Going to Japan we had some pictures in our minds what will the capital city look like, towns around, roads and we knew that Tokyo will make a great impression on us. This is all true, the experience is just wonderful but the most important thing is that these are all very positive feelings!
I have made my own division of Tokyo structure, into 3 layers, that allow you to move around the city in the way you like, regarding the mean of transport. At the ‘bottom layer’ there is underground of course. Huge, and as every underground it has its own peculiar smell, still being very clean and well maintained. Using it, you can get everywhere on time, the only thing you have to do is to follow mysterious corridors and entrances and also to buy a proper ticket, but it didn’t trouble us that much. What can you see? Billions of Japanese people commuting to work in silence, sleeping on heated seats and an idea of society when the Japanese wait in straight lines for another train to arrive. Order, that’s the name for it.
The middle layer of Tokyo are all the ‘smaller roads’ and also cycling lanes. The cars that go to the exact address are there, all the cyclists and pedestrians going home or heading to restaurants. The atmosphere is very calm, no noise of honking cars (we heard it twice while staying in Tokyo for couple of days), pedestrians bowing to cyclists and the other way round. Mothers cycling with their children, drivers looking carefully at the pedestrians; the only thing you have to be careful of, and probably it doesn’t change all over the world are the taxi drivers…!
The last layer of Tokyo are all express roads on ‘sky’ highways, where trucks go. There are also two-storey bridges, where cars and trains can go but along the roads are noise screens mostly. This is why Tokyo makes an impression of very quiet and clean city where you don’t follow the same routes as trucks and their fumes. You just can’t cycle up to the ‘sky’ lanes. But what is worth doing, is taking a sky train to see the city from a different perspective 🙂
Another thing that we liked a lot are free entrances to many places. For instance, to see the panoramic view of the city, you can get to one of two towers of government building where English speaking volunteers are keen on describing the buildings, directions and the city.
At night (well, it gets dark at 4 pm here) we crossed the Rainbow Bridge to take some night pictures, what is also for free, just as entrances to the temples and shrines. Going to Natural Science Museum we bought the tickets, but when you think of the size of that place and the way it is done, the tickets turn out not to be that expensive. It is obvious that the capital city takes the money out of your pocket, especially Tokyo and its shopping streets (Takeshita for instance) where you may think that half of the the things there are necessary to buy. It’s hard to convince yourself that there is no need to buy it and no need to try pankackes, ice-cream and other delicacies. So good that our restriction is the size of our bike bags. Whatever you buy, you carry it, and that point seems to be very strong one, quite convincing one! On the other hand, more you cycle, more hungry you become, so we are not so strict when it comes to food.
There are two main religions in Japan: Shinto and Buddhism. And it doesn’t mean that you can practise only one of them. They use it alternatively. Shinto weddings and Buddhist funerals. For the New Year you go to Shinto shrine, but to pray for health and happiness for 50 yen then you look for it in a Buddhist temple. What is also interesting, is how these places soak into the city structure, still holding its character at the same time.
All in all, Tokyo is very esthetic city and a very clean one. Along the roads, the trees grow, there are many parks and a lot of little things that add charm to the city. Even on the pavements you can see decorative panels with Fuji or flowers. These are only small details but they built the final positive impression of the capital city.