Tokyo contrasts with Osaka and especially Taiwan in many ways. This was 6 days as a “gaijin” in Tokyo. No chronological journal this time, but a list of thoughts.
Big city life and cultural habits
I could start by saying that Tokyo is crowded, that people walk on the left side of the sidewalk, smoke in restaurants, squeeze in packed subway cars and work a lot. But there are so much details that I like about it. The convenience stores open 24/7, the politeness of people, the U shaped sushis and ramen bars, putting the money first, whether be it to order food or subway tickets. Just a few facts about the biggest and most populated urban area in the world.
Japanese style accomodations
Since I like local experiences, privacy and cheap, I opted for two Airbnb’s in two neighbourhoods of Tokyo that my friend recommended: Asakusa (for the traditional) and Shibuya (for the nightlife). They were both traditional Japanese appartments, with only one multifunctional and minimalist room, tatami floors and futon beds. The tea table and pot was included, for a really cosy experience. I really recommend it, as it’s more welcoming than a hotel room. Futon beds were surprisingly comfortable. If i was to live in such a small place, I wouldn’t use Japanese furnitures, which are too close to the floor in my opinion (maybe something Swedish if you know what I mean). One thing though, Airbnb is not always legal in Japan, make sure you check that with the host, but I’m pretty sure the guest can’t get in trouble.
I was introduced by a friend to Felix, a french guy living in Tokyo. He told us about a future beats party in an amazing club at the borders of Shibuya: Sankeys. We went there for our first night out in Tokyo. The place was amazing, between the club and the music venue, visuals on the ceiling, and in the background, all with a pristine sound system and line up. We saw, amongst others, Sweater Beats from LA(Mad Decent, Diplo, etc).
The second evening was split into two spots. A pregame basement in Rompongi, the international neighbourhood, where all drinks were free until 11:30pm for a 1000 yen cover fee. That’s how you get the party started. Just on time to get the last metro to Womb in Shibuya and catch the entire Makoto performance, a.k.a, Japan’s most famous Drum & Bass export. I started chatting with the attendees and met Yuika, DJ opener and drum & bass promoter in Tokyo. She actually introduced me to Makoto himself, and invited me to catch her closing set at another venue nearby. We went to the vinyl shops the next day, one that had an impressive amount of used drum & bass records.
When I compare to Taiwan, Tokyo was more of a city experience than an adventure. Heavy partying didn’t really help to go explore all day long, but I still managed to see some of the best spots, sometimes with the help of locals.
As I only had two days on my own, I decided to wake up early and go to the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa. Less crowded than Jenn Lann in Daija, still more touristy. Japan, as a first world country that fascinates a lot of people doesn’t really make you feel like an explorer. Still impressive and the sunny (but freezing) weather does justice to the temple.
Another temple is the one for the geek, tech & anime culture: Akihabara. I chose to go there as it was only one stop away from the first Airbnb. Countless shops and game machines for the anime fan. As my knowledge in the field limits to Akira Toriyama and Leiji Matsumoto, I didn’t stay too long in the surroundings.
Besides that, I went to the beautiful Gyoen Park in Shinjuku twice, to Shimo-kitazawa and its small hipster clothes shops & bars, to Takeshita street in Harajuku for deserts and Shinjuku for some camera shopping at MapCamera.
Noodles and sushis paradise, but not only
What I once considered a fancy place to eat was just a common thing in Japan, and for the best. As in Osaka, we found a lot of affordable sushi bars, especially one in Shibuya that offers entire bowls. My preference goes to sashimi more than rolls, as it’s fresher and probably healthier. I also had countless ramen, and some without the soup as pictured below, which instantly became one of my new favorite dishes. Japanese curry in Taito, pork chops bowl in Shinjuku, Ramen and dumplings in an Izakaya in Akihabara. So many culinary, yet affordable memories. Oh, and we’ll still mention the drunken fried sticks from the Family Mart ( the Japanese 7eleven).
Only in Japan
I have seen weird things in Tokyo, and the weirdest is probably the following: my friend and I decided to go to a maid café. Just for the experience. Akihabara is full of them, but we went to one in Shibuya, closer. While I though it was only waitresses dressed as maids serving you, it was more than that. We were welcomed as master and princess and had the pleasure of a “mow mow cute” ceremony. We ordered food that looked way better than it tasted, but we knew it was the experience we paid for. A few awkward, yet funny moments when looking at other customers in the establishment and we even got a souvenir photo. Next to that, I went to a cat café. Basically a very cute and fluffy starbucks where you can pet good looking felines. A few other examples:
- Flyering in Japan comes with a little gift, like tissues or a funion to encourage you taking it.
- Public trash doesn’t exist, except next to vending machines. Speaking of which are everywhere and kind of affordable, and with hot beverages and healthy drinks.
- Public toilets are in every metro station and very clean. I can’t imagine how japanese tourists could survive in Paris now.
- Drinking in public is allowed, yet no one does it but tourists. Yes, those loud gaijins with the maxi cans of Asahi in the metro station.
That’s it. I’m really glad I had such an experience for my first time in Japan and East Asia in general. I owe it to the people I traveled with and those I met. Now more than ever, I want to become a digital nomad.