Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hello Japan! (part 1 - Tokyo)

Late last month I spent almost two weeks in Japan, a land I have never stepped foot on and two of the biggest unfounded fears I had before the trip (ie. it is going to be expensive and it is going to be difficult not knowing Japanese) can now be laid to rest. I urge every one who has not been there to take that journey for it will open your eyes to a new way of life, one that works and works very well. Even an Asian person like me from a highly-urbanised and efficient country was impressed with this seemingly-perfect balance of traditional and new, as well as spiritual and commercial. Lots of pictures and videos were taken during my much-needed vacation and in a series of weekly posts, I will share this most wonderful experience with you.

Akihabara is a place where all things electronics are sold. The entire street was freed of traffic the night I was there.

Winter in Tokyo is really mild and I had many perfect days there. My day at Asakusa was one of them.

Asakusa is touristy but I love the long shopping streets as they are the best places to learn about the culture of the land. Those umbrellas in the form of samurai swords are cute, aren't they?

Cute kittens that stay perched at the same spot for tourists to pose with and interesting modes of transportation in Asakusa.

High-end shopping in Ginza. Thankfully I am not one who seeks branded goods otherwise I wouldn't be able to enjoy the nice outdoor atmosphere. Once again the street has been freed of all traffic.

This is Harajuku (Takeshita Street pictured), where Japanese youth culture and commercialism exude from every corner. And then you chance upon this quiet shrine right in the heart of the bustling shopping district which totally transforms your perception of the city.

Tokyo Bay on yet another clear day. Although there aren't many interesting sights other than malls and game arcades in Odaiba, this picture alone is worth the train ride there.

The famous crossing at Shibuya (not as impressive at ground level and in the day). This place boasts endless criss-crossing streets of shops and eateries where you can spend hours on end to explore.

The day/dusk/night view of the Tokyo skyline atop Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. I recommend spending that extra 500 yen to go on the Sky Deck for an even more awesome experience.

The famous Tsukiji Fish Market and a sample of the seafood on sale.

Although the tuna auction is closed to public this time of the year, the out-of-this-world crowd at the outer markets will blow your mind. You can't really shop with this many people but the electrifying local atmosphere was what I was looking for that day.

This is another crazy market called Ameyoko in Ueno. It is less crowded than the Tsukiji Fish Market and sells much more than seafood and produce (replica guns for example).

Ikebukuro is a major metro interchange and it has 43 exits! Can you imagine how many exits there are in busier stations like Shinjuku?

I was fortunate enough to experience New Year's in Tokyo. Ikebukuro seems to be where all the action is.

Other parts of the city were practically ghost towns on New Year's Day. It was a breath of fresh air to see Nihonbashi (Tokyo CBD) and Ginza void of the usual sea of people and the cacophony that comes with it.

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