Tokyo is everything. We don’t mean that figuratively either. It’s a place where there’s a store for everything. And if the venue doesn’t exist, the vending machine does. Guaranteed.
We stood on the metro platform, confusedly looking at a map. People bent over backwards to help. We sat perched at an Izakaya bar past close, eating and drinking all of the things. The owners weren’t pissed off; instead they refilled our sake cups. We awkwardly fell asleep on someone’s shoulder on the Shinkansen. They didn’t elbow us awake.
Like the swift moving of metro queues, things in Japan are fast and orderly. But catch a stranger’s eye and they’ll smile warmly in return.
The public selfie is rife. Ramen is eaten in solo booths. Prepackaged lunches are an art form.
Here’s what you can experience in 48 hours. And that’s if you’re taking things slowly.
Shibuya, Sangenjaya, or Shimokitazawa. (Repeat that as fast as you can.) Three S’s, three trendy suburbs. Air b’n’b is a must.
About Life Coffee Roasters. An unassuming shopfront with the friendliest baristas on record. If you’re lucky, they’ll give you their tips on where to eat nearby – the nameless ramen bar recommended to us was still the best meal of the trip*.
Can we have an easier question? Seriously, the options are endless. Shibuya for the neon-signed sushi trains, Cat Street for gyoza, Ebisu for its Mediterranean influence. Not to mention the thousands of tiny Izakaya bars. We love how specific Tokyo gets with their food. You want a tempura bar? Got it. What about a soba noodle-only restaurant? No problem. The tricky part is deciding.
Surprisingly, the amount of French patisseries in Tokyo is baffling. Plus, you’ve got the Tsukiji Fish Market to be at bright and early, so set your alarm. You don’t know it yet, but it will be some of the best sashimi of your life.
Want to sip a Whisky Sour, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation style? Well you can at the New York Bar, on the top floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel. Get your fancy on with jazz music and epic city views. (Also, the espresso martini is tops.)
The Shibuya pedestrian crossing is like watching thousands of marbles splay out on a board. The choreography of side stepping others is an attraction in itself. Note: don’t get distracted and miss the change in lights, like us – it was a close call, a frantic jog, and an embarrassed ‘not a tourist’ laugh.
Everywhere, obviously. Too vague, you say? Head to Daikanyama, where you’ll waltz some of Tokyo’s most stylish streets, or dawdle through the lush Yoyogi Park. If you’re lucky enough to see the cherry blossoms, then power to ya.
For getting lost
Harajuku, where eccentricity is prerequisite for youth subculture. You’ll waste hours browsing quirky market stalls here and generally taking in some amusing sights.
The anti-dance laws had sad-faces on us all. But when you get told to not do something, it makes you do it more. Aoyama-Hachi is our secret discovery: four different floors with a mixed bag of tunes – you’re guaranteed a good night out.
Another question with answers to last a lifetime. Omotosando for Tokyo’s Champs-Elysées (read: stunning designer avenues and department store galore); Shibuya for vintage store heaven; and Cat Street to emulate the cool kids’ style.
There’s no shortage of museums, galleries and exhibitions. We love it. If there’s time, 45 minutes away is the Edo Open Air museum; a must for architecture-lovers. Plus, don’t forget that at nighttime, the lit-up metropolis becomes the Times Square of Tokyo. It’s endless eye-candy.
The T-site at Daikanyama is the most epic of book stores. Trust us. Head there immediately.
So forget Disneyland. Because Tokyo is where the magic happens.
*Sheds single tear at the memory.
Image credit: (Header) Real Food via photographer Martin Parr, Jackiepianist Tumblr, Jess Carey: Ordinary Girl Extraordinary Dreamer blog, Tokto Rockabilly dancers by Sue Ding, Fresh.i.am via Tokyo Fashion Tumblr, @Tokyotina_ Instagram, @daikanyama.tsutaya Instagram.