There is not one bad thing, memory or souvenir (mostly snacks hehe) that I brought back with me from Tokyo. It’s the city that Murakami instilled with poignant mysticism, and I can only say that I’m completely in love, as ice is cold and roses are red (Sputnik Sweetheart). On the first day, I wandered around Shinjuku, the area in which we were staying, and was surprised by how brightly lit the area was at night. I had brought a ring light with me to take photos as the sun sets at around 4:30pm, around the same time as it does in London but I didn’t need to use it once. In Shinjuku, you’ll find the craziest things, like the Hotel Gracery that features a giant Godzilla statue on its rooftop, and the Robot Restaurant, a strange, strange entertainment venue. It’s also where I went into one of those toy arcades and won myself a giant plush pink bunny, and there was a man there with bags stuffed full of merchandise that he had won. Imagine if that was your hobby!
The second day was spent in Shibuya and Harajuku, my absolute favourites of all the areas that we had been to. The street style wasn’t made of weird makeup, Lolita outfits and cosplay like I had expected, sorry for the stereotype but if you watch enough Vice Japan, you’ll start to think the same way. In fact, the locals were so well dressed in an innately chic way, similar to the air of effortlessness that Parisians have. The boutiques and concept stores in Harajuku are quite pricey, especially for brands that a tourist like myself is unfamiliar with. There are usual suspects in the luxury department, as well as high-end shops like Opening Ceremony, which is worth checking out even just to see their impressive displays. These are juxtaposed with numerous vintage stores, just across the road. There you can score Levi’s for just under £50, coloured bandanas for £3 and old school Ralph Lauren jumpers at about £30-40! If you’ve done your research you would’ve heard of a second hand vintage wonderland called Ragtag. I went to the one in Omotesando (near Shibuya) and I have to say that it wasn’t as good of a discovery as I had expected. Here the brands are all high-end designer and naturally, the prices are higher too, where you can score Chanel jackets and Casely Hayford rucksacks.
A friend recommended a coffee place in Harajuku called Streamer Coffee Company, and since attempting to go caffeine free two years ago, I can’t claim to be anything of a connoisseur. However, this place was amazing. My friend told me to try and get a table upstairs (the shop is built as shipping containers stacked atop one another), which we managed quite easily. Although by the time we had left, there was a snaking queue to get a cup of java.
The third day spent in Tokyo is known as DISNEYLAND DAY! Even on a Monday, the park was crazy busy and well, there’s not much else to say about this place because the name itself encompasses everything. There was one ride of note, this ‘Beaver raft’ situation that requires you to actually use the oars to row, which was startling because I kind of wanted to chill and let the children on the boat ride do all the work. As for food, don’t expect to eat a proper meal here unless you’ve made restaurant reservations. The snacks are so exciting, and by this I mean interesting flavoured popcorn like honey, soy sauce and milk chocolate. Churros in the shape of Mickey Mouse in strawberry and cafe au lait, oh and the Mickey waffles! The giant turkey legs (seasonal) were quite fun too.
The fourth and last day, I covered Ginza, Tokyo Tower, Akihabara and had dinner in Roppongi. There’s a bar at The Prince Park Tower hotel that overlooks the tower and my only tip for this landmark is that all you need is to sit back and take in the view from this place. The only other lure to the tourist site, aside from to take photos, was the promise of leopard print Tokyo Banana, reportedly sold there. However, once I found this at Tokyo station and Daimaru (an upscale department store), any urge to get closer to the tower had been quelled. Akihabara was weird. I was looking forward to seeing a side of Tokyo frequently advertised in Youtube documentaries and from word of mouth. The area is better known as an electronics hub than for anime fanatics but the two coexist. Ever heard of the maid cafe? If you’re in Akihabara, the answer is, ‘which one?’ Lining the streets are young girls clad in French maid costumes advertising for an array of themed cafes, both curious and unsettling.