Why Tokyo Might Be My New Favorite City In Asia

Filed Under: Travel

To wrap up my Japan trip report, I wanted to write about how I really fell in love with Tokyo on this trip. I mentioned this in passing in a previous post, and several of you have asked me to write more about that, so that’s what this post is for.

This blog is almost exclusively about the journey rather than the destination, so I took maybe five pictures out and about in Tokyo, since sightseeing is the time I unwind and don’t document, for once.

The funny thing is that I’ve been to Tokyo many times before, so what changed this time around? First let me provide a bit of background.

Hong Kong has long been my favorite city in Asia

In the past I’ve written about how Hong Kong is my favorite city in Asia. I still love Hong Kong. It’s such an international, diverse, approachable, electric city. There’s an energy to it that I haven’t felt anywhere else (at least not until my recent trip to Tokyo).

I’ve even gone so far to say that I’d like to live there (though to be honest, nowadays I don’t actually care where I live — maybe a topic for a whole different post).

All that being said, I’ve been to Hong Kong dozens of times. While I don’t want to say I prefer Tokyo to Hong Kong now, I do have much more of a desire to return to Tokyo than Hong Kong.

And since we’re talking about Hong Kong, let me acknowledge what’s going on there, and how horrible it is. Gah. My thoughts are with everyone there. I’ll just leave it at that, because otherwise I’m about to have 200 comments of people fighting back and forth.

Why my opinions about places change

I tend to think there’s so much that impacts our impressions of places — who we’re with, the weather when we’re there, whether you have a really memorable meal, how you’re feeling when you’re there, etc.

I’ve “properly” visited Tokyo maybe a handful of times, though each time the weather sucked. At least from the perspective of someone who hates the cold — it was freezing most of the times, and one time it rained the entire time. So it wasn’t exactly great for just strolling around, which is usually what I like to do.

Japan’s culture is refreshing, and exhausting

Japan’s culture is incredibly unique, and downright refreshing.

We live in a time where there’s a lot of bad out there, and in some ways you forget that for a moment when you’re in Japan — virtually everyone takes pride in what they do, is polite, and is considerate of others. To me half of the fun of being in Japan is just observing that culture. It’s an otherworldly experience.

Let me also say that in the kindest way possible, being in Japan is exhausting to me. The culture is so high context and there’s such a high emphasis placed on not offending others, and at times what offends others is rather arbitrary, if you ask me.

The point is, as someone who finds social interaction to be draining, there’s just no place where you have to go through so many little gestures in a day just to get around.

Still, given everything going on in the world, I love the uniqueness and complexity of Japanese culture, at least in increments of a week at a time, give or take.

Why I saw Tokyo in a different light

Now let me address why I actually felt differently about Tokyo than in the past. Well, for one, we had perfect weather the entire time we were there, and this meant that I could explore Tokyo in a way that I’ve never done before.

The streets were full of people running around, and the city just had an energy that I’ve never felt before in Tokyo.

I love walking around, and I found Tokyo to be one of the most walkable cities in the world. One thing that drives me nuts in Hong Kong is how difficult it can be to walk around, and even just to cross the street, especially on the Hong Kong Island side (they have barricades all over the place, and often the only way to cross the street is via an overpass or through a mall).

In Tokyo you can just walk endlessly, and it’s actually enjoyable, because there are so many interesting things to see. Tokyo has so many little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, shops, cafes, bars, etc., and seeing the uniqueness of that never gets old.

Furthermore, I also had my first, proper, “fancy” omakase dining experience (two, actually), and both were incredible. I understand why foodies flock to Tokyo, and everything about the experience was exceptional.

Bottom line

If you’ve been to Tokyo then I realize I didn’t say anything insightful. If you haven’t been to Tokyo then you might just be scratching your head at my description.

The reality is that for a long time I’ve been burned out when it comes to cities, and far preferred nature destinations. Tokyo is the first city I’ve been to in quite a while that truly energized me, rather than exhausting me.

I saw the city in a new way, and that was made possible by a great travel companion, nice weather, and good planning (including some solid dinner reservations, which is a must in Tokyo).

