Few big modern cities in the world are genuinely captivating.
Most of the times, what you get is a forest of concrete buildings with no soul, a mass of people rushing through their 9-to-5 like robots, and horrendous traffic jams. I came to the metropolitan of Tokyo expecting more of the same thing, but was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.
We first arrived in Japan a little lost, but a delivery man who didn’t even speak our language came to our rescue. It’s unbelievable just how much distance these people would go for mere strangers like us. This pattern would continue many times afterwards, as I detailed on this post: Arigatou Gozaimasu: On Japan’s Polite & Helpful Culture.
In Tokyo, the people are the main attractions.
Think of the busiest streets in highly-populated nations, like Delhi or Jakarta. Normally, you would be witnessing a dreadful mess right before your eyes.
Not so with Tokyo, where order is the name of the game. And nowhere is this better exemplified than the famous Shibuya Crossing. As soon as the pedestrian traffic light turns green, residents from all walks of life spill like a sea of ants.
But watch closely and notice the subtle difference… what you’re witnessing is an organized chaos. Despite the high density of people who cross here everyday, they move in orderly fashion.
Just beside the famous crossing is the legendary Hachikō Statue. In 1924, a professor named Hidesaburō Ueno adopted Hachikō as a pet. Ueno would commute daily to work and Hachikō would leave the house to greet him at the end of each day near Shibuya Station. Upon the professor’s passing, Hachikō who didn’t knew this awaited for Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station every day for the next 9 years.
It’s a story of remarkable loyalty. And for more than fifty years, this monument has become so integrated with the locals’ way of life, serving as the default meeting place in the busy district.
We, too, got separated in between the crowd as we tried to cross. I went panic, but relieved when we were reunited near the statue. Okay, so that was mostly my fault that we got separated… I was too busy raising my camera to snap hundreds of photos. But can you blame me when the dusk view of Shibuya is just so dazzling?
It only got more interesting from there, as we headed to Akihabara to observe the Tokyoites living their after-hour lives. Akihabara is the electronic town of Tokyo, which makes it an ideal spot for the otaku culture to come alive.
“What the heck is otaku?” you asked.
Remember all those animes and mangas and games that so prevalently exist in your younger years? Your Dragon Ball, your Gundam, your Poke’mon. In Akihabara, all these and more come alive. If you’re a video game or retro arcade maniac, or even just a casual admirer of Japanese culture, you’ll fall in love with Akihabara.
There are just so much nostalgia that this place could bring into your memory. And the Japanese, even the working professionals or older generations, are more than happy to embrace this side of them.
And then there’s a whole range of adorable eateries in Akihabara. You have your maid cafes, your AKB48 cafe, and you have your Gundam cafe. We went inside the Gundam cafe to order a cup of coffee to warm our chilled hands, but were astonished to see these coffee art!
Oh, who am I kidding with that chilled hands narrative? I obviously ordered those because they are so Instagram-worthy! LOL
But in all seriousness, look at how cute they are! And the Gundam cheese rice I had for the night is super yummy too…
After we had our tummy filled and satisfied, we took the metro to Tokyo Dome.
There’s no question that this is a major hangout site for the Tokyoites to fill in their free time. Tokyo Dome is a big deal—Mariah Carey, Guns & Roses, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Madonna are just some of the shiny names who had performed here.
When we were there, it was crowded beyond belief. And we soon found out that the iconic Giants baseball team had been there earlier. Huge deal, I told you.
It was only our first night in Tokyo, but it was incredibly memorable.
And the people-watching had barely started. We would soon picnic among the locals on Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, mingled with street performers at Yoyogi Park, and hit the famous Harajuku streets. But that’s a story for another time.
Which part of Tokyo do you like to hang out in the most?