A delightful mix of tradition and technology
Big cities in Asia like Shanghai, Seoul, Beijing or Bangkok have quite a few similarities be it the high density of population, towering skyscrapers...
Tokyo is a city, which mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers, night clubs and anime shops to cherry trees and temples
Big cities in Asia like Shanghai, Seoul, Beijing or Bangkok have quite a few similarities be it the high density of population, towering skyscrapers engulfing neat pockets of green, residential and shopping areas generally mixed up, lots of wayside restaurants serving all sorts of traditional fare, and cheap and efficient public transport system. But there is also another common factor that they all strive to be Tokyo.
They strive to be like it but hate to admit for Japan and particularly Tokyo has evolved as the worthy epitome of modern times- high speed trains, high tech high rises, cutting edge technology percolating into each and every aspect of daily lives.
In Tokyo, the various high-rise buildings, overpasses and railway lines give the idea that we are entering a modern city. But the beautiful and well-arranged parks are also inseparable from the identity of Tokyo, which with their dominant sakura trees, add distinctive colour to the cityscape and enhance its freshness.
Tokyo is often acknowledged to be the most expensive city in the world and its society is also widely perceived to be “crazy” about discipline and orderliness, which is perhaps one of the major reasons why Tokyo looks so attractive, neat and clean.
Tokyo is a city that offers visitors one of the most modern facades in the world and boasts of towering skyscrapers that are claimed to be capable of withstanding severe future earthquakes. Yet past traditions are retained and well respected despite all the modernising.
Like the Meiji Shrine. Situated in the midst of Yoyogi Park, the Shrine is an oasis of calm and tranquility from the hustle bustle that is downtown Tokyo. Hoping to avoid the crowds, we reached around 8 in the morning when there were very few people around.
Walking through the wide gravel paths of the forested park to the shrine was therapeutic. There are small streams, little gold-topped lantern pagodas, and a great Torii gate before you reach the shrine. We really loved this beautifully kept Shrine, you feel like you've chanced upon an ancient temple, in a secret park. It makes you feel at peace with yourself and left me feeling really pleased to have visited this gem in the middle of Tokyo.
Our hotel was located close to the Imperial Palace and one afternoon we walked to the Nijubashi Bridge from which we could see a far view of the Imperial Palace. The Imperial Palace buildings and inner gardens are open to the public only on two days every year, January 2 (New Year's Greeting) and December 23 (Emperor's Birthday).
On these dates, visitors are able to enter the inner palace grounds and stand a chance to see the members of the Imperial Family making public appearances on a balcony. However, during the rest of the year there are guided tours of the outer parts of the palace which must be reserved in advance with the Imperial Household Agency.
Later in the evening we visited Asakasa, Tokyo downtown to taste traditional authentic Japanese cuisine (read sushi and temporas) without which no visit to the country can be complete. In front of Japanese restaurants we could see dishes displayed in showcase but these, as we later learnt are actually made of plastic. There is a whole kitchen market in Tokyo where restaurants can purchase fake plastic sushi, plastic pizza, bread, bear, noodles or whatever else is needed which can be kept in display window for years.
We also visited Shinjuku the "new center of Tokyo,” with its tall buildings full of neon, discos, and night clubs best defining the trendy heart of the city. The Ginza Street located here holds the distinction of being the costliest real estate on earth, as almost every big brand has a showroom here. Having a showroom here is sign that a company has arrived on international scene.
The Tokyo Skytree is another of the significant must-see spots of Tokyo. With a height of 634 meters it is the tallest building in Japan. The panorama from the observatory, the Tembō Deck, especially in the evening is simply spectacular. One shouldn’t also miss the small section of glass floor panels, where one can see – dizzyingly – all the way to the ground.
Just next to the Tokyo Sky Tree is Asakusa where an atmosphere of the Tokyo of past decades still survives. Asakusa's main attraction is Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries.
Tokyo’s infrastructure in spite of being extremely high tech offers ample space for pedestrians and cyclists, enabling more people to walk instead of driving. There are lots of fences to chain bicycles along the sidewalks.
Visiting Tokyo for four days was hardly enough to get a thorough picture of a city boasting of diverse tourist destinations. But the short visit did amaze us and make us wish to return another time.