When I was a teenager I saw the movie Akira. Ever since then I’ve wanted to visit Tokyo. Last July I got my wish. I spent 8 days exploring, making friends, and eating my way through the city.
The People of Tokyo
I was surprised by the kindness of strangers. My first night there I couldn’t find my hostel. I stopped a man and showed him the address. He didn’t know where it was. He led me to a tiny police kiosk. They looked up the address and walked me right to the hostel door.
My first morning I went to the Kaminarimon Gate at the Sensoji Temple. It was early in the morning and hardly anyone was there. I sat down in a small park to eat my meager breakfast. An old man sitting nearby saw me. He couldn’t speak any English and he noticed how I didn’t have much to eat. He shared his breakfast with me. It was a simple gesture but I’ll never forget his act of kindness.
An izakaya is a pub where people go after work for drinks and small bites to eat. I spent a lot of time in izakayas. In one there were 20 large bottles of sake lined up on a shelf. I asked my new Japanese friend about them. He told me they’re owned by customers. The sake is so expensive that they buy the bottle and leave it in the izakaya to drink over time.
I met this Masahiko Yamamoto at an izakaya near Nakano Broadway. It’s a outdoor shopping district with lots of manga, action figures, and other stuff that appeals to geeks like me. He spoke English because he used to work in America. He helped me order my drinks and food. We ate all kinds of mysterious meats and seafood on sticks. I had one too many beers. He refused to let me pay for anything.
I was invited to a picnic lunch in Minato Harbor. It was at a park outside of an apartment building. In-between the picnic tables were small pools of water you could cool off your feet in. Afterwards we all watched sumo together.
There’s an area in Tokyo that’s historically known as the electronics district. Over the years it’s turned into a place to buy technology, play arcade games, and eat delicious food. I like to do all of these things so I came to Akihabara on more than one occasion. Going to an arcade in America isn’t popular any more. People will play games at home alone on their consoles. Going to an arcade in Japan is still popular. Many of the games are made for 2 or more people to play.
The Art of Tokyo
There are artistic touches everywhere in Tokyo. Sometimes they’re subtle. Sometimes they’re meant to impress. There’s a bit of artistic creativity that’s added to almost every structure.
The creativity of the Japanese people is displayed in almost everything. Whether it’s in a piece of street art, the sign of a restaurant, or a decal on the hood of a car. I saw an anime version of Steve Jobs, a kickass skateboard design, and a really amazing store entrance. Sometimes it’s right in your face. Other times you have to stand there and look to find that creative spark.
I almost called this category toys. Toys are something that kids play with. The following pictures aren’t of toys. They’re works of creativity. People spend countless hours making these one of a kind figurines. I wanted to take ALL of these home with me!
Continue reading for pictures and stories about the food of Tokyo, strange animals at the zoo, and a very realistic female robot.