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SECRET TRAVELER

How a bit of Croatian can open doors in Tokyo

A year or so ago I had a 24-hour stopover in Tokyo. I was on my way home from a week's holiday on Hawaii that had been a bit too relaxing. Things were to change in Japan.

My 24 hours in Tokyo started with me checking into a hotel in Shibuya from where I headed to Cat Street to do some shopping and hang out. Cat Street is by far my favorite street in Tokyo. There are so many cute places there and as I love well thought out retail concepts, I can spend hours in stores. As I was eating dinner I checked residentadvisor.net to see what was happening in the way of parties and clubs that evening. I saw that a DJ I like was doing a gig at a club in Daykanyama. Brilliant.

It was only 8pm so I decided to find a sky bar and enjoy the fantastic Tokyo skyline with a drink in my hand. The place I googled my way to was pretty fancy. The maitre’d at the door seated me at a less than optimal table. The person's appearance and English accent hinted at a Balkan background, so I said:
“Hvala.” Which means thank you in Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, depending on who you ask. The maitre’d smiled.
“You speak my language?” she said with a hint of surprise.

We chatted a bit about the Balkans and then she moved me to the part of the bar for regular customers. I chatted away to an elderly Japanese guy who had worked as a travel agent all his life. He and his friends started inviting me to sample the range of drinks at the bar to the sounds of a live band playing ABBA songs. A dream evening, in other words.

As the evening progressed, several larger local groups arrived at the bar and chatted with me. They ranged from celebs to models and jeans agents. I don't know exactly what the maitre'd had told them about me, but they all wanted to talk to me. It was a bit surreal and I totally forgot the time. Suddenly the sky bar was about to close, and I then remembered what I had originally intended to do that evening, so I headed to the club and the gig.

When I got there, I saw a load of Japanese reggae fans swaying to slow DUB music (a kind of club version of reggae). It was an incredibly friendly atmosphere and when they closed, I and a few new pals decided to prolong the night. We went to another club that proved to be in a tiny basement. It was much more intensive than the first club and a bit of a distance away.

There, at some point in the wee, small hours, my phone died. This created the following problems:
1. I wasn't entirely sure when my flight departed.
2. I had no idea what my hotel was called or whereabouts it was.
3. The answers to these questions were on my phone.
4. The combination of Tokyoites who spoke English and also possessed a power bank was short on the ground at this club.

Eventually, I jumped in a taxi towards Shibuya and spent an hour on a combined hotel and power bank hunt. Which proved to be a bit of a tricky task in the Shibuya Crossing morning rush hour. I finally became slightly desperate and asked the taxi driver how long it would take to Haneda Airport. Even though my passport and all my things were still at the hotel. I was about to say:
“OK, let’s go!” Then I saw I had my hotel room key in my wallet.

I showed it to the driver and we drove the fortunately only 150 meters to the hotel. Yes, 150 meters. So embarrassing. I ran up to my room, hastily shut my bag and headed to Haneda Airport. 

When I arrived at the check-in desk, I probably looked somewhat worse for wear and not exactly smelling of roses. I was still in the same clothes I’d been wearing all night. But I was flying first class with Lufthansa and Star Alliance, so they said “Welcome Mr/Ms Secret Traveler” and were extremely polite and treated me so luxuriously that I thought that they were probably thinking I was someone far more famous. They escorted me through what I think was crew security and then on to the lounge. 

I got the same reception on the plane where I slept like Sleeping Beauty all the way to Munich. “Hvala.” 

A stewardess escorted me and the other passenger from the lounge to first class on the plane. The other passenger was perhaps in their 50s and looked like a very frequent business traveler. He gave me a smile and said:
“I wish I had had the kind of evening you seem to have had”. 

Lesson learned!

You should always write the name of the hotel in the local language on a piece of paper and keep this in your pocket, especially in Asia. You never know what's going to happen. 

I always learn from my mistakes..

Nowadays, I always take two power banks and two phones with me. 

August 21, 2018

Secret Traveler

Age: 31
EuroBonus level: Diamond
No. of times around the world by air: 20
Total time in the air per year: 1,6 weeks (3%)
No. of countries visited: 34
Most frequent destinations: ARN, LHR/LCY, OSL, DPS
Favorite destination: The Ligurian coast
Never leaves home without: Noise Canceling Headphones (Bose QC35) and Passport

I’m an entrepreneur in Europe with the entire world as my workplace. It’s lucky I love traveling as I spend much of my working day on the move as well as my leisure time - there’s so much to see and new people to meet.

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