As someone who primarily likes sightseeing by just wandering aimlessly in an area and seeing where I’ll end up, Tokyo delighted me more than just about any place. The city is incredibly walkable, and every area of the city has its own charm.

Like I said, Ford and I are much more into nature than cities, though we’ve already said that we can’t wait to return to Tokyo (though we’ll definitely wait until after the Olympics).

I’m curious how you guys feel about Tokyo — love it, hate it, or somewhere in the middle?

  1. There are some other awesome cities in Japan, too. Give them a chance, and your favorite city in Asia may change still.

  2. Awesome!
    Please let us know where you had omakase!!! And pics!
    Looks like one was sushi ginza onodera?

  3. Yup, I love Tokyo too and its one of my favorite cities in the world. My personal opinion is that its just on a whole different level than any other city in Asia and almost all other cities world-wide. I too love just walking around Tokyo because the architecture, aesthetic sense and design is so stunning and the stores and merchandising so compelling. Add to that amazing food, unbelievable customer service culture, cleanliness, safety and awesome public transport. Not sure I could live and work there, but Tokyo will always be on my repeat visit list.

  4. The oft repeated suggestion that one has to walk on eggshells in Japan to avoid offending people is way overstated: normal courteous behaviour, acceptable anywhere, is fine in Japan. No one will be concerned about minor transgressions of etiquette.
    It is understood that your site is mostly about the getting there, accommodation and food. But you haven’t described a single thing you did in Tokyo…art, architecture, history, religion, culture, fashion, entertainment, gardens…other than “wandering around”. In contrast when you went to that tedious-sounding place near the North Pole, there was a blow-by-blow account of what to do…but for one of the world’s great cities, not even a taster/hint/passing mention. I thought you planned to do more destination-focused writing?
    Tokyo is a wonderful city.

  5. Being half-Canto and having family there, HKG still gets my vote as favorite. I actually don’t find Japan as a whole to be exhausting, just Tokyo in particular. It’s like New York in that there’s so much that I want to experience, that after 3 days or so I’m burned out and need to rest awhile.

    I’ve been to Tokyo 5 times at this point, and have never had trouble finding something new to do. Especially with so many excellent restaurants, I don’t think that’ll ever change. I do generally find that, especially with frequent visits, I’ll get less excited about a city for awhile. Wondering if that’s part of your new excitement about Tokyo vs. Hong Kong

  6. I agree with Colin. I think I can say that Japan is probably my favorite country in Asia (or at the very least, the one I most look forward to returning to one day) mostly because of all the amazing cultural aspects you noted above – they really do a lot of things the right way that you do not even realize we could maybe improve on here until you experience it yourself. A very strange dichotomy of very traditional vs the very very strange and/or modern. However, I do not think I can definitively say that Tokyo is my favorite city in Asia, or even in Japan for that matter. Although walkable/metro accessible, Tokyo is absolutely massive, and seeing the country from the perspective of a slightly smaller city like Osaka, Kyoto or Hiroshima or even the very small towns like Hakune and Wakune, etc. offer an even better insight to the great history and culture you mention above perhaps without the exhaustion that the organized chaos of Tokyo provides.

  7. I 100% Agree. While I have not traveled as extensively as you in Asia (actually I haven’t traveled very much in Asia really). Tokyo is one of my favorite Cities in the world, definitely my favorite in Asia.

    I am excited to go to Hong Kong for the first time next year (my wife and I are going right after we go to the Tokyo Olympics)

  8. out of this world city, i think it’s you that is late to realise. not comparable to anything ever existed on this planet! <3

  9. Completely agree with your assessment of Tokyo here. My family and friends who’ve been there always describe it as: out of this world. There is simply no other city like it, at least in my opinion. I’ve been to 51 countries and while I can’t say Tokyo (or Japan as whole) is my favorite, it’s definitely on the top 3 places that I have the strongest desire to go back to. I think it’s because like you said, it is so exhausting so being there for a long period of time may not be the best so you just gotta keep going back a week or two weeks at a time.

    On top of that: the food, the people, the fact that yes it’s such a walkable city and all its quirks just makes it so fantastic. Can’t wait to go back really! (Plus whether you fly ANA or JAL, you know it’s going to be a good experience…even in coach.)

