Author: Brandon Polinski
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is the largest city in the world, and one tenth of Japan’s population resides within its sprawl. It is the most amazing place I have ever been. I went there three years ago but was severely limited in what I saw due to the nature of that trip. This time around I got to see much more, even though I am still far from satisfied.
I traveled with a few other friends from KGU and we flew domestic. We booked an Airbnb in Aoto, a laid-back residential area on the eastern edge of the city. The house in question was traditional Japanese style, which was a treat. The quiet streets of Aoto, which had a very high population of elderly people and young children were quite a contrast to the rest of the itinerary. Aside from sleeping and a late night dinner at a restaurant, we did not spend much time here.
Over three days we visited Tokyo Skytree, Akihabara, Ueno, Shibuya, Harajuku, Tsukiji Market, Asakusa, Ikebukuro, and Shinjuku. Wow. Just typing that makes me remember how exhausted I was. As amazing as Tokyo is, this trip really drove home to me that to truly appreciate a city like this – it pretty much needs to be at least a weeklong vacation if not more, not just a three-day trip.
I also started to feel homesick for Osaka even though it had only been a couple of days. Osaka is also a huge city, with jam-packed markets and crowded stations but Tokyo is on another level. Many of the areas we visited were claustrophobic. The stations are so crowded you often must shove your way through people if you do not want to get separated from your friends. People are smashed up against each other on trains. I cannot think of any other place where I have seen so many people in such a small space. Any other major metropolitan area I have ever been in is cozy compared to some areas of Tokyo.
Navigating Tokyo can be tiring, but the city is unrivaled in terms of pop-culture, entertainment, fashion and sightseeing. There are a lot of things in Tokyo that can be found in other parts of Japan to be sure, but they are often harder to find, or are “lite” versions. Almost everything in Tokyo is bigger, better, and there is more of it. For example, in Osaka you can find five floor anime stores. Tokyo has Akihabara, which is basically an anime/electronics/pop-culture city with multiple of these places next to each other stretched out over several blocks.
Also, while there are some shady areas of Tokyo, the city is extremely safe and clean considering the over-crowding. Shinjuku now holds the record for the dirtiest streets I have seen in Japan, and the majority of that was cigarette butts. I have always been impressed by the cleanliness, infrastructure and overall public transportation of Japanese cities and Tokyo is no different.
This was a hectic and exhausting trip but absolutely worth it. I certainly learned a lot and gained a new sense of understanding and appreciation of Japan’s capital.
Side note: Props to anyone who understands the reference in the first part of my title 🙂