Prior to touching down in Tokyo I didn’t quite know what to expect. Sure I did the research, chatted to people I knew that had visited and of course indulged in some Lost in Translation revision but I did not have a definitive ‘picture’ in my mind of what Tokyo would be like. If anything I was left more with a ‘feeling’ of what to expect. A feeling that I can only think to describe as a mix of erratic energy, modernity and tradition.
Whilst the energy sure was palpable during my stay and I did indeed get lost (those metro stations really are a labyrinth at times) there were also so many moments of calm. Even ‘The Scramble’ aka Shibuya Crossing had this incredible sense of order to it, which is a real testament to the culture in Tokyo.
Not to say that the noted cultural differences didn’t cause me pause, process and reflect at times. An experience that was welcomed with open arms as that to me is the essence of travelling. A commonly discussed example of this cultural point of difference is the etiquette around not eating/drinking whilst ‘on the go’, on the streets. Not to mention one of the first things that friends and family touched on when I asked of their experience visiting Japan, which in itself speaks volumes.
Through having the opportunity to observe and respect the local etiquette this incredibly busy, dynamic city reminded me of the value and importance of slowing things down and being in the moment. Something that I will always treasure from my time in Tokyo.
EAT AND DRINK
Harajuku Gyoza: Incredibly delicious and really well priced. By far my favourite gyoza to date. I went in for an early lunch and luckily managed to miss the cues but I have heard that a line can develop pretty quickly at times. Definitely worth the wait though!
6-2-4 Jingumae, Shibuya
Maison Tonkatsu: The place I had been most excited to try whilst in Tokyo and boy oh boy did it live up to the reviews and stories and then exceed those ten fold. I recommend requesting a place upstairs in the tatami mat room for a truly lovely, leisurely lunch.
4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya
Omotesando Koffee: Post a delightful tonkatsu coma a visit to this coffee oasis is a must! A peaceful place where coffee is an art form like no other.
4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Rose Bakery: A lovely spot for a light lunch followed by some cheeky carrot cake within the shopping mecca that is Ginza.
7F, 6-9-5, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
SEE AND DO
Meiji Shrine: Wander through the tranquil forest in the middle of Shibuya and be greeted by an incredibly beautiful shrine. An experience not to be missed.
Shinjuku Gyoen: A delightful garden to wander and explore when you want a mini escape from the Shinjuku skyscrapers. Filled with lush tall trees, beautifully manicured traditional gardens and tea salons.
Mori Tower: 360 degree views of the incredible Tokyo metropolis and seemingly endless skyscrapers.
Harajuku: Explore the ever vibrant and colourful Takeshita Street filled with some pretty decadent desserts (or even in some cases desserts within desserts) that need to be seen to be believed. I recommend strolling through some of the surrounding backstreets as well where you will find some seriously cute architecture and cool vintage clothing stores.
Shibuya Crossing: Definitely one for the people watchers out there. Admire the seemingly ordered nature of ‘The Scramble’ with some Starbucks in hand. A touristy vantage point but nonetheless worthwhile experience, particularly at night when the city really comes to life.
Ginza: Visit the incredible array of departments stores, boutiques and cafes on the weekend when the otherwise car clogged Chuo Dori Street becomes a pedestrian zone.
Photography by Christie Moore and Max Rowan (images ii & viii), editing by Christie Moore