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Tokyo, Japan | One Night Without a Hotel

Tokyo, Japan

One Night…Without a Hotel

The Journey Begins

I need to come clean…I have a problem:  I regularly squeeze far too much into my travels, and my overnight ‘stopover’ without a hotel in Tokyo was a shining example. I was on my United flight halfway around the world, and I had only booked this trip and flight 36 hours ago. As I mentioned earlier, I asked for the longest layover possible in Tokyo and got one at 23 hours. I had just spent the last 36 hours getting my shots, packing, attending my job farewell drinks, going to the Catholic Big Sisters and Big Brothers October Ball and after-party, and headed to the airport around 4am. All I wanted was to sleep on my flight to San Francisco and watch movies on the flight to Tokyo.  I was over-joyed to be on a 747 (I’m an airplane buff and I hadn’t been on a 747 since I was 5 years old) but my smile turned upside down quickly.  I love my United Airlines, but this old school 747 had no NO INTERNET and NO POWER OUTLETS! My sister’s first Honda had more power outlets. Step it up United! Charge me, I don’t care. I just don’t want to sit there for hours watching the horrible Disney films you’ve pre-picked for the general audience. You know what else I can’t do without internet? …Book a hotel room to stay in that night. Whoops…this was travel rookie.


Wander-Lost for Goldengai

After hours of staring out the window, I land in Tokyo around 3pm.  Hallelujah for being an experienced New Yorker…the subway system and Narita Express train into town are easy to figure out. I was given a handful of neighborhoods to stay in by my high school friend, Kelli Jensen…and after much deliberation, decided on Shibuya. It felt so right once I realized this place was called Shi-“BOO-YAH”! OK that was lame. Without a hotel to stay in as of yet, I walk around this “Times Square on steroids” with my huge backpack, and my other normal backpack weighing me down.


Not speaking a lick of Japanese, it takes me an hour until I find the seediest internet cafe imaginable. I book a hotel a few blocks away, drop the bags off, shower, and I’m headed to Shinjuku. While I was told this was a cool neighborhood, I was really looking for a hidden neighborhood called Goldengai.  I had heard the name before, but I also heard about it in a “3 days in Tokyo” magazine article. Without any idea where it is, and it not showing up on any maps, I get off the train station and just head Northeast as I think that’s the direction it was in. After 20 minutes of feeling like a failure, I see a tiny dim lit path that looks like it heads to some college campus.  BOOM! All of a sudden, this path spits me out in Goldengai! I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of my ‘general direction spidy sense’. This hood is a 5×15 grid block of tiny little restaurants, bars, and music clubs. And When I say tiny, I don’t think I saw one spot that had more than 5 stools to sit on.

The hidden path to Goldengai

Goldengai map

Goldengai 2



It actually reminded me of the tiny sushi bar from Kill Bill. It felt right out of the 60s, was smoke-filled, and there are signs that say “Foreigners, if you can’t understand Japanese, don’t come through this door.” So of course I did, for a drink. I felt the eyes peering into me like no other, and after my one drink, I head out for some sushi. I found a nice little spot on a more major street and met 3 businessmen and women who cracked me up. Along with the super cold beer, they helped me forgot that I was the only one eating soup with a spoon, and now we’re discussing Asian patent law! Next stop: this crazy place called Bar Champion.

From there, I headed back to Shibuya for a last drink as I was hitting a major wall, having slept 5 total hours in the last 48, but I wasn’t going to let that end my one night in Tokyo. On my walk home, I found an amazing bar called Paradise Macau, hit it up for last call, then headed home.

Bar Champion

Paradise Macau in Tokyo


This was way too short!

A quick observation on Tokyo and the amazing Japanese: this city is home to some of the most fashionable people around. Whether you like the taste or not, I’ve never seen such a consistent dedication to being stylish across a population. Another observations, the black crows here have the biggest beaks I’ve ever seen. And yes, Tokyo is very expensive.

I grabbed some breakfast and got on the train back to Narita to fly out to Bangkok.  I had one more amazing moment before I boarded my plane to Bangkok. When I was a kid, my father and I would go to pick up my mom from work. Sometimes, we’d go a bit early and park on a road at the end of the San Jose airport runway. We’d sit on the roof of the car and watch planes fly over our head. I got to do a little bit of this plane-watching at Narita thanks to this amazing viewing pad they have.

Planespotting in TokyoAirlines at Narita, Tokyo

I’m really glad that I’ve gotten my shots and brought along a good amount of Imodium. Thank God, because I plan on eating anything and everything available on street carts! I can’t wait to spend more time in Tokyo, but for now it’s…

On to the next one:
One Night in Bangkok & One Missed Night in Bangkok

Follow Our Story

Over the next few weeks, we’ll unfold the history behind this legendary journey and you’ll see how it inspired the birth of Saintly Bags. As we release a post for each city, we’ll continue the visual story on our Instagram. Please follow us on IG as well as Facebook and Twitter. We look forward to our new journey of interacting with you on your travels as well.