Tokyo is one of the most exciting destinations to visit in the world and well deserving of it’s hyperactive, adrenaline fuelled and non-stop reputation. It’s is a place where innovation and new ideas are actively encouraged and if you’re lucky enough to get the chance to visit you’ll realise it’s super friendly people also have a very unique outlook on life. Trends and originality are fully embraced in this modern metropolis and we personally believe this is one of the reasons why this city is so special. Here are our ten reasons why we think Tokyo is the coolest city in the world:-
Hayao Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli
Hayao Miyazaki is the Godfather of Japanese animated feature films and a national treasure; he is Japan’s answer to Walt Disney. Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibi in 1985, the animation studio responsible for mega-bucks grossing films such as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Tokyo is home to the engaging Studio Ghibli Museum – a meticulously thought out interactive visitor’s attraction. The museum (which is unsurprisingly a mecca for anime fans) is designed by Miyazaki himself and has the motto ‘Let’s get lost together.’
Most people know that the Japanese are obsessed with futuristic technology, especially robots. You would probably expect nothing less from the country that created ASIMO – a freakishly realistic humanoid robot that can run, walk, climb the stairs and bring you your tea. Now the Japanese are developing robots to look even more human like and the newer versions have the ability to express emotions and even smile and blink. One of the latest robots is an attractive female humanoid that is programmed to walk down a catwalk. There are also robots in Japan that can take the place of pets, help the elderly and even become a lonely child’s best friend.
If your only experience of karaoke is a ropey microphone and TV set up in a dodgy back room bar then you really must give karaoke in Tokyo a try. Karaoke is a billion dollar industry in Japan and the bars are often an impressive 10 stories high and packed with hundreds of futuristic pod-like rooms. Book a room and sing your heart out accompanied by a sound-activated laser show and then order food and drink using the high-tech touch screen remote control. An experience not to missed (even if it is to hear a hundred Japanese men murder a Bonnie Tyler song…)
Japan is famous for it’s harmony-loving culture and the Asian country is often thought to have one of the most polite societies in the world. Customs and social etiquette are very important here and the extreme politeness of the people will probably leave quite an impression on you. In Tokyo it’s not uncommon to see stooping station masters greeting you at the underground entrance or shopkeepers continuously bowing you out of a shop after making a purchase.
Getting dressed up as your favourite manga or anime character is the thing to do in Tokyo and ‘Cosplay‘ (a type of performance art trend) is now catching on in many other countries around the world. If you happen to be taking a stroll around Harajuku in your normal casual weekend attire you might feel more than a little under-dressed amid all the gothic rock stars, lolitas, french maids and shiny video game characters.
Love hotels cater to just about everyone and anyone who feels the need for a pay by the hour (or a night) hotel. Rooms are quirkily themed and decked out to look like anything ranging from a subway train carriage to a prison cell. Other rooms are cuter and more light-hearted and in open-minded Tokyo not all Love Hotels have a seedy reputation. Most provide ‘equipment’ such as toys, karaoke machines, game consoles and more unusual stuff. Great for trying out – even if it’s just to have a funny story to tell when you get back home…
The Japanese take their trains and their train network systems very seriously. The trains and railways in Tokyo are second to none for cleanliness, efficiency and time keeping – you could literally set your watch by them. Okay so they might be crowded, but in off-peak times the trains are a joy to travel on and will probably leave you wondering why your own public transport system is so rubbish in comparison. The iconic Bullet train which travels at speeds of up to 300 km/h is an essential ride and the journey from Kyoto to Tokyo is especially recommended for the incredible views of Mount Fuji.
In Tokyo you can’t walk more than a couple of steps without passing a ultra cute Hello Kitty toy, Totoro, Gloomy bear or miniature plastic sushi. The Japanese are infatuated with Kawaii (which literally means cute, loveable and adorable) and Tokyo’s fondness for all thing cute just adds to it’s coolness.
Okay they might not be for everyone but Tokyo’s maid cafes are a thriving industry. Here customers can grab a coffee and cake and be served by waitresses dressed in maid costumes. The ‘maids’ act as servants and treat customers as masters (and mistresses) just like they would in a private home. Increased competition in the cafes means that many of them are trying to outdo each other in the crazy stakes – which probably means even more interesting cafe experiences in the future. Female travellers might want to try one of the butler cafes…
When night falls in Tokyo the city really comes to life – gigantic neon signs and advertising hoardings adorn every available space on Tokyo’s multi-storey buildings. For total neon immersion head to the wealthy shopping area Ginza, crowded Shinjuku or Akihabara (otherwise known as ‘Electric City’). Recreate a scene from Blade Runner by picking up barbecued skewered chicken on a trip to Shinjuku’s Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho).
Written by Becky and Graham.