I met up with my dad and sister (who is studying abroad in China) for a long weekend in Tokyo. It was hardly enough to more than get a feel for Tokyo, but we managed to cram a lot in our time here.
After months of having to constantly worry about drinking water, late buses, getting run over by cars and trucks, and all the other things that come with backpacking around developing areas, it was nice to be able to brush my teeth with tap water and have sidewalks and crosswalks (and drivers that stop for pedestrians).
I’ve found that traveling around on your own can make it very easy to become cynical about people and their motivations. All too often the rickshaw driver offering to “help” is just trying out some scam, or the “friendly” person on the street is trying out a pickup line, but we had several encounters here which reminded me that while it’s always smart to be on guard, it’s good to not be overly cynical. The first night I went out for dinner with my dad and sister we went in search of a soba noodle place that we had been told about. We had already been seated when we realized that the soba noodle place wasn’t there, and this was a different restaurant. There was nothing vegan on the menu, so we explained that we were going to need to leave. Instead of being annoyed one of the wait staff went out into the cold, rainy night and found a soba place and directed us there.
The next day we were chatting with Masako, an employee at the restaurant we were eating in, and mentioned that we didn’t know what to do in Tokyo, and didn’t have a lot of time, and she volunteered to take us around on her day off! We met up with her today and she spent the afternoon walking around Asakusa and the Senso-Ji Temple with us.
Tokyo very much lived up to its reputation as an incredibly modern and high tech city. The buildings with floors and floors of different electronic products (some which haven’t been released in the US), flashing lights, video game arcades, 24 hours vending machines, and post modern architecture all give Tokyo a futuristic feel. Although I must admit I was disappointed that we didn’t find any robots.
Most of our time was spent exploring urban life in Tokyo (and I admit searching for vegan restaurants). Between the fires in the early 1900s, and bombings during World War Two very little remains of Edo (old Tokyo) and so consequently most of the things to see and do in Tokyo were built in the last half century.
Here are some highlights from our time here:
Sony Building: Floors and floors of the latest gadgets from Sony. Some of these, including the Playstation 3, can be tested.
Tokyo Tower: We didn’t go to the top of the tower, but we did manage to get some good pictures when we were in Roppongi
Senso-Ji Temple: One of the most famous temples, located in the Asakusa part of Tokyo.
Akiharabara: Also called Electric Town, famous for stalls and stalls of cheap electronics of every kinda and anime and manga stores.
Shibuya at night: Walking around at night afforded a full display of Tokyo youth culture and subculture.