A modern city, with cultural charm and uniqueness, Tokyo will capture your attention from start to finish. This ultra-clean, high-tech city is home to such an extraordinary society that is known for their architecture, fashion, cuisine, and anime’. Tokyo has an ethereal beauty that is whimsical and different, with a completely other-worldly charm. The minute you arrive at Narita International Airport, hop on the Narita Express Train, and arrive at Shinjuku Station, you will become completely spellbound by the cultural explosion and constant amazement of Tokyo.
Tokyo is such an immaculately fresh city. Fresh with new ideas, modernity, technology, and fashion. The fashion culture in Tokyo is unbelievably hip and unique. Harajuku, is a prime fashion district in Tokyo, made recognizable worldwide thanks to Gwen Stefani, and her song, Harajuku Girls. There are so many different pop cultural “looks” for young Japanese women on the streets of this district. Gothic and Sweet Lolita girls, Kawaii or “Cute” girls , and the trendsetters. Each look has a very deep and political story, that gives you an in-depth view of Japanese pop culture. Gothic Lolitas are trying to appear porcelain and doll-like to society, by dressing in a Rococo style, resembling 18th century French art. This concept originally derived from Vladimir Nobokov’s novel, Lolita, which portrayed an over-sexualized teenager and her rebellious nature. The book’s character portrayed a sexual conotation, but Japanese youth have transformed it into their “cute” culture, and made it sweet and Victorian. The “Cute” culture is rebelling to the idea of growing up and taking on adult roles. Opposite of Western ideals, Japanese girls and women of all ages, take pride in this youthful image and portray it in fashion, consumerism (such as Hello Kitty) , and household goods. Fashion in Japan is not only a beauty statement but a portrayal of values and a representation of their lifestyle.
When visiting Tokyo, there are so many whimsical places to discover. When wanting to escape from all the hustle-and-bustle of everyday society the Meiji Shrine is the perfect retreat. The Shinto shrine is located within 175 acres of forested park at the end of Harajuku Street. Once you enter this lush oasis, you can discover art exhibits and religious sites throughout this beautiful park consisting of 170,000 unique trees that act as a sound barrier to all of civilization. With its clean lines and muted colors this shrine is a perfect example of simplistic Japanese culture and its tranquil nature.
Tokyo has developed into an ultra-modern city every since the wartime bombings 50 years ago. Most buildings are modern, sleek, and very new, but if you want to see old Tokyo visit the Asakusa district. In this area you will find traditional guest-houses and true Japanese charm, which will give you another glimpse of this unique city. Asakusa is also known as the oldest Geisha district in Tokyo, and still has dozens of true Geisha working in the traditional Ochaya or tea houses. While in this district, you must take a boat ride on the Sumida River, where you can get a glimpse of Tokyo from the periphery.
The food in Tokyo is outstanding! Authenticity is the one factor that sets it apart from the Japanese food we’re used to in the States. Dining in Tokyo is truly an adventure. Since many local restaurants only have menus with foreign symbols, and a staff that doesn’t speak a word of English, the best thing to do is guess! (Unless your dining at an international restaurant or one with a high price point, then you can expect some English Translation both on the menu and off.) Noodle Bars in Tokyo are phenomenal. Both the experience and the food are wonderful, and give you a real sense of local dining. Usually, a tiny hole-in-the-wall, these bars are affordable and simple, with only a few options. The main attraction of these noodle bars are the large steaming bowls of udon noodles with your choice of a garnish. If you want a special Japanese experience, visit Gonpachi Restaurant, featured in the film, Kill Bill. This restaurant is located in an old wooden barn, which was once a theatre, and has fantastic Japanese cuisine. For great sushi and a super hip environment, visit Rainbow Roll Sushi. With their beautiful food, and chic ambiance, this is a perfect choice for a night out in Tokyo.
For two unique Tokyo experiences visit a Pachinko Parlor and the Fish Market. Pachinko is a Japanese game, similar to a pinball machine, or those you see in arcades. At a Pachinko Parlor, you will find hundreds of Japanese men and women lined up intensely playing the game. (The energy is reminiscent of slot machines in Las Vegas) . If you’ve ever seen the movie, Lost in Translation, this experience is like a scene from the film. The noise, colors, and true uniqueness of Japan radiate from these Pachinko Parlors. Another adventure is the Sukiji Fish Market, where you can witness an intense local experience. This is the largest fish market in the world and wholesales products to every inch of the globe. It’s best to visit at dawn,for then you will truly experience the energy, size, and variety of this market.
Lodging in Tokyo is pretty pricey unless you are willing to stay in a Capsule Hotel. These hotels are extremely dense and your accommodation consists of a rectangular capsule with a television and wireless connection. Not recommended for the claustrophobic, these Capsule Hotels are reasonable and very common in Tokyo . If you want something a little bigger and more luxurious, try The Park Hotel or The B Akasaka, which are two boutique hotels that will definitely suit your fancy.
HIGHLIGHTS OF TOKYO:
* Takeshita Street: and surrounding side streets are lined with trendy shops, boutiques, and vintage stores. Located in Harajuku District. Sunday is the perfect day to see the full effect of teenage culture and wander this fashion district.
*Daikanyama: Home to higher-scale boutiques such as Margiela, Jean Paul Gaultier, Paul Smith, and Vivienne Tam. Also home to numerous fabulous vintage stores.
* Limi Feu: A Japanese fashion brand, created by the amazing Yohji Yamamoto’s daughter. A fierce high-fashion collection, with monochromatic colors, androgynous lines, and simply stunning pieces.
* Screaming Mimi’s: amazing vintage store, with a sister store in NYC. (located near Shibuya’s Daikanyama Station)
* Kinji: A vintage boutique with a rather large selection and cheap! Located beneath the Gap in Harajuku.
* Meiji Shrine: Beautiful Shinto shrine, a peaceful and spiritual experience.
* Ginza: If Time-Square collided with 5th Avenue. This district is full of bright lights, tons of energy, and hundreds of people scurrying the sidewalks. The streets are lined with upscale boutiques, such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel, and also some of Tokyo’s most luxurious restaurants.
* Noodle Bars: Delicious, affordable, and a perfectly authentic meal.
* Ueno Park: An immense park that is full of activities. Traditional pagodas, a temple, and Japan’s oldest zoo gives you a perfect reason to spend the day in this lovely park.