Tokyo is probably the place we stayed the longest after Sydney, thanks to our friend Amelie who generously offered us to stay at her awesome place (with a gym!). We’ve been impressed by Amelie’s Japanese level and she was a great guide to discover Tokyo and the Japanese culture.
Discovering Tokyo with Amelie
Tokyo is a massive city from which we barely scratched the surface, with a number of different neighborhoods, each of them having its own vibe.
One of our favorite place. Chibuya is Tokyo most dynamic neighborhood, as active during the day than during the night. With it’s neon billboards, it looks a bit like Times Square, filled with restaurants, bars and love hotels (theme rooms that one can rent by the hour. We’ll let you figure out what for).
The famous crossroad is in Shibuya. In less than 3 minutes, hundreds to thousands of people change sidewalk
Not far from Shibuya is Takeshita-dori street. This street packed with extravagant shops is the favorite of Japanese teens, who come here to parade in cosplays on the weekends.
It’s Amelie’s neighborhood. Interestingly enough, it is also the home to Kabuki-Cho, the red light district of Tokyo, full of strip clubs, hostesses bars, sex-shops and erotic saunas. Coincidence? We don’t think so. (Just kidding Amelie, thanks again!)
Not far from Kabuki-Cho was Golden Gai, a bar area a bit special: each bar is really tiny and can usually host a maximum of 5 persons.
Other than that, the Shinjuku metro station is also reputed to be the largest of the world, with 3 million of daily users, several stories, kilometers of corridors and more than 50 exits… We got lost in there several times!
Akihabara, “Electric City”
It’s THE area to buy any kind of electronics or numeric goods, from cellphones to computers. It’s also a neighborhood full of neon lights and music, as well as maid bars (bartenders are dressed up as maids and are supposed to be really nice to the clients… another Japanese thing).
An employee from a maiden bar
The electric City is also full of manga shops. There are a lot of different kinds of mangas, but the biggest section was definitely the erotic one. And it’s pretty weird to see that a lot of people are reading the manga directly in the store, from teenagers out of school to the salaryman on his way back home, reading porn manga in public without any ounce of shame!
We put the pictures in small to not shock anyone… Girls you probably shouldn’t click on them!
And since we’re talking electronics, we have to write a little bit about the Japanese game centers. We’ve been to a couple, and we’ve been really impressed by the dexterity and speed of Japanese. The game centers are huge and usually spreading on several floors. They have also a ton of different games, from the musical tapping games (it’s a national sport, they score at least 99% in hardcore mode) to insanely complicated games mixing a board, cards and a numeric screen, including casino-like games with the Yakuza exchanging prizes for money (a way of going around the interdiction of casino games).
We also enter a pachinko, which was less nice: it was filled with old people completely addicted to this game and insanely loud. We didn’t manage to stay longer than two minutes.
Ginza is the expensive neighborhood of Tokyo, the Japan equivalent of the Paris 8th arrondissement. It counts not less than 10 000 stores, and a number of beautiful modern buildings.
From Ginza, we also took a subway to take us through Odaiba, the modern architecture area… Nothing exhilarating.
Tokyo: a green city
As much as we imagined Tokyo being a city without any trees, there are actually a fair number of parks scattered around the city.
The imperial gardens for instance, which are the only part of the imperial palace opened to the public.
We also visited Ama Rikyo garden. It’s a beautiful garden from the Edo era that belongs to the Tokugawa branch, the ancestor of the Tokugawa shoguns, the warlord family who ruled Japan from 1600 to 1868.
And in between Shibuya and Shinjulu is Yoyogi park with the famous Meji Jingu shintoïst temple.
Extra: Tokyo National Museum and Oedo Onsen Monogatori
I stayed a couple of extra days in Tokyo, waiting for my American visa while Tom was chilling in Hawaii. That gave me time to take a look at the collection of the Tokyo National Museum and to try an Onsen.
An onsen is the Japanese public bath, with different pools of different temperatures, outside pools in gardens, saunas… It was a relaxing experience in a yukata (the sort of kimono to be worn inside the onsen).
We didn’t find Tokyo as wild as we though it would be, but it gave us some good insights in the “modern” Japanese culture.