Monday, 30 May 2016

GUIDE TO: TOKYO, JAPAN

Lose yourself in translation as you drift around Japan alone in Tokyo and you will see that in this massive Metropolis you'd have to be faster than a speeding bullet train to take it all in.

All this city has to offer isn't for one trip...it's for a lifetime. All the concrete jungle is paved in. From being steeped in the history of beautiful temples by day, to being drenched in the electricty of a neon nightfall like no other.

That's as one of the international mottos says, 'So Old, So New...So Tokyo'!

As you enter this city after your red eye like Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola's classic 'Lost In Translation' (but for the love of God please don't get one of those green, automatic back door opening Taxis to the city from Narita. No matter how cooler they look than NYC classic yellow cabs. That is unless you want to part with around, 20,000 Yen. Or converted to your currency, about half of your trips spends), greet yourself with an eye rubbing of disbelief, not 15 hour haul across Europe to Asia flight view even more amazingly beautiful than the first frame of that Bill meets Scarlett film...if you know what I mean.

That would be the sensationally watt charged area of Shinjuku that has as many shops for your bag drops and places to conceive your next food baby as it does power outlets. And boy are all those (yes) advertising hoardings something to behold, especially in cool cariactures you can't understand...or see flogging you the latest piece of tech..or ahem power saving service.

As you walk through a kalidescope of colour that you'll only see as bright back home if you catch the pyrotecnics of a Coldplay tour in town, your eyes really will evoke the high definition feel of this hub. Still the only thing more effervescent than Shinjuku is it's neighbouring district of Shubuya and that famous crossing that Murray and Johannson ran and danced through...but you better wait for the green man.

Shubuya Crossing and all the Tokyo neon and digital white noise that surrounds it is like New York's Times Square on super serum steroids. Do they do New Year here? Because this place is ignited like fourth of July fireworks. The lightworks of this electric circus take your every sense away...forget the breath you've already lost. But yet just like the electro core of the Big Apple there's an eerie calm here, even at rush hour that's just as exhilirating. Especially if you take it in with a coffee (or an English Breakfast Tea Latte...it's not a language barrier mistake...don't ask, just get) at the Shubuya Starbucks that offers birds eye window view of the crossing below...if you're lucky or quick enough to get yourself a front row seat.

And in the day the different view like the developing skyline of Shinjuku is some beauty to behold in itself. Just keep your eyes on the road ahead as well as all the video game like hoardings above. You may just miss some live action Mario Kart going on in the concrete track below. Being run over by Donkey Kong...now that's a first.

Still if you wanted more bright lights in this big city (as if you needed them) than just walk. Take in this terrific place. From the more Sega than Sonic depths of Ueno and its perfect, picteresque park, to the boys and girls shopping in the harem of boutiques and areas that if caught on a good day feels like something out of Santa Monica or San Francisco, California dreaming U.S.A. But nothing is like the vivid view you get of this modern chic and forever young district atop the middle of the sky scraping Tokyo Plaza Omotesando between it's rooftop terrace trees and its dim lights from the neon calm chill. And all it'll cost you up there is again another Starbucks...but don't worry you can ask for cold milk this time.

A Westernised world that is only getting digitally and commercially smaller may leave you confused here. But not for the reasons you think. Culture shock? Nah get out of that shell. Whether you've been cautious about the local cuisine or language here you needn't be. There's plenty of worldwide choice here even if Japanese food is the taste beyond your classic Ramen and staying in the Miso Soup that you can get anywhere. And the bowing, beautiful people of this cultural city are so graceful when it comes to politeness and patience they've all Rosetta Stoned the whole worldwide English language and Americanised slang. But load a few Podcasts on to your iPod for the plane between 'Star Wars' and the latest Marvel because these incredible locals deserve the same kindness.

You kind of forget your in the Far East sometimes this place is so warm, welcoming and world influencing. After all what is travel these days in a world where you can hop on a plane like a bus, watch a couple of latest movies before they hit DVD shelves, catch up on Z's to combat the lag that's about to hit you when you least expect and wake up jetted to a whole new land in the same day? It's all as efficient as the on point Subway service here, sister only to the white glove shoved quickness of the bullet time trains in this matrix.

Still after waking up from that jet lag in one of those morgue door, cheap but claustraphobic hotels and taking in every street and side one of a city so full of places to eat, shop and camera phone capture that just when you thought you'd walked to the end of your last beautiful block there's more like presents under the tree if you want to see the real Tokyo, look out for all the temples. That's Japan. That's real beauty. And that's what will make you realise and remind you where you actually are. The best being the magnificent Meiji Shrine and the stu...no sen...no, just see Senso-Ji for yourself day and night. It's beyond words or any way you could try and do it justice. You just have to be there.

There's so much to do in Japan's premier city and like NYC you wouldn't do it all in one trip, whether it was a year or just a week. So you'll always have to go back. So when you're about done roaming the pavement you foot and keeping yourself hydrated from the refreshing vending machines on every corner with Hollywood's Tommy Lee Jones' signature smile staring back at you maybe it's time to look up to all you have done.

Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree? No it's not the same thing, even if a fellow tourist will lead you to the same place. If you've done one you have to do the other...day to beautiful turning night. Dusk till dawn this is definitive as you dare to look down. The red and white, flag waving Eiffel like Tokyo Tower offers a more classic, close-up look of the cities skyline you forget is so stunning for all you look ahead to when you join the rest of the ants. But the CN Tower looking Skytree, flanked by the gold and plenty of froth beer tower and the 2020 Olympic slug...I mean flame really is epic. All encompassing just how wide the world of this endless city really is.

Just how much more you have to see. Like taking a trip out of the city to the Cherry Blossom beautiful Mount Fuji or Japan's other great cities like the Tokyo anagram Kyoto and the fashioned Osaka...and let's not forget histories Hiroshima or the views of Nagasaki where you can almost see the while Eastern world from. That's next on the itinerary. Still if you want to see this world on a string, whether you've traversed Tokyo before. Or its your first time in the life changing Japan, it's now or never to book your next trip before the next rising sun. TIM DAVID HARVEY.