As my trip winds down, I thought I would start compiling a sort of ‘best of’ places I’ve been to. This post will cover Tokyo, while I will do an all-Japan one later on. The below 5 activities are not in any order, and are just my personal favorites with regards to the nation’s capital.
Alright, here we go:
1) The night views and cityscapes
Tokyo has no shortage of picturesque vantage points overlooking the seemingly endless array of blinking city lights. That said, I have a few favorites that, in my opinion, offer the best views of Tokyo’s sprawling skyline: the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku, Mori Tower in Roppongi and Odaiba. New York Bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt offers incredible views of Shinjuku below and Tokyo beyond, not to mention the classy, subtle atmosphere of the bar itself is perfect.
Looking out from the Park Hyatt Tokyo
Odaiba in Tokyo Bay also offers wide views of Tokyo, complete with the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. There are convenient benches at the tip of Odaiba that are begging for pictures to be taken from.
Tokyo Tower standing behind the Rainbow Bridge
Lastly, Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills has the best night view according to me, largely because it’s well located, offers 360-degree glimpses above Tokyo, and has an open-air roof which is just perfect. On clear days, you can also see Mt. Fuji looming in the background.
From Mori Tower
Looking west from Mori Tower
2) The neon-blazing, almost futuristic look of some of Tokyo’s districts
In particular, Shinjuku and Shibuya are on a plateau of their own when it comes to streetlife that looks like it belongs in Star Wars. Animated building facades illuminate the thousands of people below while block-upon-block is covered from head-to-toe in lights displaying storefronts, restaurants, hotels, bars, karaoke, etc. Even now, it still fascinates me.
Typical Shinjuku street
3) The parks and gardens
In complete contrast to #2 above, Tokyo also has numerous parks and gardens, some well-removed from the crazy-crowded streets, others plopped right in the middle of towering skycrapers. My favorites have been: Rikugien in Komagome (north Tokyo), Ueno Park (northeast Tokyo), Shinjukugyoen (west Tokyo) and Hama Rikyu (southern Tokyo).
Rikugien’s perfectly-manicured landscape
4) The train system.
Transportation in general in Japan is phenomenal, but in Tokyo it’s god-like. I still don’t understand how they manage to transports tens of millions of people (Shinjuku Station itself moves over 3.5 million people daily) without missing a beat. The trains themselves are very clean and the subway system in general is amazingly well-planned and efficient. The Yamanote Line, which does a loop around all of Tokyo’s major hubs has trains arriving/departing almost every 2 minutes.
5) The hidden, quaint areas.
Though the bustling districts of Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi and the like are exciting in their own right, I really enjoy the more quiet parts of Tokyo, where the streets are filled with small mom-and-pop stores and cafes instead of giant department malls and skyscrapers. In particular, Kagurazaka in northwest Tokyo and Asakusa (where my hostel is) in northeast Tokyo are two of my favorites.
Asakusa is really pleasant at night
Obviously, there are many other aspects and amazing attributes of Tokyo, but these were just a few that came to mind and stood out. The great thing about Tokyo, and most other giant metropolises in the world, is that it has niches for everyone. Whatever you have an interest in, you will find it, and then find probably hundreds more of it once you begin exploring.