Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tokyo - Stepping Into the Future and the Past

If my previous posts haven't tapped into your natural curiosities, hopefully this one will.  Tokyo, a city of more than 37 million people, was at times hard to believe.  If you think about that number in different terms, you can see how staggeringly massive it is.  For instance, the population of Tokyo is 4.5 times the population of New York City.  For every one person in NYC, there are 4.5 in Tokyo!  Or you could think of it in terms of states.  37 million people would nearly cover the entire populations of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania COMBINED.....all in one city.

The city of Tokyo ended up being bookends to my journey.  I spent my first and last days in this city and am so glad I did.  Tokyo might not have as much of the old world charm as Kyoto, or the historical importance of Hiroshima, but it had an energy unlike any other city.  All of those people coming together in a way that not only works, but works well.  The subway system is truly a marvel.  You can reach virtually any point the city by train.  Even the Airbnb apartment I stayed in was a only a block from a station, even though it was in a quiet secluded residential area.  Which, by the way, this was my first Airbnb stay and it was phenomenal.  Always keep that as an option when traveling! 

My apartment was on the second floor in the brown building at the end of the street

 The amazing train system made sightseeing extremely easy....once I got the subway map down!

Lucky for me, signage throughout the entire city was in English, so navigating this intricate system was quite easy.  

I stayed in a residential section of one of the 23 wards known as Shibuya.  The ward is actually quite famous for one area.  Visually, that area looks quite similar to Times Square.  Massive digital screens everywhere, big name stores lining the streets, and lots...and lots....of people.  In fact, the busiest crosswalk in the world is located here.  To experience it was nothing short of thrilling.  As the crowds begin to grow on the sidewalks surrounding the intersection, cars in all five intersecting streets begin to slow to a stop.  Once the green crosswalk sign changes, things get wild.  All five street corners cross at once, with hundreds, if not thousands, of people coming at you as you try to cross.   It was like a thrill ride at an amusement park as you see the wall of people coming at you.  

Tokyo gave me the opportunity to try lots of foods, both traditional as well as wacky.  Noodles were everywhere you looked and absolutely incredible.  I already miss them.

My favorite wacky food was from a place called Pie Face, which was absolutely awesome.  It was a chain of small eateries that served single serve pies, both sweet and savory.  Naturally, each pie had an individual face.  I opted for a roasted veggie and salsa pie and it was delicious!  I say we start a campaign to bring Pie Face to the United States!  It was a brilliant restaurant.

Finally, what would be a trip to Japan with out some sushi.  My final night, I opted for a sushi restaurant and spent the meal at the sushi bar watching the chef in action.  It was some of the freshest sushi I have ever eaten.  Which makes sense, as the fish used to make it were swimming in a tank behind the chef!  I opted for a salmon avocado roll and a tuna sashimi sampler.  Every piece was an explosion of flavor!  A truly great meal.

One of my greatest experiences in Tokyo could probably be considered a tourist trap, but if it is, it was the greatest tourist trap of all time!  My final night in Tokyo, I wanted to go out with a bang.  I went to the famed Robot Restaurant that has become a hotspot for visitors to Tokyo.  This experience was so grand, and absurd, and sensually offensive, that I have actually decided to save it for a future blog post where I can go into great detail of the craziest experience in Japan.  At this point, it is late here in China and I need to get ready for a day of exploring Hangzhou tomorrow.  Check in tomorrow for more info about the remarkable Robot Restaurant!! 

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