There is no city on earth quite like Tokyo. The world’s largest metropolis, and one of the most densely populated places on earth, Tokyo is a neon treasure trove packed with secrets, surprises, and stunning contradictions. Although the long-term future of the city might not look as bright with Japan’s population rapidly aging, and the economy in a standstill since the early nineties; in the meantime Tokyo is one of the most exciting hotspots on earth and more than worth the time (and money) it takes to get out there. Here are 5 of the things that Tokyo does best and is too cool for school: the features that make it one of the greatest places ever.
While many Americans might think of Japanese food as consisting of Sushi and Teriyaki—they’re well off the mark. Japanese food is extremely varied and incredibly delicious. From well-known favorites like Tempura and Yakitori to lesser exposed classics like Katsu Curry and Donburi, Japanese food covers the full spectrum, capable of satisfying red-meat lovers, fish eaters and vegetarians alike. What’s more, the restaurant scene in Tokyo is so dynamic, competitive and rich that it’s easy to find quick and affordable options. More expensive eaters will also be satisfied, with Tokyo awarded more Michelen stars last year than any other city.
It’s culturally insensitive to call another culture weird, but if there’s one exception on earth, it’s got to be the Japanese. From things like used panty vending machines to massive structures made out of balloons occupying the main avenues, Tokyo is overflowing with everything weird and wonderful. It’s totally normal to see somebody reading a violently explicit pornography cartoon on the subway without anybody batting an eye, with advertisements featuring ridiculously cute and cuddly animals just behind him.
Tokyo has to be one of the best (if not in my mind the absolute best) city for wandering anywhere in the world. Loads of densely packed buildings make finding something new and interesting around the corner as easy as taking a look. There are massive buildings with floors and floors of different shops, stores and restaurants, as well as tiny traditional bungalows lining alleyways adorned with classical paper lanterns. Its exciting to see the two side by side, and deciding to head down a side street could lead you to a beautiful pristine temple or a garage that looks like it’s from Fast and Furious.
Here there is truly no equal. The Japanese have absolutely perfected the retail experience, and operate their mastery on a level that leaves all competitors behind. From the architecture of stores, to the presentation of goods, to the quality and sophistication of the goods themselves to the quality of service, there’s no place to shop like Tokyo. Staff are incredibly helpful without being intrusive or forceful, and will make you feel like a prince if you so much as want to try something on. They welcome you when you enter the store, say goodbye when you leave and never ask if they can help.
For me, the coolest thing about Tokyo is how many secrets I know she holds. Any truly global city will be packed with amazing local-only hotspots, the kind of places you base your whole trip around finding, that can turn a bad day good in a few minutes. The thing is, with Tokyo, these places are often extremely tucked away, partially due to the density, and super tiny, for the same reason. You can enjoy beers in a bar that only fits 4 people, have a meal in a restaurant down an alleyway and through a tiny unmarked door, or go to a club on the upper level of a retail space behind a fake wall. The greatest part about Tokyo is all the best things are hiding in plain sight.