What to Know About Tokyo

5 Things I Learned in Tokyo

Keep left, get good walking shoes, and let the country reshape your soul.

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1. The cleanliness

A local path hidden within Harajuku's Cat Street.

Japan is clean. It's a weird thing to notice, but you just can't help but notice. The moment your plane touches down, and you enter the airport, everything is just so spotless. The streets are clean, as are the subway tunnels that run underneath the city. Can't help but feel a little ashamed at the mess that was waiting for me at home.

2. The people

Mirror installation at Tokyo Plaza Omotesando

There wasn't a day in Tokyo where we didn't walk at least 8 miles. It was hot and my vans had absolutely no arch support. All around me were men and women in full business suits, or heels and looked effortlessly put together. I learned quickly that the people here had very little excuses—they took pride in their jobs, with it, came the expectation of always being professional and willing to make long commutes. It was interesting to see how so many individuals, from young to old, fit into their profession or status.

3. The tradition

Mt. Fuji as seen from the top of Owakudani "Hell Valley".

"Fuji-san is out today!" There was a young couple next to me when I took this picture, and they addressed the mountain with honorifics. Japan is a country steeped in culture. From Buddhist temples to Shinto shrines in the most random places, Tokyo is the epicenter of all these religions and faith. Everyone comes to these shrines and pray—for good health, and even for good luck in school. I unashamedly bought a charm to do well in any upcoming exams.

4. The food

Chirashi-don at Tsukiji Market

Tokyo is a vertical city. It wasn't uncommon to see shops and businesses stacked on top of each other, with the narrow stairways or two person elevators completely packed if there was a popular restaurant on the 8th floor. Food is cheap, plentiful, and diverse. Highlight of my trip was going to the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish and fresh food market in the world, and being able to sample so many delicious dishes and snacks. Vending machines are prolific there, and isn't uncommon to grab a quick snack or hot coffee in the morning.

5. The nightlife

Omoide-Yokocho in Shinjuku

The smell of cigarette smoke still lingers on my favorite jacket. Tokyo has one of the highest concentration of smokers in the world thanks to the aggressive advertising of big tobacco. Omoide yokocho or golden gai are dense alleyways in Shinjuku, packed with foreigners and natives alike, grabbing a drink to end the night or merely beginning their adventure as they prepared to head to the seedier red light district, Kabukicho. Tokyo's Roppongi Hills is also a hot spot for city's youth, as there are many popular night clubs there that play an eclectic mix of EDM, hip-hop, and even jazz. There's definitely something for everyone looking for a fun night out.

I knew I wanted to travel this summer. Preferably solo, if not, just without any immediate family (sorry mom and dad). I got my chance and embarked on a week long trip to Japan. I found a country and a city so rich with culture and interesting sights, sounds, and tastes. It was a life changing experience. I honestly felt so blessed to see the things I saw, and return home with mementos to tide over my wanderlust for the next few years.This was not my first time in Tokyo, and it most definitely won't be my last. From missing my train stop and being carried out to the countryside on an express subway car, to walking around Shinjuku at 4am, watching the city go to sleep and wake up, this trip was the perfect way to round out my second year of college, and restart a passion for traveling and exploring.

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12 Struggles Only Portuguese Girls Can Relate To

It's like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" but Portuguese edition.
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As mentioned before in my "8 Ways You Know You're Portuguese" article, I'm 100% European Portuguese. Which means that if you're reading this, you're probably somehow related to me (see #5). You know these 12 things to be true if you grew up in a Portuguese household:

1. You're pressured to marry a Pork Chop.

A Pork Chop is a Portuguese person. The older generation feels that this term is derogatory, but Portuguese Americans self identify as 'Pork Chops.' Some families will probably disown you if you don't marry a Portuguese guy, but I lucked out and my family is pretty open minded. Let me put it this way, if you're not married by the time you're 28, your grandma and your mother are going to take you to the Portuguese club to find a nice Pork Chop to settle down with. You may not be forced into a Portuguese marriage, but it's highly preferred that you marry within the culture.

2. You're always too fat, even if you're skinny.

Portuguese people are a feminist's worst nightmare. They will body shame the hell out of you and feel no remorse. You could lose 20 pounds and look/feel amazing and a Portuguese person will still say "well, you could stand to lose a few more pounds."

3. You must remember your Portuguese classes that you took when you were five years old.

It is a crime against humanity to a Portuguese person if you don't at least understand the language. If you can speak it, read it, and understand it, you've automatically earned yourself the "golden child" title. Every time I move to a different state, my Grandma's only warning is "don't forget your Portuguese," because someone's got to carry on the culture.

