Good things are worth waiting for, that's why I've decided to close this series about Japan with the most amazing city I have ever been in: Tokyo. Are you prepared to be amazed? Get a soft drink and take your time, this article is long and is full of very interesting information!
Tokyo is a HUGE city, it is the largest metropolis in the world with a population over 35 million. As Héctor García says in his book A Geek in Japón:
“It’s a country compressed between Mount Fuji and the sea.”
The book was my “bible” for my trip to Japan. I used it as a travelling guide, especially for Tokyo. It is also a great read prior to your trip to get to know a little Japanese culture. Reading that book made me truly enjoy the trip, I highly recommend it!
Tips to Enjoy Tokyo
Tokyo has no downtown — rather, it consists of many hot spots around the train stations. You better leave the European notion of a capital city and dedicate many days to this wonderful metropolis, I recommend a minimun of 5 days. If I could get back to Japan right now, I would stay for a full week. It’s a huge city in all senses of the word!
Bear in mind that if you don’t know Japanese, you are illiterate there — you won’t be able to interpret much. Public transport is in English and street names are in our alphabet, so you don’t need to worry about that… but for everything else, it’s in strange characters! It’s quite fun though. Tokyo is a safe place, so you can enjoy being “illiterate” without fear.
Use the subway! It’s everywhere and it’s easy to use. Bear in mind though, it closes around midnight and taxis are really expensive. Though I recommend you to take at least one. Seats have mates, the drivers wear gloves and doors open and close by themselves. Take the address written in Japanese with you, they are not very good with English.
In Tokyo, think vertical. We are used to the way that all the shops are at the ground floor, but over there it’s not that way. Since space is scarce, you can find a photography shop in the 5th floor of a building or a pub in a 3rd floor.
When it comes to food, you have to try good sushi no matter what — however, it isn’t the cheapest. I recommend you find your favorite noodle dish and yakitoris, so you’ll be well-fed without breaking the bank. Don’t forget 24-hour shops where you will be able to find delicious bentos and several sweets, too. There is one in every corner. If you are missing western food, don’t go to McDonalds. Instead try Mos Burger, a delicious local chain.
You don’t need to worry about drinks. You will find a machine in every corner.
Areas to Visit
I’m going to tell you the areas I visited following Kirai’s recommendations:
It’s Tokyo’s most traditional district. It has a big Buddhist temple, several pagodas, a shopping street with all kinds of souvenirs and many restaurants with a good price. Start the walk at Kaminarimon Door, walk to the temple and stroll around the streets. Ancient tradition in the most modern city in the world.
One of the liveliest districts of Japan, it’s the center of fashion trends and where many urban tribes meet. The first thing to do in the area is walk through Shibuya Crossing, where the busiest crosswalks in the world meet.
This district is great for shopping, eating, drinking and going to karaoke! Karaoke is something you must do if you go to Tokyo.
Don’t forget to visit Hachiko’s statue! Hachiko was the pet dog of a teacher at the University of Tokyo who went every day outside the train station to wait for his master, even after the latter’s unexpected death. You will find it exiting Shibuya station by iHachiko Special Exit.
Take a walk in the love hotels. If you’re a couple, you can experience the sexual attractions they offer, if not you will have fun just walking through its streets.
If we compare New York to Tokyo, Shinjuku would be Manhattan. It’s the area of skyscrapers and neon signs. You’ll find bars, the famous panchiko (recreational games), love hotels and a few brothels.
I recommend going through the street of yakitoris to have a beer, but I warn you it is also known as Pee alley… Among its bars, all very cheap but charming, you may find the one "horaciorv"http://www.lomography.com/homes/horaciorv baptized as The Blade Runner Bar. es/magazine/locations/2010/10/29/blade-runner-bar (read that article if you have not yet, though, when you’re done with this).
It’s the most posh district, where you can find luxury boutiques. The asphalt glitters and neon signs make the night seem day. Even if your budget won’t allow you to buy anything, you still can miss walking along this district. Each building is an amazing work of architecture and each shop is an example of creativity and design.
It is one of the areas that has developed more in the last decade. The two micro-futuristic cities: Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown are the hub of the neighborhood.
The complex opened in 2003 houeses over 800 apartments, offices (Yahoo, Livedoor, Rakuten…), markets, pubs, hotels, shops, restaurants, a museum, gym, TV studios, gardens… everything you need to live compressed in several towers.
However, the rent of a 100 sq.m. apartment in Roppongi Hills goes for a around € 10,000 / month(!) so for now, all I can recommend you is the museum and its wonderful exhibitions and views!
Do not miss it! It is the quintessential neighborhood for otakus and geeks Famous for its electronics, manga and anime shops, it’s the paradise for costumes and dolls. There’s even an analogue paradise in one of the superstores!
I know that they planned to move it, but wherever it is in the future, please do not leave Tokyo without visiting the largest fish market in the world. I advise you to take advantage of the day when you still have jet lag and wake up on the earliest time to witness the tuna auction. It’s great! After the auction, you can eat the best sushi you'll ever have, and stroll around the stalls of the auction.
So that concludes my Memories of Japan series! I hope you enjoyed!
You might also like:
- Memories of Japan I: Fushimi Inari, Temple of the Thousand Torii
- Memories of Japan II: Kinkaku-ji, Golden Pavilion Temple
- Memories of Japan III: Nishiki Market
- Memories of Japan IV: Kyoto Imperial Palace
- Memories of Japan V: Japan Rail Pass
- Memories of Japan VI: Hakone
- Memories of Japan VII: Takayama and the Ryokan
- Memories of Japan VIII: Kanazawa