Impressions from Tokyo

Sorry for the quiet, but I have just returned from a week of vacation in Tokyo, Japan.

I was staying at a hotel just next to Shibuya Station, which is one of the busiest stations in Tokyo, and which is surrounded by the Shibuya District, which is a shopping district. I was lucky enough to get a room on the 22nd floor, so I had a great view of the area.

View from hotel room on 22nd floor

Visible skyline from hotel room

The picture of the skyline is taken from the hotel room, and is towards the North.

This was one thing that surprised me about Tokyo – the skyscrapers were spread all around the city, and not just located in the city center, as you see most other places.

Shibuya was an extremely busy area, especially next to the station, but also next to popular shops, such as 109 (which is fairly close to the station though). The amount of people going in and out of the station at peak hours was amazing, and it was a good place to people watch, if you could stand the crowds.

Apart from spending time in the area around the hotel, I also went out and saw the Harajuku District. This was a bit of an disappointment to me, as I had hoped to see some of the teens dressed up in the well known Harajuku style, but unfortunately, it was fairly limited what I saw of that.  Perhaps due to the fairly cold weather.

On the other hand, I was lucky enough to be in Tokyo at the same time as the cherry trees started to bloom. If you don’t know, that is a very big deal, and leads to people going to the part, and get drunk on beer and sake. I visited a park fairly early on the day (around noon) last Sunday, and people was only getting ready to celebrate, but I think my pictures show the scale of it.

Cherry trees 7 Cherry trees 5 Cherry trees 4 Cherry trees 3 Cherry trees 2 Cherry trees blossoming

It was interesting to note how the only place people were sitting was underneath the cherry trees – all the other spots were ignored.

And at the end, a few notes/comments from my visit.

First of all – Vendor machines were everywhere. It was incredible – even on back streets with no shops or anything, you’d be sure to come across a vendor machine selling cokes and/or ice coffee. Surprisingly, there weren’t snack vendor machines around, only machines selling drinks.

Vendor machine in side street
Row of vendor machines

Language barriers became a problem in unexpected ways. I knew that Japanese are not necessarily good at speaking English, and I was prepared for this. What I had thought of, but underestimated, was how hard it is to find your way when you don’t even read the letters. What I hadn’t thought of, and which came as a great surprise to me, was that it might making going to the toilet complicated – some Japanese toilets are rather advanced, and it was hard to figure out how to do simple tasks, such as flushing the toilet, when you can’t read the letters and haven’t ever seen a similar panel.

I found the lack of Asian models on billboards rather disturbing. If it was a Japanese product, the models were Japanese, but there were a lot of billboards with European products (especially clothes brands), and none of them used Asian models.

And finally – Shibuya at night looks like something taken out of Blade Runner.

Shibuya at night