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I have to admit it was tough leaving the incredible retreat that is the Park Hyatt Tokyo but we did manage to get out and spend some time exploring the massive metropolis of Tokyo.
- Introduction and Trip Planning
- Japan Airlines Economy From ORD to NRT
- Westin Miyako Kyoto
- Exploring Kyoto
- Day trips from Kyoto
- Park Hyatt Tokyo – Part I
- Park Hyatt Tokyo – Part II
- Exploring Tokyo
- Final Thoughts
We had three days in Tokyo. At this point in the trip we were ‘templed out’ from Kyoto and just wanted to walk around at our leisurely pace exploring the various neighborhoods. Out strategy was simplistic. Each day we picked a major metro stop or two, got off and just walked around aimlessly. I have to admit I was a little nervous prior to the trip attempting to navigate the Tokyo transit system. The map is a quite intimidating at first glance.
However, those fears were quickly erased. It turned out the transit system was quite easy to navigate. The sheer volume of riders means the frequency of trains on every line is superb. I can’t remember ever waiting more than 5-10 minutes for the train we needed to arrive at a stop. In most cases it was less than a 3 minute wait. The Park Hyatt Tokyo is close to Shinjuku station, which is the busiest train station in the world. Likewise, the Tokyo metro system itself is the busiest in the world. We only saw the station during non-peak times but it was still hard to wrap your brain around how many people are going in so many different directions. People watching was a blast, just don’t get in the way!
One of the train stations we selected to explore from was Shibuya station. We made a stop at Shibuya crossing, which is famous for its scramble crosswalk. Much like Shinjuku, it is fun for people watching. Every few minutes a sea of people cross the intersection all at once. This area reminded me of Times Square in New York.
I am not much of a shopper but Tokyo claims to have the best shopping in the world. We felt obligated to include it in one our walks so we went to Harajuku station. We found several neat boutiques in this area along with the usual suspects of global brands. Many of the stores were in stand alone buildings which each had their own interesting architecture. It made for an interesting outdoor mall.
Finally our meandering led us to a small city park which we found wandering (quite a ways) off the Roppongi Station. The park was absolutely beautiful. This was our last day so we were able to spend a few hours reflecting on the trip. I made two particular observations which I believe characterize my strongest impressions of Japan.
The first observation was seeing two young girls around the age of 8 walking around this Tokyo city park in the evening without supervision. Furthermore they just leaned their bikes up against a park bench and walked away. The level of safety and security in Tokyo and Japan in general is just incredible. It speaks a lot about the culture that they are able to maintain this safe and trusting environment even while being the biggest city in the world. It would be interesting to see how long an unlocked bike would last in a downtown Chicago park.
The second observation was based on the volume of city noise. There wasn’t any! No honking, no construction, nothing. Complete silence other than the babbling creek and the birds chirping while sitting smack dab in the biggest city in the world. City parks generally offer a quiet retreat from the city noise but this particular park was far more tranquil than those I’ve found elsewhere. While Tokyo is often shown as chaotic and loud, I actually found the majority of the city to be overwhelming relaxing and peaceful.