For those of you who know me well, know that I have a deep love for (anything) Japan. Having spent many of my formative years there as a young model has solidified my passion for the language, food, culture, people and land. Many readers of this magazine have asked for my ‘take’ on Tokyo, so I’ll attempt to give you some insight, commentary and opinion on arguably my most favourite city on the planet – Tokyo.
In no random order, I am going to spotlight some fun places for you to consider spending time at during your next visit.
Located around 35 mins away from the more popular inner city districts, Asakusa has been preserved as a time-capsule that showcases the best of Tokyo’s yester-years. For a few thousand yen, you can even get an authentic rickshaw ride through the old-town. The rickshaw guides all speak English and are very knowledgable about the history & heritage of the area.
Due to the wartime bombing in 1944, there are only a handful of buildings older than 50 years. The city has a higher mix of buildings from the 50’s & 60’s and lots of traditional ryokan (guest-houses), homes and gorgeous little traditional restaurants.
The city is also home to Sensō-ji – an ancient Buddhist which acts as Asakusa’s beating heart. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and one of its most momentous – a definite must do.
2. Akihabara Electric Town
Despite the time of day, the Akihabara Denki Gai (which translates to Akihabara Electric Town) has a an energy so vibrant and profound, it’s enough to wake anybody up. As soon as you step out of the Metro, you will be welcomed by a main road lined with tall buildings, covered in Japanese neon ads and branding.
When it comes to shopping for something electronic (and I mean anything at all), this place has got it all. To give you perspective, imagine staking 20 Walmarts and Best Buys on top of each other, and you will just get started. This place is extremely comprehensive for any type of gadget fan. Every cashier is equipped with a Tax rebate for foreigners so be sure to bring along your passport (it’s worth the hassle).
Shinbashi (sometimes transliterated Shimbashi) is a district of Minato, located south of Ginza. Shinbashi means “new bridge” in Japanese.
This area is surrounded by many offices and home to some of Tokyo’s biggest companies. Known by locals as the playground for ‘salarymen’ this area is littered with small eateries and bars designed to cater for Tokyo’s corporate engine room.
It’s not surprising to find 30 different establishments hidden in one (very plain looking) building. If you like oysters then this area has many different choices, ranging from street level to fine dining.
Seeing that rents are extremely high, and competition is rife, venues insist on you buying a drink the minute you step in. Gotta pay the rent right?
I really enjoyed the choices of Yakitori spots & Izakaya (pubs) under the recently constructed Shinbashi station. You will have a great time exploring his place!
4. Yoyogi Park – Shibuya
Yoyogi Park is a large park located adjacent to Harajuku Station and Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. It makes for the perfect urban escape when you have had enough of the large crowds in Harajuku and want to ‘slow it down’ in some natural surroundings. Tokyo locals find refuge in the park’s beautiful settings and are often gathered (especially on weekends) to socialize and spend quality time together.
On Sundays you will see a vast range groups dressed thematically, and seemingly enjoying themselves but one of my personal favourites are the super cool Japanese rock music fans – The Rockabillys!
Well there it is, Part 1 compete. I’ve tried to make it bite size and plan to write more about this amazing city very soon. As someone said to me once, don’t plan Tokyo, she will plan you.. just be open to try different things.
I would love to say a very special thank you to the wonderful folks at Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) who helped put together a wonderful itinerary for us. For more great tips & advice on your visit to Tokyo, please see their website.