In Between Modern and Traditional Japan in Tokyo
I have been living in Japan for about 1 year now. I spent most of the time in Kyoto and 1.5 months in (near) Tokyo. For me, Kyoto is the most livable city ever. However, I always love to ask Japanese which prefecture they think is best in Japan. Most people answer Kanazawa, some answer Nagano, but my sensei’s answer surprised me. He said his most favorite prefecture is Tokyo.
As someone who hates crowded capital cities, I cannot imagine why Tokyo would be someone’s favorite place of all prefectures in Japan. Then I decided to try and found out.
"If you want to see the real Japanese culture, go to Kyoto", I once said to my friend. But after I went to Tokyo, I was questioning myself: what is real Japanese culture? One might suggest tea ceremonies, geisha, and temples are among them. But if you see Tokyo, you will realize that Japanese culture nowadays is so much more than that. And no better place to find it other than Tokyo. See people wearing yukata alongside with people wearing lolita dress. Visit a night market in which Turkish, African, Indian, Japanese, or Chinese welcoming you to their stores. Enjoy the view of rickshaw puller blended with the modern Tokyo Skytree as a background.
"In Tokyo, there is mix of culture in such a way that foreigners, or Japanese who choose to be ‘different’ from others, will not be judged".
Yes, sensei. Now I get what you mean.
In Kyoto, most people go around by bicycles. In farther distance, I prefer to use city bus, where you can enjoy a one-day-pass for only 500 yen. Subway and train is not really popular, except for a particular destination.
In contrast, in Tokyo apparently people cannot live without the subway. It feels like in every inch of Tokyo, there is a subway station. Even though I myself prefer bicycling around, I admit that I admire the subway system. According to some reviews, apparently it is one of the most complex in the world, more than other capitals like Paris, New York, and London. Moreover, I found out that Shinjuku is the world’s busiest train station! Wow. No wonder I got lost several times there. I think anyone who wants to learn about transportation should learn from those who built Tokyo Metro. How could they make such complicated system underground?
For those who love anime and manga, Tokyo most likely already in your must-visit places to travel list. It's not only because they have Akihabara, where there are a lot of anime-manga merchandise, but also because most anime and manga setting is in Tokyo. I am not an otaku, but I do read several manga and watched some anime when I was a kid. Coming to Tokyo is like, "Oh it’s the Hachiko Statue, meeting point in anime" or "Ah Detective Conan is talking about Azabu-juban Station, I just went there yesterday". You cannot do this in Kyoto. In Tokyo, it’s like every part of the city is used in manga or anime. And I am happy to visit those places directly.
All in all, I would say time spent in the modern side of Japan is not bad at all. Now I understand why sensei and some other people love Tokyo. The traditional-old-fashioned Kyoto will always be home for me, but Tokyo...it was an experience like no other.