Catherine Price took off for Tokyo with no guidebook and a wacky idea: Let strangers decide every detail of her trip. Four days, 29 brief encounters, one collapsible bicycle, eight octopus balls, 600 flesh-eating fish, one goma fire ceremony, and too much fried food later, she'd discovered the joy in letting go.
Day 1

tokyoGo to San Francisco bookstore. Ambush woman in fiction section; ask for her favorite international destination. Buy ticket to Japan.

tokyoLand at Tokyo Narita, jet-lagged and puffy. Call hostel recommended by flight attendant. Wonder how old is too old for bunk beds.

tokyoHostel is near one of Tokyo's most distinctive landmarks, the Asahi Super Dry Hall. Locals' nickname for rooftop sculpture: kin no unchi ("the golden turd").

tokyoAccost young mother on street, ask for restaurant recommendation. Woman politely obliges. Baby begins to cry.

tokyoDinner: deep-fried shrimp, first of many.

Day 2

tokyoWatch tuna auction. Confirm impending extinction of one of ocean's top predators.
tokyoBreakfast: See deep-fried shrimp, above.

tokyoVisit male fishmonger's favorite place in Tokyo: upscale shopping area called Ginza. Wonder whether he's a Prada or Hermès kind of guy.

tokyoDinner at Amor, run by fish-market friend. Menu does not include shrimp.

Engaging in a heartfelt photo session—with young women dressed as cats

Day 3

tokyoRent collapsible bike. Receive order to find "octopus in a bowl."

tokyoBike to Imperial Palace. Develop deep gratitude for helmet; earn mockery from schoolchildren.

tokyoAsk happy retirees for evening activity.

tokyoContinue trend of healthy eating with Hawaiian-themed hamburger.

tokyoEngage in heartfelt photo sessions with young women dressed as cats.

tokyoReceive list of TV host's favorite Tokyo experiences: soba noodles, small bars, public baths, crowded subway trains.

tokyoRakugo! You can't see it, but this man has on tap shoes.

tokyoEat raw squid. Meet charming businessman and wife, who recommend a visit to their neighborhood temple.

Favorite Tokyo pastime: shopping. Visit photo booth arcade!

Day 4

tokyoRide rush-hour subway. Question TV reporter's judgment.

tokyoBreakfast: soba noodles at stand-up counter. Shrimp, in this case, has been replaced by tofu.

tokyoEngage in favorite Tokyo pastime: shopping. Visit photo booth arcade; take more incriminating photographs I never expect will be made public.

tokyoDiscover gathering spot for lithe young Japanese men.

tokyoEncounter bizarre fashion trend known as Gothic Lolita. Or, in the case of these two, just Lolita.

tokyoTakoyaki—octopus balls!

tokyoAttend goma ceremony at sushi patron's temple. Debate whether indoor fires at wood-framed historical sites are really a good idea.

tokyoVisit tiny bar in Shinjuku area called GoldenGai. Make new friends; enjoy $20 bottle of beer.

tokyoCelebrate last night in Tokyo with a visit to the "doctor fish."

No guidebook. No itinerary. No map. The story behind Catherine Price's unplanned Tokyo adventure
Photos, from top: Ian Cumming/Getty images. Jun Takagi (4). Courtesy of Catherine Price (3). Jun Takagi


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