08:10 AM The sounds of lasers phasing and bombs exploding wake me up. I crack a single eye open and am graced with a face sculpted by God himself to resemble one of his angels. Then I slip back to sleep.
08:13 AM I am again woken up, but this time by the war chatter of Manami, the angel face playing Destiny online multiplayer on her PS4. With an angelic voice to match, it’s somehow soothing despite the loud and threatening cursing in Japanese to her opponents.
08:18 AM Seeing Manami’s apartment for the first time in the light, I conclude she’s both the most perfect Japanese girl as well as the most contradictory. Such a beautiful female specimen that loves video games to start with, contrasted by an entire wall full of high-end fashion attire and shoes then another wall full of a museum worthy collection of Gundam Robots.
08:19 AM At 8:19 local Tokyo time, I am in love.
08:20 AM At 8:20 local Tokyo time, I am hungry.
08:21 AM Manami finally notices I’m up from bed. She pauses her game, blows me a kiss, smiles then points to the dining table. She just became even more perfecter to me when I see a full course breakfast waiting for me. She resumes her game.
08:59 AM After my breakfast, I take a quick shower then take just as much time trying to figure out how to flush Manami’s hyper-advanced toilet that looks like a jet cockpit… I find her still ferverously playing PS4 in her oh so cliche but adorable Hello Kitty pajamas.
09:04 AM It takes her just 5 minutes to transform from stoner-gamer-angel to urbanized-beauty-queen, there’s German efficiency then there’s Japanese efficiency… We leave for Shibuya Station.
09:31 AM We are to meet Manami’s friends at the famous Hachik? dog statue but first I wanted to experience the Shibuya Crossing a few times – by experience I mean just crossing the street. But not just any street, the busiest intersection in the world where almost 3,000 pedestrians crisscrossingly but smoothly cross in a matter of a single green light cycle… After the 4th time, Manami starts to get annoyed and her game (PS4) face forms.
09:42 AM Tokyo fashion is renowned for its extremely progressive, experimental and daring style. Manami’s friends have clearly embraced this reputation… Before Manami could introduce me, they all look strangely at me then closely examine my arms…
09:43 AM After a minute of them giggling and talking to only each other in Japanese, Manami tells me that her friends thought I was Yakuza from my appearance. Which explains why they looked at my arms, to find Irezumi mafia tattoos.
10:01 AM Before hopping on the train, we wait for a couple of the girls to finish their cigarettes in one of the somewhat embarrassing and isolated smoking areas found around Tokyo.
10:37 AM We arrive at Meiji Shrine. I’ve been here in the winter and it was beautiful, seeing it again in spring is magnificent. Moreover, it’s fascinating how what can be defined as a forest is in the middle of a mega metropolis on the same level as Hong Kong. Just like entering New York’s Central Park, you completely forget you’re actually surrounded by a vast urban jungle.
12:02 PM A month ago when I first met Manami at a nightclub in Korea, she promised me to take me to the world’s greatest sushi restaurant. Apparently she booked reservations a few days later. So here we are now, at Sawada for lunch in the Ginza District. But the building entrance looks like the facade of a fancy Beverly Hills dentist or plastic surgeon.
12:03 PM We walk up the 3 floors and open the doors to Sawada, the most intimate of restaurants. A single table and seating for just 6. That explains the month in advance reservation for the 5 of us. We take our seats and Chef Sawada greets us.
1:11 PM An hour into what’s supposed to be a 2 hour gastronomy event, I don’t feel as if we’re eating sushi but more like assimilating masterpieces of art via our mouths after watching Chef Sawada create them right before our eyes – and I’m not even that fond of sushi.
2:00 PM It may not have been my favorite meal of all time, but these past couple of hours was my most interesting eating experience of all time. And yes, Sawada is the best sushi restaurant in the world. Manami pays for all of us then we leave. Later I learned that it’s about $250 a head to eat at Sawada.
2:03 PM Once outside, the girls complain about how they ate too much and want to burn some calories. They won’t tell me where we’re going but assure me that I’ll enjoy joining them, so we hop on the subway.
3:02 PM I’ve never seen such high maintenance esque looking young women this excited for video games. Japan is wonderful. Manami grabs my hand inhumanly tight like she’s going through labor and leads me in with precise direction, her friends follow.
3:05 PM We arrive at the Time Crisis 5 game platform as if we were homing missiles. Now I understand what the girls meant by burning calories as this game is quite a workout.
6:14 PM After beating the game twice, we played a number of other games, classics and fresh alike. I haven’t been into video games since high school but I am enjoying the powerful nostalgic effects.
7:36 PM Now Manami and I are back in Shibuya at her apartment to rest. She turns on ‘The Beach‘.
11:02 PM While eating chicken curry with my favorite beer, Asahi, at a local joint, I notice a closed 7-Eleven through the restaurant window and I tell Manami that I need to find an open one. She looks at me funny and asks why I would have a 7-Eleven bank account. I look at her perplexed… Then she explains that 7-Eleven has banks in Tokyo, as in full-fledged actual banks. Japan is wonderfully weird, that’s like America opening up Dairy Queen banks.
11:49 PM We arrive at Karaoke Kan, the karaoke club made famous by ‘Lost in Translation’, the movie that made Scarlett Johansson a star and reasserted Bill Murray’s stardom. We even got the exact same private room they used in the film.
2:55 AM I don’t particularly like karaoke, but that’s because I’ve never been exposed to Tokyo’s karaoke – where it was born, perfected and evolved. Now I love it… Our party has grown to more than 10. It’s more like we’re in a futuristic hotel room modified specifically for private parties than a stage where people can sing. Also like hotel room service, there’s a dedicated phone directly connected to the bar – whenever we run out of drinks or other party favors, a simple call will make them appear in our room like magic.
6:00 AM If it was just looking at a screen and reading the words with a melody, I wouldn’t have lasted 6 hours at Karaoke Kan. It was far more than that. It was an experience so memorable and unique that it’s one of those things that I couldn’t help adding to my before I die bucket list after doing it…
6:06 AM We all say goodbyes and part ways, walking like zombies and fearing the rising sun like vampires.
[All photography shot with a Hitcase Pro equipped iPhone.]