Tokyo has been on my list of cities to visit since I had a brief rendezvous with Japanese art in high school. The cosmopolitan allure of the city combined with its traditional beauty has ensnared me since. So, my first Korean teaching wage was splurged on plane tickets. The past six months have been an excruciating waiting game.
The pure size of Tokyo is what makes it so impressive. Over 13 million people live like sardines in apartment blocks throughout the city. Beneath this lies a tangle of subway systems twisting as they transport hordes of commuters. Consequently, I was amazed by the serenity that exudes from the metropolis. Even on a rush hour subway as the locals are crushed between a mass of strangers bodies, they remain calm and composed. In fact, the quiet is often only punctured by the tranquil bird sounds which are played throughout the subway system.
To truly appreciate the size of the capital, I ascended to the 45th floor of the Tokyo metropolitan government building. The city reached as far as the eye could see. It twinkled seductively, outshining the stars, every inch electrified by the pure essence of Tokyo.
In true tourist fashion, one of the first places I visited was the famous Shibuya crossing. I allowed myself to be immersed by the hoards that crossed the road in a Tetris like style. Also, the Starbucks overlooking the intersection was a must. Each time the green man flashed I watched in awe as not a single pedestrian collided.
After dirt cheap food, drink and transportation in Korea, the cost of Tokyo came as a bit of a shock. However, it’s actually not expensive in comparison to British standards, the quality of the food will easily surpass the cost. Tsukiji fish market is where you’ll find the freshest sushi. Obviously, this will set you back more than a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, but it is well worth the cost. There is a smooth efficiency as new customers squeeze into the narrow sushi bars, quickly replacing the old. It is mesmerising to watch the sushi chef’s deft fingers moulding perfect works of edible art.
Every meal that I ate during my stay was mind-blowing; the flavours and freshness generated a feeling of euphoria. Ramen is cheap and delicious; most restaurants have a self-serve machine so that you can order using the pictures and add extras on without any trouble. Also, katsu curry is a quick, satisfying meal that won’t cost you much.
I am thrilled that I have finally visited the city of my dreams. However, I think that my 15-year-old-self created a fantastical image of Tokyo that was unobtainable. A metropolis where funky Harajuku girls rubbed shoulders with traditional kimono clad geisha’s. Intricately painted shrines and temples nestled between imposingly futuristic skyscrapers. To be honest, the reality is not too far off what I had imagined.