Perched atop the Niimi Building, the giant head of an Italian chef welcomes visitors to Kappabashi-dōri, where Tokyo's restaurants come to buy the things they need to run their business: chopsticks, cups, bowls, knives, takeaway containers, and naturally, an infinite variety of plastic foods.
For a short period at the beginning of April, the word "sakura" becomes a prominent noun in approximately 75% of the sentences spoken in Tokyo. Because when the city's cherry trees bloom, there's no talking about anything else. You're either chatting about the blossoms, planning your picnic in the park, sitting in a rowboat under the trees, or strolling along a path while the petals flutter to the ground like the sweetest, most fragrant snowfall imaginable.
The streetcars which once crisscrossed Tokyo have almost completely disappeared, made obsolete by the faster underground metro. But in the northern neighborhood of Minoya, we found a lonely tram which has survived into the present day. The Arakawa Line runs to Waseda via Asukayama Park, where we disembarked to visit a museum dedicated to paper.
Asahi Breweries is headquartered inside one of Tokyo's stranger works of architecture. The building is meant to resemble an overflowing mug, with an amber drop of beer splashing down its side... but that drop looks an awful lot like something else. Locals have lovingly nicknamed the Asahi Beer Hall, the "Golden Poo."
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.
Tokyo's oldest temple is the Sensō-ji, constructed in the year 645. Like almost everything else in this city plagued by earthquakes and fire, it's been rebuilt multiple times, but has always been an important place of worship.
Nakamise-dōri, a pedestrian shopping street which leads directly to the temple of Sensō-ji, is always busy, but today it was packed. All eyes were cast upwards as a 60-foot dragon wound its way through the air, above the crowd. It was March 18th and Sensō-ji was celebrating the Kinryu no Mai, or Golden Dragon Dance.
For such a congested city, Tokyo has a surprising amount of green space. Take, for example, the area directly outside the Imperial Palace. The Kyoko Gaien (Outer Garden) once held the houses of Japan's provincial lords, but today offers people a place to stretch out on the grass. We visited it and the nearby Hibiya Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
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.