My First Solo trip to Japan: a Mix of Disaster, Fun and Adventure

disaster fun and adventure

I consider my first solo out of the country trip to Japan a memorable one although it started like I almost needed to cancel due to a family crisis.

Got my Japan visa approved. Travel fund is ready. I was just waiting for the month of May 2015 to come. Indeed I was excited about my trip until…

My Father’s Hospitalization

I was in a volunteer work in Leyte when I received a text message that my father was in the hospital. Relatives and friends helped. I raised funds as well through selling my travel photos. But it wasn’t enough, so I had no choice but to use all my travel fund for my father’s medication.

I work online, so I sent a message to my Canadian client about my stressful situation. He understood me. I told him that I needed to cancel my Japan trip due to financial problem. He approved my vacation leave in 2014, and he knew how excited I was for this.

My Canadian Client sent me US$500

He asked me how much was my budget. He encouraged me to pursue the trip since I deserved it and sent the money through my PayPal. I was in disbelief. He told me to have fun in Japan and return to work after two weeks.

Fun in Tokyo

I arrived at Narita Airport feeling ecstatic in a country where I don’t speak the language of a different culture. I was so excited to experience my all first times. In order not to get lost, I talked with Japanese staff at the airport on which train to take going to my hostel. Despite with the language barrier, Japanese are indeed helpful.

At last, I arrived at my hostel safe and sound. The receptionist took my passport, and she thought I was half Japanese because of my surname Tamayo, so she called me Tamayo-chan. She gave me the key, I went straight to my bed and took a rest.

At 4 PM, I received a text message that a friend I had to meet in Tokyo arrived in my hostel waiting at the lobby. It was the first time we met, and he showed me around in Shinjuku. He was studying at Waseda University for his masters. Later that night, we met his other friend for dinner. They’re both from the Middle East, and they spoke Arabic. The first night in Tokyo was filled with fun and laughter while walking in the streets of Shinjuku. I went back to my hostel safe and sound just walking from Shinjuku to Akenobashi station. I was safe.

At first, the Tokyo Metro Subway was difficult, but the more I was using it, the more I was getting familiar. I was around Shinjuku, Shibuya, Chiyoda, Ginza, and Roppongi.

Nightlife in Roppongi

As a solo traveler, I’ve met several solo travelers in my hostel. I was talking to a German guy as he was reading a Lonely Planet book and asked for some places he went to. Suddenly, an Italian guy knocked and came inside the dormitory room as he was looking for the Mexican girl. Few minutes after, he invited us for dinner and nightlife in Roppongi.

The three of us and off we go to Roppongi on a Friday night. We had a buddy system, of course, to look each other’s back. I told the German guy that it would be my first time to be in a night club in a different country, so I was afraid what was going to happen to me. He asked my age. I said I was 26, but he couldn’t believe what he heard. Seriously, living in the province, I am not a party girl.

We met people on our way to Roppongi from Australia and US. They were also on their way to the club, so we joined them.

I must say, it was a crazy night because Japanese guys surrounded me. Some were hitting on me, and I kept on saying no. While the others were friendly and we had a synchronized dance steps.

Meet Up with Tom Felton A.K.A Draco Malfoy in Roppongi

Being a fan of Harry Potter movie series, it was my ultimate goal to visit Japan to go to Universal Studios in Osaka to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Who would have thought I would meet Draco Malfoy in real life?

It was when a travel buddy from the Netherlands whom I met from the hostel wanted to experience the night life in Roppongi. It was a Saturday, two consecutive nights going out. I wasn’t like this in the Philippines. So I told him that we should go to the club where I was last night. While I was talking to him, I saw a familiar face from afar which I had a feeling that he was a celebrity.

As I walked near to this celebrity, I said to myself, “This is Draco Malfoy.”

Got the guts to approach him since there were few people around, “Are you Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter?”

The guy with a blonde hair said, “Yes, I am!”

“Can I have a selfie with you?” I was so excited to take pictures with him.

Although he looked so tired, I was so lucky that I had a chance to have our photos taken together. After few minutes, several guys went out and recognized him as Tom Felton and asked him for pictures. One of the girls he was with apologize for no photos allowed.

My Overnight Bus Left Me to Osaka

My schedule to leave Tokyo going to Osaka happened on a Sunday night. It was a mistake that I should have left my hostel two hours earlier like I was flying locally. The problem was, I had trouble locating the bus station. It was my fault for not doing any research. I took the taxi and paid 700 JPY. It was useless because the bus already left me. It was my cousin who booked the ticket for me. What I did was, I booked a bus the next morning at 8 AM. I sent a message to my cousin about the situation and told her I’ll be fine. Problem solved. Another problem I had to face was where to sleep in the middle of the night?

I went out of the bus station so I was totally lost in Tokyo.

I was talking to myself in my own language saying, “Hala Roxanne! Sige laag pa more. Mohilak pa ka o dili? Sige, charge to experience.

I laughed my own mistake. Instead of crying and feeling so helpless, I needed a place I can sleep for a bit.

I was Homeless and Stranded for a Night in Shinjuku

The good thing was, a Japanese guy was on his way going home and approached me if I needed help as he heard me talking to myself.

“Hi, excuse me! Do you need help?”

“Oh yes, my bus left me, so I have no place to sleep. I feel so lost now as I don’t know where to go. Do you know any place where I can sleep for a little bit?”

