Godzilla is staring back at me. I’m feverishly trying to get a good picture of him, the car to pick us up will be at the hotel any minute. This is my eighth day in Tokyo, a sprawling concrete jungle that holds endless wonders.
We found ourselves in the Akihabara district the first morning. Multi-level electronics stores packed to the brim with screens. If the glow from LEDs was not enough, surely the fluorescent lights make up for it. Ascending these skyscrapers, time is an illusion. The only thing in short supply at these stores is windows. You don’t need to sleep if you live here, or keep any concept of daytime.
The bustle of daylight and business people fades into a neon-lit night where teenagers have taken over. We turn in early though. The 17-hour time difference has taken its effect.
The next day brings us to a cat cafe in the Shinjuku district. With dogs and cats costing thousands to adopt, a lot of locals pay around $10 to spend an hour with animals when they can. These cats are revered and they aren’t complaining, receiving affection from 10am-10pm every day.
Later in the same day we visit the Furusato Matsuri, inside the famous ‘Tokyo Dome’. The overwhelming number of people is second only to the smells here. The options here are a far cry from the Taste of Chicago. Even with all the crowds, everything moves quite well, just like in Tokyo’s transit system. America should take notes here, despite being the world’s most populous city, the subway lines run on time–people line up single file to enter a train and keep to the left on escalators–allowing those in a ‘hurry’ to pass on the right.
Several thousand steps later, we are lining up for Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant. Medieval times meets Isaac Asimov, in a colorful, over-the-top future show. I’ve never seen so many lights and robots anywhere. It’s a beautiful representation of living art.
Tokyo is a city of extremes, so after the loudest and brightest entertainment I’ve ever seen, we continue the next morning with Zen Buddhist cuisine. These monks have passed down recipes and traditions since before the U.S. was a glimmer in anyone’s eye. Inside of a Hori-gotatsu room, we get 12 courses of some of the most beautiful vegan food I have ever seen.
That leads us to a sumo wrestling tournament. A fascinating sport of tradition. I think I’m addicted, I wonder if my TV provider has a channel airing these …
The next day brings us to the Harajuku district, Tokyo’s home of colorful fashion. This fantasy land’s whimsy is further extended by the smell wafting from all the crepe stands. Of course I’ll have a banana-brownie-filled-crepe with chocolate ice cream and whip, who wouldn’t?
Amidst the beautiful intensity of Harajuku, we sneak away into the Aoyama flower market. Stowed away in the world’s noisiest city, we enjoy a moment of quiet with tea made only from fresh herbs. The blend is called ‘Refresh’, and the name could not be more fitting.
We’ll finish the night with Karaoke, at one of the tens of spots less than a mile from our hotel. The drinks are cheap and the mics are loud, this is something I’d like to see in the states. We may have Karaoke bars, but we certainly don’t have skyscrapers full of private Karaoke rooms.
The next day we visit the famous Shibuya crossing, hundreds walk this crossing at every light change. If you’ve seen a movie filmed in Tokyo, you’d recognize it.
We explore cocoon rooms that night at Wine Bar Mayu. A new take on wine and food. Each room is a cocoon made of papier-mâché with tatami mats lining the floor. This is exotic, strange and cool. Only in Tokyo.
We’ll start the next day at Hello Kitty’s cafe for pancakes, and then to Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. We get to see the world’s most advanced robot, ASIMO. Later we get to ride personal mobility devices based on the same balancing technology, called UNI-CUB’s. If they sold these I would take one home.
We finish out our last night in Tokyo at Sega’s theme park, Joypolis. The rides and games here are incredible, blending old-school roller-coaster with new-school graphics processing.
We get up the last day to check out the Ginza district, home to high-end shopping and the Sony Showroom.
Back to the states for now, hopefully we’ll meet again, Tokyo … I still need a good photo of Godzilla.