An old friend in the Navy called me up one day. They had shipped him an hour south of Tokyo. Anyway, his time there was running out and if I wanted to visit I had better do it soon.

At this point in my life, I had never traveled. California was the only place I knew. Just the idea of jumping on a plane to a foreign country made me piss myself. I had every excuse not to go. Lack of money, a two year old son, a pregnant wife, a job that probably wouldn’t be thrilled with me taking two weeks off. But ultimately it’s what I wanted. Wanderlust had me.

I stepped off the plane with nothing but my camera, my boots and my duffel. God do I regret that camera. Cheap and bulky nikon d5100 with a 50mm lens. 80mm with that crop sensor. If you know someone who can shoot a dense urban city like Tokyo with an 80mm focal length give them a medal. I had no idea what I was doing. Most my shots where from the hip with no focus. Everything I took is embarrassingly blurry. I’ll have to touch on those lessons another time.

We took the train from Narita and made our way towards Tokyo. Now when you buy a ticket, Narita says Tokyo. It’s not. It’s not even close. It’s an hour and a half away. Some simple research would have told me as much but sometimes we forget to search the simple things.

This really wouldn’t have been a big deal during the day. Unfortunately my flight came in late at night around 12 am. Guess what; trains stop at 1 am. So we found ourselves stranded in Tokyo. Another hour away from the base. That wonderful place where I had hoped to finally set my bag down. No matter how excited or amped up you are, 20 plus hours of travel takes its toll. By this point I was trashed. The plane pressure really messed me up.

From the airport to the train I hadn’t stepped outside yet. This was something I didn’t expect at all. The air. It was humid and thick. I honestly felt like I was choking. For a few seconds I didn’t know what to do. Kinda like when you think too much about how your breathing. I just stood there staring at my friend, wondering why the hell he wasn’t helping me.

Rain finally came and cut the air a little. I could breathe again. We started walking those wet Tokyo streets. There’s something beautiful about neon reflecting in the rain. I really wish I knew how to capture it back then. Open markets lined the streets. People shuffled in as the rain picked up. I followed and bought what would turn out to be the most durable umbrella I’ve ever owned, only 200 yen (2 dollars). I have an overly sentimental attachment to it. I carry it still to this day. My first foreign purchase. I stepped out and rejoined my friend in the crowd. 1 am and there’s crowds.

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