In some respects, cities are like people. There are some with whom you immediately click, and others that take a little more time to warm up to. For me, Tokyo fell into the latter category.
The trickiest thing about Toyko for me was its sheer size. The city is over twice as big as New York City-- including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. While I did have a short list of “must see” attractions, I generally explore in a generally spontaneous manner. This approach worked for places like Vilnius, Oslo, and even Nairobi but not here. Each district of Toyko has its own personality, its own vibe. I love technology and video games, but found myself quickly bored in Akihabara. Shinjuku was fun in a manic sort of way, but quickly overwhelming.
Bright lights in Shinjuku
Each district has its own unique character, and studying these ahead of time would have made for a less exasperating trip. My favorite thing to do when travel is wander around for as long as my legs can handle it, then stop in a pub or cafe for a glass of wine or beer. Day drinking is sort of my jam. This didn’t seem possible in Shinjuku, where lunchtime service tended to be a highly efficient, somewhat rushed experience. Even in other neighborhoods, most bars didn’t open until well into the evening. It was a stark departure from most of the other places I’ve been to, where it’s not unheard of to see people sipping a drink before noon.
Tsukiji Market may be frenetic, but it's the place for the freshest Sashimi you'll ever eat.
I don’t want my poor planning to reflect poorly on Tokyo. I had a ton of amazing experiences-- bar hopping in Golden Gei, befriending a goat in Shibuya, the freshest sushi I’ve ever tasted at Tsukiji Market, and of course, the zenith of my trip: petting adorable owls at Fukuro No Mise in Cho. LOOK AT THESE FUCKING BIRBS.
More glorious owls in the link above!
I hope I get the opportunity to visit Tokyo again and get to know more facets of its complex character. There's also Nara Park and Ōkunoshima further west; their promise of more cute animals will almost guarantee I'll step foot in Japan again.
Compulsory picture of the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.