  10. I spent 9 days there in October of last year just wandering around alone. It was the most interesting trip I have ever taken. It was like a giant puzzle. Like you, I found it almost tiring, but exhilarating. I took risks I wouldn’t take in other cities. I tried to immerse myself as much as possible in the culture while still respecting that I was just a visitor/outsider.

    The only downside to traveling alone is that, unlike many other cities I have been to, you will start to feel a little bit isolated. I ran into some Americans from Brooklyn at a gay bar and it was just fun to be able to carry on a conversation. I hadn’t had any real conversations with anyone in 5 days.

    But everything was fascinating, and safe, and friendly, and the food was amazing. I cannot wait to go back. I absolutely loved it. But its easily overstimulating.

  11. “It’s such an international, diverse, approachable, electric city. ”
    Any chance you meant ‘eclectic’? 😉

  12. This is how I feel about Singapore but it’s for the mix of different cultures and not just one culture in particular. I always find something new and interesting when I visit and it’s a city that I can actually relax in and just enjoy wandering for a few hours. Before I have sweated through my clothes and need the pool, that is. 🙂

  13. “being in Japan is exhausting to me”
    “Tokyo is the first city I’ve been to in quite a while that truly energized me, rather than exhausting me.”


  14. I bet he meant electric, Tokyo seems the opposite of eclectic to my Western eyes.

    If you like Tokyo, you have to try Kyoto. I loved Tokyo but Kyoto (during cherry blossom time) was one of my all time favorite stops.

  15. Tokyo is not actually a great food city for Japanese food. You can get anything from anywhere but that’s less exciting these days where you can even eat Motsunabe in LA. The prices for rent and ingredients are so high that even at very expensive Ginza restaurants, patrons at regional restaurants elsewhere are eating more interesting fish.

    It’s true you can basically walk to Yokohama in Tokyo but that’s also the problem. It’s so spread out and ugly.

    What Tokyo truly excels at, for gay and straight men, is shopping for mens clothes. More even than Italy or London because of the usual pieces you can find. Nakameguro and Daikanyama have some wonderful shops. I’m over 6′ with wide shoulders and have no trouble getting things to fit. It’s a goldmine if you make a major salary and want great well made garments.

  16. I recommend the city of Kanazawa for people on quick trips to Japan. Easy to get to and not as touristy as Kyoto. The local prized fish Nodoguro sells for $100 or more a pound in Tokyo and NYC. Mostly because the locals keep most of the catch local. It’s one of the great fish to eat in your life. The better Japanese restaurants in Kanazawa are about half the price of Tokyo and the quality is often more memorable. The garden there is also maybe the most beautiful in Japan. As one of the classic best Sake regions you will also drink some of the best Sake anywhere you go.

  17. @ beachfan

    Lucky was referring to Hong Kong. But HK can be described as “electric” as well so I don’t know.
    Scranton is THE “Electric City” though 😉

  18. I was in Tokyo this past weekend and it was HOT! I mean… 90 degree weather with 75% humidity where it felt like 110 degrees. I love to walk everywhere but man, I needed that facial hand towel, hand fan, and umbrella — with lots of water/pocari in order to prevent myself from fainting! I need to remind myself that summer in Tokyo can be brutal on sunny/hot days.

  19. I’ve been to Japan about 20 times in the last 12 years and hopefully I’ll be moving there in October if my visa goes through. In my opinion….

    Osaka>>>>Tokyo. The food culture, It’s significantly cheaper to stay there, the people are friendlier/more approachable, historical cities/nature in Kyoto/Nara, crazy nightlife and although it’s massive unlike Tokyo you can be pretty much anywhere major in the city in 20 minutes by train.

  20. Ah, yes, the rollcall of typical assumptions about Japan. Oy. Being a New Yorker born and raised and then having lived in Tokyo for 3 years I can only say that living there would not meet your short term expectations.

    First, the weather, and it’s corollary, the pollution. Were you there anytime close to Golden Week? If so, what you experienced is simply not reality. For the week or so leading up to and during Golden Week the pollution drops considerably and is not representative of overall conditions. The rest of the time barring an alignment of the stars you will not enjoy the weather. Cold and drab in winter, hot and sticky in summer. And the ever present smog glob.

