Destination: Tokyo, Japan
Name: Riikka Lagerberg
Riikka recommends staying at least one night in a traditional onsen ryokan. Wear a yukata (pictured) like everyone else, enjoy hot baths and top class Japanese cuisine and sleep on a futon mattress laid on a tatami floor. Relaxation guaranteed!
Meet Finnish translator Riikka, who enjoys the everyday adventures of Tokyo, Japan.
Tokyo never ceases to surprise
Tokyo never ceases to surprise: The ultra-modern and the traditional, the beautiful and the ugly, the super busy, lively & crowded and the tranquil & serene manage to live side by side in this city. It never gets boring as long as you’re equipped with an open mind.
For a tourist, this is a very safe destination where you don’t need to spend all your energies guarding your wallet (from others than yourself!).
Japan is a country full of many written and unwritten rules and there are countless books for sale abroad about the do’s and don’ts in Japan. We will come back to this in the next issue of ”TOKYO part 2” by offering you a more detailed guide of some of the basic “rules” you must bear in mind when visiting Tokyo or Japan in general.
But first, we’d like to inspire you to want to visit the city.
- Explore Tokyo
- Experience the essence of Tokyo
- Where to eat?
- My special tip
- Riikka and the Finnish language
Overall, I’d recommend you to explore and enjoy all the different contrasts the city offers. They can be seen/felt/tasted/heard everywhere so the following are just a few examples:
- Visit Meiji Jingu shrine and the surrounding woodlands for their serene beauty and for understanding the importance of Shinto religion for the Japanese culture and frame of mind.
- Continue to the neighbouring Takeshita Street to see the craziest youth fashions on Earth.
- Take a walk around the skyscraper district in Shinjuku.
- Enjoy the old-world charm in the Yanaka area.
- Peek inside the world’s largest fish auction market in Tsukiji, but watch out for the speeding forklifts and splashes of water everywhere! It can be rather chaotic.
A 5-year-old boy and his proud father at Meiji Shrine during a shichi-go-san festival, a rite of passage for all 3, 5, and 7-year-old kids.
Kichijouji area is also recommendable – it almost never appears in guidebooks but tops the rankings over best places to live in Japan year after year. You can easily spend a whole day in the area simply looking around the vast selection of shops (many of them selling typical Japanese things, perfect for souvenirs), enjoying a romantic tour in a swan-shaped pedal boat in Inokashira Park and visiting the anime lovers’ dream destination, the Ghibli Museum.
In general, Tokyo is exciting – so just being there is an adventure in itself.
When visiting Tokyo, you’ll almost certainly want to experience the essence of the city in the most authentic way – that is the background for my recommendations.
Japanese festivals or events
Try attending a matsuri (festival) or event of some sort. From small kids to centenarians, the Japanese really love their festivals and there are bigger or smaller ones going on every weekend – so you’ll never have to miss out. Information about the events can be found, for example, in Time Out Tokyo magazine and website or by asking your hotel staff.
A winter trip might give you a chance to experience a city filled with kimono-clad youths, as 20-year-olds celebrate their coming-of-age day on the second Monday in January.
During the summer, most shinto shrines hold a festival where interesting sights include a portable shrine, a mikoshi, being carried around in the neighbourhoods, accompanied by loud ”wasshoi” cries.
Find the secrets behind the highest life expectancy in the world
Get up early, head to a park, schoolyard or other open space and participate in the almost 90-year-old tradition of radio taiso – a brief 10-minute gymnastics session broadcasted every morning on the radio and over many loudspeakers around the city. Join the crowds at 6.30am and you might find one of the secrets behind the highest life expectancy in the world!
Get intoxicated by beauty
If you’re here in the beginning of April you can easily spend a whole week enjoying the cherry blossoms and therewith not just become intoxicated with all the sake, but also by the breathtaking beauty and unbeatable atmosphere anywhere in the city. It’s absolutely stunning.
To make the most of it, head for Yoyogi park, Meguro river, Shinjuku Gyoen Park or Aoyama cemetery – the picnics under the cherry trees take place EVERYWHERE.
The last cherry blossom picnics are truly magical because even the slightest wind makes the petals fall on you like pink and white rain.
Turn on the TV
How many recommend you to turn on the TV when travelling? Often it’s the other way around: Enjoy the country and don’t spend time watching the telly. However, I really recommend you to switch on the TV at some point and find a channel showing a so-called ”variety show”. It can be great fun even if you don’t understand a single word of Japanese! And I can guarantee you won’t want to skip the commercials!
Eating with eyes
Check out any of the huge department stores in Tokyo, especially the basement floor for amazing delicacies – the food is so beautiful you might forget it’s meant to be eaten!
Like sports? Then watch real-time sumo wrestling, a very prestigious sport that dates back 2,000 years. A two-week sumo tournament takes place in Tokyo three times every year – January, May and September.
Highest ranking sumo wrestlers in the entrance ceremony, all wearing their personal, decorated aprons.
Want a night on the town à la japonais? Then karaoke needs to be on the top of your list. Simply team up with at least one friend and head for one of the bigger stations where the karaoke establishments typically cluster. And don’t be scared – you get to sing in a private booth rather than in front of strangers. Book your party for at least a few hours, because time flies like there’s no tomorrow once you’re clutching that mike. And since there’ll invariably be an intercom for ordering food and drinks, you might really not want to leave. Ever.
Kabuki or Noh
If you are culture-oriented, go and see a kabuki or noh play. These classical forms of Japanese music drama date back several centuries and offer a strong expression in the form of costumes, stage decor and masks. For some, it might be a bit weird and for children either boring or scary.
Check this out to see if it’s something you might like to explore or not.