4. Am I white? Mixed? Hispanic? Unclear.

I grew up thinking I was some kind of Latina just because the Portuguese language is so similar to Spanish. You probably feel comfortable in Hispanic communities because of your Portuguese background. I eventually realized that I'm white, but I still get told that I look racially ambiguous. Whenever someone asks what nationality I am, I give them three guesses. It's rare that people ever guess Portuguese, but upon finding out that I am, I suddenly become "exotic."

5. You have 55 first cousins.

This is not an exaggeration. My dad actually has 50 first cousins. I have 13, but I have way more cousins in Portugal that I've either never met, or I've met them, but wouldn't be able to pick them out of a line up. If you go to Portugal and visit all of your relatives, the faces and names start to blur together and it's safe to call every man "Joao" and every woman "Maria" or "Ana Maria" and they'll be delighted that you remembered their names.

6. You have to make sure you don't marry your own cousin.

Portugal is such a small country that if you meet a fellow Pork Chop in America, chances are, you're somehow related or your families are friends. I suggest drawing an extensive family tree before shacking up with a Pork Chop.

7. Somebody is always praying for you.

Portuguese people are devoutly Catholic, so it doesn't matter if you're temporarily down on your luck or a self made millionaire, you have a tia (an aunt) that you probably only see when someone in the family passes away, who prays on the rosary every night for you.

8. You must have a name that can be pronounced in Portuguese.

There are two criteria for naming a Portuguese baby: is it the name of a saint, and can it be pronounced in Portuguese? If your uncle twice removed that you see every six years when you go to Portugal can't say your baby's name, you need to pick a new one. Names like "Riley" and "Jackson" won't get Grandma's approval.

9. You're considered adventurous if you move out of your parents house before you're married.

It's rare that Portuguese women don't live with their mothers until they find a spouse, and even once they do get married, it's not uncommon for their mother to move in with her daughter and her (hopefully Portuguese) husband.

10. You've been given something with Our Lady of Fatima on it.

Fatima is Portugal's claim to fame. It's the city in Portugal where three kids claimed they saw the Virgin Mary in 1917 and it's now a popular, religious tourist destination. Your grandma has probably given you something with the Blessed Mary on it to put in your car or in your bedroom so that you stay '#blessed' all the time.

11. You're not allowed to be a vegetarian.

Portuguese people are fishermen and their specialty is codfish, so it's nearly impossible to maintain a vegetarian diet in a Portuguese household. You can be pescatarian though!

12. You have to warn people before you introduce them to your family.

Have you ever seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" That's what it's like to bring a non-Portuguese boyfriend to a Portuguese family gathering. Good luck.

Cover Image Credit: CDMPHY / Flickr

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6 Reasons Traveling Is Good For Your Mind, Body, And Soul

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

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Have you ever traveled to a new destination and felt your mood instantly improve? Are you like me and feel happiest when you're on vacation? This is because traveling is a way for you to renew your soul and step out of your comfort zone. It keeps you happy and allows you to experience new things.

Visiting new destinations can open your mind to experiences you didn't even know were possible. You can meet new people, fall in love, try new foods, and see remarkable sites all while traveling. There are no limits to the places you can visit, and the things you can see. Currently, I am on a mini weekend trip to Arizona, and being here has opened my eyes and made me realize how impactful traveling really is on your mind, body, and soul. Traveling should be something you do as often as possible and whenever you get the chance. Here's why:

1. Traveling makes your heart happy 

Traveling is something that most people enjoy. It keeps the heart young and childlike. Traveling brings people joy because they get to experience new things that they love with the people they love.

2. It teaches you to embrace every moment 

Traveling can be unpredictable, especially because you are experiencing new things. Although it can be challenging, we learn best from these unpredictable moments. When we travel we learn to embrace every situation that is thrown at us.

3. Traveling relieves stress and improves mental health 

Traveling reduces stress and allows you to relax. More often than not, you take off work when you go on vacation and you focus on renewing your self. You get away from all the crazy things going on in your life, and you can just relax and focus on your own happiness.

4. It broadens your horizons 

Traveling lets you branch out and experience different cultures. You can try new foods, new activities, and meet all different types of people. You learn diversity, and you learn respect for other people and their culture's. Traveling helps you learn other perspectives around the world and lets your mind think in ways it never has before.

5. It keeps you healthy 

Traveling actually plays a big part in your physical health as well. During vacations, you often walk a lot to destinations and participate in calorie burning activities like hiking and swimming. Activities like these are often why you still are able to get your workout in while on vacation.

6. Traveling reminds you what is important 

Most importantly, traveling reminds you of the important things in life. We live day by day forgetting that every moment is remarkable. Sometimes, we get stuck in the same old boring routine and take for granted the life we have been given. Traveling reminds us that memories are valuable and that our lives should be cherished.

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