    As for the “nice” attitude. I’m no sociologist and my opinion is my own but towards the end of my 3 years there I was tired of it. In the end it is somewhat oppressive and can feel less than genuine. Sometimes you just want honesty and straightforwardness, things lacking there. Outside the cities there can be a less savory undercurrent towards foreigners as well though I’m first to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

    And sometimes you just want to blend in. Go about your day’s business, but in Japan, ‘not possible’. You will be stared at and ogled even. After a while you get numb to it.

    Overall, you have nice sentiments but they are somewhat superficial and less than representative as to what you would expect longer term.

  21. @beachman, I don’t think he meant “electric” . He probably meant “erotic”. The city has many, many temptations.

  22. As an Asian-American who’s lived in Tokyo for 12 years, started his own business here and is fluent in the language, I find your points to be very thoughtful and interesting.

    There’s no one right way to enjoy a city like Tokyo. It’s what you make of it. Despite a lot of the barriers some foreigners might feel (some of them imagined, some of them real), the city does truly feel like it has something for everyone. You’ll learn more on future trips and your views will evolve. For me, they still do after over a decade.

  23. Yes, Japanese culture is super polite until you meet the train/subway crowds at rush hour (which can even be late in the evening) then you may be jostled so much you’re getting pushed back inside at your stop. If you just came from the airport and have more than a singie rollaboard, seriously, good luck.

  24. I would say Osaka is by far much friendlier and nicer. Kyoto is a very quaint place as well, but Tokyo is just a gigantic city full of people in business gear getting hammered at night. Ended up offering a plastic bag to an older man who puked in his hands at around 21:00 on the metro…
    There are far nicer places to visit in Asia than Tokyo and much friendlier at that.

  25. Just like you, I have been to Hong Kong dozens of time, it has been my favorite city in the world, and I have also wanted to live there at one time. But now, after having been there so many times, even though I still like the city, my love for the place has waned and I don’t have a desire to live there anymore. I’ve been going to Tokyo every year for the past few years. While I like the city and will continue visiting it, I would not want to live there because of the very strict/rigid culture and way of life (it is too orderly for me, which is why I liked Hong Kong since it is more “relaxed”).
    My travels around the world have actually made me love and appreciate where I currently live (despite all of its shortcomings).

  26. Sorry, I take Kyoto over Tokyo anyway. Tokyo is a modern city similar to Hong Kong, Singapore and many other cities around the world minus the race of people and language. Kyoto is modern yet it has this old charm to it.

  27. Love Tokyo too. Most polite, properly mannered, people. Easy to get around as signs (and subway stop announcements) in Japanese and English. Energetic parts of Tokyo (e.g., Ginza at night), and peaceful parts (stroll around Imperial Palace moat and gardens). Lots to see and do. Love it!

  28. Please don’t be so inconsiderate to compare Hong Kong and other cities at this sensitive time for the people of Hong Kong who are fighting for their freedom and democracy. Be more sensitive!!! We don’t need this kind of write up at this moment of time.

  29. You’ve seen the light, Lucky! I lived in Hong Kong for over a decade and I love the city dearly, but Tokyo has long been my favourite city in the world to visit. I have never had a bad time there, and despite having been at least a dozen times, I always discover something new there.

    The food, the people, the culture – it’s an experience that is very hard to beat; impossible perhaps.

  30. I loved Tokyo too. So organized, so charming, and so elegant. But it’s so expensive and so expansive. Both of those prevent it from being on my top-cities-to-live.

  31. My wife and I took our honeymoon in Japan last year. If it isn’t my favorite city, its in the top 3 at the very least. We absolutely fell in love with Japan as a whole and Tokyo was amazing. One of my top vacations ever, can’t say enough great things about Japan.

  32. I too agree with the beautiful way the Japanese take pride in any activity. Tokyo is indeed a great city to walk and experience. I loved my visit.