Indeed he helped me and suggested for a manga cafe. The cafe costs at least 1000 JPY for certain hours. Since I only had small money left, I asked him if he knew any 24-hour McDonald’s. He was quick to find the place for me. I could not thank him enough.

He told the cashier about my situation and they were understandable to let me stay at McDonald’s. Well, there were few people who stayed for a night, some old and young people as well.

That time, I knew the feeling what it feels like to be a homeless person in a different country. It was weird as I was carrying my heavy luggage. At 3AM, we had to get out of McDonald’s as they needed to clean. I updated my Facebook status and took a picture of my luggage in the streets of Shinjuku. I’ll find the photo later.

Arrived Safely in Osaka

It was a 10-hour bus ride to Osaka. So far, it was the longest time bus ride ever that I’ve ever experienced but it was all worth it since The Willer Bus is very comfortable. My Japanese family in Osaka welcomed me for a sushi feast. More stories to post soon about this. Find out more of the places I went to, check out – Budget Travel: 14 Days Japan with US$ 500 Cash on Hand.

A Date in Yokohama

Remember the Saturday night I saw Tom Felton with a Dutch travel buddy? The Dutch and I went to the same club we had on a Friday night with the other guys. As usual, I was surrounded by Japanese guys while the Dutch guy was flirting with other girls. One Japanese guy approached me nicely, so I entertained him. He got my Facebook, and we got along since he was able to visit the Philippines during typhoon Yolanda.

Related Article: Sample Japan Trip Itineraries You Can Follow

We were dancing on the dance floor and he bought me a drink. The name of the Japanese guy is Hide. We talked about some things while he was struggling with his English and with my Nihongo.

Alright, I was in Osaka when Hide and I were messaging. I told him that I’d be back in Tokyo. He said he wanted to see me again because I was nice. He wanted to bring me to Shibuya for shopping. For me, it was too much since I don’t like shopping. I am not materialistic. I requested if he could bring me to a place I’ve never been because I love to take photos and go on a food trip. Since he is from Yokohama, he was eager to show me around his town. More stories and pictures soon.

An unexpected #date in #Yokohama #Japan 🙂 hehe! May 31, 2015

A post shared by Roxanne Tamayo (@itravelrox) on

My Airplane Left Me for Cebu

Oh, the troublesome of being left by a plane! What should I do? I had trouble with schedules again, another mistake. Tokyo to Cebu flight with Cebu Pacific cost PHP 18,000. I was shocked because I don’t have that kind of money in my account. So I called Cebu Pacific but useless. Called a friend on Skype from Canada and told him what happened to me. I felt so relieved that I was able to talk to someone. I messaged my Canadian client as well with my situation so there was no chance I could go back home on a particular date. My client was so cool that he just let me do my own thing. He was so supportive of my situation.

It was time for me to search for a flight. I never wanted to fly back home to Cebu with an expensive ticket. So I looked for an alternative route where I could spend less with the airfare ticket. Boom! I found Jetstar with a flight to Hong Kong from Tokyo for PHP 6,000 then another flight from Hong Kong to Cebu for another PHP 6,000. At first, I booked a one-way flight.

Told an update to my client that I needed to extend my vacation for another four days in Hong Kong. Ah, the perks of a digital nomad! 😀

Stranded for two nights at Narita Airport

For two nights I was stranded at Narita International Airport, and I had few Japanese Yen left in my pocket. Could you imagine how terrible and funny my experiences in Japan? Would you believe that it all happened during my first solo trip? Problem solved that I was able to book a flight out of Japan. I am only allowed to stay 15 days in Japan, and I dislike the idea of having penalties to this country which I could tell my most favorite and memorable country. Actually, I was able to return to Japan during the autumn season, find out more at Photos: Autumn in Japan 2015.

Another problem to face was how to survive Hong Kong with less money? Find out more stories to be posted soon as I was facing another misadventure in Hong Kong.

They say you are lucky if you see Mount Fuji

When I was in Tokyo, I’d never seen Mount Fuji even on my way to Osaka. Mount Fuji was shy back then, but I never lose hope. I had trouble when I was checking in to my flight to Hong Kong as I almost had an argument with a flight attendant. I almost missed my flight to Hong Kong, uh oh! No way! Anyway, I got a window seat and perfect timing that I had a great view of Mount Fuji on a bird’s eye view. I was crying on my seat while taking pictures using my camera and my iPad. After all what happened in my crazy two weeks in Japan, it was all worth it. More stories and pictures to be posted soon. Yes, I was excited for Hong Kong!

Conclusion

As you can see with all the situations happened to me, I am a person who is vocal about what is going on in my surroundings. I talk to people, and I smile a lot which people found me approachable. I am honest, and I speak what’s on my mind. Being financially prepared with your travels help a lot especially if it’s your first solo out of the country trip. I was using debit cards and credit card during the unexpected flight to Hong Kong. Don’t be shy to ask help and use your social media to contact friends to let them know about your situation. Work double time, don’t act helpless. Next time for me, don’t be late! Lots of lessons learned.

Every time I share this story to anyone, you may find it unbelievable at first. But eventually, you will find it funny especially if I am sharing with you in person. Indeed, my Japan trip was one of the good stories to tell.

Of course, I thanked the people I met in Japan, Kitagawa family in Osaka, the strangers, and online friends I met in person. Everything was unexpected but fantastic!

What will you do if this happens to you? Share your story below.

Roxanne is an aspiring digital nomad. A virtual assistant since October 2009. She is a hobbyist blogger, photographer and travels a lot.

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