Tokyo is a lively and slightly surreal place, full of energy but also beautifully clean and efficient.
Our introduction was in the small hours of a humid overcast morning after the 12 hour flight from London. A throng of weary-eyed all-night clubbers joined our subway train at Roppongi station, most still immaculately presented even as they promptly fell asleep in their seats. We knew we would feel the same later in the day but for the moment the plan was to find somewhere for (yet another) breakfast so we could start our sightseeing. The 24 hour cafe we chose seemed lightly patronised at first but we were treated to a steady stream of well dressed people, who seemed more likely up all-nighters than early birds, ordering breakfast before heading down to the basement smoking area. 1
After checking out the impressive sky scrapers near our hotel in Shinjuku we jumped back on the metro to the Imperial Palace gardens to take advantage of the pleasant weather as the forecast for most of the weekend was a bit rainy. Still trying to get our bearings we wandered to the front of the Palace and had a close up view of the Emperor and Empress pass by in a motorcade—sadly there was too little warning for me retrieve my camera from my bag!
The forecast rain appeared on our second morning but that did not seem to deter the hundreds queuing for brunch at the Hawaiian themed Eggs & Things in Harajuku. This area is also famed for Takeshita Dori, a narrow shopping street that is the epicentre of teenage fashion, and from there we walked to the bright lights (and noisy big screens) of more mainstream Shibuya. The Tokyo Hands department store provided another cultural experience—from the 80s cassette deck boom boxes in the basement to the funky and colourful household gadgets you never realised you needed and multiple floors dedicated to arts & craft supplies—London’s branches of Japanese stalwart Muji now seem pitiful in comparison! Later, in posh Ginza, we came across a department store with a shrine, rest area and golf school on its roof—even to window shop in Tokyo is a voyage of discovery.
Based on our few days there, Tokyo richly deserves its reputation as a world city. I could, and hopefully will, write more but for now the train approaches our destination and it is time to start another adventure in pointing and sign language.
- Tokyo bans smoking on the streets which is awesome but allows it in restaurants which seems odd.