    But there is a big difference in saying a city is my favorite to visit but not so much to live there. When you are experiencing a city were you are staying at a very nice full serve hotel (Maybe on points), eating at fantastic restaurants, avoiding the worst of traffic, it is different than living there. Many of these cities are extremely expensive to live in so many live in very nice but more distant suburbs. Therefore not enjoying the same experience a visitor would.

    Also unless you have the benefit of working from home, the day to day grind of commuting could get very old quickly. So often locals see less of there own city than a visitor.

    Just an observation because I have had friends move to a city they loved after visiting, and after living there the reality of day to day was a let down for them.

  33. Lucky – your post was something we experienced in 2017, almost verbatim. After having been to HK several times – and loving it – once we visited Tokyo, and then returned to HK on our way home (flying CX), the contrast between the two was immense. Tokyo easily captured our top favorite. Like others, however, we loved all of Japan. Kyoto, Hiroshima/Miyajima, Osaka, Fukuoka, Fujikawaguchiko, and Tokyo are actually calming to us.

    It’s precisely their structured society that lies in stark contrast to so many other huge cities of the world. ‘Exhausting’ is an interesting word, but one we don’t associate with Tokyo. We do think NYC, HK, London, etc are all exhausting because it’s not easy to get around. Tokyo makes it appear effortless. Not once did we see garbage, traffic, or experience foul smells – even at the Tsukiji Fish Market. To put it into perspective: Tokyo has roughly 30 Million people, yet it moves. Train stations may be chock full of people, but never once did we bump into anyone nor miss a stride to get where we were going.

    That said, their politeness, considerate and respectful society is to a fault: Japan has the highest suicide rates in the world due to the unimaginable pressure one feels if they have offended anyone. It’s a reminder that societal pressures have a price and while Tokyo isn’t perfect, it is certainly on the opposite side of the scale of other large cities in its class.

    We still love HK, but love Tokyo far more. If there were only one more trip, it would be to return to Tokyo and Japan. We miss Tokyo, Kyoto and Japan, and will be making more trips there in the future.

  34. I agree with @Kelly: one of the things I found so fascinating about Tokyo was how un-manic it was relative to other comparable cities of its size. I remember being mind-boggled by the hush in the financial district during the morning rush hour. No cars honking, no one yelling, no loud music. It was surreal. Tokyo also benefits from innumerable parks and lovely little quiet spots to relax. I found this juxtaposition of a great, huge city with this sense of calmness amazing. Never exhausting at all. And yet, this doesn’t come at a cost of creativity and culture. The city is a mecca for design, fashion, cuisine, architecture, art and the centre of Japan’s world class literature and performing arts.

  35. I had a similar experience last September in Tokyo/Kyoto. I’d never visited Japan before and after only 3 days being in the country. Me and my wife decided definitely a place to come and explore more. That’s exactly what we are planning to do,later this year.

  36. I love Tokyo, it is the best big city in Asia. I still prefer the beaches of SE Asia but Tokyo is up there. Hong Kong is nice but i find Chinese people inconsiderate and have poor manners, I’m asian(Filipino) for disclosure. The people of the area makes a big factor in my decision to visit.

  37. @Chancer – well you learned first hand only n00bs take the subway during rush hours with more than one piece of luggage.

  38. Just spent 2 weeks in Japan last Spring, by far 1 of our fav cities (Tokyo) and countries! It was a pleasure to be on vacation and feel safe! We immersed ourselves there incl. a Grand Sumo match and a Tokyo Dome Base ball game. Cannot wait to return…but for now off to italy for the Siena Palio!

  39. Tokyo is great to visit. The service culture is obviously a pleasant contrast to Europe or North America, and it has everything you’d expect from a city of 10,000,000 while being safe and (generally) clean. However, I’d go to Seoul any day over Tokyo. Seoul is just as clean and safe with just as much to do, but is a lot less expensive and the vibe just feels more cosmopolitan. I definitely wouldn’t call Japanese culture “refreshing,” but I’m a bit biased having married a Korean.

  40. I have lived in Tokyo a total of 17 years on 3 occasions and 5.5 years in HK. I take Tokyo hands down as a place to live. HK was smelly, awful weather half the year, people were pushy and rude, and as you note getting around walking is impossible. There is way too much focus on over-priced luxury goods, and restaurants focus on decor over food. It is all about ostentation. And the air quality sucked.

