Japan for me has always seemed so far away. Strangely enough though, there is only Russia between my home country Estonia and Japan. Flying over the northern part of Russia and looking at landscape with no habitation at sight, mighty rivers curling the landscape and hundreds of miles of snow covered mountains glittering in early morning sun was an experience in itself.
My first impression of Tokyo was that people were slightly behind in fashion and the metro seemed somewhat old school. 90ies trainers, ladies wearing key chains everywhere, old mobile phones (i.e.no Iphones) and so on. However, first impressions tend to be rather misleading and Tokyo has many different layers to uncover for any visitor.
Here are some things and places I’d recommend going to try and see when in Tokyo:
1. Ueno We stayed in Ueno area, which is centred with Tokyo University. Very calm, with a beautiful park full of temples and museums. The Skyliner train from the airport actually takes you to Ueno, so very easy to access as well. Definitely worth a visit if you have time and want to experience something more ‘local.’
2. Matcha Latte As the ryokans seem to only serve green tea, I was longing for something more caffeinated. So I went to a very Western establishment, Starbucks, and got something completely Japanese – Matcha Latte. It was pretty amazing, so not complaining for the local tweaks that have been made. Slightly sweet though, so do not overdose.
3. Harajuku it seemed that anyone who wanted to look unique or peculiar or just fashionable would go and stroll along the streets of Harajuku. Funky shops, unique looks. Just go there and soak in the atmosphere. Have to say that I found streets off the main street most interesting. The shops and atmoshpere even made it feel a little like Manhattan Beach in LA.
4. Golden Gai, Shinjuku is a small area full of tiny (and I mean tiny) bars owned by more of an arty crowd. We ended up it two bars and leaving only about 4am. To be honest, you could keep going longer if you wished, just in time to go an visit the famous Tsukiji fish market. In these few hours we ended up being squeezed in a bar with almost 20 people, which probably should have fit about 7; dance around with a bunch of South Korean girls and have a private concert by a Japanese musician, who turns out was one of the patrons of the first bar. All the bars also have the tiniest loos in the world, worth a visit.
5. New York Grill, 59th Floor Park Hyatt Tokyo. To be honest, then this one I only recommend for the view. Even a little effort to go up there to see the view for a few minutes or have a little drink gives you a fantastic opportunity to see the gorgeous view of Tokyo.