I think the mass of carbohydrates I've consumed the last two days has finally started to take effect. With little rhyme or reason, I awoke with an abundance of energy to burn.
For the first time on this trip, I toss aside the morning ritual of roaming for coffee and proceed to load the DZed for the northern skip back to Tokyo.
Today, I'm heading back into the heart of the neon paradise, mainly to re-discover the Shibuya ward (and its most popular inhabitant).
This may be my last rodeo in the city, so I want to enjoy every un-discovered alley I can find.
The biggest challenge I'm going to come across today is the parking.
I always had a nice, nestled spot to leave the DZed during my first stay in the city, but a day trip like this is more complicated.
It doesn't help that Shibuya houses arguably the biggest traffic stop in the city.
Tokyo is so large that I think I could have spent the entire trip within the city, and still scratched the surface on things to see.
The next trip will be focused on a few areas, as opposed to the whole country.
In addition to visiting the infamous cross street, I'm going to venture around the area and find some of the most random vending machines.
I've come across a few, um, notable items in these vending machines. Let's just say that some of these items don't leave much to the imagination.
That's ok, as some of these items will serve as good souvenirs for people back home.
The brisk drive into the city is only minutes from Kawasaki, with a short stretch of wilderness in between. It didn't take me long to cross the bridge and find my way into Shibuya.
The nearest parking space for the DZed was a few blocks from the popular intersection, which I was thrilled about. I was worried that I'd have to park, then take the Subway to Shibuya.
Aside from the loud and intense activity of the crosswalk, Shibuya is also famous for having the statue of "Hachiko".
If you don't know the story, Hachiko was a dog whose owner used to work in this area. As the story goes, Hachiko would wait for his owner at Shibuya Station and would go home together.
His owner was a professor at a local university that made the ride home with his dog an evening ritual. That's not the most impressive part of the story, though.
Despite his owner dying in 1925, Hachiko would come to the same intersection EVERY night until his passing in 1935.
For almost 10 years, the dog would anxiously wait for his owner's return, as if there wasn't an absence in his life.
The dog has gone on to become an iconic figure in the city, with many people using the location of his statue as a popular meeting place.
Upon looking at the bronze statue of the pup, it's hard not to feel an immediate notion of love and adoration for him.
Say what you want about dogs, they have this innate ability to unconditionally appreciate their owners that few pets have.
I harken back to the great times I've had with my dogs over the years and just how loving they were (regardless of the circumstance).
Perhaps loving isn't the best word. I'd say that forgiving is the apt term to describe their demeanor.
It doesn't seem to matter what their owner is going through, dogs have a way of breaking through the emotional wall and always gifting affection to them.
I love that the city dedicated a statue to something like Hachiko, as loyalty like his is hard to come by in this world.
It may be a bronze statue of a pet, but his characteristics and loving attitude symbolize something that translates into all cultures.
After taking some time to appreciate the old pup, I walk through some of the nearby neighborhoods to see if I can score any rare trinkets from the vending machines.
Japan (Tokyo, specifically) is famous for having an abundance of quirky, unique, and quite frankly, strange items housed within these machines.
Not only that, but these machines are 24/7 and can be found on every block.
It's like having an online food, drink, and random merch store in front of you (at all times).
I've been told that some of the oddest machines can be found in the back stretches of certain alleyways, I so veered off the main street into a nearby alley.
Within a few paces of entering this alley, I feast my eyes on possibly the most ridiculous machine I've seen yet.
Advertised as a "King's treasure box", this gold-painted machine gives mystery gifts to its customers. You might be asking, "what is the mystery gift?". To be honest with you, I have no clue.
As the name implies, customers have no clue what they're selecting from the machine. The glass is covered in numerous stickers and designs, leaving the customer to guess their fate.
I've been told that machines like this can award prizes like an entire gaming console, but I'm going to assume that I have a better chance of winning the lottery than rekindling my gamer roots.
After debating with my conscience for a few moments, I decided to throw 1000 (yes, a 1000) yen into the shit show of a contraption.
The machine begins to churn through its gears, eventually hurling a box down the bottom.
Seconds seemed to move like moments, as I couldn't help but wonder why I wasted money on such a ridiculous concept.
I submerge my arm into the machine, hoping to extract a box full of value. I have no clue what to expect, but it would be nice if I just got my money back...
I peel away at the sides of the box, lifting its top like Chinese takeout. What I proceeded to see with nothing spectacular.
Resting at the bottom of this hollow box is a yo-yo... With no string. The shiny, plastic hunk of crap was my long overdue, 1000 yen investment.
I can't say that I'm surprised, but nonetheless, I was disgusted. The thought of somebody getting wealthy off a machine like this is hilarious and atrocious, all at the same time.
Hats off to however owns this machine and the "mystique" behind their marketing. Considering some of the other stories I've heard, I'm glad that all I received was an inanimate toy.
With my thrilling mystery machine experience check marked, I continue my alleyway adventures, crisscrossing through a variety of machines.
In the span of a few hours, I found souvenirs for all of my loved ones back home. Specifically, I found the ideal gift for my best friend.
I won't go into detail as to what it is, but let's just say, he gets to fulfill a fantasy (without pissing off his wife).
I came across everything from machines that house toys to canned bread. Yes, you read that right.
I'm going to have to make sure to find a specific corner of my luggage to store this stuff, as my attempt to play Santa in May requires more space than I originally thought.
With my backpack seemingly full of random gifts, I found my way back to the DZed and checked in to a nearby hostel that I reserved last night.
Hotels are nice, but there are times where I miss the noise of camaraderie that you get at places like this. You can't find a better place to meet, mingle, and befriend other solo tourists at.
I wish I could explain all of the memories and bonds I've made with fellow travelers at places like these.
They get a bad wrap back home, but for the value, you're not going to find better accommodations. Aside from the social activity, the usual location and price of these places are hard to beat.
I yearn for the day that I can bring more people from home to locales like these. They're such a great microcosm of international relations, and how you can foster them.
Backpacking in Europe years ago showed me the convenience and social ability of these places, to which I'm extremely grateful.
To me, life is one long adventure and you need to find ways to explore every part of your path. Like Hachiko, you need to have loyalty to your passions and pursuits in life.
It's too short to waste on mundane, uninspiring actions. For me, that means putting my best foot (or wheel) forwards with every part of this adventure.
With that said, my day has come to a close. I'm not sure which place I'll go to tomorrow, so I'll leave a bit of a cliffhanger to end this entry.
Thanks again and I'll see you soon!