Our whirlwind tour through Japan began with 36 hours in Tokyo. Though Japan as a country is steeped in tradition, Tokyo is a city of the future. We arrived on the cusp of spring, with the lesser-known plum blossoms heralding the anticipated arrival of cherry blossom season at the end of the month. Our group of 4 – 2 CBS friends, my brother Ari, and me met up with friends old and new – college friends, business school friends, and friends of friends, creating the illusion of familiarity in a foreign place.
We packed in as many sites & bites as was possible. Highlights include
- Imperial Palace where we meandered only through the manicured gardens, given that the Palace itself is only open 2 days per year
- Tsujita Ramen restaurant (@ Kanda Station), where one orders through a vending machine, receives a meal ticket, and is then served an incredible meal at a counter that surrounds the kitchen – YUM
- Asakusa Cat Café one of 39 cat cafes in Tokyo, this is the only one that has rescues cats. There space is filled with cat beds, houses, climbers, and toys for people to come and interact with the cat, and the modest entrance fee/beverage fees help subsidize the cost of sheltering the cats until they can be adopted. Oddly, about half the cats were the size of small dogs.
- Sensoji Temple
- Nakamise Shopping Street filled with gifts and goods and sweet shops
- Harajuku & the Meiji Jingu Shrine – somehow, in the bustling neighborhood of Harajuku, there is a wooded area that contains the Meji Shrine. Though we arrived just before closing, we were able to walk through the magnificent structure.
- Shibuya Crossing – one of the busiest intersections in the world, something like Times Square…if Times Square was orderly and everyone crossed at once. The streets went from car-filled and devoid of people, to a sea of humanity intersecting at the change of the light.
- Tsukiji Fish Market – we woke up at 4:10 AM to arrive at this world-famous fish market where the 400+ lb tunas are auctioned off each morning. Despite our early arrival, we were not amongst the limited 120 people allowed in for the viewing – I can only imagine what time everyone else arrived. The silver lining is that we were the first to arrive at Daiwa Zushi where we had the best omakase sushi, served fresh piece by piece, sitting at a counter with the sushi chef. By 6 am, we had the breakfast of our lives and, stuffed with fish, departed Tokyo for the next leg of our trip.
New Obsession: The 5-per-block cold and hot vending machines. Yum.
Big thanks to Saul, Rene, Darren, Wright, Kei, Troo, Paul, Win, Michael, Russell, Ethan, and Ari for all of the recommendations!