When the land of rising sun calls you, you book yourself a flight and land here. I booked myself a Singapore airlines flight and came. In the 3rd week of May, I visited Tokyo for a week. Tokyo is the city of skyscrapers and excellent infrastructure in terms of transportation.
The transit system is amazing. In my 8 days stay here, I did not book a taxi even once. This is unlike all my previous international travels, even to the US. When I visited China, google maps did not work and I could not explore the transit much. In Seattle and California, the transit was not this extensive and people relied on uber and private cars to do the commutes and even where there was a station, it generally was not in walking distance. But in Japan, not just the transit was a walk away but also google maps worked just perfectly. The transit features told exactly in how many minutes the train or the bus would arrive and that time was accurate to the last second. Such preciseness is the hallmark of the city.
Even though I did not hailed a taxi myself, I have heard that one could just stop the taxi, get in and tell the driver where to go; without any haggling. And no wonder, the air in the city seems so fresh. The other thing was the multi-layered roads in the city. There were roads on top of each other, and these seemed to seamlessly handle all the vehicular traffic.
Travel tip: Buying a value ticket pass for a day or week is quite economical.
The second thing I loved about the city was the people. Despite being a city with so much advanced infrastructure and people who were busy, the city is home to the warmest people I have come across. Instances where I asked someone on the street where the bus stop was and they walked with me and dropped me to the exact point were not uncommon. People in Japan are smiling, respectful and extremely polite. They are willing to converse in English despite not being too fluent with it. People are very disciplined and follow the rules to the core. No one pushes in metro lines, no one deviates from the straight line on the elevators. The city has managed to preserve its rich and ingrained disciplined life as well as the warmth. I loved the Japanese for their willingness to help.
The third thing I loved was the city’s weather; especially during the time I visited. The moderate temperatures, drizzles made the city utterly serene.
The fourth thing to love was the city’s fashion sense. The gentlemen on the road were mostly dressed in formal suits. I hardly spotted men wearing T-shirts. The ladies wore formal suits, skirts and lovely dresses. And all of them carried what they wear extremely well and gracefully. People seemed to pay a lot of attention to detail when it came to dressing up.
Umbrellas and cycles were omnipresent. I have been told people do not lock their cycles as there is no fear of them being stolen.
On things that I did not like, I have been struggling with vegetarian food here. Finding that is extremely hard. Even when you find something, the taste is not to the palate, it is cooked in fish oil. My hotel did not have a microwave oven, making it harder for me to cook my ready-to-eat meals. Also, Japanese folks seem to enjoy their salt quite a lot. I have struggled with salt in almost everything I have eaten.
Japan continues to be largely a cash economy. People hate to accept cards. A lot of places don’t. This makes it harder, especially if you are a tourist.
The displays on items in the malls, advertisements are mostly in Japanese language, making one feel out of place. I could not buy much sweets not being able to understand the ingredients.
The city is not cosmopolitan and seems to be happy with its own people. I hardly saw people from other nationalities here. Not sure if that is good or bad, because being a cosmo city comes with its own set of challenges.
Places I loved visiting:
- Asakusa Sensoji Temple – Loved the tourist spirit, shopping and the temple shrine. Wish there were more detailed information in English about the shrine’s history.
- Nataraj Restaurant and Swagat Restaurant for Indian food – Do try the vegan breads
- Meiji Jingu Shrine and the market around it
- Hachiko’s statue – Taught so much about the Dog-human relationship and the strength of loyalty.