I will admit, I didn’t expect to like Tokyo, and was not really excited to visit, with the exception of some restaurant reservations I was able to snag. I thought it would be crowded, noisy, polluted, and overwhelming. My expectations were shattered.
Tokyo is huge, and it is crowded. However, outside of the train stations or a few crossings (like Shabuya), it didn’t really feel like it. There were always side streets to slip down, or other ways to escape the masses going to and from their lives. Wide walkways helped disperse foot traffic, and the most incredible mass transit system worked like a charm to shuttle all of those people around the city.
Noises were plentiful in Tokyo. Traffic signals beep when one can cross, music plays randomly through speakers around the neighborhoods, the occasional siren. Cars, however, did not honk all that often, and most people were fairly quiet. There were no loud conversations on the trains, drivers yelling at each other, or other things I expected from a huge city (maybe too many trips to New York have ruined me). And, when even those sounds got to be too much, there are some wonderful urban parks to escape, wander through greenery, and sit with your thoughts.
Pollution was nonexistent it Tokyo, beyond the normal air quality associated with any large (even environmentally conscious) city. The funny thing was that while there were almost no public trash cans, there was almost no trash on the streets. Even leaves were swept away regularly. Buildings were kept almost sparkling, the trains didn’t have any smells, and even the cars all seemed regularly washed. For a city of 20 million people, this is truly a feat!
So was Tokyo overwhelming? Maybe a little, but with the wonderful smells of restaurants, sights of really inventive advertising, and thrum of constantly moving people. It was a lot to take in, this place where every neighborhood held new surprises, and each street a new treasure to discover.
It is a wonderful thing when traveling to find a place that so exceeds expectations. Tokyo did that for me, and I can’t wait to return.
What are your favorite things about Tokyo?