Tokyo, Japan has recently been voted as one of the top ten most welcoming cities in the world. Everything in its place for its purpose – you can’t stop marvelling at Tokyo’s architecture, history, heritage, culture, systems and infrastructure. We did a three day stopover here and while we clocked up over 20,000 steps each day, we barely scratched the surface of Tokyo.
It took us nearly 70 minutes by taxi to get from Narita airport to the hotel (we had just missed our pre-booked shuttle). It was only three in the afternoon in early September so armed with a few instructions from the concierge and a small map in English we set out for our adventure in this great metropolitan city. My daughter and son who had spent over a week in Tokyo on school trips gave us plenty of tips and basic Japanese language lessons to help us out. Finding our way to the nearest train station during daylight was easy enough. We followed my son’s recommendation and ordered a meal at one of the ramen kiosks. You order and pay outside at the vending machine and your meal is ready when you step inside. These are brilliant as they are frequented by locals and you get good tasty food (a whole meal) for about $6 – $7. There is a real Zen atmosphere inside. Green tea and miso are complementary and so is a refreshing face cloth.
Next mission which we chose to accept was to find trains that would take us to Shibuya crossing – A famous landmark which is the busiest intersection in the world and has become synonymous with Tokyo. A Good Samaritan Japanese lady helped us out and there was a feeling of so far so good! We managed to see the statue of Hachiko, a dog that waited for his master’s return for over 9 years ( the dog not knowing his master had passed away) appearing precisely when the train was due at the station. Hachiko now is a symbol of loyalty and fidelity.
After experiencing Shibuya crossing at peak hour, we walked to Harajuku Street. We were a tad early for people watching but found the street very interesting particularly when viewed as a place to escape the mundane and challenge the norm.
We didn’t realise it at that time, but getting back to the hotel at 8.30pm was the most challenging mission. It was dark and although we got off at our stop, we forgot to note down which exit. We started walking towards what we thought was our hotel walkway, it turned out it took us further away from our hotel. To add fuel to fire, all the bridges, walkways connecting buildings, everything looked the same under the neon lights. We had not had the name of the hotel written down in Japanese and couldn’t find too many that spoke English at that hour to help us. It was a matter of trial and error and we got back to the hotel close to midnight!!
We pre-booked our city tour so it was mostly smooth sailing. The highlights have to be the Imperial Palace, Sensoji temple and the Nakamise shopping street. We opted to make our own way back to the hotel as we had a dinner reservation at one of the Michelin star restaurants. Tokyo has 230 Michelin star restaurants – more than any other city in the world. Luckily we allowed two hours to get there and we made it in good time with no dramas (with past experience we had the hotel concierge write down the name and address in Japanese)!! The food and presentation was simply outstanding and it was humbling to see the chef so down to earth.
We planned to take it easy and explore the areas close to the hotel. Our flight wasn’t till late this evening so we witnessed a talent show in the mall and walked around the shops. I found the vertical gardens, the skyscraper walkways, the people, and the Japanese way all very engaging. I guess I have to plan another trip to go to Mt Fuji, Ginzu and Akihabara. Sayonara until then…