Our first visit to Tokyo and we both agree, it won’t be our last. As with most places the most remarkable memories are from the people we meet. Formal and polite in a way that only centuries of culture can refine. In a population that is over 95% native to the country everyone knows what the rules and social expectations are so everything works smoothly, efficiently and with courtesy. It’s quite remarkable and we both kept thinking Japanese visitors must be surprised when they first land at SFO or LAX by how rude, dirty and unorganized the USA is comparatively speaking.
Like all big cities it takes a day or so to come to terms with the transportation system and how and when to best get around. The trains and subway system are the cleanest, most comprehensive and efficient of any we’ve ever used anywhere in the world. It’s easy and affordable to go to the other side of the city for dinner or the afternoon. Cabs, the couple of times we used them, were convenient, courteous and affordable.
The real focus of any trip that Susan and I take is food. No better way to experience a different place than to eat the local and regional specialties. Sushi, sashimi, yakitori, teppanyaki, gyoza, ramen and more sushi. Our first visit in Tokyo was to the Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest seafood market where fresh fish from Japan and the world is sold wholesale to buyers from the US, Europe and of course Japan. We walked through the outer market with food stalls selling over 450 different kinds of seafood, stopping to eat a little of this here and a little of that there. A most amazing experience, one that I had to go back to on our last day in Tokyo. Among the vendor stalls I found a little sushi bar with seven seats where I had the best tuna sashimi ever in my life. It was served with fresh wasabi and a shark skin grinder. One of life’s great experiences! Overall the food in Tokyo was first rate, whether it was from a street vendor, a noodle shop or a high-end restaurant. Food culture has a long-standing history in Japan and is supported by a knowledgeable and appreciating population. Its why Tokyo has more Michelin starred restaurants than New York and Paris combined.
Tokyo is a unique place but also reminiscent in many ways to NYC. It has many distinct neighborhoods which are interesting to visit for the many different cultural vibes. We visited nine separate neighborhoods around Tokyo and found all interesting and inviting. No matter what you are looking for its out there. From quiet walks along a canal to exciting night life, high-end retail to shops dedicated to kitchen essentials, Tokyo has it all. So, if you get a chance to visit Japan, go and enjoy the sophistication and culture that makes this island nation special.