An amazing place, that's impossible to comprehend. We loved it!
16.12.2005 10 °C
We stayed in Tokyo for 4 days, which was enough to see most of what the city has to offer, but in no way have we experienced it. The city is simply huge! No, immense! No... It's a toughie to describe. Imagine the scale of New York, with the spread of London, the colours of Bangkok and site ands smells of the best food you've ever eaten, and you get part of the way to understanding it.
The major areas of the city are:
Asakusa - Our hostel was located in this more traditional part of town. The surroundings - with the exception of a few new office building and the Asahi golden blob - are older, low rise. The market was great, and we wandered round the backstreets, finding great places to eat. The temple is huge, and Dan and I used the fortune teller - it was a bad one... My friends, the Motoyama's took us out to dinner in a Shabu-Shabu restaurant. That was an amazing meal! You cook thin cuts of meet and vegetables in boiling water at the table, finishing off the broth with noodles and rice. You have to try this!
Ueno - Another traditional area, surrounded by shops, and the place we first saw the major Western influences - A Starbucks of all things! We wandered round the park here, getting our first taste of the temples we'd be seeing throughout the trip.
Shinuku - Tottenham court road combined with Soho only a lot, lot busier. I can highly recommend going to the government offices here as you can go up to the 41st floor and see mount Fuji (we had a clear day for this). There's also some great food, and gadget shopping - if you're into that, apparently they have the world's largest camera store there.
Shibuya - This is a slightly more upmarket area, comprised of a main street with designer shops, the Yoyogi-koen temple and gardens. The park area was beautiful, and kind of reminded me of being in Central Park with the trees the trees having buildings as a backdrop.ã€€ We also found some really nice cafe bars here, but a mission to find them and they're a tad pricey even by London standards.
Central Tokyo - Busy shopping district, with Ginza, one of the most expensive pieces of land in the world. And the sony centre - a great place to see the latest, and biggest Sony gadgets. There's also the Imperial Palace which you can walk around the grounds of - going inside is by invitation only sadly. We did take the opportunity to rest our feet in the spectacular surroundings.
Roppongi - The party centre of Tokyo! Roppongi hills is a fairly new place, and is described as leaving you wondering where everyone over 35 went. We didn't see it during the day, but the evening was a blast! Great place to meet people.
I love Japan. It's so far exceeded my expectations! It's absolutely amazing, and so unlike anywhere else I've been to. Wandering the streets, you constantly checking for and dodging cyclists who seem certain that their bike WILL go through that gap - and for the bike riders out there, they're all single gear, old things that must keep people so fit riding. Amazingly dense buildings, with all the cables running above ground as if they either don't care, or have never had time to put them underground - something like 20% are underground. Car parks that are like something out of Bladerunner - you park your car, and then it's whisked away into the sky by a strange swinging contraption.
The strangest thing that got me to start with was vending machines. They're everywhere, selling everything in hot and cold format. And the choice is amazing! Tea, lemon tea, Japanese tea, tea made by Coca-Cola (they have a big presence here), beer, coffee in 30 different ways... You get the idea.
As you can probably tell, I really, really like it here. The people are so friendly, the food is superb... ahh... The food... So much choice, so little money. We've tried just about everything they have going here - except for the blowfish, will try that next time we're here. The sites, the sounds. It's just a mass of energy everywhere. And no-one complains. My only regrets are not being here longer, and missing seeing the train packers in action in Tokyo. I still find that idea hard to comprehend having used London underground and knowing how much people complain.
Next off, we went to Kyoto, but we're still here, and I'll save writing that for another morning when I can't sleep. Till then...