We knew it was going to be crazy. We’d seen pictures! We had read online accounts and talked to people who’d been there. Sure, Harajuku was going to be nuts, especially on the shopping street of Takeshita-dori, but we were ready. I mean, this is still Earth, people are people, and a crowd is a crowd. Am I right? It can’t be anything we haven’t seen a million times before.
The street of Omotesando-dori, leading westward to the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park, has earned a reputation as the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo. With haute couture brands like Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton occupying architecturally ambitious buildings, and Tokyo’s most stylish citizenry stalking the sidewalks, a stroll along Omotesando-dori is both impressive and humbling.
Its reputation as the pleasure center of Tokyo has long since faded, the Kabuki theaters have relocated and geishas mostly vanished, but the northeastern neighborhood of Asakusa still boasts a few worthwhile attractions apart from the temple of Sensō-ji.
When Tokyo Station opened in 1914, it served four trains. But just like the city itself, the station has grown a little. Today, the sprawling station in the middle of the city serves an almost incomprehensible 3000 trains, every single day.
We had been introduced to Ryogoku while visiting the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and were intrigued enough to return the very next day. The neighborhood’s dominant theme is sumo. Besides the National Sumo Stadium (the Ryogoku Kokugikan), the streets are littered with statues of famous Yokozunas (the highest rank a wrestler can achieve), complete with molds of their terrifying hand-prints.
Ever since the artificial island of Tsukishima was created in the middle of the Tokyo Bay in 1892, its western coast has been home to city fishermen and their families. Completely ringed in by canals, it feels nothing like the rest of Tokyo, with quiet lanes instead of busy boulevards, two-story houses instead of steel skyscrapers, and a sleepy sense of small-town tranquility instead of the exhausting bustle of perpetual commerce.