I am not normally a ‘city’ person, preferring to head out to wilder and more scenic parts as soon as I touch down, but Tokyo seduced me.
It’s vast, I mean huge. It’s hot and bustling, as most capital cities are and yet there is a sense of calm and things seem orderly. A fusion of old fashioned genteel manners and modern, almost futuristic creative flair combine so beautifully. Glittering towers juxtapose with the old but still grand shrines and temples. It really does make for great exploring.
As a single female traveller, I don’t think I have ever felt so safe. Within 3 hours of landing I was walking the streets, hopping on and off the bewilderingly efficient local transport networks and when I did get lost (often!) no one seemed too busy or to have too little English to try and help. The result is one of the most relaxed city explorations I have ever had, knowing if I did get lost, all would not be lost. Admittedly it was a Sunday, so I was fortunate enough to miss the normal commuter craziness of any city. Even on the following day, despite public transport being considerably busier people still had the time to smile.
A highlight and some may say a strange one at that, is undoubtedly the Tsukiji fish market. Buzzing and atmospheric, it’s a thrive of activity even at 5am. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for the workers to go about their daily business surrounded by camera-wielding tourists dodging the odd-looking forklift trucks transporting the fish and desperately trying to capture the perfect shot. But they do, and so too with a smile and a gentle acknowledging nod of the head.
The tuna auction, where these huge fish can sell for up to $10,000 begins at around 5 am daily, with the exception of Sundays and only small numbers are granted entry each day. Just 60 tickets are available and split into 2 tours at 5 & 530, not pre-bookable, it is just a case of an early rise and queuing with crossed fingers. The market is due to move but the latest news is that this won’t happen until 2020 or even 2026 when it will relocate to Toyosu, one of the artificial islands in the bay of Tokyo.
There can’t be many places in the world where one can see fish go to auction at 5 in the morning and be eating it in a world-class sushi restaurant that very evening.
Add to this the plethora of eateries (both Michelin standard and street food), shops, sky-scraping towers, enough temples and museums that could keep one busy for weeks, plus surprisingly pretty parks and waterways Tokyo is definitely in my top ten cities.