    Tokyo – and Japan – offers much more variety. The focus is on the quality of the experience. Plus it is clean and people are polite and helpful.

  41. Let me give a shout out for Tokyo Disneyland. For those who are familiar with the parks – both in the US and overseas – there is something really unique and special about the resort in Tokyo. I was fascinated with how the traditional look/feel of Disneyland had been translated into a uniquely Japanese experience. For instance, when I was there several years ago, there was no grass anywhere. Instead, there were patches of concrete in the shape of lawns or hills painted grass green. Someone explained to me that the Japanese were sticklers about cleanliness, and that it was much easier to maintain these concrete faux lawns then to deal with the real thing. Lots of other examples of this cultural adaptation as well. I have visited every other Disney park in the world, and this one was the biggest surprise.

  42. I’m so thankful for you and this website, because I’ve only had the opportunity to visit Japan before miles and points. Now I’ve got to visit so many more countries, but I’m totally with you in that Tokyo and Japan is still my favorite city and country.

    Japanese culture is probably the best for tourists because you get all the benefits without any of the responsibilities. Often taboo actions done by tourist is just interpreted as just being obvious and unfamiliar with the culture.

    There’s so many instances where tourists get discounts that aren’t available to locals. This is almost never the case is most countries.

  43. Whenever I’m exploring a new city, I always give myself a stupid task to complete, hoping to get lost in the process. (i.e. in Macau, looking for the surprisingly rare Macau Beer to drink on the ferry later)

    Headed to Tokyo this month, and definitely looking forwards to it.

  44. There are many rules regarding Japanese behavior and how to conduct yourself, but most of them are overlooked for foreigners. You mentioned how it can be exhausting to travel around in Tokyo because of this, but I have been there many times, and have never found this to be the case. Granted, I also don’t try communicating with many people there unless it’s necessary.

  45. Kind of related (but not quite), I’m a marathon runner, and the Tokyo Marathon is my favorite by far, mostly for many of the same reasons everyone mentions here – polite and orderly people, cleanest marathon by far, no trash on the ground, easy to get around, lots of enthusiasm, and even “bathroom attendants” for crowd control at the rows of porto-potties! Over 1 million people come out to spectate, and I remember even running past the prime minister. On the train ride back to the hotel, I was stopped by many people who saw my medal and wanted to shake my hand. I love their country, the food and culture. Can’t wait to visit again in January for a ski trip!

  46. It has been interesting watching your evolving attitude towards Japan over the years. Good to see you are starting to get it. Comparing Japan to Hkg is like comparing a quality wine with the freebies that come with the European tourist menu. The latter will do the job but forget about the complexity, skill, pride and effort put into making the fine wine that is Japan. I have lived in Japan for 31 years and counting and have been to Hkg perhaps a dozen times so I ain’t your everyday armchair traveler either.
    Also, I have been amazed by related posts in this series about Japanese “xenophobia”, “racism”, etc. Japanese are perhaps the least obvious “racists” in this totally racist world. If racism is composed of sideways glances at the occasional foreigners screaming into their cellphone on the otherwise quiet subways here, putting shoes or their hole-filled socks onto empty train seats then count me in as racist too. But to complain about xenophobic attitudes from readers that most likely come from the US where two white supremacists murdered non-whites last weekend, or the Aussie targeting a mosque in New Zealand, or Brexit Britain… well that’s simply deranged.

  47. What are these taboo cultural things that we Westerners do in Japan but the locals would never do? I only visited once and I was oblivious. Thanks.

  48. I also just had my first trip to Tokyo a week ago and fell in love. Can’t wait to go back! Amazing city, people, food and culture.

  49. Yep, agreed, Love Tokyo. My wife and i have been once very year for the past 3 years and even twice one year. Love everything about it, the organisation, the quirkiness, politeness. We’ve spent days just walking and discovering new things.

