In my last blog post, I talked about why Tokyo didn’t blow me away – and there were a multitude of reason’s why the Japanese capital failed to meet expectations. But it’s easy to read those type of blog posts and deduce that I didn’t enjoy the place I’m writing about.
In this instance, it isn’t true. I really enjoyed my time in Tokyo and I would 100% go back at some point in the future (in fact I’d like to see more of the country as well) because, while it had its shortcomings, Tokyo has plenty going on. Here are 11 things I adored about the world’s biggest city.
1. Robot Restaurant
Wow – what can I say about this place? Robot Restaurant is just straight-up fucking mental. It is a place that will leave your brain feeling as though it’s been ripped out and kicked around the room. You’ll have had the best time without even knowing why.
There’s lights, there are dancers and there are so many robots – from spinning drum floats to giant lobsters. The choreography, the loud music and the amazing actors all help to create one of the most unique entertainment offerings not just in Tokyo or Japan, but on the planet. And for those of you wondering, it’s isn’t a restaurant in the usual sense, but more of a live show where you can buy snacks, drinks and bento boxes to consume while you watch.
2. Its size
Tokyo is HUGE. It’s the largest city in the world by population, and its metropolitan area is the second biggest behind only New York City. I’m a big fan of big cities, and what I especially loved about Tokyo is simply how much there is to explore. The city’s sprawl goes on and on, and due to it being a completely different culture than at home it’s feels never-ending. If you’re a city kid like me, Tokyo will be right up your street.
It seems to make no sense. Tokyo has more people than any other city in the world, yet it’s probably the cleanest place I have ever visited. The streets are immaculate, but waste disposal bins are few and far between. I’m not sure how they do it, but the Japanese people should be proud that their capital is so presentable.
4. Non-stop nature
I’ve always wanted to live in a “City that Never Sleeps.” I want the feeling of being able to go out at any time of the day or night and be able to visit shops, or go somewhere to get a sit-down meal – not that I’ve every really had a hankering for three courses at four in the morning, but I just like the idea of having that option.
5. Shibuya Crossing
This was probably the one thing I HAD to do in Tokyo. Shibuya Crossing is to Tokyo is what Times Square is to New York, or Piccadilly Circus is to London. It’s iconic, and I wanted to be a part of the “Shibuya Scramble” – where the red man turns to green and the mass migration of people from one side of the intersection to another. It was quite the experience, and I enjoyed it that much that I had to go back to I could see it both in the day and at night. Suffice to say I have a lot of images and videos from my two trips to Shibuya.
6. Distinct culture and personality
What’s great about Japan is how different it is culturally to other countries. If you do research before you go to the Land of the Rising Sun, you’ll have probably read about the respectful and reserved nature of the Japanese, as well as the quirks of visiting the country such as heated toilet seats and vending machines.
Helped by being an island nation, Japan’s distinct and unique cultural identity is one of the best things about visiting, and while it is a mix of weird and wonderful, it’s great to see how the people act and how they do things there.
7. Japanese script
Hiragana, katakana and kanji – the three scripts that form the bedrock of the Japanese language. Of course, you’ll become well acquainted with them and their symbols on a trip to Japan as, aside from brand names and poor translations into English, everything is written in the national language. While I can’t read Japanese (despite attempting to learn during the application process for the JET Programme) I adored seeing it everywhere I went. It just made everything stand out, and Japanese symbols look a lot cooler than our Roman alphabet.
8. Photo opportunities
Tokyo is one of those places where you only need to bring a camera, because the photos will take themselves. There was so much to snap as well, from traditional temples and beautiful gardens to impressive architecture and hanging signs. Anyone who enjoys photography should definitely add Tokyo to their list.
9. Sporting pedigree
Anyone who has been following this blog for any length of time will know how much of a massive sports fan I am, and over the next couple of years Tokyo will be the unofficial sporting capital of the world. In September the Rugby World Cup comes to Japan and next year they’ll be hosting the 2020 Olympic Games. It was great walking around seeing adverts for both events, and it was also nice to come across adverts for FC Tokyo, the city’s oldest football club.
10. The arcades
An afternoon in Akihabara went down an absolute treat as I explored their vast arcade offering. These institutions of gaming had everything from floors filled with vending machines to many of the classic arcade game machines. I had a go on Street Fighter, an old favourite of mine, I played some football game which was entirely in Japanese so I had to figure it out as I went along, and I also observed the locals who, judging by their skill levels, frequent these places often.
When I became enamoured with Japan after applying for the JET Programme, I watched hours and hours of YouTube videos about the country. One thing I knew, and was confirmed by some of those videos, was that they are massive on seafood. Sushi is one of the country’s greatest exports, yet I’m not a fan of fish.
You’d think this would narrow my culinary options, but something I’d come across on those videos was ramen – big bowls of noodle and broth with various toppings including meat, vegetables and fish. This looked right up my street, and one afternoon I stopped by an empty ramen restaurant and ordered mine with pork and egg. It was absolutely delicious, and although I only had one bowl, I would definitely have it again.