Tokyo is a city of contrast but embodies Japan. The metropolis is crowded with concrete and steel high rise buildings. In its tidy road network, all kinds of vehicles are employed – rapid trains, metro systems, bullet trains, road vehicles including bicycles and even pull carts (mainly in tourist areas). Then there are the huge train stations, incorporated within the mega department store buildings, providing rapid movement of people and utilisation of limited and expensive real estate. We loved these stations, particularly Tokyo and Shinjuku stations. The city is clean and we hardly found any rubbish bins. With neon lit signage of all sizes in practically every street, there are in contrast, the “merchant” streets with subdued advertisements. Temples and shrines, some ancient, shared the same air space as the towering buildings. Asakusa, in particular is such a place.
The people, however, unlike the iconic kimono clad images we were familiar with, were mostly in western style dressing. Then, there are the eccentric dressed young people, mainly girls, in places like Harajuku. They break all the traditions and adopted the new “cosplay” and storytelling “anime” characters. However, the people with their “Japanese way” are a wonderful asset and credit to Japan. I am glad that this aspect of the culture is retained. In a mega city like Tokyo, people actually connect, acknowledge and even say a few words. In most large cites of today, we have become more distant. With innovations in technology, the gap had widened. People to people interactions are declining.
Last but not least, the food. The wonderful food had been retained. Every meal is delightfully presented, from take away to dining-in. Food outlets are generally small sized with 15 -20 seats. Outlets specialized in a particular type of food – noodles or tempura or sashimi. Then there are the wonderful “izakaya”, a pub like eatery with mixed street food fast- food style. The older, I feel more atmospheric, establishments are those under the railway lines, “gado-shita”. In places like Yurakocho and Omoide Yokocho, the old quarter joints prevail. This pleasant and charming mix of old and new; the glittering and ancient, give Tokyo its life. We loved it.