  50. To me Tokyo is the greatest place to be a tourist. I have been several times and am always ready to go back. I don’t remember where, but I read “After your second visit you think you understand Japan, and after your third, you realize you know nothing about Japan at all.” I think the Japanese are very proud of their culture and do an excellent job of showcasing it for visitors. They make it easy to visit in a way few other places do. I would probably not want to live there, though. It’s a fairly homogeneous and rigid culture that you’re excused from as a tourist but not as a resident. And that is ok! I am happy to admit that sometimes I enjoy being a tourist, peeking into another culture – and in Tokyo that is a very pleasant experience.

  51. I’ve been to Tokyo twice: in October 2017 and January 2019. Both times the weather was very sunny with temps in the 60’s and even 70’s! I realize that I was very lucky, but it was magnificent both times.

  52. @Bob M, neither shooters were white supremacists. El Paso was an enviro-fascist who believed in population control to save the earth and Ohio was a Leftist supporter of Antifa and Elizabeth Warren. Otherwise, your assessment of Japan is spot on.

  53. As someone noted before, this is a weirdly shallow article. I can totally understand loving wandering around a city and enjoying its vibe, but calling it one of the best in the world and not saying anything about things that you actually did there (museums, parks, entertainment, fashion etc.), except a couple restaurants, seems a bit strange to me. It’s like your Aman Tokyo review, where you named service flaws and then suddenly stated it’s the best city hotel in the world.
    To each their own, of course.

  54. @Lucky
    If I knew you were visiting Nagoya, I would have invited you to visit the Mitsubishi Aircraft Museum. I work here.

    Agree with you. After living here, conclusion is that Japan is great for visits and horrible to live. Google “why Japan isn’t more attractive to highly-skilled migrants.”

  55. @Bob M
    While your statement about Japanese racism is absolutely correct, and as you know, it does not apply to a white man which Lucky is…

    And a white man falling love with Tokyo is… well… kinda unsurprising. I’ve seen so many of them.

  56. @Bob M, ITST
    Try being a non-white, non-Japanese person in Japan…
    Japanese definitely have very deep-rooted racism/xenophobia in which the “whites”=Japanese>the “Coloured”s applies. Some shops consider racist discrimination to be against their strict code-of-conduct but others who are not so strict will definitely treat the “coloured” people real nasty. Haven’t been to Texas or Southern USA, but Japanese racism/xenophobia is no less severe than many European countries – and it is socially acceptable to show off hate statements (rape and kill all xxx-ese people!) in public in Japan…
    But no worries in Japan if you are a white…Japanese racism means they will treat the “Westerners” really well…

  57. Tokyo, always lovely to visit but can be tiring to live in for long. Too rigid, too many rules, too many queues. Phones are made for ringing but not in Tokyo. Many reservations must be made & paid in advance and cannot be cancelled easily. Many F&B venues still allow smoking.

  58. @Jay (different from top)
    Are you a non-white, non-Japanese person living in Japan too? Because I am (100% Asian ethnicity) and my 30+years living and raising a bicultural family here has been vastly different to your experience it seems. I don’t get treated differently at stores, hospitals or hotels despite being “colored”. I am treated very well and that’s why I retired here.
    Yes there are a handful of right wing idiots blasting hate speech about (Asian) minorities, just as there are in Europe, but to suggest that they or their claims are “socially acceptable” is bollocks. (Actually, there isn’t any US or European-style anti-foreigner populist movement here.) I read Japanese and speak fluently so I doubt I’ve somehow missed being abused. I suspect that I live in a different world from you. It’s called reality. Sorry you don’t like Japan – it certainly has faults – but spreading falsehoods is really too much.
    After living and working here for so long, there is still so much about this country that I find fascinating. The influx of foreign tourists over the past decade means that many more, like Lucky, are sharing my sentiments. Enjoy!

  59. Most tourists understandably hang around the Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjiku Area and expats live mostly in Azabu, Akasaka, Aoyama.

    I live in Edogawa Ward, Shin-koiwa is my train station about 20 minutes by express train from Tokyo station. It is incredibly cheap to live here (the yakitori dude serves skewers for 100 yen and its tough to eat more than four for dinner). I hear people say non white non Japanese are not really welcome. But our ward elected the first naturalized Japanese ( ethnically Indian) person. In the last ten years I see an explosion of restaurants offering international cuisine such as Italian, French, Nepali etc. the accompanying wine lists have excellent prices. ( Rousseau Charmes Chambertin 1996 at 50000 yen?)

