And so we are in Tokyo. You cannot imagine how hard it is to describe Tokyo because Tokyo is so much.
If you are in a subway station with many exits you can be sure that at every single exit you will find a very different town. There are big lights and super modern buildings, romantic Japanese gardens, manga, crazy shopping, vintage, luxe, tradition…everything exists in Tokyo.
Tokyo is…Shibuya. The busiest crossroad in the world where we passed by during the day (in a rainy day) and again at night were we enjoyed the neon lights of the shops and buildings of the most crowded area of Tokyo. Don’t forget to stop by The Myth of Tomorrow, the beautiful Taro Okamoto’s murals in Shibuya station and to look for the best fun ever in one of the hundreds “purikura” or “prikura” photo booths where you can take and decorate your photos “manga style”!
Tokyo is…Shimokitazawa, definitely my favorite area (also defined the “hippy” or “hipster” area of Tokyo), full of vintage shops and bars all along the tiny streets near the station…the only reason why I left was the typhoon announced for that night!
Tokyo is…Harajuku, considered as the area of young people and new fashion trends. For me it is also the area of the immense Chicago Thrift store, definitely one of my favorite vintage shops in town and definitely the one where I used my credit card the most! By the way, don’t forget to visit the shopping street Cat Street with its lovely and very peculiar shops.
Tokyo is…Akihabara, famous for the electronic shops and for the otaku, where you can find hundreds of kawaii, manga and anime shops, videogames, cosplayers and so much more! If you want to have a memory from this area, for 100 yen (less than 1 euro) you may try the gashapon machines that you will find everywhere to get a surprise gadget of your favorite cartoon or theme (sushi, cats, Dragonball, Sailor Moon and many many others)!
Tokyo is…Omotesando Street, the most famous street for luxury shopping in Tokyo.
Tokyo is…Asakusa, where our trip started and ended, definitely the area that I loved the most (except for the vintage area of Shimokitazawa!). The area is very touristic as it expands around the magnificent Senso-ji temple, the most visited temple in Tokyo. If you are there don’t forget to check your fortune at the Temple like many other visitors are doing (they are also written in English!).
Tokyo is…Korakuen, with the most amazing Japanese gardens ever. The calmness, peace and harmony of this big garden seems to be miles away from the crowd of the big city! Lotus, rice, carps and the beautiful full-moon bridge…in this garden you will feel like in an old Japanese movie (also because they offer free Japanese umbrellas to protect from the sun…perfect for your pictures!)
Tokyo is…Kagurazaka, the old geisha’s neighborhood, a traditional area of the town very calm and peaceful where you can get lost in the tiny streets of this beautiful area.
Tokyo is…the Tsukiji Fish Market, the most famous fish market in the world, where we ate the best sushi ever at 8.30 in the morning (Daiwa Sushi was the best for us!). Sushi here is not cheap. You will spend around 30 euros for 10/12 pieces but believe me, you will be more than happy! (No tuna auctions for us!)
Tokyo is…the Toc Flea Market in Gotanda (or any other Flea Market in town) where you can find amazing antiques pieces, second hand kimonos, second hand Coach bags and all type of thrifted clothes and memorabilia for incredible price (still beware of fakes!).
Tokyo is…the Tokyo Sky Tree, where we went to finally see the Mount Fuji but he decided not to show up during all our staying because of the weather. Still the view of Tokyo from there is breathless!
Tokyo is…Ginza, very famous luxury shopping area of Tokyo near the Imperial Palace.
Tokyo is…Roppongi Hills, a modern district with the Mori Art Museum and full of modern buildings, where Japanese people love to walk and have a drink on Saturday nights.
Tokyo is also the 100 yen shops (where you can buy loads of things for the price of 100 yen), the Tokyu Hands (the most famous department store of Japan), the colored and noisy supermarkets, the beauty shops (where it is “mandatory” to buy Shiseido products for almost half the price and the famous Japanese face masks).
Just one last thing about Tokyo and about Japan in general. I have been told and I read a lot that Japan is quite expensive especially when it comes to eat. Personally, a part for the experience at the Tsukiji Fish Market for which I was prepared, we never spent more than 10/15 euros for our meals, and we ate magnificently quite everywhere. We basically avoided touristic restaurants and we always picked local restaurants where people use to sit at the counter and eat their meal (with tea and water included!).
If you want to try a very special experience we heard about Nagomi Visit before leaving and we immediately booked a dinner with them. Basically it is a site (www.nagomivisit.com) where you can experience the incredible Japanese hospitality by having dinner with a Japanese host that will contact you on the site when you insert your proposal. The fee is fixed and you will organize the dinner with the host that is usually within 1km from where you are. You can cook together, understand more about the Japanese culture and enjoy a night out with your Japanese family!
We were lucky to have Junko and her family as hosts: we took the train to Hino where they picked us up and we enjoyed an amazing evening at their place. Junko prepared a tasty Japanese dinner (including different types of sake!) and we had a beautiful conversation, exchanging ideas and tips about our so different cultures. After dinner her son’s friends joined us and we all took a personal class of shodo, the art of Japanese calligraphy. We also received as a present a beautiful fan with our names “translated” in kanji. It was one of the best experiences of our trip. Japanese hospitality at its best!