#AdventureswithKaren: Episode Asia

My travels so far this year have been restricted to North America, but about a week ago I finally ventured across the Pacific Ocean. My first stop: Tokyo, Japan.

It started off with an 11-hour flight, which was actually quite comfortable considering I had an entire row on the plane to myself: 

Two movies and several naps later, I found myself standing in the pristinely clean streets of Ginza. I didn't waste a minute, and after throwing my bags in my room I departed on an adventure. Myself and a few other pals journeyed to Golden Gai, a little area in Shinjuku known for its nightlife and architecture. With over 200 hundred miniature bars and eateries squeezed into 6 narrow streets, Golden Gai was pretty remarkable: 

Little street in Golden Gai
We first stopped into Albatross, a dimly lit and charmingly dingy 8 person bar with a cheap cover charge (500 yen) and even cheaper whiskey (500 yen a drink). Most of the bars in the area had sitting fees of between 500 and 1000 yen, which is reasonable considering how cheap the drinks are. For dinner we stopped by a sushi restaurant around the corner: 

Yes, I went non-vegetarian while in Japan. Can you blame me? 
The next day was a designated shopping day. I spent a bulk of my time (and my money) at Laforet in Harajuku. I also collected a few beautiful pieces from Pin Nap, a small vintage store on Jingumae in Harajuku: 

Took Harajuku by storm with these ladies 
After some affordable and fresh sushi at Heiroku Sushi, Kevin and I went to Shibuya to meet up with gal pal Jillian and to take a peak at En Dance's new studio. Our Shibuya stop would not have been complete without dinner at Genki Sushi (the futuristic sushi shop where you order off ipads) and a little play time in one of the infamous arcade photo booths:
On top of the sinfully delicious food and the unique shopping, Tokyo also supported an impressive amount of green space:

Hamarikyu Gardens

The Imperial Palace

But was the language barrier an issue? Hardly. The well-organized public transportation system was easy to use, and the city dwellers were kind and patiently deciphered any gestural or mimed questions. It was an unforgettable 5 day 4 night trip.

The next stop in Asia was Seoul, South Korea. I only had a day and a half to enjoy the city, but tried to make the most of it:
Dongdaemun Gate
The YG Family Concert feat. 2NE1, Big Bang, and Psy
Tokyo and Seoul are similar in that they are easy for non-natives like myself to navigate. Food and drink are easily accessible, and there is plenty to see and do. But after traveling through both cities back to back, I found myself thinking more fondly of Tokyo.

And one of the greatest parts about traveling is seeing friends who live abroad; even better still is seeing friends from home while on the road:

Sweaty subway ride with Candace, Jilly, and Nico in Tokyo

Lunch with my brothers Jino and CJ in Shibuya
A little boba hang time with Jeka and Pat in Seoul

My Asian adventures, albeit short, have been my favorite thus far.

Up next: Australia!