To borrow a few words from Dr. Suess, I still sometimes can’t believe all the places I’ve gone! But even more, I can’t imagine if I hadn’t been there. Another country in my bucket list of places to see before I die has been checked off.
A few weeks ago, I started a new journey to Asia. Beautiful, strange, hot and humid Asia. A 1.5 hour flight brought me from Berlin to Zurich, and then started the 12 hour journey to Tokyo, Japan where 7 days of culinary delights (and in some cases disgusts) would begin.
I’ll start by saying Tokyo is an incredible and beautiful city. it is also a complete assault on your senses with the excess of bright lights, loud noises, overpowering smells, and constant flow of people from one place to another. There is never a dull (or dark) moment anywhere in the city. And sometimes it feels like you could enter one building and get lost in a maze of shouting (but welcoming) sales people and never ending floors of electronics or pop culture or shoes. While we were grateful for an escape from the intense heat in the cool and inviting chaos of department stores, sometimes you forgot daylight was still patiently waiting for you outside.
The “Times Square Effect” is in full swing with bright lights not-so-discreetly hiding around every corner. Tokyo fashion is present everywhere. The “Lolita Dress” girls show off their half-Victorian half-punk style in tight waisted, open busted, full skirted dresses with rainbow platform converse and pigtails to match in the Harajuku hood. Venture over to Akihabara for your fix of electronics, all out gadget geeks, and Anime-esque fashion from the ladies, complete with a matching high-pitched cartoonish girlie voice inviting you to explore what’s inside, sometimes bordering on inappropriate. Even Sega gets in on the action in Electronic-Town begging you never to leave their arcade mayhem, offering games for men in the restrooms granting a certain amount of points depending on the longevity of each pee.
Elsewhere in the city fashion is of high standard, most women touting heels and designer purses, (which I can only hope they bought in an outlet somewhere in the U.S. given the ridiculously high prices of everything in Tokyo.) Men take care when dressing and have rock-star hairstyles to match. And sometimes a good old cowboy style leather chain, which seems to be a hit around town.
We stayed in the Shinjuku part of the city, across from the main train station and the famous, multi-level Tokyu Hands store filled with about 10 levels of any kind of DIY materials a person could dream of and a basement food court typical to Japan with a crazy amount of food options ranging from Gyoza (dumplings), to Sashimi (raw fish), to steamed buns fills with tofu or pork or beef. Keep walking a little further down and you find yourself surrounded by the highest quality pastry and sweet delights from French croissants to Japanese moji, (a type of marshmallow-esque bun filled with cream or jelly of sorts, and much less sweet to the taste.)
We were just steps away from bars, restaurants, the red light district, and countless other descriptive words for a city that’s very difficult to accurately portray with words alone. From our room on the 34th floor we had a view overlooking the blur of lights and activity below which never grew old and took our breath away day and night.
From the busiest intersection in the world in Shibuya, to the incredibly friendly and welcoming nature of every person we met, to the taste explosions that happened routinely anywhere in the city, Tokyo is a place that must be seen and experienced to be believed.