The Best of Tokyo
How do you describe Tokyo to someone who has never been there? Well you don’t. CNN on their article titled 50 reasons Tokyo is the world’s greatest city could have not described it better.
With approximately 12.5 million people who reside within Tokyo’s 2,100 sq. km, this translates to mass of people and crowded subways, sidewalks, shopping centers etc. It’s one of the cleanest cities and known as one of the safest cities in the world. No matter how lost I was and the language barrier, people went there way to help me.
Tokyo is made of small cities and towns and each has its own unique history, flavor and atmosphere. There are narrow residential streets, vending machines at train stations, side walks, shops, fruit stands, and stores. There’s the neighborhood tofu factory, the lunchbox stand, the grocery shop, and the tiny police station, where the cops know the residents by name and patrol the area by bicycle. Walk in the old downtown neighborhoods of Asakusa or Yanaka and you’re worlds apart from the trendy quarters of Harajuku or the high-rises of Shinjuku.
Transportation in Tokyo
This city is known to have the world’s most sophisticated railways. It doesn’t matter where you stay, there is always a train station close by. Tip is to buy either a day pass for your transportation needs or a 5 days pass depending on what you need. And don’t forget to download the Tokyo Railway app – this app will take you to anywhere you want to go.
Cities to visit
With over 23 cities to see, I had a chance to visit each of them. Below were my favorites.
Ginza – Tokyo’s most famous upscale shopping, dinning and entertainment district featuring every department store you can think of (Chanel, Gucci) boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and cafes. And most shops are open every day of the week. A visit is most pleasant on weekend afternoons when the central Chuo Dori street is closed to automobile traffic and become a large pedestrian zone. The road closure takes place from 12:00 to 17:00 (until 18:00 from April through September).
And how do you get there? The most convenient stations for accessing the Ginza district are Ginza Station on the Hibiya, Marunouchi and Ginza Subway Lines and Yurakucho Station on the JR Yamanote Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line and Yurakucho Subway Line. Shop away at Ginza. Chuo Dori street on a weekend afternoon Shinjuku – I always recommend to avoid the busy town and visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (a beautiful and peaceful park in the middle of the city). Don’t forget Shinjuku station is the world’s busiest railway station and surrounded by department stores, malls and electronic stores.
Shinjuku is also one of Tokyo’s major stops for long-distance highway buses and city buses so you have no shortage of getting there. Kabukicho – Japan’s largest and wildest red light district. Also, you can enjoy observation deck at the twin towers of the metropolitan government office.
For lunch, spend a couple of hours at Golden Gai. Golden Gai is a small, atmospheric nightlife district in Kabukicho packed with over 200 small bars and eateries. Most places are very small, seating only a few customers, and typically cater to a few regular customers. A few of the bars openly welcome foreign guests with signs and menus set outside listing prices in English.
Shibuya – My heaven for Anime and Manga. You know they say it is a shame to come to Tokyo and not take a walk across the famous intersection outside Shibuya Station. On sunny afternoons or clear evenings, the surrounding area is packed with shoppers, students, young couples and commuters. When the lights turn red at this busy junction, they all turn red at the same time in every direction. Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides, like marbles spilling out of a box. You can observe this moment of organized chaos from the second-story window of the Starbucks in the Tsutaya building on the crossing’s north side. One of the best things in Tokyo in my opinion. And how do you get there, take the JR Yamanote line to Shibuya station, Hachiko exit.
This city if also known to be the center for youth fashion and culture and its streets are the birthplace to many of Japan’s fashion and entertainment trends. Over a dozen major department store branches can be found around the area catering to all types of shoppers.
Harajuku – The crowd, the crowd, the crowd. Sunday is the best time to visit but be prepared for the crowds. When Tita and I arrived at this place, my first thought was, how are we going to get to the other side of this place? Well just so you know, Harajuku is a significant fashion and shopping district in Tokyo which is famous for its street fashion and fashion shops in Takeshita Dori and Omotesando (streets). We saw so much of many young Japanese dress in costumes to look like their favorite Japanese rock stars or anime characters. And did I forget that it is also famous for Tokyo’s most popular shine, Meiji Jingu Shrine one of the most significant parks in Tokyo, famous Yoyogi Park.
So what else can you do here besides the shops and Shrine, walk along the Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) which is a narrow, roughly 400 meter long street lined by shops, boutiques, cafes and fast food outlets targeting young youths and tourist. You will Daiso Harajuku ( 100 Yen Shop), where Tita and I bought green tea, gifts and also face masks for 100 yen. And when you need souvenirs, visit Oriental Baazar and get yourself kimonos, lamps, dolls, socks etc. Don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of the building. And for those who love anything kiddy, pop into Kiddy Land and get yourself fantastic selection of toys for your kids.
To get there, Harajuku Station – a station on the JR Yamanote Line. It is also a short walk from Meijijingu-mae Station. Either way, spend your Sunday here for all things shopping, culture, food and people watching. Takeshita Dori view from up the street A variety of fashion styles on display at Harajuku on a Sunday.
If you have more days, don’t forget to visit Akihabara, Asakusa, Ikebukuoro, Yoyogi and Roppongi Crossing- Roppongi has been a popular nightlife district among foreigners. It offers many restaurants, bars and clubs, which are easily accessible for foreigners or even cater specifically to the expat community. And true to their word, I spent an evening with a couple of british guys enjoying chips and fish and once we were done, we had a couple of hours to see the famous Roppongi Crossing.
Temples & Shrines to visit in Tokyo
There are so many temples in Tokyo that I did not have time to visit all of them. With little time – I got a chance to visit these temples:
Meiji Shrine – What a beauty to behold and so massive. It also had a beautiful lilly garden and two museums.
Sensoji Temple – Beautiful shrine with a fun shopping street is how I can describe it. And as with most shrines, this one is very pretty and is the center of a complex like structure with other smaller shrines surrounding it.
And finally, my best of Tokyo. They say what makes a city of what you get to do. Tita and I enjoyed street Octopus in the streets of Hirajuku. And the picture perfect sushi rolls after waking up at 4.00 am to see the fish market. They say Sushi is better in Tokyo and they were right.
And don’t forget the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Dome in Chiyoda, the electronic stores that are like theme parks in Akihabara, Tsikiji- shijo market for some memorable sushi and offcourse, use the trains to get anywhere. Most importantly, don’t forget to SHOP Until You Drop Dead!