Some Korean BBQ dishes from Korea Town in Waseda. Photo by Shania Soler

Yokohama is a place one often hears about when discussion of Japan starts. The city is best known for its Red Brick Warehouse and Minatomirai area which is home to a variety of food and entertainment. There is also the fact that it’s where the Pikachu Outbreak happens every year, during which over 1,000 interpretations of the Pokemon character appear all over the place. Unfortunately for me, there was no outbreak going on the day I went there, but I fully intend on going back in August when it takes place. Other than being the American tourist I am, I was there for one reason: souvenir shopping, otherwise known as Omiyagi in Japanese. 

​My host parents originally had plans to travel to Yokohama for the day, as they’re in the market for an apartment to fix up and rent out to students. They offered me a ride to the area and I accepted. We got up early on Sunday to drive the two hours to the city. It was a perfect morning spent souvenir shopping. 

​The rest of the time in Yokohama was dedicated to sightseeing. The sun was shining and the weather was pretty warm. There’s a huge area in Minatomirai called the dockyard garden, which is a stone garden area built at the same time as the ports of Yokohama. It was a stunning sight. There weren’t a lot of people in the area when I was there, but I can imagine what it’s like in spring when the weather is nicer.

There comes a point after living in a foreign country for so long that things stop seeming as scary as they once may have been. That’s exactly what happened when it came to navigating the Tokyo metro. I know the way to and from the university like the back of my hand, and the same can be said for finding my way to Asakusa. Once you learn the trick of the trade, everything falls into place even if all of the words are in a foreign language that you still have trouble pronouncing more often than not.

For me, the trick of the trade meant knowing what platform to stand on and what number, like T18 for Urayasu or T04 for Waseda, to get off at. It astounds me how people navigate any other way, but whenever I ask what platform or number to get off at, more often than not people look at me as if I’ve grown a second head. They all rely on their GPS to tell them where to go. Personally, being in a foreign country and listening to a GPS like that would just give me more anxiety, since I’d constantly be looking down at my phone and then looking up to make sure I’m not about to run into a pole. 

I took the metro that night after my shopping and sightseeing to navigate from Yokohama to Waseda, where I was meeting friends for dinner in Korea Town. We had plans to get Korean BBQ. It was officially the start of spring break, and after that night we wouldn’t be seeing each other for a while, at least not all together again. One member of our group was heading back to Australia, as they were only here for a semester. It was a little bit sad to say goodbye after spending so much time hanging out. We met in a Religions and Cultures class and instantly clicked. Those are the kinds of friendships that I live for and one of the reasons I love to travel so much.

We’d been making these plans for the past week. The place we’d gone to eat was a highly recommended restaurant called Tomato. Yes, it’s named after the food. 

I’d never gone to Korea Town before this, though I’d heard about it and really wanted to go. The moment I stepped foot outside of the station I was blown away with how much the band BTS dominated everything. Of course, I should have expected it since they’re not only from Korea, but a wildly popular band as well. Honestly though, I don’t listen to much K-Pop, which I’m trying to change. While we walked towards our restaurant, I was akin to a child in a toy store, awe-stricken by all the pretty faces.

The restaurant was amazing, though it took us a while to get seated since it ended up being a scavenger hunt to find our reservation. There was this sign downstairs that told us reserved seating was on the second floor so of course we went up to the second floor. Once we got there, they sent us back downstairs for this little ticket we had to show the people up stairs. With the ticket in hand we went back up stairs, showed the people our ticket and they sent us to this other room where we finally had the chance to sit down. Everything was smooth sailing after that. The food was delicious and what’s even better is that they make it in front of you. This is different from the Japanese BBQ that I experienced with my host family before since we were always the ones to make it once the meat was ordered. It was nice to just sit back and relax.

With dinner filling our stomachs, we were craving something sweet. We went in search of some desert and found it located in a small cafe called Binggo where we split this amazing Oreo shaved ice. It was full of chocolate and exactly what each of us needed. I think we were in that little cafe for about an hour after finishing the desert, partially because the other two people in my group had to finish their drinks, since we weren’t allowed to order just one thing while there were three of us, and also because we kept getting lost in the conversation.

The best part of studying abroad is the people you meet who enrich the experience all the more. There are so many people I’ve met from all over the world that when I think about my life before coming to Japan it just feels weird and wrong not having these people be a part of it. Everyone here is so like-minded in that we all want to see the world and experience everything it has to offer.

We talked about all sorts of things and had a lot of good laughs that made it a little bit sad to part afterward. It was such a great day filled with so many memories and that’s the thing. It was only one day out of a year in Japan.