One of my favorite buildings on the way back to our Airbnb- ShIbuya, Tokyo
TOKYO IS A CITY FULL OF OXYMORONS. BUSTLING YET CALM, UNDERGROUND BUT MAINSTREAM, COOL BUT CUTE. IN SUM, TOKYO IS A WEIRD CITY- BUT IN THE MOST LOVABLE WAY.
As I sit and try to sum up a two week trip, which I will try to do in shorter and more frequent posts, I find that Tokyo left the most lasting impression from the whole trip. After my little airport fiasco, which you can read about here, the real trip began. Here are the things I found most interesting about Tokyo:
- The transportation- If you have heard anything about Tokyo, it probably had something to do with the transportation. The high speed bullet trains or Shinkasen was recognized as the first and fastest train which can chop a 5 hour journey in less than half. These bullet trains go from city to city in record speed and are an interesting experience. The leg room on those trains are things you only dream about while you are sardined in your seat on the plane ride over. The transportation in Japan was a little confusing for the first few days- I played around with a few apps and found that Google maps and an app called Japan Travel (geared more for those using a JR Pass- Japan Rail Pass). As usual, Google maps proved to be the most useful. The trains cover the whole city and are really accessible- the bigger stations can get a little confusing as there are many different companies that run through them. We bought a refillable card, which you can do at any station, and would load it every few days. You can use the card to pay for busses and even taxis! Safe to say that the money on the card flies faster than any bullet train. All the train stations are very nice, but the major translations such as Tokyo Station, Shibuya, Shinagawa etc. are INCREDIBLE. These train stations are beautifully decorated, tons of stores, and loads of AMAZING restaurants- you could spend a whole day in Tokyo station! They have all kinds of restaurants- including things you see in America such as Dean & Deluca and Eatly! Taxis are on the more expensive side- and also on the other side of the street! Many taxi drivers wear white driving gloves and usually are in a suit or some formal wear. The taxis are older looking cars, but pristine on the outside and inside. Drivers even have a button that pops the door open- so you never have to open the door yourself.
2. The Kawaii- Japan is the land of “kawaii” which means cute. The aesthetics in Japan are incredible- nothing is half-assed so to speak. You especially see this in the food sector, where the presentation is incredibly creative and just plain fun! You can especially see this in certain areas such as Harajuku, Shibuya, and Akihabara. It felt that there was no middle ground in Japan- things were either very simple or outrageous and colorful. My two favorite areas in Tokyo were Ginza and Shibuya. Shibuya has such a cool street-style feel- tons of young people crowding around, it was definetly fun to see! Ginza is essentially the Beverly Hills of Tokyo with many upscale restaurants and shops.
3. The manners- Japanese manners are similar to many other Asian countries, but on a different level. It is considered rude to speak on the train, especially on the phone. People wait in orderly lines on the side of each train door entrance and wait until everyone gets off the train to enter. There is no pushing or shoving, people wait, calmly. It’s rude to point and don’t EVER place your chopsticks in a standing position- which is symbolic of funeral rituals. The bus drivers say “arigato gozimas” (thank you very much) to EACH person who gets off the bus. I rarely heard anyone say “Konichiwa” all I heard everyplace we went was arigato or ariosto gozimas. Japan is a masked city- to the level that it almost becomes weird if you DON’T see someone wearing a surgical mask. Wearing a mask is said to be done out of consideration for others- as to not get others sick.
4. The peacefulness- When I first thought of Tokyo, I expected it to be colorful, fast, and crowded- I definitely was not disappointed. What I did not expect was to find so many areas within the city that felt so peaceful. There are some beautiful parks in Tokyo, and although we missed cherry blossom season by a few days- these parks were not any less beautiful. Sometimes we would turn onto a residential street that would be such a pleasure to walk through- quiet with beautiful trees and of course SUPER CLEAN.
Stay tuned for more stories!
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