It should come as no surprise to learn that the world’s largest city lights up spectacularly at night. Whether you’re in Shinjuku or Ginza, Tokyo changes completely once the sun goes down.
The Yomiuri Giants are the the New York Yankees of Japan. You can love them or hate them, but ambivalence is not allowed. They’re by far the richest and most successful team in Japanese baseball, with 22 titles under their belts. (The Saitama Seibu Lions are in second place with 13.) We took a trip to the Tokyo Dome to see the team in action.
We spent many entertaining evenings in Shibuya, which has become one of the most exciting areas in Tokyo. There are so many bars, shops and things to do here, that it would be hopeless to attempt listing them all. But here were a few of our personal favorites.
It’s best to take Sunshine City’s name at face value. And I don’t mean that it’s filled with sunshine, but that it’s truly a city of its own. This enormous complex spreads across four buildings, including the Sunshine 60, which became the tallest building in Asia upon its completion in 1978.
Kaiseki is Japan’s haute cuisine, a traditional meal of several individually-crafted dishes. It’s as expensive as it sounds, and since our budget won’t allow us to repeatedly indulge in kaiseki, we wanted to be careful about the restaurant in which we’d experience it. After considerable research, we decided upon Tofuya-Ukai. I doubt we could have made a better choice.
Japan’s most famous cultural offering, Kabuki, is not an art form meant to cater to Western tastes. The performances can last all day long. The acting, done exclusively by men, is second-fiddle to the make-up and costumes. Monologues go on interminably. The music is strange and the dialogue is usually recited in an exaggeratedly affected, chiming manner. There is no earthly reason why Jürgen and I should have enjoyed it. But we did.
Although it’s been unseated from its position as Japan’s tallest structure (and, at 333 meters, is positively Lilliputian in comparison to the new champion, Oshiage’s 634-meter SkyTree), the Tokyo Tower remains a popular tourist attraction. Modeled on the Eiffel Tower and painted bright orange, the tower has been a part of the city’s skyline since opening in 1958.
There was a time when one could see the entirety of Tokyo, or Edo as it was then known, from atop Atago Hill. Today the view is obscured by a wall of skyscrapers, but climbing the steep hill is still worth the effort, thanks to the presence of the Atago Shrine and the adjacent NHK Broadcast Museum.
“This is fun,” I said to the girl working at the cafe, raising my voice to be heard above the squawking. “But it would never be allowed in America!” She looked at me, baffled, and asked why not. At this moment, there were six parakeets on my head, and bird poop was running down my shoulder. Something was pecking at my neck and, in the next room, people were petting an eagle. I considered explaining, but decided against it. Regarding animal cafes, the rift between our cultures might be too wide.
Tokyo has been at the center of Japanese politics since the early 1600s, when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu upset the balance of power by moving his court here, far away from the traditional capital of Kyoto. Ieyasu’s original castle is now gone, replaced by the more modern Imperial Palace. We joined a brief tour to get a peek behind the gates.