The Land of the Rising Sun
Wow. Where to begin? I’ve already spent fifteen minutes trying to write this sentence. The thing is, there is no way to describe Tokyo. Fun? Respectful? Crazy? Weird? Amazing? Absolutely yes to all of these and a million more adjectives. People say NYC is the city that never sleeps? The Japanese are laughing at that! Southern hospitality? They put it to shame!
Okay, so now for the details. I will probably jump around here since I was lazy and not journaling to keep track of the day-to-day. When I got to Tokyo, it was perfect weather, and I hopped off the subway to an amazing view on the water.
The subway system is pretty crazy in a good and bad way. The best part is that the trains touch every inch of the city, and they come every few minutes – exactly on time of course. As for the bad, the whole system is incredibly complex! There are a million lines going in every direction. It also closes at midnight so if you’re out for dinner and drinks and miss the last train, you are stuck until the first train at 5:00am! The city is way too big to walk and taxis are insanely expensive. Once you figure it out though, it’s great.
This time limit was especially restrictive because I stayed most of the time in Asakusa, just outside the main areas, so I needed the subway to get most places. I moved around here and there to different hostels throughout the city, but it was hard to stay right in the action since it’s very expensive. The hostels are very unique though. They are capsules instead of dorm beds so basically, you have your own little room to yourself!
That first night I went and saw one of my best buds, Nico, who has lived in Tokyo for over a year. You can’t have your first night in Tokyo without a bottle of local saké, right?
I spent the first week mostly checking out the tourist attractions: castles, shrines, parks, museums, and the likes. The greens in Japan pop like nowhere I’ve ever seen, and all the parks and shrines were absolutely beautiful. I also really enjoyed the innovation museum where I got to check out some of the cool advances in artificial intelligence they are working on there.
If I had to pick three, I’d say my favorite attractions were the Tokyo Skytree, Kodokan Judo Institute, and Tsukiji Fish Market. Skytree is the tallest tower in the world and had breathtaking views! And since I love mixed martial arts, I really enjoyed watching a judo tournament with some of the best judokas in the world.
The Fish Market was very interesting. When you hear “market” you have a certain idea of what that means in your head. But this was no market. This was a full hectic working day, and it’s funny they even let tourists in there! You walk into this warehouse-like area wondering if you are in the right place, and there are “watch out for forklifts” signs everywhere. This would not fly in America. But, you can basically buy fish right out of the ocean! When I finally found the little shop areas where they were cooking fish, I sat down and had the best yellowtail of my life.
Now if you want to see the weird side of Japan, you have to go to Akihabara, the holy grail of anime. Never heard of anime? Me neither until I got to Tokyo, but it’s basically cartoons for adults. Akihabara is a vibrant, colorful area where it’s normal to walk around in costumes resembling video game characters, and maids? Yes, you heard that right – maids. For some reason, scantily clad maids are very popular in Japan. They even have these places called “maid cafes.” Being curious, we of course had to see what all the rave was about. We paid our $5.00 to get in, and giggly girls dressed as maids took our hands and walked us into the cafe. Now I know what you may be thinking, and we weren’t sure at the time either… But get your head out of the gutter! Maid cafes are even stranger because even though they are filled with mostly men, there isn’t really anything sexual about them. The “maids” are basically just waitresses that sit and talk with the tables and make drinks in front of you. Then they occasionally all sing and jump around and dance and make the room clap along. It was definitely one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.
Alright now… fine! I’ll talk about the nightlife since you keep asking. Tokyo nightlife is not something that can be described in words. Is it acceptable to go right from work, get absolutely hammered, pass out on the sidewalk, wake up, go back to work, shower and change into a new suit, and keep working? Absolutely. Do the girls set records for the tallest heels and tightest skirts? It sure seems so.
The sun rises at 4:00am which is crazy in and of itself. When you walk out of bars and clubs, which don’t close until 6:00am or so, you will be stepping over drunk businessmen left and right in broad daylight. It’s so accepted, and people are so nice here that it’s apparently safe to do so! You have to see it to believe it. I once saw a police officer go up to a drunk guy in a suit who was passed out on the street, put a blanket over him, and walk away…
Anyway, the popular spots to go out are Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Roppongi. Each area is huge and has every type of person. But generally, Shibuya seemed to have a younger crowd (~20-35), Shinkuku had a small bar scene as well as the red-light district, and Roppongi seemed to have an older crowd (~25-45).
You may have heard of Shibuya from the famous Shibuya Crossing, known as the busiest intersection in the world with people crossing the street in every direction. Shinjuku has this really cool area called Golden Gai. I went on a few dates and one of the girls took me there. It’s a bunch of lit up alleyways with tiny bars, and I mean tiny! Most of the bars have three to ten bar stools and no room to squeeze behind them. So if you’re in the seat farthest from the door, everyone has to get up and walk out of the bar so you can get through. Ha!
And of course, Tokyo nightlife is not complete without karaoke! If you’re not up for a night of clubbing after the bars, you will see everyone lining up at the hundreds of karaoke bars throughout the city. Typically, you go in with a group, and they give you your own room which comes with unlimited alcohol. Dangerous… But a lot of fun! The night basically ends with everyone screaming into the microphones and falling asleep on the couches. Successful night.
I wish I had more pictures, but you tend to forget…
Whew… And that’s Tokyo everyone. It’s a city you have to visit and will never forget.
Want to know more? Ask me anything in the comments below!