It’s been a while since my last visit to Tokyo. The bus ride from Narita airport reminded me just how colossal this megalopolis is, with concrete apartment blocks stretching into the distance in all directions. The overwhelming scale was inspiring and terrifying at the same time. Thinking about the logistics of constructing and powering such a large machine is bigger than I’m capable of understanding.
Tokyo is a place that we’ve often visited – it was actually the first place I visited by myself, back in 2003 as clueless 21 year-old – so we didn’t bother with the usual tourist attractions, and instead spent our time seeing a few of the many friends who now live here. And eating. So much eating.
Taco Rice at the Okinawa Festival at Yoyogi Park. Yakitori in Ebisu Yokocho. Crepes in Harajuku. Matcha deserts in Kagurazaka.
And then things got gourmet when we met with my wife’s brother. Lucky for us his hobby is eating out, and in a city like Tokyo he’s seriously spoilt for choice. We picked an area that was convenient for us, and he did the rest. It was a challenge to keep up with him as he darted through the back alleys of Ikebukuro, somehow knowing exactly where he was going in what would have been a maze for someone like me. We arrived at the 和Galico, he gave the owner a bag full of cans of Red Bull, and we took at seat at the only table in the joint. The menu featured a fantastic selection of game (boar, deer, pheasant) cooked in a traditional izakaya style. Needless to say that it was amazing. As was the selection of nihonshu (Japanese rice wine).
As the restaurant was such a small venue (one table, and eight seats at the counter), we had to vacate for the next booking. It was then more wondering through the back streets of Ikebukuro trying to keep up with Risa’s brother as we looked for a café to relax and have a chat.
For all the concrete and infrastructure that is required to keep a city with a population like Tokyo’s running, there is still loads of greenery. And I think it is this contrast that really makes that really makes it seem extra lush and beautiful – especially the enormous Yoyogi Park, where we sat out of the sun and spent a few hours catching up with an old friend.
The crush of people in Tokyo can be overwhelming, especially on the trains during peak hour. As a tourist, this is a bit of a novelty, though I imagine it wouldn’t last for long. Also, with so many people, there are so many ‘types’ of people, and so many trying to stand out just a little from the uniformity of such a homogenous country. People watchers could spend days watching the crowds pass by.
Arriving I had a sense of excitement, that living here could be great fun, full of potential. Leaving, I still feel the same way. Tokyo is truly an amazing city.
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