I absolutely adore Japan; especially Tokyo. Brights lights megalopolis!
My girlfriend, Mel, and I just spent a week and a half in Japan. It was my 2nd time there and I fell in love with it all over again (for maybe slightly new/different reasons). There is something about being on that pulse in the heart of a giant city that I love (perhaps it is due to my rural roots) and I enjoy the challenge/task of adapting to a different culture and language.
We flew into Narita airport which is like nowhere near Tokyo proper and easily caught a 2hr bus ride to Kichijoji Station at the other end of Tokyo. At Kichijoji, we were greeted by a lot of rain and one of my dearest friends, Ryo.
On our first real full day, we awoke with the whole Matsuura family! Ryo, his super nice wife Kaori, Shizuku-chan who was to become the highlight of my trip, and 4month old Akari. I fancy myself somewhat of an uncle to the daughters and a main thrust to go to Japan was to meet them for the 1st time. We gave Shi-chan some gifts to break the ice and she warmed up to us quickly; especially Mel (or "Meru-chan") who she loved.
That first day, Ryo took us on a fuckin whirlwind tour of Tokyo. We hit a lot of trains and most major districts.
On our second day, I led Mel to (...well, she navigated) the wonders of Shibuya. Shibuya definitely has the stereotypical Japan hyper futuristic sensory overload feel to it. We took it all in: all the people, Love Hotel Hill, the best store ever- Tokyu Hands, and I spent some Yen.
We headed back to Kichijoji, met up with Ryo, and walked through some nice neighborhoods and a nice park with a lot of stray cats.
It was off to Kyoto. In my opinion, spending more than a week in Tokyo as a tourist is overkill. If you are gonna hit another city and want to take in Japanese culture, history, and landmarks I think all bets are on Kyoto. Kyoto is a big city with a university but it attracts a lot of tourists for the massive amount of shrines and temples. I was actually shocked to see SOOO many gaijin everywhere we went.
We spent 3 days getting to love Kyoto and did A LOT of walking to temples, shrines, parks, the shopping arcade, and grocery store. I really suggest just going to my photos to check it all out. One thing we did not get any pics of were the dudes who infest Kyoto like a plague. We later learned they are called "garo" for guys who look like gals. We had christened them OC Goblin Kings because they look as if David Bowie's Goblin King character from Labyrnth took on all the horrible attributes of Orange County, CA.
If you are interested in Japanese toys (especially capsule toys), you have to find Super Position in the Kyoto Arcade. That place rules.
One extreme highlight was our venture to the Iwatayama Monkey Park.
I love monkeys. Who doesn't? This sort of preserve has tons of monkeys running around and you can feed them (from inside a human cage). Overall, it was a little scary. You are warned against looking the monkeys in the eyes and they are big and aggressive. We got charged by a male and it scared the hell out of me! Nonetheless, I got to spend an afternoon in Japan with monkeys! They were so cute I wanted to grab them. Amazing.
As train fatigue neared, we headed back to Tokyo. This leg we stayed at Oakwood Apartments in Shinjuku. The apartment/hotel was very high tech and nice (especially for an American). The staff all spoke English to us, which threw me off and I disliked. All this was right in Shinjuku. Shinjuku is more like a dirty major US city but 10x as crowded and it looks a lot more like Blade Runner. Shinjuku is the only place we saw a real visible homeless population. The streets leading to/from the major Shinjuku Station was like walking a gauntlet during a major concert (VERY crowded with people shouting advertisements at you).
Mel and I spent 2 days going to all the major districts and I spent more money than you can imagine.
I love people watching in Tokyo. It isn't probably as crazy as most USAmericans think it is but it is interesting nonetheless. I don't know if I could get into most contemporary men's fashion in Japan but I have to admit I was smitten by the fashion of the vast majority of young Japanese women. The women show more and are done up more than Americans in spades.
If you are in Tokyo, keep an eye out for Viking Skins stickers or stickers dedicated to Mr. Mark Kelley who is in Tokyo right now looking for his face plastered all over Harajuku and Shibuya. haha
For our last day, we met up again with the Matsuura family. I was happy to see them all again.
They took us around Kichijoji on a busy Saturday (and the beginning of Golden Week). Kaori led us to Young Soul Rebels: I highly suggest this spot if you are in Tokyo and want good priced mod/skin wears! Then it was time for "puri cura"- the very Japanese picture sticker booths. What a great idea. We had a load of fun. A big thank you to Ryo and all of the family! You have always been great to me and it was a pleasure to get to spend time with you all. I sincerely hope we meet up again soon.
Japan (especially Tokyo) has got to be one of the most accomadating cities for anyone who speaks English. If I was Japanese, I would be annoyed with the amount of English used on signs and in audio broadcasts... but it was pretty nice for us. The train/subway system is amazing and super cheap. Finding vegan food wasn't much of a hassle either and we ate amazingly! You must got to Mel's Veglicious blog for all the details (I purposely skipped over the food and there are plenty of highlights!).
I don't know that I would seriously consider moving to Tokyo as I once had but I love that city and aim to go back asap.
Flickr Photo Set (and more details)
Veglicious Tokyo Food Entry
Veglicious Kyoto Food Entry