A Travellerspoint blog

Tokyo - the world's largest city

Embracing the future while holding onto the past

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View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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Bright lights of Shinjuku, Tokyo.

When Dave and I organized our trip around the world we had no idea how the order of countries we visited would affect us, but as it turns out, timing is everything. After the mayhem of southeast Asia, Japan couldn't have come at a better time. From the minute we stepped off the plane we knew something was different. We were in the biggest city in the world, but the air smelled fresh, the roads and buildings were spotless, and the people were genuinely happy. There was no honking or superfluous noise, everything ran on perfect time and there was a sense of zen that we both desperately needed.

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Of course, I immediately ruin the peace by breaking the high tech metro ticket machine. Oops.

Tokyo, like most of Japan, as we learned, is a balance between new and old. Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi have more trend setting car models on the road than I have ever seen. The country has completely embraced technology. Gadgets are everywhere. Cell phones (which you never hear, because they are always turned to manner mode) and iPods are strapped to everyone's neck; both young and old.

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Paradise for some! Electronic mega malls can't be missed in the Akihabara section of Tokyo.

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Gambling is very popular. Slots seem to be the game of choice, but oddly many businessmen are using machines with a mechanical arm to grab for a stuffed animal.

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The Japanese love a corny game show! We spotted one being recorded from the window of a street side studio in Shibuya.

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Karaoke is extremely popular, so Motown Dave and I rented a private box to share our voices with the world. Good thing the windows are strong ; - )

But the best invention . . . the plug-in toilet, with amenities such as a heated seat, a multitude of cleaning options, and music or flushing sounds so your neighbors don't hear your business.

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Don't be scared by the remote control handle bar.

Tokyo has a thriving sex industry. The country's version of the 'no tell motel' is called a Love Hotel. Guests can either 'stay' for the night or 'rest' for a few hours. Dave and I shopped around and found some very classy rooms fully equipped with bar and karaoke machine, while others have themes to look like a doctor's office or cave. Use your imagination! Guests range from businessmen with young women, young couples still likely living with parents, to curious tourists. In traditional Japan form, guests select the hotel room from a vending machine wall so they don't have to interact with a human face to face.

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There is a vending machine for just about everything. Coffee, beer, noodles, sex.

Lodging runs the gamut and we wanted to experience it all, so booked a night at a capsule hotel, which costs a fraction of a regular hotel and on par with a hostel. Guests are basically assigned to a morgue in a large room that comes fully equipped with a tv, radio, alarm clock, light and air.

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The best part was waking up to the Sox/Yankees game!

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The bathroom is onsen style (traditional Japanese bathhouse.) Guests rinse off with the shower head and then enter the same bath.

Women, especially, are fashion forward in Tokyo.

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Takeshita Dori is a congested shopping street that attracts lots of teens.

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Thigh highs and knee highs are in. Layering is a must. Jeans should be rolled up and worn with heels and cute, colorful ped-like socks. And then there is an edgy cartoon-like style worn by many teens.

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Even school girls, who go to school six days a week, have style.

...

YET, Tokyo and Japanese culture is holding on to aspects of its past. People are still riding bicycles circa 1960.

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Typical bike with few to no gears, but comes with a creative umbrella holder.

Credit cards are not widely accepted. And, the business culture seems catered to men, with women often staying at home once they have children, although it should be noted that women are having children much later in life and working much longer.

Tokyo is open 24 hours a day and is the most expensive city we've traveled to thus far, comparable to New York City. Restaurants serve every type of food. I got my fix of safe meat to fill my protein deficient body from not eating right during the last few months.

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Restaurants line alleys and are always full.

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For the freshest fish head to the Tokyo fish market at 6 a.m. After checking it out, Dave and I went for breakfast sushi.

Photos of Tokyo look like chaos, but at its busiest intersection not one person attempted to cross the street before the light turned. No cars tried to run a red light, and oddly, it was pretty quiet. There is also no trash on the ground as people don't eat in public and smoking areas are designated to certain street corners, with most smokers carrying their own portable ash tray. It is unreal!

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The Tokyo scramble in Shibuya is the busiest intersection in Tokyo.

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In almost every city Japan has made roads accessible for the visually impaired. Like the freedom trail, all roads are lined with raised yellow strips and dots, plus special sound devices at all street intersections.

Ninety percent of Japanese are Buddhist and shrines are everywhere.

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Meiji Jingu, Tokyo's largest Shinto Shrine. It is custom too wash before entering. While there, people make a donation and write their well wishes.

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Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.

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Tokyo's Imperial Palace is not open to the public. We enjoyed looking in from the opposite side of the moat.

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Roppongi Tower, a landmark in Tokyo because you can see it from everywhere, is sort of like the Eiffel Tower, but not really. This is the view from Neil's porch. Roppongi is a Tokyo neighborhood with many of the city's night clubs, but it is also home to many foreigners who work in the city.

We were fortunate to have our third homestay of our trip. Natick High School alum and fellow Temple Shir Tikva Hebrew School carpooler Neil Rosenblatt opened his doors for us, hosting two parties; one on our first night and one on our last. Ok...not exactly planned for us, but we felt pretty special ; - ), ate well, and met many of his fantastic friends that he has met during his decade long (give or take) tenure in the city.

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Neil and Elizabeth cooking up yakatori, which is glazed meat on a stick cooked on a special grill.

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Party 2.

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Party 1.

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We didn't realize we would be back on US ground so soon, but we were invited to a going away party at the US Embassy for two marines leaving for new posts. Neil has a few friends who work at the embassy. The US military continues to have an enormous presence in Japan. (We actually ended up in the embassy newsletter, which is quite funny!)

As a bonus, Neil introduces me to his friend Reina who is a hair stylist in training.

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Reina colors my hair as a treat. Neil is my personal translator so I don't end up with purple hair.

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Our last adventure in Tokyo was to ride this roller coaster at the Tokyo Dome. After a few major drops it goes through a shopping plaza wall.

We are sad to leave Japan, but know we will come back. We're now headed to main land China for three weeks, followed by one week in Hong Kong. We'll likely write our blog entry on China once we leave the country so we can be as candid as usual. After Hong Kong, we fly to South Africa for one month. If you've been, send us your tips. If you know anyone there, please introduce us.

Soon you'll hear from Dave with stories from our travels around Japan.

Sayonara,
- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 23:11 Archived in Japan

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Comments

Liz/Dave...As always, I enjoy reading and seeing your insightful comments and great pictures...What an adventure! Regards to your mom who is on your sojourn...Peace...L&F

by Lou Mroz

Dear Dave and Eliz,

Awesome photos and sharing the fascinating aspects of Japan. After a long hiatus I am reviewing the past few blog entries and photos I missed. Breakfast sushi-YUM! I think I would have gotten claustrophobic in one of thos hotel capsules- crazy! Love, Sara Jane

by Sarajane33

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