I’m sure you’ve all seen films set in Tokyo. Be it Fast and the Furious, Lost in Translation or a Godzilla escapade, you’ll be familiar with the flashing neon signs, the big screens, the sound of music and the ever-present Shibuya crossing.
The experience of actually visiting Shibuya, the ward of Tokyo roughly between Shinjuku and Shibuyu metro stations, will miraculously confirm every romanticisation and fantasy you have about the place. It really is that bright and colourful, loud and exuberant.
That’s the thing about Japan. It sounds like a tautology, but every inch of Japan is exceedingly Japanese. Everywhere you look there’s signage and architecture, people and products that could almost exist just to shock or amuse visitors from abroad.
In Shinjuku, Godzilla stands as the area’s official representative. A road is named for him, adorned with advertising and memorabilia, street art and official documentation, and most amazingly his head and monstrous claw looming overhead.
In Shibuya, the famous crossing is just as mind-blowingly busy as cinema makes it look. As soon as the light turns green, people move en masse, filling every square inch of the four-way crossing, silently criss-crossing with that quintessential Japanese politeness and sense of everyone doing their bit.
Pick any road to turn down and you’ll disappear into another world of hip bars, surprising shops and food. Oh my god, the food. The smells entice you everywhere you go, every bite of it living up to the expectation.
One highlight of Shinjuku was the Metropolitan Government Building, with a very high, very well-placed observation deck that was absolutely free to visit. I climbed up and took a look around, orienting myself like an adventurer of old, spotting interesting sights and heading there. On a later date, I timed my return deliberately to enjoy sunset. It was a little too cloudy to properly see the mountains but the lights were nonetheless gorgeous.
I lost more than a couple of days just stepping outside, picking a direction and walking. Tokyo never failed to disappoint, and never failed to be very, very Tokyo.