Tokyo Highlights

Sunday, 18 October 2015

You've heard this before but Tokyo truly is a fascinating place.  It is the most populous city in the world and yet so well-synchronised and calming. It also felt surprisingly familiar - a very Asian sense of respectfulness combined with a very British-like sense of order. In fact, they put the British to shame here with their penchant for perfect queues, with positions precisely mapped out outside every train and subway door. I've battled rush hours in Mumbai and London, and both places have a lot to learn from the Japanese. Tokyo is uber quirky, quiet yet in-your-face at times, and so very interesting!

We stayed at AirBnB studio apartment in Shibuya which was a great location to start our Tokyo exploration. I remember waiting at one of the travel offices at Shibuya station on our first day and observing how everything was so well organised and every interaction so perfectly polite and serious. But on these very desks, there were soft toys of all kinds (Japanese cartoons, I think) clamouring for attention. Sort of yin and yang, but both with equally positive connotations.

Tokyo is mostly very very busy. For example, Shinjuku station was mind boggling with its people and a zillion exits and I felt dizzy despite my aforementioned experience of Mumbai and London rush hours. And we didn't event step out of the station complex! The Shibuya Scramble is also an experience (we did it nearly every day we were there). However, neither of these experiences were loud or offensive in anyway - just staggering in terms their sheer volume and fascinating to watch. Yet on our way to Asakusa (to visit the Sensoji temple), we serendipitously stopped by the area near Asakusabashi, an area that felt like a small Japanese town and completely distant from the hub!

Over the last several decades, the Japanese have adopted the best of what the rest of the world was developing and bettered it. So you have the best-in-class transportation, engineering automation and electronics on offer here. In doing so, it has not discarded tradition. The Sensoji Temple at Asakusa was heaving with worshippers in traditional kimonos, praying and offering incense.

There are some ancient Japanese traditions that are now more popular that ever and I'm talking about Kakigori (shaved ice) which dates back to the 11th century. We walked a long way to find kakigori (on a hot Autumn's day) in Asakusabashi but when we did find it, we were impressed by its perfection. We've had many more kakigoris since but none of them rivalled that first experience.

Food has been a key part of our Tokyo ( and Japan experience) and I am hoping to write more about this separately. I've also posted a lot of foodie photos on my Instagram page- ramen bars, izakayas, teppanyaki places, fish bars and kaiseki restaurants. All I can say is that food in Tokyo is incredible, exciting and great value- don't believe the myth about Japan being expensive! We've had some amazing meals here for not a lot at all.

Other incredible experiences included taking in a Kabuki performance at the world famous Kabuki Za in Ginza where despite my many Japanese lessons, I struggled to follow very much at all! Ed's colleague Noriko was talking to us over a meal about Kabuki and how it is considered a bit elitist due to the inaccesible price of tickets and how there are moves to try and change this a little. We only bought a one session ticket queuing up that morning which was cheap but the full performance can be very expensive. We stayed in a fab AirBnB Apartment next to the Kabuki Za which was also a great location for our last couple of days in Tokyo.

We happened to be in Tokyo around Fashion's Night Out which was a great time to be exploring Harajuku and Omotesando areas. Many fab shops had champagne and canap├ęs on offer which made our experience even more pleasant. My favourite shopping haunt was RagTag, a fabulous pre-loved store (set of stores, actually) that stocked Yohji, Sacai, Comme De Garcon and plenty of other Japanese designers for a fraction of European  prices.

Ed's favourite and my second favourite place was Akihabara, the electronics district. I've used this word far too many times now but it was again, fascinating! Many multi-storey buildings selling electronics and electrical goods of every imaginable kind and at cheaper than UK prices! My favourite item on sale was the Washlet and if we weren't feeling so broke from all our travels, I'd like to have taken one home!

Finally, there's Roppongi Hills district which is a popular hangout place for the young, fashionable and the expats. We went up to the Mori Tower for views of Tokyo by night and it looks a wee bit like Paris due to the lit up Tokyo Tower.

I know I said "finally" but I've only shared a small fraction of my Tokyo experience so far. There is so much more to say and share about this wonderful place and keep an eye on my Instagram page for more pictures. I simply cannot wait to go back!

Hope you are all having a lovely Sunday! Ann x

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  1. Lovely post, it makes me want to go back and spend more time there!

    Lisa | Not Quite Enough


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