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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 163: Out and about in Tokyo

JAPAN | Wednesday, 16 April 2008 | Views [710]

Wednesday 16th April

After a good sleep, I got up and had some breakfast in the hostel before venturing out onto the streets of Tokyo, feeling refreshed and excited about the day ahead. I wasn't sure what I wanted to see or do, so picked one of the commercial districts as a place to head to and got on the metro. I returned to Shinjuku where I had been the night before. Although there are many shops and restaurants in this district, it is also home to various government offices and businesses, and is therefore full of skyscrapers and workers.

I took the lift up to the observation floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices which has a great 360 degree view of the city, although it would have been better if it hadn't have been such an overcast day. It really is a sprawling city. I took a walk around the area, had lunch and then took the subway to another fashionable part of town called Harajuku. I wandered around some of the secondhand clothes stores but didn't see anything worth buying.

Tokyo seems to be a shoppers paradise – to other people this may be the definition of hell – and it was reasonably pleasant to walk about and look at some of the locals who clearly place a lot of value on fashion and how they look. The extremely fashion-conscious Japanese are very well catered for, and I saw a real spectrum of styles, from girls dressed like dolls, to guys who seemed to think that 80s 'poodle rock' is still a look they can get away with.

It turned into a beautiful day and I was enjoying the pace of life in Tokyo: busy but well ordered and always interesting. Although there were many people about, it stil felt very comfortable. I didn't feel like I needed to pay money to get into museums or galleries, as life on the streets was sufficiently entertaining. I was also pleasantly distracted by the beautiful girls in Tokyo. My own personal crown for best looking women has been bestowed on quite a few places but I think it will take somewhere special to take the title away from Tokyo!

The afternoon weather was very nice, sunny and mild, so I took a walk to the Meiji-Jingu shrine, situated in the peaceful gardens that are located near the trendy shops of Harajuku. The sense of calm created in this park was wonderful, and I loved the serenity of the place. As ever, it was completely spotless, the architecture of the temple was simple and strong, and the whole place was quite different from other religious sights that I had visited on my trip in other parts of Asia.

As the park closed, I took a walk towards the district of Shibuya, and stopped at an outdoor stage on which a young Japanese woman was performing a classical guitar recital. There was a crowd of about twenty people – most likely passersby like myself – and I spent about half an hour listening to some pretty cool music. Again, this was a really nice thing to come across and it gave me the impression that Tokyo is an important centre for arts and music, and it is appreciated by the ordinary man in the street. It merely added to the positive impression that Tokyo had already made on me in just over twenty four hours.

As I walked into Shibuya, it was easy to get blinded by the lights of downtown Tokyo, as the city was lit up for the night. Even the layout of the streets was attractive, with wide pedestrian crossings allowing hundreds of people to cross the road at the same time. This was a sight in itself; crowds of commuters turning the city into a real hive of activity, and all this taking place below massive video screens and neon lights, a perfect metropolitan image.

After dinner of a hamburger and ice cream, I wandered back to the hostel, once again happy after spending a great day around Tokyo, my new favourite city. Everything was so easy, a real joy just to be there. It was similar in ways to Manhattan but it was a better city in which to walk about, definitely a welcome change from the chaos of cities in places like Vietnam and Thailand. I really loved the place.

I got back to the hostel and packed up my stuff as I was moving on to Osaka the next day, to stay with Pete and Kumi. Shortly after, I hit the hay, ready for another good nights kip.


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