I actually did not intend to convince anyone. I planned to write this post for my own joy and go through the photos during dark cold nights in Copenhagen while saving up for my next trip to Japan.
And then my tendency to brag has prevailed over my sense of privacy…
Disclaimer: everything is written below is my sincere opinion and obviously quite subjective. I have also met people who truly hated Japan and couldn’t stand its people or culture. Which for me is an absolute surprise, not to exaggerate or anything, but that trip was the best I’ve ever done, and I was so impressed with the country that I’m planning next trip there for my 30th birthday (yes, good places are so popular that you might want to book them ahead…Dasha’s ahead = 6 months).
So what about those X-amount of reasons to visit the country ASAP, I tried to sum up my impression as much as possible and put it in more useful bullet-point kinda system, rather than just say “Go there, it’s so cool”. Even though that does describe whole experience quite well.
Tokyo is a city with NO tourist
I don’t know about you, but I’m quite turned off by the crowded locations with lack of authenticity. I live in such place currently and would quite dislike spending my precious vacay there.
And it’s not that I’m agoraphobic or anything (quite possibly I am), but tourists attract all other stuff that I’m repelled by: overpriced services, locals that would love to take an advantage of your foreign origin (and sometimes naivety) and of course the “beloved” tourists-traps.
About the latter: you probably found yourself few times in such location, so it won’t be hard for you to recognize one. Those sites might have been cultural or historic in the past, but now they solemnly exist to attract inexperienced TripAdvisor users and those tempted with such slogans as “a living monument from the Middle Ages”, or “Marco Polo stepped his foot right here”. Both places most likely will be combined with “authentic” restaurant and carpet shop, there will be a guy trying to sell you whatever it is there and you pretty soon will get a strong desire to leave that place without even checking out the “Silk Road genuine WC”.
Anyway, there are quite few cities in the world that will have those traps set up for you (yeah, Baku, I’m talking to you), but definitely not in Tokyo.
“Heck, it is a city with 40 million people and no tourist! Impossible!” you’d think.
“No tourists, no traps and no overpriced services” I’d tell you.
And here is why: Tokyo consists of 23 wards, like districts, but not really. Each ward is autonomous (up to certain extent) and it actually feels like 23 small cities in one.
(If you are interested in specifics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_wards_of_Tokyo)
Each ward has something to offer in terms of culture, night life, shopping, dining, entertainment etc. In 2006 (yes, I only have Wiki outdated source) there were 4.6 mil tourists in Tokyo from outside of Japan. For approximation reasons let’s assume there is no differentiation between seasons and wards. You get about 4000 tourists every week in one ward. It’s about one tourist per 400 locals. It’s nothing!
We hardly met any foreigners in bars, restaurants and in massive (9 floors) entertainment center in Shibuja with bowling, karaoke and ping-pong (personally my favorite) we were the only “gaijins”.
Not even once I paid more due to my foreign origin (that welcoming Russian-approach), not once I was mistreated just because I don’t speak Japanese (not even when we bought absolutely wrong tickets and were puzzled by the whole train system and held the line, because operator proposed to exchange them). And don’t get me wrong, locals most likely were pissed and swear at us behind our backs, but boy, I did not even hear them whispering…
So here we go: reason #1 is lack of tourists. And if you persist on finding new friends from Australia or New Zealand (those are the main countries admiring the land of the rising sun) you won’t struggle long. However, if you’d like to avoid people approaching you with tour packages/carpets/magnets/antiques/god-knows-what, you sure will not meet them there.
Next up is Reason #2: The Food
To eat or not to eat is not even a question in Japan: just EAT it!!