Frenetic Tokyo

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August 27th 2010
Published: August 29th 2010
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Tokyo, fast paced, bright, dense, the political, economical, and cultural centre of Japan and home to state of the art technology and the largest metro system in the world. It is home to the Japanese Imperial family. Top nightclubs, shops, restaurants, and truly an international city with nothing quite like it. Tokyo was originally called Edo about a hundred and fifty years ago and even then was one of the most populated cities. And now it is considered one of several alpha cities of the world.If you have money you can have a blast here, course if you're like me, a nearly broke backpacker, you can still have fun, but you need to be creative about it.

The bus came into Marunouchi district to a massive bus and train terminal in central Tokyo close to the Imperial Palace. It was nighttime, I still hadn't showered since climbing Mt. Fuji and I was running on about an hour of sleep over two days. Brutal. The air was hot as I climbed out of the bus and made my way in awe at all the massive buildings surrounding me. I had no map and the subway was closed. Went into a 7/11 to get a bento box and ate on the side of the road. As I continued walking a hooker approached. "Half hour only three thousand Yen," she said smiling. I wonder if her sense of smell has malfunctioned cuz I can't even tolerate myself. I walked about through Ginza district, known for it's dept. stores and several nice parks. I made my way to one of them and dropped my gear near some trees. Close by was a homeless passed out snoring. I followed suit in my little area.

I woke up at five am with swarms of mossies ripping through me. Shit! I hate bites all over, the bastards had ruined my sleep. I groggily got up and headed out, without really knowing where to. I waited until the metro opened and then made my way to Asakusa, where I'd heard there was some reasonably priced accommodation. I found this place right near the metro exit which was a capsule hotel. Famous in Tokyo, the beds resemble capsules (obviously) and have little tv's and clocks built into them. In a dense and spaced strapped city like this they work perfectly. I showered, then got online for a bit before being ready to tackle the mass of wires and concrete that is Tokyo!

Asakusa, or certain areas within, time has somewhat stopped. There's still many temples and pagodas, and markets where people have been going about their business for generations. I walked the area and would be based out of here for the remainder of my time in Tokyo.

I went to Akihabara district, a neighborhood with loads of electronic products, robots on display, anime and comic shops, arcades, pachinko slots, adult entertainment, this place was a gizmo junkie's/geeks dream. I spent hours perusing through the shops. Every electronic store had many floors, the general layout went something like this;
1st Monitors
2nd Chips
3rd Keyboards
4th Mouses
5th Porn
6th Anime Porn
7th General DVD's
8th Video Games
etc, etc...
The arcades were devied up by genre/floor like fighting, RPG's, Interactive card games, Sporting games, prize games (with the weirdest prizes). I made sure to play Street Fighter of course. There were arcades of classic games like Mario Bros and Pacman. I've never seen this until here but there were queues and line-ups for the very popular arcades, a testament to the undying video game love here in Japan. Inside the manga shops, men were buying school girl uniforms and the like (!) and women outside were handing out flyers and dressed as school girls or geishas...

Shibuya is really a stimulating town. I saw crowds of young people here, in fact crowds in general. The crosswalks got seriously congested. The ubiquitous love hotels could be found by the dozens here. The outside advertising made them seem hilarious with loads of mirrors and many themed rooms. Of course tons of shops here and even more food.

Shinjuku is the true "downtown" area of this city, one could very well find it all. The western part of it is lined with various skyscrapers like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, I went up one day, admission was free, a rarity in Japan, and could see the vast sprawl for kilometres. Nearby was an electric street where I was overloaded with unbelievable gadgets and toys on display. I picked up a neat looking robot bug here. The eastern part of this district is said to be one of the most crowded in Tokyo. Neon signs were plastered everywhere and could easily rival those in times square. Major entertainment could be found here and many a nightclub to part you with your money.

I went to the Tsukiji fish market one morning and as I got off the metro the scent of fish punched me in the face! It's possibly one of the biggest fish markets in existence and I walked through the packing areas and of course got to see the many species available. Nearby were abundant sushi shops and restaurants and the prices were extravagant. I heard some of the best there is are found here. Too bad I only go for budget sushi.

Roppongi is an area with large building complexes and plenty of stores. The majority of it is on a hill so I could see some views. The observation deck there was insanely over priced so I avoided it. There were also some markets here but targeted the up-scale. The area reminded me of a midtown.

Ueno has much cultural significance from memorials to the Shoguns, to pagodas, to shrines commemorating world war 2. Many museums as well. People took naps on the benches. There was also myriads of stores in this districts downtown area and some little markets. One must remember when thinking of Tokyo, it's better to think of it as a grouping of many cities rather than one city on it's own. It's too overwhelming otherwise. Getting from place to place however proved quite pricey, not a cheap metro system to use.

On my final night I was supposed to go on a date with a Japanese chick I met in Kyoto but she ended up having to work really late which sucked. In Japan work always comes before anything else.

All in all I've never experienced such sensory overload as I have here in Tokyo. Always something to do, something to see, and strange and interesting people going about their lives. I do hope to return to Japan one day, hopefully with more money and explore off the beaten path. I'll also make sure it isn't summertime when I do!

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