If you’ve talked to me over the past two years, you’ve probably heard me obsessively gushing about the meticulous and esoteric wonders of Japan; that and my unhealthy fixation on zombies. But the latter is a topic I will spare you from and promise never to post about… again.
Anyway as I prepare for my next trip to Tokyo in the coming weeks, I thought I’d share my favorite aspects of my second favorite city in the world:
New and old norms: Tokyo is a dichotomous mix of modern trends to the extreme and abidingly antiquated manners to a T(ea ceremony); a mix that you wouldn’t expect to co-exist so harmoniously among a relatively homogenous population. Walking through the streets of the city, you will see cutesy cartoon mascots, Harajuku get-ups, punk rockers but yet also couples clad in traditional kimono walking hand in hand with practiced and impeccable rhythm. There is such a simultaneous mix of self-expression and self-control — even in the extreme.
Food, food and food: The cultivation of perfection can be seen in all facets of life in Tokyo. My favorite manifestation of this quality is through the food. Did you know that Tokyo has more Michelin stars than NYC and Paris combined?? The vegetables, meats, grains and carbs are microscopically cut (I think if you measured it, every cut would be identical) and attentively seasoned to suit the human palate in a, dare I say, mind-blowing way. The variety of Japanese food from ramen, teppanyaki, kaiseki, yakitori, udon, sushi have helped me develop new cravings that are not quite satiated outside of Japan. And never mind the Japanese food — if you’re looking for the best Italian, French, Mexican, American, Namibian, Yemenese, Micronesian, [insert obscure country here] food outside the native country, you’ll find it in Japan. Even though Japan is so homogeneously Japanese, the city features some of the best international restaurants in the world.
Style, not fashion: Because it’s more about style than brands, Tokyo “fashion” is centered more around individuality and less around mass luxury. Don’t get me wrong, luxury good sales in Tokyo are amongst the highest in the world and I have succumbed to many a Celine bag purchases there (only on my most severe retail therapy sessions…) but for the most part style trumps brand name.
Serenity now: With the world’s largest population, the city of Tokyo doesn’t feel overwhelmingly crowded. You know why? Because unlike the aggressive-but-”don’t-take-it-personally” New Yorkers, the Japanese are orderly and civil. Riding the overcrowded subways in NY always make me feel like a malleable sardine in a (smelly) tin can but riding the overcrowded subways in Tokyo make me feel like I’m wedged between freshly washed pillows.
Wrapped in a bow: Everything in Japan is perfectly packaged: neatly folded, wrapped, boxed, bowed, gift bagged. Some find the extra frills excessive but shopping in Japan always brings back nostalgic memories of my childhood when I appreciated the box more than what was in it. There’s something magical behind packaging that makes even the most mundane purchase (e.g. soap or toilet paper) that much more special. Enjoy my packaging of Tokyo below!
1-8-1 Yurakucho Chiyoda
Tokyo 100-0006, Japan
1-12-33 Akasaka Minato-ku
Tokyo 107-0052, Japan