“A good friend listens to your adventures, a great friend makes them with you.”
A few months ago, my friend Lois and I booked a springtime trip to Tokyo together on a whim. Being a writer and Lois a photographer, we wanted to document our vacation and in light of SUKU’s new Sentimental Journey collection we thought here would be the perfect place to do so. After a week of plum wine, karaoke and onsens, we arrived back in Australia to sit down and share memories, travel tips and thoughts on friendship.
A: I had so many moments where I was just in awe of what was in front of me in Tokyo whether it was a site, a person, a piece of art, nature or just a moment. What are three things that moved you while we were there?
L: Ooh, how long is a piece of string? I found everything about Tokyo inspiring - I couldn't possibly just list three! I loved it's dichotomous culture: on the one hand, it's a city of tradition, order, and formality; on the other, it’s futuristic, dynamic and just outright bizarre. From the people (their keen attention to etiquette and manners, their effort to always go the extra mile when helping strangers, their sartorial eccentricities), the food (no words), the neon-lit streets, the scenic beauty of its parks and gardens, the over-the-top, out-of-this-world novelty bars and restaurants... I could go on! What about you? You've been to Japan before - how was this trip different to the first? What facets of Japan did you experience for the first time on this trip?
A: I had so many new experiences on this trip! I wouldn’t say either time I’ve travelled to Japan was better or worse - just really different. The first time I visited I was with a group and we were definitely winging it, we’d wake up and decide what we felt like doing that day whereas you and I were quite meticulous with our planning. We pre-booked restaurants and tours which meant we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything. The kitschy novelty restaurants we visited like the Robot Restaurant, Kawaii Monster Cafe and Vampire Cafe were firsts for me and I LOVED them. Also, this was the first time I’d been further out from the city near Mount Fuji, it was so tranquil and visiting the flower fields and strawberry picking near Hakone were definitely highlights. What's your advice for travelling with a friend?
L: Pick your travel companion wisely! A trip could make or break a friendship. Travel with someone proactive, considerate and organised - it will make your life much easier, ha! Lucky for me, you are all of those things!
Before our trip we sat down and made a realistic bucket list of things that were non-negotiable and pre-booked those activities so we had a basic itinerary. It's not necessarily an imperative for everyone but I thought it was the best thing we did. It helped set clear goals and expectations for the trip and ensured we both got what we wanted out of it.
During the trip, my advice would be to be considerate at all times, check up on each other, have some alone time (important), share responsibilities, be flexible, and communicate wishes and concerns. Definitely do your research and figure out where exactly you want to go as early as possible. Do you have any tips before visiting Tokyo?
A: I do! In fact I’m so type A that I made a list of practical advice for travelling to Tokyo: Firstly, pre book your pocket WiFi, you can pick it up from the airport when you arrive and it’s so helpful for getting around. Pack a portable phone battery and power adapter/chargers. When you arrive, purchase a Pasmo card that can be topped up - this will take you most places but you’ll need seperate rail passes for Shinkansens or areas further from the city (hang on to it for the next time you visit!).
There aren’t many bins around in Tokyo so be prepared to carry your rubbish around to avoid littering. Also, it’s quite hard to find fresh fruit and vegetables (they’re also really expensive) so if you find somewhere, stock up! We were living on ramen and canned coffee so our diets weren’t particularly nutrient heavy, having fruit at the airbnb was a life saver.
If you want to visit the Studio Ghibli museum, you’ll need to book about four months in advance but if you miss out on tickets, they go on sale at 10am (Japan time) on the 10th of the month before you plan to go.
I learned so many new things about Japan on this trip, what's something you learned about yourself, us or life in general while you were in Tokyo?
L: Our trip confirmed that we were meant for each other! It's amazing that we didn't have a single disagreement. Of course, having shared interests helped - we wanted to see the same places and got excited about the same things. We also had similar travel styles: we both loved spending time together but occasionally needed alone time; we both always wanted to make sure the other was happy and comfortable; and we were both down for anything! Let's do it again! Where to next! What’s your favourite memory that we made on this trip?
A: I don’t think I can name just one! The Robot Restaurant was pretty hilarious, we had cocktails the size of our heads and laughed for two hours straight. I also loved when we hired a swan boat and peddled it around the lake at Chidorigafuchi Park listening to Disney songs. The tulip field took my breath away, it was such a beautiful day away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. Oh, and stumbling across alleyways where we could stop and chat over an umeshu was amazing - I think those moments were the most special, no matter where we were. To you, what is the most important quality for a strong friendship?
L: There are lots of things that make a strong friendship, but I would say respect and loyalty are the most important! What qualities do you admire most in your best friends?
A: My friends are all kind, thoughtful and generous with their time. I admire people who are accepting of others, who are empathetic and try to better themselves and the world around them. In the era of ‘calling out’ and ‘cancelling’ I think our genuine relationships with people we love are the most important things we have.