What is it that makes Tokyo so great? Out of all the cities I have ever visited I still tell people without even a pause that Tokyo is my favourite city, but what is it that sets it aside from everything else? There are plenty of cities that have bars which are open until sunrise, outstanding food, great architecture, friendly inhabitants, but Tokyo just has something that all of the others don’t have and it’s hard to explain.
Tokyo is like a demon, as soon as you arrive it enchants you, it takes you by the hand and leads you on a journey of discovery, showing you things you have never seen before, things that only it can show you, and before you know it Tokyo is a part of you and when you come to leave it doesn’t want to let you go, nor do you want to let it go. You know your experience of this amazing city can’t last forever but it will have you begging for just a little bit more. If Tokyo were a drug, it would be the most addictive of them all.
Tokyo is a city where you will pass a shinto monk in the street walking to the local shrine, and in the other direction you’ll pass a young lady in a maids outfit attempting to lure young men into their bars where they can pretend to be interested in their lives. Tokyo is an insane mashup of different cultures, it is the most reserved nation I have ever been to, the people speak so softly and so politely and at the same time seem to let loose in some pretty loud fashion. Have you ever heard of Pachinco? God damn, Pachinco is the loudest fucking thing on this planet. Pachinco is a Japanese version of pinball and there are huge arcades dedicated to just this game and if you happen to walk past one you’ll probably need a hearing aid for the rest of your life.
There is something about Tokyo that almost drags you out of bed in the middle of the night just so you can go walking around the streets. The streets are enchanting, everywhere is so clean, the warm glow of the neon signs attracts travellers like a moth to a flame, fragrances of Japanese delicacies waft out of izakayas into the street telling you that you do need some yakitori at 2am. The best part about Tokyo is how safe you feel walking around at night, I’d let my 16 year old daughter walk around the city alone at night…and I don’t even have a daughter, I feel so passionate about how safe this city is that I’ve completely made that part up.
Tokyo is a metropolis, it has many different districts some of which are made famous by one thing in particular. Ryogoku for instance is known for sumo, and there are literally dozens of sumo stables dotted around the area. Akihabara is known as the technology district, packed full of game shops, arcades, comic shops, gadget shops and pretty much everything electronic and nerdesque.
And when Tokyo seems like a city from the future with an immense population packed into one rather dense area, with flashing lights and strobe neon wherever you look, you’re only ever a walk or a short metro journey away from traditional Japan. The imperial palace in the centre of Tokyo as a stark contrast to what the city is today, home to the Emperor of Japan, the palace is one of the most beautiful places Japan has to offer and the grounds alone offer you hours of wandering time.
Also within Tokyo is the Meiji Shrine, again a place with grounds that offer so much wandering potential that your feet will be throbbing by the end of it.
I know I spent a whole segment talking about the food, but Japanese food is really amazing. When you have access to all of the best sushi the world has to offer, some amazing noodle and rice dishes, okonomiyaki, Kobe beef and Izakaya food you should really make the most of it.
If you’ve been following me, you’ll know that I love beer and whisky and while I drank plenty of that in Japan, you should also give their national drink the attention it deserves. To most westerners the only experience we have had with sake is the bog standard warm stuff sometimes served at a Teppanyaki restaurants, but the world of Sake is as diverse as the world of whisky and my eyes were really opened on this trip.
Tokyo is a city of day and night, of yin and yang, of dark and light and of peace and war. If you want to go mental and explore the weird then you’re in the right place, if you went to feel zen and chill the fuck out and maybe find yourself or whatever then it’s also the place for you.
This concludes my Tokyo section, up next is Nagasaki the city which is most notably recognised as the detonation site of a nuclear bomb during WWII. I’m sure I’ll post more things about Tokyo in the future especially as we plan to return.
Hope to see you in the comments 🙂