In Japanese, “tok” means city, and “yo” (pronounced Yu-a) means food. Put it together, and you get “Tokyo” – city of food.
Actually I just made that up, but it might as well be true because Tokyo genuinely has some of the best food in the world. Sushi, ramen, soba, udon, Kobe beef, Tokatsu – fried pork, chicken on a stick, squid on a stick, stingray on a stick. . . and the list goes on. And on.
We flew into Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Saturday night and left by bus on Tuesday afternoon. It was just enough time to wish we had a lot more time.
While in the city, we took an all-day bicycle tour – an unconventional way of seeing Tokyo but something I would highly recommend – joined a night food tour and explored as much of the city – by foot and by subway – that we could. To sum it up: we walked a lot, we ate a lot.
Food wise, In those three days we managed to sample a bit of everything. From the indulgent – Kobe beef and lobster …
to the simple: ramen served at convenient, cubicle-style desks where patrons are free from distractions (like other people) to concentrate on the flavors of the meal.
Plus, the ordering is all done through an easy to use vending machine – so no reason to bother with those annoying people who always try to talk to you at restaurants – I think they’re called waiters.
Our first meal in the city was in the Tokyo subway – that city beneath a city. We ate tempura at this small restaurant in the Shinjuku station.
On our food tour, we ate Yakitori – chicken and pork skewers cooked over an open flame.
A plate full of fresh sashimi and a fish that was hand picked from a tank and filleted, still flopping helplessly about, in front of us.
And of course we had more ramen.
Tokyo is second to none when it comes to people watching.
On the subway and on the streets – Tokyo fashion runs the gamut from 1980’s esque puffy colored pants and all denim outfits – big accessories included – to slim cut black suits worn by the endless masses of sleek but tired looking Japanese business men.
In Akihabara, an electronics (and sex) district – women dress in French maid outfits to promote fetishized cafes. And in Shibuya -at the famous cross walk – one could spend all day watching the never-ending stream of busy looking pedestrians hustling off in all directions.
Finally (but not really – not by a long shot) on Takeshita Street, locals and tourists push together in a giant mass of slow moving, consumer-happy humanity.
If I were more adventurous – and had more money and spoke Japanese – I would move to Tokyo in a heartbeat. An endless melding of concrete, bright lights and over-the-top eccentricity – Tokyo is a city that defies characterization. Urban sprawl writ large, Tokyo can neither be fathomed nor explained – but it should, without doubt, be experienced.