Tokyo, Japan: 24 Hours in Tokyo

September 10, 2018
Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored



TOKYO, JAPAN: 24 HOURS IN THE 
WORLD’S LARGEST MEGACITY


Go, go, go! It’s no wonder that the official Tokyo city guide is called Go Tokyo. This megacity of 38 million people has a reputation of being fast, forward, and futuristic. From robot restaurants to capsule hotels (let’s not even mention Tokyo Drift), the capital of Japan is a frenetic city of skyscrapers, electric lights, and concentrated craziness. Tokyo is like the most extra of Blade Runner and Ghost In The Shell combined, with maid cafes (where doe-eyed waitresses in French maid costumes fawn over customers: “Welcome home, master!”). The future is here, and it looks like this. Having just come from Kyoto, the former imperial city and the spiritual and traditional heart of the country, Tokyo was a rapid change of pace that threw me for a loop. Even more so because I had only a full day to reacquaint myself with a city that is too fast for my tired, bootie-clad feet to keep up with. This is not a city guide, but rather my photo diary of the electricity of this insane city as well as the contrasts of its pockets of tranquility. Here are the sights I saw in my 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan.







In a manner befitting my futuristic, fast-paced destination, I reached Tokyo from Kyoto on the Shinkansen. The Shinkansen (bullet train) is a pointy-nosed thing of aerodynamic wonder. Achieving speeds of up to 320km/h, the Shinkansen network of high speed train lines was built to connect Tokyo to the rest of the country. Relatively silent, comfortable, safe, cost-effective, and extremely punctual (if your train departs or arrives a few seconds late, expect an apology); the Shinkansen has changed the way people commute and travel - saving commuters 400 million hours per year by connecting distant towns to major cities and making it extremely easy to travel between prefectures. I got from Kyoto to Tokyo in just 2 hours and 20 minutes, no mean feat as the distance is 360km as the crow flies. Crossrail who?






TOKYO SKYTREE


To truly appreciate just how dense Tokyo is, the only way is up. At Tokyo Skytree on Floors 340, 345, and 350, 445, and 450; the soaring 5 metre-high glass walls allowed for a panorama of Tokyo (on the clearest of days you can see Mt Fuji) from 350 metres above. Tokyo at ground level can be claustrophobic, and from up here the bigger picture confirms it. High-rises, tightly packed as far as the eye can see. Traditional structures - you can just about see Senso-ji temple rising for a breath of air (above) - seem to be swallowed up by the urban sprawl. I started from the lower observatory - the Tembō Deck on Floor 340 - where I walked on the glass floor panels, nearly giving myself a heart attack as I looked down all the way to street level. Next, I took the elevator with the glass front and watched, knees trembling, the city shrinking beneath me as I raced up to Floor 445. I ended this dizzying excursion on the upper observatory - the Tembo Galleria on Floor 450 - where the highlight was a circular glass corridor (below). Tokyo Skytree is well worth the visit, especially on a clear day or at night. The ticket counter area on the 4th floor has signs noting the wait time and the current visibility; and staff that speak Japanese, English, Mandarin, and Korean.


TOKYO SKYTREE




Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored



Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored


SENSO-JI


I needed to soothe my nerves after the thrill of Tokyo Skytree. I headed to Tokyo’s most visited temple - Sensō-ji. Legend has it that a golden image of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Guan Yin (Kannon in Japanese) was miraculously pulled out of a river by two fishermen in AD 628, and has since been enshrined in Sensō-ji eversince. That the image has never been on public display doesn’t stop a steady stream of worshippers from visiting - the entire temple complex is always busy, especially at the large incense cauldron in front of the temple where before waft the smoke onto their bodies to bestow good health.

