From the old-fashioned manners to modern madness, from the understated to the wild and whacky, Tokyo is a pulsing city with a calm energy that will take you by surprise.
Arriving in Tokyo, we are immediately thrust out of our comfort zone. For a start, getting our bearings is almost impossible – and then there’s the language barrier.
Losing yourself in a strange city is all part of the adventure – and quite complicated in a city like this. But we soon discover the locals are always willing to show you the way – even if you don’t ask (looking confused is a dead giveaway, apparently).
Japanese people are helpful, respectful and always up for a laugh, so overcoming the language barrier wasn’t as hard as we thought either.
It just takes some ‘interpretive dance’ and Pictionary-style illustration skills (like explaining you’d like a fish fillet if possible, rather than a whole fish!). Being able to laugh at yourself is also quite useful!
The most astonishing thing for me is how everyone negotiates the city streets with absolute calm. It’s like a school of fish out of sync, but still not banging into each other.
We’ve been walking the city streets for two days now (yes constantly, thanks EB!) and we haven’t even been lightly bumped by anyone yet.
In the wide brown land we call home, you can’t walk down a 2m-wide footpath without being shoulder-charged (and I have the path rage to prove it!).
Meanwhile in Omoide Yokocho, also known as piss alley (now they tell me), the alleyways are lined with steamy eateries full of locals. We join them on stools at the bar, drawn in by the delicious sizzling aromas…
After taste-testing local favourites like yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles), raw fish and something on skewers, we pass a steak bar where all the patrons are standing at benches, wearing bibs and hoeing into succulent cuts.
What’s not to love about Tokyo?
You can get just about anything out of a vending machine here – even beer and spirits. Back home, the whole machine would be tossed in the back of a ute and disappear in a blink.
By 8 o’clock (which feels like midnight) we’re back in our 3.5m x 1.5m room drinking a nice Bordeaux red bought from the local 7-eleven.
Those comfort zones we stay in? Definitely over-rated, I reckon.