For three crazy months, we dedicated our lives to exploring Tokyo. Every single morning, we’d leave our tiny apartment, hop on the subway and set off to discover something new and amazing in the world’s biggest city. From sumo to kabuki, sushi to soba, gorgeous Japanese gardens, fascinating museums, distinctive neighborhoods, and wild nightlife, we tried to provide ourselves a well-rounded impression of the city… the only thing we really missed out on, was sleep!
On our last weekend in Japan we abandoned Tokyo and headed for the hills of the Hakone National Park, in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Centered around a large crater lake, this is an area of hot springs, spas, traditional hotels, forests and mountains. It was the perfect antidote to the Big City Sickness with which we’d slowly but surely become infected.
Over the course of two equally fun and frustrating days, Jürgen and I set off into the streets armed with pens, paper and a bilingual list of questions for the people of Tokyo. Not many in Japan speak English, and those who do are often reluctant to reveal the fact, so we knew this might be a difficult task. It was. But it was also entertaining, and gave us a cursory peek into the lives of the people who call Tokyo home.
On the eastern side of Ueno Park, in the streets around the elevated tracks of the train station, you’ll find the Ameyoko Shopping Street: a great place to come when you’re in the market for… well, anything. Fish, veggies, shoes, leather jackets and the discrete companionship of attractive ladies are just a sample of what’s for sale.
Unlike many of the places we’ve visited, Tokyo doesn’t have a history which stretches far into the past. In fact, before the close of the nineteenth century, Tokyo didn’t even exist; it was known instead as Edo. But the rapid ascension from village to “World’s Biggest City” has been as catastrophic as it has been meteoric. Growing pains are always the hardest for those who mature too quickly.