Japan has always been a place I’ve dreamed of visiting. It seems like such a unique place – different media, language, culture, strong attention to detail, rigidity of social structure, strong traditions, ultra-modern and sophisticated. Where else do you have capsule hotels? Living on the east coast of Canada, it was always too far and too expensive to get to. The trip was also a good opportunity to learn more about the startup scene there. It was great to have my good friend Bonnie join me to share on this Tokyo adventure.
It can be quite difficult to get around in Tokyo if you don’t know Japanese. Knowing a little gets you a long way. Unlike Hong Kong, English won’t get you very far, and if you don’t know the language, be sure to write things out and know exactly how to get from point A to point B or you’re pretty much fucked. My phone died on the way to my hostel and I thought I was a goner. Wifi, GPS and Google Maps were all pretty essential for getting around Japan efficiently. What surprised me is how big Tokyo is. I feel I’ve only seen a fraction of the city. The first day was spent just looking around, checking into our sweet tradition-style Airbnb digs and taking in the sights and sounds of Tokyo.
If you’re looking to get the best view and pictures of it up close, you might want to head to the Tokyo Prince Hotel, located just next door to the tower but far enough to get the tower in your full field of view in pictures.
No visit to Tokyo would be complete without a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Tsukiji is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. Opened in 1935 and having historical ties to Tokyo’s harbour since the 1870s, I could feel the importance of the place immediately. It was important to go this year, because next year, the market will be moved to Toyosu, to free up the valuable real estate land the Tsukiji market currently occupies and in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
We waited in line for over 4 HOURS IN THE RAIN to get a seat at one of the most famous sushi restaurants at Tsukiji, Sushi Dai.
For relaxing times, make it Suntory time. A bucket list goal of mine was to visit the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. I’ve been obsessed with coming here, the bar being featured prominently in one of my favourite movies of all time, Lost in Translation. It’s my new favourite bar and it also helps that it offers one of most interesting views of the city – when you look out the windows, you can see hundreds of red, blinking, aircraft warning lights in the distance. Very Blade Runner.
Harajuku, a collection of streets a bit off the beaten path from Omotesando (Japan’s “fashion drive”) is where Tokyo’s counter and youth culture congregate to invent and define. It’s incredibly important that a place like this exists, and given Japanese’s rigid society, definitely makes you realize how unique and special a place like this is. I’ve always heard the shopping here is incredible, but I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more about five years ago, when I preferred limited edition Jordans and wore more street fashion.
One of my favourite, final stops ended with a necessary trip to Haneda Airport to head back to Hong Kong. Our (arguably) nicest airport in Canada, Vancouver’s YVR doesn’t hold a candle to Haneda, in terms of shopping and food. Make sure you check out the domestic terminal, as the international one is pretty disappointing. If you need to grab last minute snacks and souvenirs, they’ve got you covered there.
There’s still so much I’ve yet to see just in Tokyo itself, never mind Japan. There are many destinations where you’d feel content seeing it only once just to put it on a checklist of experiences. For me, Japan is not one of those places. I know I’ll be back again.