A Quick Guide to Tokyo
Tokyo is easily Japan’s most well known city and where almost everyone’s trip in this country begins. Tokyo is absolutely massive, two and a half times the size of New York City, and three times as dense, making it intensely crowded. Tokyo seems to just go and go in all directions with no end. Tokyo also has the hustle and bustle that you’ll see in many international cities. People are also a bit more rude in Tokyo compared to the rest of the country, I was actually really surprised by this my first time in Tokyo, my interactions with people in Fuji have all been pleasant. But, like New York City, Tokyo is an obvious “must-do” when you come to Japan, and with good reason.
These are images that I always thought of when I imagined Tokyo, lots of bright lights. The first is Shibuya Crossing, the so-called busiest in the world. Crossing in every direction against thousands of people on any given evening is a spectacular experience. The second, Shinjuku’s Kabukicho neighborhood, has the endless bright lights that I associated with Japan’s capital city.
There are a lot of Shinto shrines all over Japan, Shinto being one of the major religions of Japan along with Buddhism, and Tokyo has it’s share of big ones. I personally recommend Meiji Shrine over the others. It’s a very simple place that gives you an idea of what Shinto shrines are about and has great surrounding areas, being in Yoyogi Park (which I’ll get to later) and close to the popular Harajuku.
Tokyo Tower is really Tokyo’s only legitimate landmark, and I’m sure you’ve already noticed that it is far too similar to the Eiffel Tower. I really do feel that Tokyo needs it’s own iconic landmark. It seems it only genuine claim to fame is a high urban density.
Some neighborhoods have a lot of these small restaurants with street-side seating pop up at night, and they are amazing ways to experience great Japanese food and I guarantee the shop-owners and patrons will be extra friendly, especially the businessmen getting drunk after work.
Every guidebook on Tokyo will tell you to wake up before the sun rises to catch the Tsukuji fish market wholesale auction to see enormous Tuna and experience Japan’s biggest industry at its core. But really, I wouldn’t bother, I haven’t been, but I feel you can get a much more fulfilling experience going around the corner to the alleys of small restaurants that buy these fish every morning. It’s some of the best and freshest seafood you can eat. There’s various sushi, tuna, salmon, tons of fish eggs, sea urchin and more, and it’s all out of this world delicious, for extremely reasonable prices and you don’t have to wake up before dawn.
Japan always seems to have very specific goods districts. My favorite is Tokyo’s Kappabashi. It’s three or four city blocks exclusively with shops selling kitchenwares. Any appliance or utensil you need, as either home or restaurant use, is here in every form. It’s a lot of fun to just browse around. Look for the chef’s head in Asakusa.
Sundays in Yoyogi Park are by far my favorite thing to do in Tokyo. All sorts of people come to the park on Sundays to practice their hobbies. Small living spaces that are typically shared with multiple family members make practicing anything at home practically impossible inTokyo. So on Sundays you can see dance troupes, martial artists, music acts and, best of all, the greasers. Every single sunday, these guys command the main entrance to the park near Harajuku Station. Blasting 1950s American rock and roll, as well as modern Japanese rock in the same style, they dance and dance. Sometimes they are choreographed, sometimes they just let it take over their bodies, other times they have a dance off, but they always enjoy themselves. This is evidenced by how they don’t ask for change, a common site pretty much anywhere else in the world, and they don’t care if people take photos, they are just doing it for the passion.
Even though I’ve been to Tokyo half a dozen times by now, there is still plenty I haven’t done, so I’ll have to go just a few more times. I’m pretty sure I’ll be sick of it by then though.
Here are some left-overs: