91 days ago, we stepped out of a plane and directly onto the roof of a skyscraper, where a woman clad in a kimono was bowing to greet us. “Welcome to Tokyo! We’re so glad you’re here!” She beckoned us to the edge of the building, so we could gaze out upon the city’s incomprehensible size. “Look at all that awaits you,” she said. Then without warning, she pushed us off.
The Maneki Neko, or “Beckoning Cat,” is one of Japan’s most iconic images. Thought to bring luck and prosperity to their owners, these cats are frequently found outside businesses and within homes. And in the neighborhood of Setagaya, we found the Gotoku-ji temple, where the Maneki Neko plays a starring role.
We quietly filed into the stable and after bowing to the sensei, sat cross-legged on the ground. For the next couple hours, we were to remain as still as possible, while the sumo wrestlers of the Kitanoumi Beya Stable conducted their morning training session. Trust me, I wasn’t going to move a muscle. I wanted to avoid the attention of these behemoths by any means necessary.
A statue of the loyal dog named Hachiko stands eternally vigilant before Shibuya Crossing, an intersection which has become one of Tokyo’s most iconic sights. When the lights turn red, the zig-zagging crosswalks are buried under an avalanche of footfalls as thousands of people try to cross simultaneously. It’s hypnotic, especially when witnessed from above.
It’s hard to imagine an experience more perfectly suited to Tokyo, and one less likely to exist anywhere else, than Shinjuku’s Robot Restaurant. With a stage show that stretches the definition of terms like “elaborate” and “bizarre,” the restaurant has quickly become one of the city’s most popular venues.
We had a feeling that our visit to Odaiba Island’s Miraikan Future Science Museum was going to be awesome, and we were right. The only disappointment came when it closed, and we had to leave. Officially named the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, this is the most cutting-edge science museum we’ve ever visited.
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.
It’s safe to say we’ve never dined in an atmosphere remotely similar to that of Shibuya’s Alcatraz E.R. The name says it all: this theme restaurant is meant to emulate the experience of eating inside the blood-spattered emergency room of a high-security prison. Have I mentioned that Tokyo is a little strange?