How I Survived Getting Lost in Tokyo at Night While Drunk

This Is How I Survived Being Lost (and Drunk) in Tokyo

When in doubt, trust the friendly locals.

Tokyo is a city well-known for its busy and lively nightlife, and perhaps no district better encapsulates this than Shibuya. Playing host to many clubs and bars, Shibuya is a must-visit on a trip to Tokyo for tourists looking to experience the city’s nightlife in all its glory.

As such, I knew my 7D6N trip to Tokyo would not be complete without a night (preferably more than one) of bar-crawling and club-hopping. Since my friends who had travelled with me were less keen on partaking in Tokyo’s nightlife culture, I ventured into the night alone.

lost in japan

Image credit: Chow Cheng Yang

My first two nights out went smoothly without problems. However, on the third night, things started to go awry. Here’s the time I got lost (and drunk) in Tokyo.

Also read: 12 Best Tokyo Districts and Neighbourhoods to Visit on Your Holiday

Lost in Tokyo: A cautionary and survival tale

One too many drinks

trip to tokyo

Image credit: xavier arnaur via Canva Pro

Armed with nothing but my phone, wallet, and my trusty portable Wi-Fi, I set off from my Airbnb in Otsuka, to Shibuya. Knowing I had to wake up early, I planned to be back by midnight. Of course, plans change — especially when they involve drinks.

Fast forward a few hours and some (read: many) drinks later, I was gracefully stumbling to Shibuya station to catch the last train to my Airbnb. Despite having the motor skills of a toddler, I reached the train station and hopped aboard the Yamanote Line with relative ease. 

The first mishap

tokyo metro

Image credit: Gintanzali Wagh via Canva Pro

The next thing I knew, I was jarringly awoken by a train attendant, frantically signalling for me to exit the train. My initial sleepiness was quickly replaced by confusion as I realised the train was at Ikebukuro station, one stop away from my accommodation in Otsuka. I later found out that half the Yamanote line had closed early for maintenance, with Ikebukuro being the final stop. 

ikebukuro station

Image credit: Tomi Mäkitalo

Not knowing how to book the famous Tokyo taxi, I knew I had no choice but to walk back to my apartment. A quick search on Google Maps revealed that it was a 30-minute walk away. This was much further than I initially anticipated, but hey, a little cardio never hurt anyone, right?

Things get worse

As a relative optimist, I’d never subscribed to the adage, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” However, if there were ever a time I believed Murphy’s Law governed the universe, it’d be at this moment. 

Just as I was thinking how things couldn’t get any worse, I was greeted by the ominous blinking of my portable Wi-Fi running out of battery. No Wi-Fi meant no internet, and no internet meant… no Google Maps. I was officially lost in Tokyo. 

Help from friendly locals

trip to tokyo

Image credit: Aleksandar Pasaric via Canva Pro

After a moment of panic, I began to strategise. The first order of business was finding the general direction of my apartment. To do that, I decided to enlist the help of some locals. Since it was around 1am, the streets were rather deserted. Thankfully, I chanced upon two Japanese men in suits. 

Communication was a struggle — one part due to English not being their first language, another part due to my slurred pronunciation. After some back-and-forth, one of the men’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Ah! Otsuka!” he said. He then pointed me in the general direction while chuckling, “Very far.” 

The long walk home

streets of tokyo

Image credit: Kzaral via Canva Pro

Thus, I embarked on my epic voyage home. Attempting to stay true to the direction pointed out by the friendly locals, I cut through many apartments and across many roads. Roads were particularly difficult to cross as my alcohol-impaired vision prevented me from making out vehicles in the distance. 

Preferring to err on the side of caution, I took far longer than I should have to cross the road. Furthermore, while the streets were fairly well-lit by street lamps, straying off them plunged me into darkness. I found myself constantly relying on my phone as a source of light.

Safe and sound after getting lost in Tokyo

japan air bnb

Image credit: Airbnb

After what felt like an eternity, I began to notice some familiar landmarks. Knowing home was just a stone’s throw away, I hastened my pace. 

Finally, at 4am, my legendary journey had concluded. As I wearily collapsed on the bed, I knew this would be a tale told throughout the ages, even rivalling Frodo’s adventure to the heart of Mordor. 

Image credit: Chow Cheng Yang

And that’s how I found myself stranded in the magical city of Tokyo! Moral of the story: Always carry around a portable charger for your devices when out alone in a foreign country.

Also read: 10 Essential Tips for Exploring Tokyo on a Budget

Do you have any similar experiences of getting lost in a new country? We’d love to hear more about it: Reach out to us, and you may be our next Featured Traveller!

Facebook image credit (L-R): Aleksandar Pasaric via Canva Pro; Chow Cheng Yang

About Author

Chow Cheng Yang
Chow Cheng Yang

Cheng Yang can often be found in his natural habitat — in his bed with a cup of coffee and a science-fiction novel. With his undying love for jazz music and old movies, he likes to think of himself as a bit of a hippie. When he's not busy with work or school, he spends his free time playing the guitar or practising calligraphy.