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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Along with Shinjuku and Shibuya, Ikebukuro is the third and northernmost of Western Tokyo's great centers. Built around an enormous train station, this is yet another mind-blowing conglomeration of people, buildings, entertainment, shopping and chaos that could easily be its own city. And a large one, at that.
We met Akila Inouye at the entrance to Tsukiji Fish Market bright and early on Tuesday morning, and realized right away that we were going to have trouble keeping pace with him. In the market, he darted ahead of us, racing from stand to stand, comparing prices, and buying everything we were going to need later in the kitchen. It would turn out to be a long day, but Akila never once slowed down... and I don't think we ever caught up.
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.
Nagatacho is the administrative center of the Japanese government. Ark Hills is a massive complex combining condominiums, shopping and entertainment. And the Hie Shrine is a peaceful place of worship on a wooded hill. We visited these three adjacent, but completely different, spots during one long day in south-central Tokyo.
Had we not lived nearby, it's unlikely that we would have visited Ningyocho even once. But although this former pleasure district doesn't have any of Tokyo's must-see attractions, we returned repeatedly, drawn by its restaurants, traditional shops and low-key, residential atmosphere.