tokyo-tower

Back in the 12th Century, what we know as Tokyo today, was actually called Edo:

Japan’s political center.

When Ieyasu Tokugawa picked Edo as the site for his castle, it was just another

normal village. As shogun (a hereditary official who aided in the governing of Japan,

aside from the emperor), Ieyasu felt that with the building of a castle, after the

hundred-year long civil war, warlords would not be able to strip him of his power.

With the castle coming up, and daily necessities being brought over to sustain

everyday life, Edo slowly became the home of masons, merchants and artisans. Edo’s

foundation is still seen as part of the Japanese traditional culture.

 

Tokyo: The Eastern Capital

It wasn’t up until 1868 that Edo was renamed Tokyo, meaning eastern capital’.

Whenever most people hear of Tokyo, they instantly think of sumo, sushi and

adventure (at least I do). Tokyo is known to have a large populous. And while this city

might seem to be crowded, surprisingly, its crowds are orderly.

While crossing the street, literally everyone (I mean literally every single person) will

wait for the lights to go green, in order to cross. Pedestrians have a somewhat of an

unspoken rule: keep left.

 

The Shibuya Crossing

Tokyo, Japan - December 23, 2012: Traffic stops for pedestrians crossing at Shibuya Crossing. It is one of the world's most famous scramble crosswalks.

Tokyo, Japan – December 23, 2012: Traffic stops for pedestrians crossing at Shibuya Crossing. It is one of the world’s most famous scramble crosswalks.

Even with this order, there is a sight that will make you get confused. The Shibuya

Crossing. It is said that this is the busiest intersection in the world, and people have

even gone further to give it a nick name: The Scramble.

It is called so, because people appear to come for every direction all at once.

Sometimes, over one thousand people will cross at a go.

Should you be lucky enough to get a seat the Starbucks across The Scramble’ (which

is highly unlikely because it is constantly full) you will be in for a spectacular and

hypnotic view.

The best time to observe the human traffic is just after dark. With all the neon and

giant screens, you will actually feel like you are in a movie scene.

The Scramble gets quiet after the last train pulls out.

 

The Tranquil Island of Odaiba

odaiba

While some places are extremely overcrowded, others can be strangely quiet. These

quiet places are often century-old gardens near offices, holy temples right in the

middle of the city, and even parks found down residential streets.

If you want to escape the city’s hustle and bustle, one such place is Odaiba. It kind of

reminds me of a mini Atlantis, rising from the water. Odaiba is a huge artificial island

that is peaceful and quiet; the perfect place to wind down and escape the crowds. It

is home to the Fuji Television Headquarters. As one of the proposed venue locations

for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics, and its accessibility from the airport, this

island definitely serves as a must-see.

To add to its tranquility, Odaiba offers a hot spring that goes by the name Oedo

Onsen Monogatari. Interestingly, they have made this theme park, look like it has

been taken from the Edo period, with its open air baths.

 

The Tokyo Tower

tokyo-tower

It is evident that this tower is an Eiffel Tower look alike. However, this steel tower is

13 meters taller than the Eiffel tower. It has been the tallest structure in Japan, but

only up until 2012, when it was overtaken by the Tokyo Skytree.

The Tokyo Tower is painted every five years, but re-painting it takes all of twelve

months.

My personal favorite was the foot town’ building that happens to be directly below

the tower. With cafés, restaurants, souvenir shops, it is an adventure in its own.

While down there I got to see the One Piece Tower.

Get this. It is an indoor amusement park with shows that feature characters from

various Manga Series. How cool is that?

 

Ginza: Tokyo’s Own Fifth Avenue

ginza

Tokyo is to Ginza as New York is to Fifth Avenue. Designer retailers, the likes of

Cartier, have their presence in Ginza. Most people get carried away by Ginza’s long

boulevard of designer shops, but you will find that their prices are a tad bit higher

that you would find in the US. However I found the streets to be Manhattan-like.

This is a sweet spot for selecting the best duffle bags for travel. You need a light bag

to go around all these landmarks and be able to fit in all that you want to buy. You

will also need a duffel bag that will withstand Tokyo’s weather, especially because

umbrellas are the one thing that is mostly stolen in this city. So instead of an

umbrella, get a weather resistant duffel bag and you will be good to go.

While Tokyo’s departmental stores (Matsuya and Hankyu) dominate most of Ginza’s

landscape, I happened to find some of the best restaurants here.

This town never sleeps, but after 8:00pm, it tends to get quieter than earlier in the

day.

 

Akihabara: Tokyo’s Tech Disney World

akihabara

Gadgets of every kind are on display even on the side streets. The latest technology

will blow your mind, regardless of the fact that this district is not a discount district.

Electronics are pricey here and their stringent return policies make shopping here a

bit of a challenge.

You don’t need to be a geek to enjoy what Akihabara has to offer. Just learning

about the latest technology in itself, is a huge plus. Some of the gadgets in display

will out yours to shame.

 

Culture

After a few days in here, I found myself wondering what everyone was saying to me

as I stepped into an establishment.

Be it a restaurant, a bar, or a boutique, I always heard the same word.

On asking an English-speaking local, I found out that they were saying:

"Irasshaimase," which is a polite way of saying, "Welcome."

Instinctively, I wanted to start replying, probably with a version of thank you’, but I

was advised not to. A slight bow would be enough.

Another thing to take note of, is that while in Tokyo, do not tip. Even if you walk off a

restaurant and leave some money with the check, do not be surprised if a waiter

chases you down the street to return your balance.

It is no doubt that Tokyo is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Next time

you plan of taking a vacation, plan to visit the city that was built on the fishing

village’s foundation.

Plan your trip to Tokyo.  It should definitely be on your bucket list, and definitely if you want to find the most selection of hotels at your budget, my recommendation is to check out hotels combined…that’s what I personally use for my travels.

Alec Chan

Alec Chan is an intrepid traveler, travel writer, author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and self professed Asia travel ambassador. Traveling all around Asia since 2003, and still traveling, Alec is an accomplished and passionate traveler seeking to bridge the cultural gaps in Asia. Through his unique perspective as a Canadian born Chinese, Alec shares his special insights on Asia to help others around the world to have a better understanding on Asian culture so that they can have a more meaningful, fun, and stress free trip to Asia. Alec has written numerous travel guides on several destinations in Asia and is the editor in chief of AlecTravelGuide.com

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