Being a high school student, I didn’t have a lot of spending money. Although initially disappointed, I was delighted to find out that one hundred US dollars is the equivalent to ten thousand Yen. My joy was short lived when I discovered that a soda costs 120 Yen. Most things are generally overpriced in my opinion so the currency is relatively balanced.
I had only one full day to explore Tokyo before my flight to Beijing so I squeezed in a bunch of activities. I overslept and missed the tour bus so I took the Tokyo Metro around town. The platform has automated gates up to prevent people from falling onto the tracks, and the trains move fast as bullets. I visited the Tokyo Tower which overlooks the entire city and provides a view of Mount Fuji, if the glare isn’t too intense. Tokyo Tower is literally a replica of the Eiffel Tower, except painted red. It’s not truly Japanese without the red paint job.
I also went to a garden the size of Central Park in an area called Shinjuku. It was very scenic and ancient looking in comparison to the Manhattan-like city behind it. My next stop was Harajuku which is a huge shopping district. It’s a lot like SoHo except there’s three Supreme stores and a million hypebeasts camping out for the latest drop. This neighborhood reminded me of New York City the most because even at 11 P.M. on a Tuesday, there were still thousands of people speeding rapidly down the street as though they were late for a conference meeting. Tokyo, Japan is truly the city that never sleeps.
The next day, I was bound for Beijing, China. At this point, I felt like a master tourist and I was ready to take on another part of the world. Only two hours away, the flight was child’s play in comparison to the NYC to Tokyo flight. I noticed three very strange things once I exited the airport. Facebook was blocked because of the Communist censorship of social networks. Secondly, there was an infinite amount of pollen from dandelions floating through the air and they constantly got in your nose, eyes and hair. It was the biggest nuisance especially with the spring time allergies kicking in. The last thing I noticed was the sky. The sun was shining and the weather was lovely but the sky was completely gray. Initially thought it was just a cloudy day, however, I learned that due to pollution and toxic gas emissions the sky is usually gray. This disappointed me but it began to make sense when I noticed the rush hour traffic at 2 P.M. The population of Beijing is so dense that there is always traffic and people are always driving which contributes to the amount of pollution in the atmosphere.
One of my favorite parts about my trip overall was my hotel in Beijing. I was staying at the Shangri La, a five-star hotel that towered over the entire city.