An American Goldfish inTokyo

True Confession: I’ve spent more money on my hair in the past 2 weeks than I have in the past 2 years.

True Confession: It feels totally worth it. I have choppy blue and blonde Tokyo Rockstar hair.

Reality: I am not a Rockstar. So, even though I’m in love with Sin Den Salon in Harajuku, the next time the blue in my hair needs to be freshened up, I am calling on manic panic and a patient friend.

Still, in this moment, right now, I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been and I think it is due, in part, to my Tokyo Rockstar hair.

Which is even more ironic since I never once imagined myself traveling around Asia and am slightly out of my comfort zone. Still, I am not one to pass us an opportunity, no matter how unprepared I may be.  As of today, I know exactly 6 words in Japanese (spelling may not be accurate…as I’m typing them phonetically and not looking them up): Simosen, Konichiwa, Domo-Arrigato, Oyshee, Oigamas and Oolong-Hai.

Essentially, I can say “good afternoon,” politely order myself food by pointing at pictures/other people’s plates, order my new favorite beverage (Oolong tea with a shot of Shoju in it), and I can tell everyone how delicious it all is (Oyshee!). I then pay my check, say thank you and peace out.

So, I guess I’m as prepared as I need to be, everything else, I can pick up as I go. It drives some of my friends crazy, but that’s my travel mojo. I like to have the important stuff down and then just roll with the rest – why? Because, in my experience, that’s the only thing that works for me.

My Dad was the first person to remark upon my Goldfish tendencies. We were at the mall, I was a pre-teen, chattering on about gym class or my grade in social studies or some other middle school drama, when suddenly, I stopped dead in my tacks, mouth wide open gaping. We were walking past a kiosk of rings/studs/barbells for various body piercings and something shiny had caught my eye. Dad said if I had been born a fish, I’d be screwed.

I’m still very much a Goldfish, swimming around with a crap memory and the tendency to be completely distracted by shiny things. Which is great, because my distractions are often adventures in and of themselves.

I’d planned out a trip to three museums the other day: the first was classic Japanese art in my favorite part of the city Harajuku. I love the seamless mingling of androgynous punk rockers and girls dressed in pink lace and frills. The second was a museum dedicated to the 1923 Earthquake and the third was the sumo wrestling arena/museum. I’d written out all of the trains and subway lines I’d be using, as well as walking directions to each museum from the neighboring stations. I packed a snack and bottle of water in my purse just in case. I was Boy Scout kinda ready.

When I got to the art museum in Harajuku, I noticed it was closed for the end-of-the-month exhibit change out. Hmmm. That wasn’t listed in my book or on their website. Wandering back towards the subway station, something shiny caught my eye: a man with a gold pocket-watch walking into what appeared to be a park. I couldn’t tell exactly because I couldn’t read any of the signs, but I decided to follow him.

I’m glad I did because I stumbled upon this inviting scene:

I have no idea really what this place is. The only sign in English mentioned something about an antique show being postponed indefinitely, but I ventured in and saw:

There were pictures all around the perimeter depicting old battles – both on land and at sea. One depicted the battle of Yalu. Something I’d never heard of before. I made a note to Google it when I got home and learned all about the Sino-Japanese War and the significance of the Battle of Yalu.

On my way out, I saw what appeared to be a submarine war monument and a young woman looking very pensive:

I left through the gardens and koi ponds, barely able to believe that this quiet, peaceful garden existed in funky Harajuku.

I rushed to my subway so I wouldn’t miss my next two museums, however, when I got to my final transfer, I realized I needed to transfer onto a bus. Yikes. It takes me a long time to warm up to buses. Subways, Trains, Trolleys, Ferries, Taxis – no problem. But, there is something about buses that truly intimidates me – this sense that you have to know what you are doing if you are going to ride the bus. You must carry exact change and pull the chord to alert the driver when your stop is coming up….buses are hardcore. I wasn’t ready for the bus.

Right as I was re-routing my trip to take a different subway to the other museums, something caught my eye. Something shiny:

The Tokyo Sky Tree.

It didn’t look too far away, I estimated about 3 blocks and decided to check it out before hitting up the next museum. I was in the neighborhood afterall.

A dozen blocks later, I finally got to see the Sky Tree up close:

It was so tall.

I didn’t go in and learn anything about it because it was pretty crowded and the quiet riverwalk alongside the Sky Tree was much more appealing:

While I truly enjoyed my trip around Tokyo, I still want to check out those museums….maybe tomorrow.

About ermodi

i like champagne and nachos. i watch people’s mouths move when they talk to me and judge if they are a good kisser i like to write with fine-tip Sharpies because i think it makes me look confident i bite my nails i think doing the dishes is a very lonely chore i think “autumn” is the prettiest word in the English language. i believe in love – or, at least something that resembles love, but i don’t trust this idea of forever.
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6 Responses to An American Goldfish inTokyo

  1. Casey says:

    Hi, Maureen!

    Love this post, and am tickled by your Dad’s sense of humour. Your hair definitely rocks…and you do too, for having the guts to put blue streaks through it – if that doesn’t say ‘I love life!’ then I don’t know what does.

    Thanks for sharing this post via Blogplicity.



  2. Carissa says:

    I am so jealous that you are doing that. I would totally pick up and go too. Tickets to Istanbul from JFK are less than $600 round trip… I think I just might. But congrats on the amazing life experience!

    Also, the second brownish/greyish sky needle pic is amazing. Totally needs to be blown up in someones industrial loft apartment.


  3. Oh, Maureen, what fantastic photos! It looks like you are having the shiniest time of your life. 🙂
    Great commentary and humor as always. Thank you for making me smile today.
    Blessings to you!


  4. Jane Nefores says:

    You are awesome. You are not reinventing yourself after the USCG, you are actually finding what you are meant to be. This is wonderful. Keep exploring.


  5. T says:



  6. Pingback: Taking Off The Mask -

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