On day 2 of our trip, we woke up around 7 am. Haneda Airport has four different lost and founds, so we made a call to each one, in a continued attempt to locate the backpack. Initially, we had no luck. Either the person who answered the phone couldn’t understand what we were asking, or they told us they had nothing.
We continued that for about an hour, before boarding the on post shuttle to the airport. On the ride, I held my husband’s hand and we prayed about it one last time, adding “If You don’t give the bag back, we’ll know You have something better for us”. I was actually just doing reversed psychology on myself. I knew I would still be deeply disappointed if we didn’t find the bag.
At the airport, we walked directly to the police station and the officers were actually helpful. They sketched out a detailed report and took our contact information. This seems small, but it has literally never happened to me in the United States. I’m certain that at home the officers would have laughed and said “The bag is gone”.
After filing the report, we planned to visit each lost and found in person. I approached the first information desk, but they hadn’t seen the bag. In the spirit of customer service, they wrote down its description and vowed to keep their eyes open. As I was writing down my phone number, I saw Lance waiving to me from the monorail turnstile.
They had our bag!
I almost cried when it happened, not because we got the stuff back, but because of the growth I had just witnessed in myself. In the past losing STUFF meant the trip was ruined. I would have stressed and kept calling the lost and founds all day. I would have assumed the worst, and wouldn’t have returned to the airport after they told us they didn’t have it. Now I had just witnessed the benefits of calming (tf) down!!! Relaxing allowed us a great night sleep and the ability to make the smartest decisions.
At this point in the story, I want to send a shout out to the whole country of Japan, not only for its efficiency and outstanding customer service, but for its human decency. I come from a place where my Iphone was stolen from my lap at a high school football game, without me noticing. My brother’s wallet was once stolen at a church basketball tournament. Another time, someone stole the parking pass out of my car in the middle of the night, and as a result, my car was towed. My soul expected for Lance’s backpack to be empty when we got it back. You can imagine my surprise when we opened it and every single item inside was untouched, even the snacks!
With renewed faith in humanity, our next mission was to get something to eat. We grabbed some food from a restaurant in the airport and then bought our monorail tickets to our next destination. We were back on track!
As previously mentioned, I didn’t do any research before this trip, so I did not have my usual list of things I wanted to do. But there is one place that I’ve wanted to get to since I was in middle school, and I am almost ashamed to say it.
As a teen in the early 2000s, I regret to admit that Gwen Stefani made Harajuku more than appealing to me. In retrospect, I think her relationship to those girls was pretty strange and problematic, and she treated them kind of like her pets (read slaves).
Nevertheless, this area of Japan did not disappoint 14 year old me! Not only was the fashion great, but the Harajuku train stop brings you right to the entrance of the Meiji Shrine. As you know, I’m fairly churchy, so I probably wouldn’t have put this shrine on our to-do list, but I’m very glad we stumbled upon it.
The shrine was created to honor Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. His rule is credited for making Japan a competitive world power. Very coincidentally, we ended up at the Meiji Shrine on the current emperor’s birthday, which is a national holiday in Japan. In celebration, the last living descendant of Emperor Meiji took part in a procession. This was immeasurably cool because we were able to share our mutual excitement with the locals.
After leaving the Shrine, we did a little walking. Directly outside of the Shrine, some small carts were selling traditional Japanese treats. We also popped in and out of some thrift stores until it was time to eat again.
For all of you that know that I’m an on and off vegan, I’ll apologize for the bit of truth I’m about to tell you. I won’t make any excuses, but I will say that all bets were off on this vacation.
There was a restaurant called COD on the walkway that I had to try, and their specialty was hot dogs. When in Rome, right? I ordered a traditional chili dog and a Chicago style dog that that will make you think you’re back in the mid west. The owner was hip, and decorated the place with a 90s style, using Michael Jordan posters and coloring book pages.
After this, we had no real plan. We popped in an art museum, but decided not to pay $30 to see the full exhibit. I had seen some people with Forever 21 bags, so out of curiosity I convinced Lance to go with me. Would you believe that Japan has a six floor Forever 21…and it’s clean! Even though I was freezing, because I came here unprepared for the weather, I resisted the urge to buy a bunch of cheap winter clothes because we were headed right back to Hawaii. I did, however, buy the tan pea coat that you’ll see in most of the gallery pictures.
One of the other interesting parts of this area is that it houses the busiest intersection in the world, in front of the Shibuya train station. The area is known as The Scramble and is full of advertisements and neon signs (See Gallery).
Despite its constant foot traffic, it is somehow a lot cleaner and more civilized that Times Square. This could be attributed to the fact that there are little to no trashcans in public Japanese spaces. Residents are in charge of disposing of their own trash, which means there is barely any on the streets. People also religiously stay on the left side of the walkway and make room for others.
We couldn’t go home without desert, so we stopped in a local McDonalds to get an ice cream. Just as I suspected, Japanese McDonald’s ice cream machines are actually functional, and not just for decoration, like in the States.
At the end of the night, we headed back to the train station, where we made sure my husband had his wallet, phone, and bookbag. On the train, he gave up his seat to an elderly Japanese woman. They were so impressed that they kept smiling at him until they got off on their stop. It was very sweet. The final good news story is that we made it back to the train in time and didn’t have to take a cab. It was a great day!