Alone in Tokyo – Diary of a Nervous Traveller

Alone in Tokyo

The holiday part of our trip has finished, and Husband has gone off to work, which was the main aim of coming to Tokyo, so I cannot really complain. It does change the mood though, as although I will comfortably follow him round the world, I am quite a nervous traveller when alone. I have never been alone in Tokyo before.

I spent the morning writing blogs, telling myself that this was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, I had spent several days seeing sights, and it is always best to write about places while you’re actually in them, as it’s easier to capture the mood of a place. Plus, it was a nice easy thing to do, which didn’t require speaking to anyone other than the maid, who came to clean the room.

But then it was midday, and I was hungry. I told myself, unconvincingly, that the packet of stale shortbread from England would make an excellent lunch, and I needed to lose weight, and eating wasn’t a priority. Tummy rumbled and logic kicked in. I needed to leave the room and venture to some shops. All very scary for me.

Having made the decision to go, I left quickly, so I didn’t change my mind or become so nervous I needed multiple trips to the washroom. This was partly good – I made it down to the lobby without changing my mind; and partly bad – because I left without a bag, which meant I left without an umbrella. It was raining. I can tell you that everyone in this part of Japan owns an umbrella, and uses it even when there’s just a spot of rain.

I walked through the tiny shopping mall opposite the hotel, and used the skywalk to reach Ebisu Station. I knew there were a few little shops there. I first checked the bakers. There were pictures and prices outside which was helpful, though I was unsure if the ‘egg sandwiches’ were a single portion or a whole loaf. They cost ¥900, and I knew (because I had been given a lesson by Husband to avoid me spending an unexpected amount) that ¥1000 was a little under £10. So they seemed expensive, but maybe not for a city. Then a smiley young shop assistant came to speak to me. Added pressure. Decided I wasn’t in the mood for egg sandwiches.

Found a supermarket – this was easier, as I could check things whilst remaining anonymous. Most food seemed to be wrapped in shiny plastic. It made the food itself look plastic, especially the sandwiches. There was a fridge full of little containers of dumplings and rice balls and fish. I couldn’t work out which ones required cooking, and which were ready to eat. Found some onigiri (triangles of rice, sometimes with a fishy filling). That seemed safe, though I couldn’t tell if they were plain or filled. There was also a salad, though I wasn’t sure if I was buying slices of cheese or tofu.

Stood in the queue to pay. The checkout girl spoke, so I nodded and said “Arigato,” which means “thank you” and is the only Japanese word I know, and hoped I hadn’t agreed to anything expensive. I was given my food, in a carrier bag, with a plastic wrapped fork, and a wet-wipe, and a little blue packet which turned out to be an ice-pack. Wasn’t that nice? I paid with my ¥1000 note, and received a bunch a change which could, frankly, have been any amount at all for all I knew. Then we both nodded, and thanked each other again, and I left.

Walked out of the shop, and I swear, everything was different. I didn’t recognise a thing, nor did I know which direction to walk in. This happens to me a lot, especially when trying to find where I’ve parked a car. Husband had given me very clear instructions about finding my way back to the hotel. “Look for the sign to the skywalk.” This was not where I thought it was, but I followed it anyway, and round the next corner, everything became familiar again. I’m rather fond of that skywalk. I took a photo for you, though I’m not sure if you’re supposed to. Ate lunch in my hotel room. Now, shall I write something more this afternoon, or shall I try to find a park…?

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anneethompson.com

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.

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