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Published: January 17th 2012
Tokyo Baby, what a city!!!
After this trip, Tokyo could well be my new favourite city. We flew in from Beijing and Landed at Tokyo Haneda airport who’s runway stretched into Tokyo bay so you get a great view of the city as you land. We practically ran off the plane in our haste to start exploring the city. We grabbed our incredibly heavy backpacks which slowed us down a little and headed to the monorail and the ride into central Tokyo and our Hostel.
First impression of Tokyo were how clean it was, and how high-tech everything is, it’s a bit like a city from the future, like an episode of tomorrows world. As we sped into the city on the monorail you notice how quiet everyone is. There are no mobiles ringing or music blaring from them, everyone maintains a respectful silence which is a common theme that we notice throughout our trip.
The Japanese are so respectful to each other and so well mannered. This was highlighted when we switched onto the subway, we were waiting on the platform for the subway train and as we were roughly the first people there as we just
missed the last one, so we stood by the marker that indicates where the doors will open and waited. As the platform filled up people started queuing behind us. When the train arrived everyone filed on in a quite dignified and orderly fashion which was quiet a shock as I am use to ridding the Tube in London which is a proper survival of the fittest shoving fest. I don’t think there is a Japanese translation for Chav, they really have a remarkably respectful culture.
We found our hostel and checked in and it was our first introduction to the no shoes culture. Everywhere you go you remove your shoes at the door and are provided with slippers to wear. This is fine for the locals but I could hardly get my clown feet in them, there was barely enough room for my big toe in them. When we were skiing later in the trip we even had to remove ski boots and don slippers when we ate on the slopes which I loved, they can certainly teach the French a few lessons on alpine hospitality.
By the time we got ourselves sorted it was early evening and
we hadn’t really seen anything of the city so we had to decide where to go for your first taste of Tokyo, and for a major culture shock? It could only be the world famous Shibuya crossing, the worlds busiest pedestrian crossing, right outside the second busiest station in the world. So we headed there for our lost in translation moment. As we exited the station we were caught up a human tide of people, Tokyo has 30 million inhabitants and it felt like they were all on their way to Shibuya for a night out, there were people everywhere. Our first glimpse of Shibuya did not disappoint, it is really amazing after dark with its Neon canyons surrounding you and all the big screen TV’s. The Shibuya crossing intersection is made up of eight pedestrian crossings and when the man goes green a sea of people head across the intersection. After making a couple of trips back and forth we decided to grab a coffee on the starbucks that overlooks the crossing and watch the madness.
Shibuya was probably my favourite district of Tokyo as it is packed with shops, bars and restaurants and there is always something
going on. In fact you could say that about Tokyo as a whole as there is so much to do in the city. We had four days to explore and we could of spent a week and not seen it all. Its like there are two cities, Tokyo by day which is great for exploring and wandering round, and Tokyo by night with all the Neon lights and streets packed full of people after work heading for restaurants and bars. You really need to see some of the districts by day and also by nigh to truly appreciate then and the prime example of this is Akihabara, or electric town as it is known.
Akihabara is a major shopping area for electronic, computer, anime
, and otaku
goods and it is to put it mildly, completely bonkers. There are shops packed to the rafters with every conceivable electronic gadget you could ever imagine. Some of the shops are nine stories tall and each floor is the size of a aircraft hanger. This is also the area for Manga, before I left for Japan I know they were crazy about manga but I had no idea that it was to this
extent. Its everywhere and the stores are packed with people hovering up everything manga related they can get their hands on, its mental.
Akihabara is also famous for its maid café which are manga style café hosted by young girls in maid outfits which is a little bit seedy to me. Its all harmless fun the guide book assures you so we decided to check one out for lunch. The problem with Tokyo is that floor space is at a premium so all bars and restaurants are never on the ground floor. Usually you end up getting a elevator upto the 6th
floor without a clue what the restaurant or bar will be like. It was like this with the maid café. We exited the elevator into a PG13 really twee café with young girls dressed up in maids outfits and we quickly realised this was not the place for us. A maid pounced on us before we could beat a hasty retreat and sat us down, Louise was laughing at how out of place I felt and I begged that we leave so we made our apologies and dashed for the elevator and a noodle bar.
are so may great places to visit in Tokyo from shopping districts to local markets and temples, red light districts full of seedy love hotels and strip clubs, bars and restaurants it has it all. One of our favourite areas is Shinjuku for the incredible neon nightscape as well as its bars and restaurants, we spent a great evening wander the Neon lit streets staring up at the 10 story neon lights and the sky scrappers that Tokyo is famous for.
We also loved the area around the Sensoji temple which was like being whisked back in time with its narrow street and traditional houses and restaurants, and no neon in sight. It has a totally different feel to it than the hustle bustle of downtown Tokyo. The market district around Ueno was a real treat, packed full of locals buying their groceries and food, plus lots of wonderful street snack stall and tempura eateries. Although no food market can compare to Tsukiji Fish Market the world's largest fish markets, handling over 2,000 tons of marine products per day, EVERY day. Its amazing there is any fish left in the ocean!! If it can be hauled out of the
ocean they sell it here I have never seen such a variety of sea food.
Perhaps one of the highlights of our Tokyo was watching the sunset from the observation platforms that are dotted around the city on its tallest towers, and seeing the city come alive at night with all the lights. On our second night we headed for Roppongi Hills and the Tokyo City View
observation deck on the top floors of the 238 meter tall Mori Tower. The view from there was incredibly and you really get a sense of how vast the city is.
We spend one of the days at Odaiba, a man made island, out in Tokyo Bay full of futuristic architecture and shopping Malls. It’s also home to the Fuji TV Building a futuristic looking building with observatory deck housed in the sphere shaped part of the building. It even has a man made beach on the island, but it was a bit to chilly to think about going for a dip. We spend a great afternoon wandering the island and at sunset we went up to the observation deck for what I think is the best view of Tokyo.
amazing four days had to come to an end but we as our next stop was Kyoto via Mt Fuji and the Bullet train we still had plenty more of Japan to see.
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