Extroverted and shy, eclectic and plain, traditional and innovative. Tokyo is all of these things and more – all at the same time. With 13 million inhabitants, the city has so many different sides that it will make you dizzy when trying to recount them all.
The timid part, for instance, that giggles nervously when smiled at. That moves through the Yoyogi park with elegant strides and sips steaming hot green tea with a sober facial expression.
Or the loud, blinking, futuristic side, that shows itself in places like Akihabara, Tokyo’s technical district, at a corner between colourful high rises, where cars full of people playing Real Life Mario Kart drive by.
In Tokyo you step into a different world every few minutes – and discover curiosities at every corner. Tokyo will turn your head around over and over again with its magic, and you won’t really understand what is happening. But the real beauty of it? You don’t need to!
Hunt down the best bars
Shinjuku and Shibuya both offer exciting alleyways stuffed with bars. Just strolling through them is an experience one should not miss. In Shinjuku, the collection of alleyways is called Golden Gai, and in Shibuya, it’s called Nonbei Yokocho, which means ‘drunkards alley’.
In both areas, you will find several hundred bars, clubs and restaurants next to each other, on top of each other, and inside each other. Some of them are so small that only about five people can fit inside a venue at a time.
Most of the bars and restaurants have a theme that reflects itself on their choice of music and interior design. You can find everything from punk rock to French films to horse race themed bars.
Discover the best vintage shops
What Harajuku and Akihabara are for cosplayers, Shimo-Kitazawa is for indie and vintage fans. The small part of the city is only a short subway trip away from Shibuya and inhibits a European flair. This may be because many cafes here offer outside seating, which is a seldom sight in the rest of Tokyo.
Another European touch comes with the density of vintage, record and book shops. Shimokitazawa is also known for being the hotspot for yet unknown indie bands that play shows in small theatre and gallery spaces.
Tokyo will turn your head around over and over again with its magic, and you won’t really understand what is happening. But the real beauty of it? You don’t need to!
Welcome to Kitchen Town…
Kappabashi – also known as Kitchen Town – is a part of Asakusa in the north of Tokyo. You will find everything from Japanese knives to artistically designed ceramic bowls to plastic foods. Yup, plastic foods! Many restaurants in Tokyo showcase their meals in plastic form outside their restaurant, and you will find everything you need to make your own plastic spaghetti, pizza or ice cream in one of the many shops.
You can buy a kit for your desired food and then “cook” it back at home. One of the shops that offers the kits is called Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya.
This is where you will get the best views – for free
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku offers amazing panoramic views across the city from its 243 metres tall towers. The access to the viewing platforms is free and, when the weather is nice, you should be able to spot the magnificent Mount Fuji.
Another free view – apart from the drinks you’ll have to purchase – is the one from the Park Hyatt Hotel (until 8 pm, after that, it costs 2000 Yen). Lost in Translation was filmed here, so you’ll feel like you’re part of Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece while sipping whisky and gazing out on the twinkling cityscape.
So what are you waiting for? Tokyo is ready for you.
Words and pics, Luisa Bider