wonderful students, ate our bentos and cafeteria offerings together, met high schoolers from an international English school in Tokyo, and to put the sakuranbou/cherry on top, we were there during their annual bunkasai/Cultural Festival!!!! WSZHFSD&^%$ it was just so freaking fun and wonderful (better than drama/anime portrayal)!! It’s definitely something I’ve crossed off my bucket list and am so happy I was able to experience. Of course all of the students and staff got attached to one another very quickly, especially us and the host families and buddies, and there were tears all around at the farewell celebration and as our bus was leaving the high school for the last time.
Okay so my point is, that trip is what truly and irreversibly ignited my love for Japan, its people, culture and its lands. Each time I go I make it a priority to visit my host family and I can’t help but think how blessed I am that I was able to meet them. They warm my heart each and every time, and I’ve been able to drink some alcohol with them over dinner in recent trips which makes me realise years have passed since we’d all first shyly met.
I was ecstatic to meet a couple of my old friends again and it was a shame we didn’t have much time together, but one thing we did (apart from obligatory purikura/sticker photo taking and omiyage/souvenir shopping!) was go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, or Tochō for short. It’s within walking distance from Shinjuku (shopping hotspot!) station, you can’t mistake the spectacular building as you get closer, and I’d definitely recommend going up to the free observation deck where you have a grand view of the city, and can apparently even see Mt Fuji on clear days.