You finally made it to Tokyo. Where do you possibly start?
The Japanese capitol is swimming with a whopping 38 million people. You’re likely overwhelmed and tired. So tired. The jetlag is a painstaking reality after your 12 hour (maybe longer) haul.
Depending on the time of day you arrive – you might want to take a power nap. I did and it saved me. After a quick disco nap – I could face the glorious mania that I came to see.
No other place in Tokyo highlights the sheer madness of the city better than Shibuya Crossing. Some accurately refer to it as the Shibuya Scramble. People literally seap to the streets from every direction. Picture Times Square on crack. Each street light has an estimated “2500 people crossing” at any given time.
Shibuya has lots of night life: restaurants, clubs and izakaya (informal Japanese bars).
Kobe Beef (a quick lesson).
We had our first dinner in Shibuya. Of course, we went straight for the mouth watering Kobe beef. Not to be missed. The infamous Wagyu (meaning: Japanese Cattle) is good but Kobe (a strain of Wagyu) is a whole other off-the-chain level of goodness.
To be labelled Kobe, cattle must meet the following criteria:
- Bullock (steer) or virgin cow.
- Tajima-Gyu born within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Fed on a farm within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Meat processed within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Marbling rating (BMS) of 6 or higher on a 12 point scale.
- Meat quality rating of 4 or higher on a 5 point scale.
- An overall weight not exceeding 470 kg.
Source my: Steak University
Just eat it. Once it melts in your mouth, you’ll forget the price tag.
You have to hit the fish market when in Tokyo. If you’re a sushi aficionado – it will blow your mind. If you’re not a sushi lover – then you might be in the wrong city.
To be clear – Tsukiji Market no longer holds the famous tuna auction. Tsukiji is a sprawling outdoor street market. The tuna auction has moved to the brand new Toyosu Market (indoor). If you want to watch the tuna auction – you must apply to the online lottery.
Time your visit so you can have lunch at Tsukiji. It’s teeming with all types of traditional Japanese food but it’s best known for sushi.
Lots of Temples
Nestled amid sakura (cherry blossom) trees in the heart of Tokyo is where you’ll find this little gem.
The temple is the burial ground for six Tokugawa (Edo) shoguns. The shoguns ruled through the Edo period (1603 to 1867), the final era of traditional Japanese government, culture and society. The long reigning shoguns (supreme military leaders) ruled for over 250 years.
Next to the Temple is a garden rowed with small stone statues called Jizos. The sweet faced Jizo statues wear little red knit hats and sometimes bibs. They are beautiful – some are adorned with beads and others have trinkets and flowers next to them. Sadly, the Jizo represent miscarried, still born, or children who died young. In general, the Jizo is said to protect over all lost souls.
The Daibonshu Bell
Cast in 1673, it weighs 15 tonnes and tolls 6 times twice a day.
The Zojoji Temple is also beside the Tokyo Tower.
Not far from Zojoji is Seisho-ji Temple in the heart of Tokyo cloaked by skyscapers. This is a peaceful place of medidation and seems to be off the tourist radar.
A short walk from the Tokyo Tower and the downtown temples will put you in Roppongi Hills. A trendy urbanization with apartments, cafes, restaurants and shops. Also, a great place to view the sakura blossoms in April.
Takeshita Street is an pedestrian shopping street in the Harajuko District of Tokyo. It’s known for it’s colourful whimsical shops – popular with teens. It’s also a haven for sweet lovers. Candy shop after candy shop adorn this zany strip.
Near Shibuya Crossing is Yogogi Park. A sprawling park with loads of green space and lots of people. Also home to the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife.
Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple dating back to the 7th Century. It was heaving with people so I took a pic from across the street.
Akihabara – “Electric Town”
This is a shopping street with every electric gadget you can dream up. Sorry, no pics.
Where to Stay
We stayed in Tokyo Bay which was perfect. It’s a little removed from the madness of say Shibuya and other downtown areas. Yet it’s walking distance to Tokyo Tower, Zojoji Temple, and Tsukiji Market.
- There is very little English spoken. If taking a taxi, have the name of your destination on paper and present it to the driver. Note: d/t the upcoming 2020 Olympics – English street signs are being put up.
- The taxis are clean, drivers are well dressed and typically wear white gloves. Taxis are reasonable if travelling en masse, as we do.
- The subway system is meant to be really efficient and reasonable. But see above: 38 million people in the city. I didn’t go anywhere near the subway.
- Tokyo is clean. I found myself carrying around my rubbish (sometimes for blocks) before finding a bin. A bit inconvenient but it works. The streets are spotless.
- Traffic is not that bad. Most people don’t seem to own cars and travel by subway. You can actually move around the city quite efficiently in a taxi.
- You must have an International Drivers License to rent a car. Not something you likely want to do in Tokyo, but we ran into problems later in the trip.
- The currency is Japanese Yen. Quite a few places don’t take credit cards, and International ATMS are found in all 7/11 stores. Weird, I know.
- Despite the tens of million of people – your personal space is respected. Nobody pushes or crowds and somehow pedestrian traffic flows without mayhem.
It’s important to know a few words in the language of the country you’re visiting. Simple manners go a long way – wherever you are.
A few simple words that will win a smile every time:
- Hello – Konnichiwa
- Good bye – Sayounara
- Thank you – Arigatou
- Please – Kudasai
- Good morning – Ohayo
- Good night – Oyasumi
- Excuse me – Sumimasen
I hope you liked this post.
Pleaes stay tuned for….
- Confessions of a Geisha Stalker
- How to Eat like an Okinawan
Still here? Drop me a note. Or read more below. x