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Tokyo

The Jimbocho Book District & Crime Museum

If you like books, you’re going to love the neighborhood of Jimbocho. Hundreds of new and used bookshops line the streets of this district, dedicated to everything from manga to art, architecture, fashion and travel. The majority of the books are in Japanese, but there are plenty of foreign titles, especially in English and German. Even if you’re not in the mood to buy, just browsing can make for an entertaining afternoon. But there’s almost no way that you’re going to walk out of Jimbocho empty-handed.

Weird Japanese Candy

If there’s one thing that Japan does well, it’s making childish things awesome enough for adults. Arcades and video games? I don’t think children even could play the games in Japanese arcades. Much of the Japan’s anime and manga is definitely adult-oriented. Toys, games, Gundam models… Japanese parents are as obsessed with these things as are their children. And that’s why I don’t feel terribly guilty about all the crazy candy we bought. It’s irresistible, and it’s not really just for kids… at least, that’s what I kept telling myself. Here were our favorites:

Eating in Tokyo: Our Favorite Foods

Every morning before starting out on another day in Tokyo, I would ask Jürgen what he was most excited about. It didn’t matter whether we were planning to visit an ancient temple, a renowned museum, a crazy festival or a gorgeous garden, his response was always the same: “Eating.” And I would thoughtfully nod in agreement. Of all the things Tokyo has to offer, its delicious and surprisingly affordable food is probably the highlight. This is a city in which it’s almost impossible to eat poorly.

The Giant Pandas of Ueno Zoo

Japan’s first zoo was established in Ueno Park, in 1882. Although its age is starting to show, the zoo is still a popular retreat in Tokyo. It’s inexpensive, surprisingly large and, of course, there are those irresistible Giant Pandas.

A Sumo Training Session

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.

Cosplay at Tokyo Big Sight

Tokyo Big Sight is an exhibition hall which opened on Odaiba in 1996. In addition to its strange name, the complex is known for its radical architecture: four interlocking, upside-down, titanium pyramids. We approached against a tide of anime fans, all of whom were going the opposite way. A convention called Comic City had wrapped up for the day, but we noticed that the crowd was made up almost entirely of women — this convention had been dedicated to manga written for the female market. There were guys here, too, but they were all photographers hoping to get portraits of the cosplay girls. We joined in.

Other Sights of Odaiba Island

There’s so much to do on Odaiba, you could never hope to see it all in a single day. Even if the attractions aren’t always impressive on an individual basis (and many are simply malls), the very fact that such a large section of Tokyo has been given over to leisure and shopping is amazing. We’ve written quite a bit about Odaiba already, but here are some other sights which warrant mention.

The Rinkai Disaster Preparation Park

Mom always said that it’s best to be prepared. “Hope for the best, darling, but plan for the worst.” And in earthquake-prone Tokyo, the worst can be very bad indeed. Since we always listen to our moms, Jürgen and I dutifully visited the Disaster Preparation Park, on Odaiba Island.

Akasaka

Apart from the Hie Shrine, the business district of Akasaka doesn’t have much in the way of historic sights for tourists. But the streets which surround the metro station are fun and packed with good, cheap places to eat, and the neighborhood is so central that we visited rather frequently.

The Robot Restaurant

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.

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