Tokyo: expansive, bustling, organized, efficient, clean, convenient … I could go on. What an impressive city!
With so many different neighborhoods each with their own character and things to do, I feel like we needed at least two weeks to really see what Tokyo is all about. Kinda like when people tell me they’ve visited LA but only hung out in one or two neighborhoods – it’s simply not enough.
We had three days to work with so we spent them taking on some of the busiest train stations in the world, enjoying some sun at the Imperial Palace Park, and shopping at one of the newest malls in town filled with awesome Japanese brands and products.
At night, between dinner and drinks, we people-watched in Shibuya. The sushi was as amazing as expected but surprisingly harder to find than Italian and hamburger joints. I’m sure it was just our location but the Japanese restaurants we did see seemed to be mostly grilled meats and veggies, not the sushi and ramen we were so desperately craving. I guess that the Hida Beef in Takayama had satisfied that end of the protein spectrum! I think the reason we were so surprised at the quantity of western dining options is because when living and traveling in South East Asia it’s easy to forget just how western Japan is by comparison. Not that I’m complaining – next to our hotel was a Tribeca, NY sister restaurant called Bubby’s and OMG did I relish a proper American pancake for breakfast!!! Not one place we’ve tried in KL has come close.
A typhoon during our last full day and night messed with our plans to check out the architecture in Omotesando and visit a few temples. So, back indoors we went, to Tokyu Hands, a long-standing DIY store that we had heard a lot about. Though small in square footage, it has everything you could need from laundry detergent to leather hides and supplies for making purses. It was a plentiful but well curated one-stop-shop dream for someone who’s been without a Target and Michael’s Craft Store for some time (don’t ever take those two for granted, US readers).
Abundance of stuff aside, the other things we experienced were very neat. Heated toilet seats in nearly every public and private restroom (don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it), easy traveling with Japan Rail Pass, and generally very gracious and pleasant shop keepers, bartenders, and restaurant servers, despite communicating in sign language half the time. Even the taxis were great. Drivers wore ties and white gloves, and their car doors…they’re automatic! So don’t you dare try to open or close them yourself – it’s taken care of for you.
With a service-minded culture, delicious food, and incredibly clean and organized streets and transit, Joe and I left feeling like we had to add Tokyo to our “cities to live in” list. Or at the very least return to spend some quality time immersing ourselves. We’ll be back, Japan!