This is a city that sucks you in. The sheer energy, modernity and speed of Tokyo is breathtaking. Japan is a country that is so intriguing for its unique mix of modern and traditional. It has been able to do what many have not, firmly retain its traditions while being one of the most modern countries in the world. This juxtaposition is what makes so many fall in love with the place.
It is the most populous city in the world at last count, but retains an orderly air in its transit system, clean streets and law abiding citizens. Schoolgirls walk next to punks, elderly grandmothers shop next to international businessmen, and the multitude of western expatriates soak up the sights and sounds of their adopted home.
A true highlight, though it won’t seem that way when waking before sunrise to experience it, is the Tsukiji Fish Market. The world’s largest and busiest, it is fascinating to explore and even more astounding to see the size of the fresh fish coming in right from the water. A must do is a sushi breakfast in one of the many small stalls. This was easily the most delicious sushi this writer has ever tasted. All in all, a sublime and exhilarating experience.
Meiji Shrine. This is dedicated to the late 19th-century emperor who opened Japan to the West. Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine is serene and contemplative. Next head to Senso-ji, an extremely popular tourist attraction in Asakusa. It is also known as Asakusa Kannon, and the large Torii gates mark the entrance. From there enter Nakamise Dori, a famous shopping street where many souvenirs are purchased.
Tokyo is split into 23 wards, each with its own character. Shinjuku is highrises, shopping and the busiest train station in the country. It is also infamous for Kabukicho – the most famous adult entertainment area in Tokyo. Erotic shows and adult entertainment live alongside regular bars and dining facilities. Shinjuku’s department stores are fantastic, and it is worth a wander if only to see the items on display. View a $100 mango and other delights.
One must check out the Imperial Palace, though viewing is restricted to the grounds outside so not much can be seen. Yoyogi Park is an amusing excursion. Many school groups and dance clubs meet here to rehearse, so the weekend scene can bring any number of getups.
Shibuya crossing is reminiscent of Oxford Circus in London. The flashing lights and surge of humanity allow one to feel the essence of the city, before heading to Oriental Bazaar on Omotesando Street. Here one can buy a yukata (along with all sorts of other souvenirs) and robes and other gear one should buy in Japan.
There are other famous Japanese delights on offer. Check out a Sumo match. The tournaments run in January, May and September in Tokyo. Or see the Kabuki show in Ginza. This centuries old traditional dance drama is famous for its makeup and costumes as much as for the performances. There are shorter and longer shows. One act is usually enough for the non-Japanese speaker.
The capsule hotel is a unique experience. This is not for the claustrophobic, but it is available in multiple spots around the city. Another one of those quirky travel experiences this writer obsessed about long before experiencing it. The hotel itself holds all a traveler could need, from shower facilities to lockers for larger bags. Kitchen facilities, vending machines and internet in a common room round out the building. While Japanese vending machines are a story in themselves, we shall stick to the capsule for now.
One must take off shoes upon entering, put them in a locker and give the key to the attendant, and put on the slippers provided, a custom in Japan. Pajamas are provided and all belongings except those for the night can be put in a personal locker. Only put necessities in the capsule.
The onsen, or bath, is communal as everywhere in Japan. The strict rules are to wash thoroughly with soap and hot water before entering the hot bath. It is hard to get one’s head around to clean oneself before cleaning, but baths are more to relax and steam. Because rural villages grew up around this custom, and family members all reused the same water, it was crucial to be clean before using the bath.
The capsule is clean and comfortable. The experience may not be a long-term sleep option, but it is definitely worth a try.
There are so many fantastic things to do in Tokyo that travelers can easily spend 2 weeks here. But for the extremely high costs of most things in the city. There are so many fantastic places to visit outside of Tokyo and so little time, er, money, to do everything.