(Firstly: I can’t believe I’ve lived away from Ontario for 60 days, now.)
What can I say about this amazing city called Tokyo in Japan?
That it feels like I’m living in an anime, like I’m walking through a video game?
That the blend of old (so, so old) and new is a powerful reminder that growth and success doesn’t mean having to completely cut out the past?
That the people are so beyond polite, kind, helpful, respectful, and neat that even Canada could learn a thing or two (or seven, or twelve)?
That it’s the safest I’ve ever felt in another city, as a tourist or resident (even more so than Oakville, Ontario)?
That it’s so organized that it’s practically robotic, and adhering to this structure becomes almost innate as soon as you start walking the streets?
That it’s the cleanest city I have ever seen, despite not having any garbages (anywhere – unless I can’t see them) and I haven’t seen a single homeless person (and have read that the government is assisting extensively to lift people out of homelessness — in 2016, out of a population of 12 million, there were just over 750 homeless people counted)?
Tokyo is truly the wildest place I have ever been. I expected culture shock and I expected being overwhelmed by the language barrier but it’s nothing like that. This place is amazing and it’s hard to not fall right into place with the residents here because it’s not only expected that tourists be respectful of Japanese customs, but it’s also structured in such a way that it’s hard to do the opposite.
Here are some interesting things I’ve noted over the last few days:
– Money isn’t placed in the hands of a seller – that’s bad luck – but in a tray (credit cards too)
– Metro lines have letter names (along with Japanese names) and each station has a number, making it impossible to get lost or go the wrong way when using the metro
– Metro cars are so spotless that I would eat off the floor and not be concerned — but eating, drinking, or talking on your cellphone while on the metro is frowned upon
– Metro stations play a musical number moments before the train doors close
– Everywhere you walk – outside or inside – there are dividers and arrows on the floor that indicate which side you should walk on for what direction you are going
– People don’t rush here; I have seen maybe two people running, and as for the metro during rush hour, people stand in a line and wait their turn to get in the car and don’t crowd to push themselves on
– Metros are so safe and trusted that I witnessed 6/7 year olds riding by themselves, and people put their purses or bags on racks above the seats if they don’t feel like holding them or are standing and want the relief
– Most signage is in Japanese and English so it’s not hard to read (and worse comes to worse, use the Google Translate app to translate anything you may not understand)
– Despite having about 12 million residents, I haven’t seen too many people other than the downtown Shibuya neighbourhood, and the traffic is pretty standard (I would say it’s better than Toronto) — speaking of traffic, I’ve heard one car honk, total
– As a vegetarian, eating here was a big concern for me. I have found that owners are very receptive to my needs and I have also found many restaurants that state they’re vegetarian as well as numerous “North American” food options if I need something that’s tried, tested and true (and pizza – an abundance of pizza places!)
Sunshine City – This is a really lovely indoor mall with a just-as-lovely eatery area. After a 12 hour flight and maximum 3 hours of sleep on the plane, I decided to start my adventure with the Pokemon Center which was 10 year old Claudia’s burst-into-tears-heaven.
Akihabara – My evening was spent in this “geek district” of Japan. It was filled with video games, nerdy stores, lots of bright lights and big screens, and about a thousand claw games with prizes varying by the price of the game! The best part, in my opinion, were the used video game stores (urge to buy them all, fading… fading… RISING!… fading…).
Cat Cafe – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! So cute! It’s all you can drink for 350YEN but you also get charged by the minutes (200YEN for 10 minutes). If you need a place to work all day, get a day pass for 2,400YEN and you’ll have endless drinks while you waste time on Facebook as well as be surrounded by like 15 adorable kitties.
Delicious n00ds with insane tempura veggies on top for 900YEN
Delicious veggie patty thing over rice with soy sauce, and udon n00ds that tasted not so vegetarian so I stopped after a bite (lol) for 510YEN
A waffle shaped like Magikarp stuffed with insanely good custard for 350YEN
Imperial Palace – admission is free to enter the grounds of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo, which is surrounded by a moat! It was neat to see skyscrapers behind landscapes of ancient grounds. The place is huge and it’s easy to get lost. My favourite part was the garden of fruit trees!
Rikugien Gardens – a hidden (and silent) gem between really unappealing apartment buildings, this garden was 300YEN to enter and worth every penny. Insanely stunning. Like something of a dream. Best part: visiting the tea house and drinking a matcha while contemplating how gorgeous my life is, as I look across the still pond…
Senso-Ji – the capital’s oldest temple that is actually older than Tokyo, itself! This is easily my most favourite spot in Tokyo, thus far. It was stunning. Even the walk leading up to the temple is so picturesque and beautiful, and all the shops are selling authentic goods and food. It was just a lovely atmosphere and insanely gorgeous, to-boot. It’s free to enter, but most shops and temple visits close at 5pm. Best part: Put 100YEN in a slot and shake a silver container until a stick falls out – I got a stick with the Japanese symbol for #2 (happens to be my lucky number!). Find the corresponding drawer that matches your number and open it to pull out a fortune. Bad fortunes are apparently common, but I got one that said, “Better fortune”! And be careful if you get one with dai-kyo which is “Great Curse”… but, don’t worry; if you hate your fortune you can tie it to a string outside of the temple and the gods will whisk it away for you… and then you can always insert another 100YEN and get a new one!
Owl Cafe – Sad, avoid at all costs, expensive too (1000YEN). They say the owls and animals are rescued from pet shops and owners who can no longer take care of them, and that they live long and happy lives, but an owl that can’t fly because it’s tied to a post doesn’t sound like a happy life, to me. Also, it smelled bad.
Shibuya – this is the Japan everyone sees in the movies. It’s like a massively-upgraded Times Square but with ten times the people. Shibuya crossing is insane, the music blasting through the streets is wild, the illuminations coming from every store is so video-game-like, and the livelihood of this neighbourhood is definitely unique. Best Part: Honestly, it was just a visually appealing space. Everywhere you looked had new lights to make your eyes go wide. But I am not a fan of crowds so I walked through and walked out rather quickly.
Coffee and a Jam Sandwich from Caffe Veloce for breakfast (310YEN – cheap breakfast)
What could have been the greatest Japanese curry dish I’ve ever had from CoCo Curry Palace (which is apparently a chain, as I saw a few more through the day)… sticky rice, vegetables in a curry gravy, sweet pickled onions, for 710YEN
Ramen noodles in a soy base which was FREE from the hotel I’m staying at
Pokemon cookie snack things (110YEN from the Pokemon store – delicious and worth every pen-yen)
Alright, listen… you’ve been suckered here and you’re not getting any photos. I’m only a little sorry. You read all this for nothing. I’m cruel, mean, the worst, etc!
I’ve got photos by the boatload but my desire to upload them is at a level zero right now. And I’m planning a trip to DisneyLand Tokyo Sea tomorrow (it’s going to be rainy in the morning which means fewer crowds and a happier Claudia) so I need some rest. For now, you’ve got a lot of words to read, but next time, I promise, there will be a post of all the god-knows-how-many photos! And they are SO worth it, I swear! In the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram (@darthclaudia) and see a few collections of photos, there.
Thanks, as always, for following along with this crazy dream of a life I’m living. I won’t fool you next time, I pLomise…