Visiting Tokyo is like taking a step into a real life video game. Colourful cartoons everywhere you turn, light bulbs electrifying the night air and don’t even get me started on the abundance of plush toys. Tokyo, on first glance, appears to be every little, nerdy boy's dream – but that description does not do justice to the wide appeal of this amazing city. Everything you’re looking for and some things you weren’t, is waiting for you right here!
WHERE I STAYED - TOYOKO INN, 2-10-15, Kabuki-cho Sinjuku-ku. There is a funny story that accompanies this particular accommodation. This was in fact my second trip to Tokyo, the first as a teacher supervising a school excursion. We stayed in (ONE of MANY) Toyoko Inns. As far as this hotel goes, it's not anything particularly fancy, but when you're dealing with the challenge of orientating yourself in a foreign place in an alien-esque looking language, you're definitely going to favour familiarity, after all, I knew how to get to the train for there. Well, that was the plan anyway. The reality sunk in fairly quickly that there was a minor mishap in the booking when we pulled up to the "ugly sister" version of this hotel chain. Located in/by a red light district, it was a little worn around the edges and the few streets leading to it were a little suspect. Jokes aside, it was fine - great breakfast and just a stroll away from the action (not the adult action as mentioned earlier!)
WHAT I DID - There are SO many things that Japan has to offer, if you're not interested in a "chilled out" kind of vacay-cay, then you will be happily entertained here. Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku is a laugh and a half - scantily, bikini-clad women dance as giant robots and sharks duke it out. From Western eyes, you're in for an initial shock - but by the end you will be waving those glow in the dark sticks about and cheering the Xena-meets-Rita Repulsa character as she invades on the back of her giant tarantula (yes, you read that correctly). Remember back in the early noughties when Gwen Stefani was releasing her solo material? She had four back up dancers, the Harijuku Girls. Their "kawaii" (which is Japanese for cute and believe me you will hear this word A LOT during your time here) style originates from the Harijuku District. Specifically head to Takeshita Dori street and experience what it's like to walk through a real life anime. Don't forget to head to a multi-story game arcade - take your pick, there are plenty to pick from - for some old school Street Fighter arcade game action. Prepare to inhale a little smoke, as this is allowed on different allocated levels.
MUST EAT – By and far the best thing I tasted in Japan was from Okonomiyaki Kiji Marunouchi (try saying that three times quickly) closely located to the Tokyo Train Station and discovered completly by fluke and moments away from settling for a quicker, take away option. With the arrival of the train to take us to the airport slowly approaching, we were unsure of whether or not we had time to sit down for a final dinner in the city. A decision well made in hindsight. You will be treated to mouth-watering okonomiyaki, which in simplest terms resembles a noodle pancake. The line outside before opening was already impressive before opening and watching it steadily grow behind us made me more and more grateful we did not turn up later. We were sat behind a bar in front of a giant hotplate whilst a little, clear plastic partition separated us from the sizzling food as the chef prepared the meal in front of us.
THE VERDICT - The extra effort it will take you to navigate the subway map is well worth it when you reach the various destinations. If you're into 'people watching' then you'll enjoy it here as everyone is too busy respectfully avoiding eye contact and efficiently moving on their way to notice your creepy eyeballing. Be prepared to have your self control tested by baked goods - seriously, they are inescapable.