Written by Dan
Page 2 of 15
Welcome to Tokyo
By Colton Powell
Weeding through a fog of jet-lag in our heads it took a little while to realize we were actually in Tokyo. Having flown 11 hours our body clocks were backwards and we figured the best way to start our adventure was to embrace the city nice and early.
If someone was to ask me to describe my first thoughts of Tokyo it is almost impossible to put in words. First off the city spans the horizon for as far as the eye can see in every direction. For all I know I'm pretty sure it goes on forever. It is one of the cleanest cities I have ever seen. The streets are spotless yet there are no garbage cans anywhere to be found. There are also vending machines on every corner that have both hot and cold drinks. You can walk out the front door and get a can of hot coffee straight out of the machine.
This is where we learned that Tokyo has a variety of local customs and practices, that we failed to follow. It is considered rude to drink or eat while walking, a phenomenon completely foreign to North America. Therefore drinking our vending machine coffees attracted a variety of glares and glances as we made our way around the city.
We hopped on the metro which is surprisingly easy to navigate and headed out to explore the city. On the train we came across our second interesting custom, where speaking loud in a public place is not common and can be considered rude. Bryan and I attracted more glares as we chatted with our best indoor voices, while everyone around us communicated at a low whisper.
Looking South East from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Tokyo is absolutely massive, especially compared to Vancouver which I would now consider a small village. With a metro population close to the entire population of Canada, it's safe to say the city is always busy. With only two days to spend we tried to fit in all the top Tokyo sights. From Shibuya, crossing one of the busiest intersections, to tranquil temples and shrines in nearby Yoyogi Park to the sparkling nightlife in the LED lit alleys of Shinjuku, we managed to see most of the city.
We also got a tip from a local and went up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to a free lookout that gives you a glimpse at just how big the city really is. We went to Akihabara, known as electric town, which is considered the technology hub of Tokyo. Here stores are ten stories high where you can easily get lost in a maze of lights, wire and Japanese anime.
Our hostel was nestled down a small red lantern lit street in Asakusa, the district of Old Tokyo. Here small alleys house vendors with a plethora of Japanses knickknacks surrounded by some of the oldest temples in the city. The streets here were calm and quiet away from the busy centre of the city.
Shinjuku's Endless Streets, Shops and Bars
Beyond the sights and sounds and easily one of the best parts of Tokyo, is the food. Here restaurants line the streets and are always full of people trying the delicious local cuisine. From sushi, sashimi, ramen, yakitori, takoyaki, tonkatsu, tempura and even beef teriyaki, we gorged ourselves eating everything in sight.
Restaurants are usually small shops that sit about eight to ten people in bar style seating next to the kitchen. You always get to watch the chef prepare your meal right in front of you which makes for a more intimate experience. After eating in Japan Bryan and I have decided that we will have to sacrifice our waistlines in order to keep trying all the different dishes Asia has to offer.
Ramen Noodle Soup in Asakusa
The final note I will make about Japan, is the people. All my life I had always been told that Canadians were the most polite people on the planet. After visiting Japan, Canada has many things to learn. Never have I felt so welcomed into a country. Here people bow and greet you on the sidewalk, and asking for directions is effortless, as everyone is so polite and happy to help you. Even just buying something at a store, the entire transaction the clerk will be talking to you in Japanese and thanking you for your purchase.
Now this may be the first city on our trip, but Bryan and I fell in love with Tokyo. If you are making travel plans to Asia, Tokyo is a must on your list. Whether you come for the food, the sights or the people the city has something for everyone. I know I will definitely be back to Japan to explore more of Tokyo and the rest of what I am sure is a beautiful country.
Click next to continue to Part 3 of Colton's Asia Experience