Tokyo is the capital of Japan and the largest metropolitan area in the world. It is the seat of the Japanese government and has been described as one of the three "command centers" for the world economy, along with New York City and London. Today, Tokyo offers a seemingly unlimited choice of shopping, entertainment, culture and dining to its visitors. As a foodie, I was excited to visit this city as the Michelin Guide has awarded Tokyo by far the most Michelin stars of any city in the world.
|Ginza at night.|
After dinner we watched Kabuki theater at the Kabuki-za, Japan’s most famous and grandest Kabuki theatre, dating from 1899. It has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since then – once by fire, once by earthquake, once by war, and once so a skyscraper could be built on top of it. The structure was most recently demolished in Spring 2010, and just reopened in Spring 2013. So we were lucky to catch a show. Kabuki is a form of Japanese theater, aimed at the common people, and is gaudy and dramatic. Actors wear elaborate colorful costumes and bright face masks, and express the nature and meanings of their characters using exaggerated poses and gestures. All roles are played by men, but so skilfully do they control their gestures and voices, that it's often hard to believe that the female characters aren't played by real women.
Nearby is the famous Tsukiji Market - a large wholesale market for fish, fruits and vegetables in central Tokyo. It is the most famous of over ten wholesale markets that handle the distribution of fish, meat, produce and flowers in metropolitan Tokyo. Tsukiji Market is best known as one of the world's largest fish markets, handling over 2,000 tons of marine products per day. We grabbed sushi for breakfast here one day at Umai Sushikan and returned on our last day for a ramen lunch at Wakaba.
|View of skyscrapers from Hama Rikyu gardens.|
|Sumida River Line boat cruise.|
|Nakamise shopping street.|
|View of Tokyo Tower from Sensoji Temple.|
|Koi pond at Sensoji Temple.|
|Guard Tower at entrance to Imperial Palace.|
Roppongi Hills is one of the best examples of a "city within the city." Opened in 2003 in the heart of Tokyo's Roppongi district, the building complex features offices, apartments, shops, restaurants, a hotel, art museum, observation deck and more. If you are a fan of Tarantino's movie Kill Bill, then grab dinner in Roppongi at Gonpachi.
For unique gifts, check out Akihabara. Hundreds of electronics shops, ranging from tiny one man stalls specializing in a particular electronic component to large electronics retailers, line the main Chuo Dori street and the crowded side streets around Akihabara. They offer everything from the newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronics parts and home appliances to second-hand goods and electronic junk. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district.
Ryōgoku Kokugikan, also known as Ryogoku Sumo Hall, is an indoor sporting arena located in Sumida. The current building was opened in 1985 and has a capacity of 13,000 people. It is mainly used for sumo wrestling tournaments, yet also houses a museum about sumo. The sumo matches alternate between sumo halls across the country, but again, we were lucky to be in Tokyo while they were in town. We caught a match during the end of the championship tournament. It was very cool to see this traditional athletic wonder.
|View from NY Bar|
|Shinjuku at night.|
Shibuya is one of the twenty-three city wards of Tokyo, but often refers to just the popular shopping and entertainment area found around Shibuya Station. In this regard, Shibuya is one of Tokyo's most colorful and busy districts, packed with shopping, dining and nightclubs serving swarms of visitors that come to the district everyday. Shibuya is a center for youth fashion and culture, and its streets are the birthplace to many of Japan's fashion and entertainment trends. A prominent landmark of Shibuya is the large intersection in front of the station's Hachiko Exit. The intersection is heavily decorated by neon advertisements and giant video screens and gets flooded by pedestrians each time the crossing light turns green, making it a popular photo and movie filming spot.
|Famous intersection of Shibuya.|
|These sake barrels are offered every year to the enshrined deities by members of the Meiji Jingu Nationwide Sake Brewers Association to show their deep respect for the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.|
|The barrels of wine have been offered by the celebrated wineries of Bourgogne in France with the earnest prayer that France and Japan will enjoy many more fruitful years of friendship.|
Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo's largest city parks, featuring wide lawns, ponds and forested areas. It is a great place for jogging, picnicking and other outdoor activities. We took a quick stroll through the park to see the bountiful rose gardens.
|Lovely roses in Yoyogi Park.|
|The "other side" of the Pacific Ocean at Kamakura Beach|
Next to the temple garden at the base of the slope stands the Benten-do, a small hall that contains a figure of Benten (also known as Benzaiten), a goddess of feminine beauty and wealth. Sculptures of Benten and other minor gods can be found in a small cave (Benten-kutsu) next to the Benten-do.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura, Kamakura Daibutsu, is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. With a height of nearly 44 feet, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, surpassed only by the statue in Nara's Todaiji Temple. The statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were destroyed multiple times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries. So, since 1495, the Buddha has been standing in the open air. The statue was quite an impressive sight to see and one of the highlights of our trip.
Unlike our visit to Seoul, we had a bit more difficulty communicating. I was surprised how little English the locals spoke, especially with Tokyo being such a large metropolis. Their culture is much more reserved and the people have a unified sense of pride that perhaps comes off as being a bit less warm to foreigners. Regardless, we enjoyed our trip and appreciated the efficiency of transportation, delicious food, and cultural sights. Have you visited Tokyo before? What are some of your favorites things to do and places to eat? Please share in the comments below!