Since I take the subway everywhere, I’m getting familiar with a lot of different areas in Tokyo, but I don’t have much of a sense of where they are in relation to each other. So I decided to make the most of a day off by going for an urban hike.
My walk started right at my doorway. I walked south, loosely following the subway line I take to campus. I watched neighborhoods turn into a bustling amusement park at Tokyo Dome; I passed through the used-book district where I’d bought my ukulele, and was surprised to discover how close it was to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. The gardens were free of charge, so I took a detour to explore them and recharge with ice cream. It was nice to watch the people, locals and tourists alike, strolling and enjoying the sprawling gardens.
From there, my path broke away from the Mita Line and struck out into uncharted territory. I headed east, following a long walking area in the middle of the street. It was a beautiful day; students were reading books on benches, guys were skateboarding, buskers were getting ready to perform. I found myself at Tokyo Station, in Marunouchi: center of the circle. Amid the sunlight and the bustling crowds, I felt like I could finally begin to understand the city, disparate neighborhoods stringing themselves into a map in my mind.
Following the rudimentary directions I’d jotted down beforehand and stuck in my pocket, I found myself on the wide, neon streets of Ginza, a wealthy shopping district whose name literally means “seat of gold.” On weekends the main roads are sectioned off, so people walked in the streets. I felt like I was at a massive block party. Crowds gathered to watch street performers in the middle of the intersection, and little kids ran up to put coins in the cases of musicians starting impromptu performances.
I didn’t make it all the way across Tokyo, as it was growing dark, and the time I’d arranged to meet friends in Shibuya for karaoke and sushi came around sooner than I expected. But I’m glad I took that day to get to know the city on my own, to remind myself just how far I can go on my own two feet.