Some quick impressions of Tokyo

If you follow me elsewhere you probably know that rakka and I just went to Tokyo for the first time. I did some G+ and twitter stuff from the road. But here is where the longer form stuff will go. I'm going to start off with a sketch, and I'll fill in some details in later posts.

Tokyo is Dense

And there is a lot of it.
A view from Sky Tree

A view from Tokyo Tower

But for all that, the dominant scale is human

There are Contrasts of Scale all over the place.
Big and Little

But when you get off the main (named) streets and in to the neighborhoods it tends to scale right down to a livable human size. This is true even around business districts. Below, we see a bunch of low rise buildings on one of the unnamed streets of Hamamatsuchō. Here we are only a few blocks away from the Tokyo World Trade Center and two train stations totaling 5 subway lines. It's not overwhelming at all. It gets busy with pedestrians at rush hour, and all the restaurants fill up quick, but you never feel like you're being crushed.

Human Scale Hamamatsuchō (浜松町) with Tokyo Tower

Tokyo can be Crowded

That's not to say that Tokyo isn't crowded. It can be. Just like any city, if you go to a popular place at a popular time it will be full of people. I took this picture at Tsukiji fish market at 6am, before I found the streets that were really crowded (too crowded to mess with cameras). But the walk to the market was basically devoid of people.

Tsukiji fish market
The trick is, that crowds in Tokyo aren't bad to move through. There's a rhythm and a method, and people don't want to make your life hard. So as long as you watch and follow the pattern it's pretty easy to deal with. The only time it gets bad is when there are a lot of westerners around, like in Akihabara. And then wow, the contrast is intense. And stressful.

Tokyo Tower really does dominate western Tokyo

You see it in a lot of my pictures, and that's because you can see it from everywhere. For my money, it's more fun than Skytree (but that could be because we went to Skytree on the exact 3rd anniversary of it's opening; it was a mad house. Mad. House).

Tokyo Tower

Looking down from Tokyo Tower

Tourists are Attracted

Tokyo Money is happy to spend itself to attract more money. On Odaiba, the man made island and emblem of the pre-crash economy, we found the big Gundam. So did everybody else, obviously. That's what it's there for.

It took me a long time, by the way, to realize that the mall's name, Diver City, was a pun. DiverCity, DiverSity. Get it? Yeah.

Gundam at Diver City

To be honest, after the Gundam, I was a little sad that Venus Fort (the Venice theme'd mall across the way) didn't have a river running through it. It did have blue skies and a classic car museum for an entrance, for some reason.

Tokyo is very green

People, myself included, love taking pictures of how dense and populous Tokyo is. That leaves something out though. Tokyo full of plants. There is green all around.

Some kind of tree with droopy things in Shiba park

And there are parks anywhere

In Minato there are a couple Edo era parks. You pay a few hundred yen to get in, but it's worth it. They are perfect, beautiful quiet places. They're also great places to experience earthquakes, which we did in this park. (It was a 5.6 and made the news. Kinda freaky, but nothing bad happened)

Kyū Shiba Rikyū Garden (旧芝離宮恩賜庭園)

We did find a few free parks in other neighborhoods too. Equally nice but smaller and so closer to the noise of the city. Still, a nice refuge if you're in the area.

And lots of them have Shinto shrines

Shiba Park is free (it's near Tokyo Tower) and like so many it has a small Shinto shrine in it. It extends across the street and under the shadow of the tower, where there is another shrine. I didn't get a good picture of that though.

Shinto shrine at Shiba Park (芝公園)
There are also shrines just all over the place. I'll probably do a whole post on them.

Trains are a big deal

We took a lot of trains. From driverless robo-trains through rackety old locals. We didn't spend a single day without being on a train at some point. Most days it was 4+.

Speeding Train

Tokyo people are nice

This is harder to photograph, but it's true. People are very kind. Not just the polite efficiency that everybody exhibits on the job. But even beyond that, people seemed to like us. All we did was dress ever so slightly more formal than your standard tourist garb, tried to speak Japanese whenever we could, and try not to get in the way. And by the third day little old ladies were making sure Rakka got free samples at the Hokkaido Antena Store (more on that later).

That's it for now. More later this week, or next week, or something. I still don't even know what day it is. (Can you believe I'm back at work already? I can't)