How does one begin describing Tokyo? It’s a city that moves at lightning speed and never looks back, yet still keeps itself rooted to traditional Japanese culture. Some say it’s the city of the future, the city of technology. Tokyo is the city of chance encounters, where past meets future and somehow doesn’t clash.
Tokyo is the only place that competes with New York City in terms of sheer size, metropolitan buildings, art museums and galleries, trendy boutiques and restaurants that make you cook your own food. Did you know flights to Tokyo cost the same as flights to NYC? Tokyo gives Paris’ haute couture shops a run for their money and when the sun sets Shinjuku and Shibuya keep the sky alit with their neon lights.
Tokyo in seven steps:
Situated around the Sensoji Temple, this is the old but still beating heart of Tokyo. Undoubtedly the liveliest part of the city, it rivals Soho in London and is where the first skyscraper, movie cinema and photo studio were built. Explore the area by foot, never underestimating what a side street might have in store. To get there, take a river cruise boat from Hinode pier.
Jimbocho Book District
Downhill from Yasukuni Shrine ad near the Tokyo University is the Jimbocho Book District. With thousands of manuscripts, collectable prints, and books, it’s the best place to shop for bound books in all of Asia. It’s not all Japanese though, there are plenty of second-hand English (and every other imaginable language) books available as well.
Super-realism has its home in Japan. Tokyo is home to the world’s first super-realistic theatre complete with revolving stages, runways and actual waterfalls. Plays run 4-5 hours in length. Simultaneous translation to English through a headset helps to follow the plot but the sheer theatrics are enough to keep anyone entertained. Check out Kabuki-za Theatre.
The city’s best organized quarter, it’s where office workers mingle for drinks after work, where the endless suburbs of Tokyo begin, where you can shop at discount prices and where Lost in Translation was filmed (at the Hyatt Hotel). For the best views of the city head to the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.
At one point this imperial residence was the world’s largest castle with a total circumference of 16 km. It’s not open to visitors but the outer gardens and moats can be visited and should. It’s just ten minutes by foot from Tokyo Station.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Ever wonder where a large portion of the world’s seafood comes from? Even the most prestigious restaurants have fish coming from Tokyo’s famous marketplace. It’s not to be left late in the day since the best time to see all fish big and small is before 6:00 in the morning when the auction starts. You can find the freshest sushi in the city here, look for the restaurant with the red lanterns, Edo-gin.
This shrine is dedicated to the two million people who have died in the name of an emperor since the mid-1800s. It is marked by a promenade of cherry trees leading to a weathered shrine made of wood. Don’t skip the military museum nearby which has a locomotive from the Burma railway on display.
Unlike many travellers think, Japan isn’t expensive at all. Have you been to Tokyo? Share you experiences and what kind of impression the city made on you!
Img: istolethetv / flickr cc