I think the last time I travelled anywhere in Asia was back in 1998 and that was visiting Malaysia to see the grandparents as a kid, complete with my now ever so retro Oakley sunglasses. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the desire to travel, but because of the thoughts of long 16-hour plane journeys cramped up in a small economy class seat that was the main deterrence. Back when I used to be an aspiring animator I had always dreamt of visiting Japan to experience its many quirks. Not forgetting to mention the amazing food that I could only really savour from the local Wasabi takeaway or through the endless anime cartoons I used to watch. Not that I don’t watch them now… I won’t confirm that… Besides, the thought of going to Japan was almost impossible financially due to recession. Thank God for it all balancing out, getting the wedding out the way a couple of months ago, we were able to go for our honeymoon! I know what you’re thinking. That’s not a honeymoon destination. Me and the Mrs not being the kind of ‘sit on the beach for a week’ type of people decided if we we’re going to have a honeymoon we’ll go exploring and make use of some well-deserved time off. Thus, starting our 5-week trip to Asia starting with Tokyo, Japan.
After passing security and walking into the train station, i couldn’t help but see how far ahead the Japanese are in some respects, predominantly in technology but also keeping with tradition. From its modern but almost confusing subway stations filled with many sushi and bento stalls to its many commercial shopping/entertainment districts that house a multitude of traditional temples and shrines. And when I say multitude I mean thousands upon thousands, some even with serene gardens only steps away from some of the busiest intersections in the world. We stayed in a few penthouse apartments we found on Airbnb in the Asakusa area high above a lot of the buildings, one of which had a football and tennis court on the roof whilst below the hustle and bustle of the market lining up Nakamise Street all the way up to the Senso-ji temple was in full force selling traditional handmade Japanese sweets, pastries and buns. Not forgetting the hot food! Spicy Crab, Yakisoba noodles, Takoyaki and countless delicacies that will have you drooling all the way through. Our favourite spot in this area is Kagetsudo, a little bakery opened in 1945 that specialises in Melon Pan, a soft, round sweet bread thats designed to look like a melon. I don’t know how to explain how this tastes, but if cotton candy and a fresh loaf of bread had a baby, this would be it.
Menswear & being an Otaku:
Besides food, the Menswear industry here is strange. Whilst in many countries, it’s difficult as an independent designer to have a store and make profit, brands (however niche they might be) can thrive and live amongst each other harmoniously. If this is your cup of tea, then best check out the back streets of Harajuku for the best in vintage stores and Shibuya for its many boutique designer stores. For those who are more into Otaku culture… ahem not me… you’ll find areas dedicated to endless amounts of… what?? no way? and wow! in places like Akihabara (which you can’t bring your wife to for more than a few hours – trust me) or Odaiba; a manmade island of shopping and entertainment. I mean who wouldn’t want to see a life-size Gundam robot, or theme parks inside shopping centres or a little bit of Tokyo Drift?!
I could sit here and write a book about why you should go to Tokyo and why it’s one of the places I want to revisit over and over again, but that would literally ruin my career, not to mention wasting my precious ‘making money so i can go back to Tokyo’ time. Instead i’ll leave a few more things I think is a must when visiting Tokyo in a list below.
– Visit Asakusa on a Sunday morning, maybe get a rickshaw ride around Nakamise Street and try some traditional Japanese Street food at Senso-ji Temple.
– Ride to the top of Japan’s tallest tower and get a panoramic view of East Tokyo at the Tokyo Sky Tree
– Buy some manga and try some Taiyaki (red bean cake shaped like a fish) in the weird Akihabara, also known as Electric Town. possibly a Maid cafe, if you’re single.
– Get nostalgic at Odaiba and visit the 18-metre tall mobile suit Gundam RG 1/1 RX-78 and it’s theme park within Diver City Mall.
– Get lost in luxury in the place i can only describe as Mayfair in Japan but better… Ginza, and across from it is the Imperial palace which you can hire a free bike ride on Sunday mornings to see the grounds.
– Have some sushi near the biggest fish market in the world; the Tsukiji Fish Market. You’ll have to come super early to see the tuna auctions at 6:00am but at least you’ll be first in line to grab a sushi breakfast.
– Walk across Shibuya crossing; the busiest crossing in the world.
– Head to Yoyogi Park on a Sunday morning to catch a glimpse of the Japanese Rockabilly crew dance like they’re still in the 50’s
– Stroll through Shinjuku Gyoen National Park to get away from the busyness that is Tokyo.
You’ll definitely want to check out the Reiyukai Shakaden Temple, an enormity is shaped like an alien spaceship. Oh, and not forgetting… The amazing Studio Ghibli Museum where you can catch an original movie that you can only see there in that season.