I entered the temple compex from the red Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate), where a camera crew for a TV station pulled me aside to film a segment “Foreigners do their best impression of Japanese” (I didn’t do the whole “kawaii! peace!!!” thing - I’m looking at you, dude who pulled your eyes upward), I just made my most contemplative face and said “Sou desu ka? Ah, sou.”). I navigated the huge crowds, through the temple complex of food stalls, fish ponds, and finally to the eastern edge of Asakusa-jinja - a shrine built in honour of the fishermen who discovered the Kannon statue that inspired the construction of Sensō-ji



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Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored





YOYOGI PARK & MEIJI SHRINE

With such tight living spaces in Tokyo, its inhabitants descend upon parks to meet, socialise, and stretch their legs. The sprawling forested grounds of Yoyogi Park and its 120,000 trees offer a verdant respite from the crush of the city. It’s also the site of Tokyo’s grandest Shinto shrine, Meiji Shrine. I entered Yoyogi Park through a towering torii gate, noting the locals who stopped to bow before passing. Despite the crowds - of students holding society meetings, lovers walking hand in hand, families and their impeccably behaved children, and tourists stopping every second to take selfies - there was plenty of breathing room. Sights such as a wall full of wine barrels and a flower competition made the long walk through Meiji-jingū Gyoen (the Strolling Garden) all the more pleasurable. 

When I arrived at Meiji Shrine (after of course, purifying myself by pouring water over my hands - purity is a tenet of Shintoism) I learnt that most of the shrine was undergoing renovations in preparation for its 100th anniversary. Not that it deterred visitors from coming to make offerings of money, food, and prayers (the ceremony is called nikkusai, and happens twice daily at 8am and 2pm) and buying omamori (charms). Nor did it take away from the powerful spiritual energy of the shrine and the sense of wellbeing I felt (or perhaps it was the fresh air after the smog of the city). I even had the great good fortune of witnessing a traditional Shinto wedding procession (the bride and groom, below, are shielded by a red umbrella), as well as seeing so many adorable children dressed in colourful kimono and yukata. I can attest to the invigorating powers of Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine, having left with such a feeling of wonder and calm.






Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored



Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored



SHIBUYA CROSSING

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. To go from the tranquility of Yoyogi Park right into the chaos of Shibuya Crossing - the busiest intersection in Japan, and possibly even the world - was madness. And yet it had to be done, for a true Tokyo experience. With hundreds of people (at peak hours, over a thousand) crossing in all directions every time a light changes yet managing to dodge each other despite the urgent pace, Shibuya Crossing is quintessential Tokyo. A city full of people on the go, coexisting in a suffocating space, yet avoiding and ignoring each other with a well-rehearsed ninja-like agility. Except of course for the baka gaijin (stupid tourists) such as yours truly who try to take photos while crossing and end up bumping into each other. You can tell who are the foreigners are, they’re the only ones colliding - the locals have seen it all and know how to navigate around them. The best and most popular vantage point to see all the action of Shibuya Crossing is from the Starbucks on the 2nd floor of the Q-front building across the street. But to truly absorb the breathtaking absurdity of it all, you need to be on ground level, in the thick of it all.






Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Go Tokyo! 24 Hours in Tokyo, Japan by Posh, Broke, & Bored

Thoughts on Tokyo...


I had been to Tokyo once before this trip, as a teenage otaku (anime enthusiast) and borderline weaboo. It’s interesting to see how my perception of Tokyo has changed. As an 18-year old who wanted nothing more than a set of Copic markers and to be a gothic lolita, my dream was to hang out in Harajuku hoping to have my picture taken for street style magazine FRUiTs, as well shop for manga in AkihabaraAs a 30-something year old with far less exciting ambitions I noticed that on this trip I gravitated toward attractions that were less...colourful. I was much more at home in the luxury district of Ginza (left), perusing stationery shops for washi tape, loading my shopping basket with drugstore skincare at Don Quixote, and hastily slurping ramen ordered from vending machines.

Curious, then, that I eschewed the more “typically Tokyo” destinations and creations (I don’t “get” Tokyo Banana. There, I said it) that celebrate the unusual subcultures of this unique city. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Tokyo. I appreciate it for what it is - a beguiling megacity that looks to the future and moves towards it with a rapid speed. I just prefer to take it at a slower pace, something anyone can do even in a city that shouts GO!

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