Looking out into the expanse of roadway, the foreign destination seemed similar to where I had just come from. Stretches of kept highway, cars whizzing by - the main difference seemed to be the kanji on the green signs. However, as we drove into the city, I was greeted by a distinct amalgam of buildings, greenery, and people that can only be described as inexplicably Tokyo.
There’s no city in the world that I’ve been to that feels more like a city than Tokyo. Although it houses millions of people and districts all within walking distance, the city is contradictory, rarely ever feeling constrained. The kind politeness instilled within the Japanese people makes a crowd simply feel like a mass of people getting to their destination.
Hosted within the modern architecture and carefully crafted infrastructure, lie nooks and crannies of hidden eateries, but also small shops prominently displaying their colorful wares.
Walking down into the subway, the stairway was as clean as the one leading to our hotel. In fact despite the seeming lack of trash receptacles, the streets are completely clean. Technology efficiently powers the subway station and the rest of the city, while well-designed signs simultaneously make the underground easier to navigate than public transportation in my home city.
Taking the train from one part of town to another, I felt as if I had been completely transported, as each district maintains its own unique vibe within the larger city. Whether it’s the bright lights of the large signs in Shibuya, or the vast open spaces in the middle of the urban landscape, like the Meiji Shrine, the city never failed to surprise me.
Beyond the sights, sounds, and delectable food, what really made the city was the people. Dressed in tailored, minimal garb, any person I encountered was kind, polite, and compassionate. Respect runs through the veins of the culture, so much so that the city is as quiet as a California suburb, with no one wanting to disturb those around them with excess noise. A restauranteur who moved to Tokyo from the States even jokingly remarked that if one were to leave their wallet on the streets of Tokyo, it would be returned to them with 10 extra yen because the person who found the wallet would have felt bad.
I didn’t think anything could make the city more spectacular than all the experiences I had already had, until the trees began blossoming and we witnessed the peak of Sakura season. Driving through the streets and seeing pink blossoms fall from the sky, and walking under a canopy of springtime snow, I saw individuals celebrating the season, engaging in the tradition of hanami, flower viewing, with food from an outdoor market. The blend of the blossoms with the glass and concrete structures that occupy much of Tokyo spoke to the country's ethos of coexistence.
I was entranced by all that Tokyo had to offer and will undoubtedly be back for the unbeatable freshness of each bite of sushi and the unique culture that I find so intriguing.
This small eatery with only three tables in Tokyo, expertly blended Japanese flavors with French technique to create an unforgettable meal.
Within Tokyo Station is a corridor hosting multiple delectable ramen eateries. Dine at whichever has the smallest line, all are divine. The street even features vegan options.
The famed pastry chef's Tokyo cafe in Omotesando features all the delights of the New York menu plus some special additions without the lengthy wait times.