    Yes Japan is a formal place. But the Japanese are not as hostile to foreigners as is assumed. The culture of honne and tatemae serves from not wanting to offend. This some feel lacks directness and honesty. That’s two sides of the same coin.

    Visit Japan but not during the olympics and not during the muggy seasons. Even in winter come enjoy winter ice festival in Sapporo!

  60. Lucky, why is it when you visited that isolated middle of nowhere place in Canada you had post after post after post about it, but for an incredible city like Tokyo this is all youre giving us???????

    Where did you eat? What did you do? Did you visit any temple/gardens? How did u get around?


  61. We visited Tokyo in May and at the end of my trip, I just wanted to say Thank You to the whole country. As you mentioned, the politeness, the food, yes the ease of getting around anywhere! You did not mention the absolute cleanliness! No trash anywhere, not in subways, anywhere on the streets and living in LA, no signs of homeless.

  62. Bob M is living in La La land, literally. Try being a non-asian living in Japan and you will experience plenty of prejudice and racism, both subtle and overt. It will be easy to catalog and over time reduces the overall pleasant experience of living in Japan. Sorry to see such ignorance on display.

  63. I’m going to Japan for the 5th time in November. I always visit at least one other city/town, but most of my time is in Tokyo. People ask me what I like in Japan and I say something very similar to what Lucky wrote: “…virtually everyone takes pride in what they do, is polite, and is considerate of others. To me half of the fun of being in Japan is just observing that culture. It’s an otherworldly experience.” I just love being in that environment.

    Also, they have solutions for problems I had not thought of. And the shopping is great for all kinds of items, like a whole section of S-hooks at Tokyu Hands.

  64. Read this ,

    Abe’s grandfather was war criminal , he was in charge of unit 731 operation.

    Right mind of people will not vote for Hitler’s grandson to run the country.

    Most of his cabinet member’s families are related to war crime.

    One party is running the country for almost 60 years.

    Media is controlled by government so no one is allowed to talk bad about Fukushima.

    They are going to releasing 1 million tons of radioactive water to pacific ocean.

    Japanese government is lying about Fukushima , government is forcing people to go back to their homes but people are refusing .only testing they are doing is testing kids under 18 for thyroid cancel which increased 50 times more than normal.Lots of people are suffering from cancer …

    Most of product from Fukushima is sold to fast food restaurant ,hotel and convenient stores at cheaper price.

    I was in Tokyo twice in July, I would not stay more than day or two.

  65. My Japanese colleagues share that:
    Japanese treat tourists very well because they want to show the best of their country. If a foreign is living in Japan, they see that “your country isn’t good enough that’s why you want to live in Japan, the best country.” Foreigners are welcomed to visit but not welcomed to share their resources.

    I have seen Japanese middle aged man throwing money at Japanese 7-11 cashier from South Asia. I personally had menus thrown at me in Takayama. 3-year living in Japan and still very tough. I have a foreign colleague sharing me that a restaurant asked him to leave because they don’t serve foreigners, seat available, and other Japanese are welcomed in. I heard there is no law against racism in Japan, not sure if it is true.

    I found out that speaking English first then switch to broken Japanese gets me better attitude than straightout using broken Japanese.

  66. if you ever want to experience racism in Japan, as a non Japanese, all you need to do is try to enter a night club, a soap land or a hostess bar, and then see how quickly the demurring smiles and welcoming attitudes morph into scowls and outright aggression.

    Granted, these places are not exactly on the touristy list of things to do, but if you live in Japan long enough, you get to learn where the line separating locals vs foreigners is drawn at.

    Been living in Japan for 20+ yrs in Kobe.. fine city, probably better than Tokyo or Osaka, but very much under the radar.

  67. Love Tokyo so much!!
    I visit Tokyo twice in the past 2 years
    And still hoping to visit Tokyo again this year.
    It is walkable..
    It is exhausting..It’s all true.
    Love the friendly people considering how helpful they are although their english is not so good, they’re trying their best to understand us.

    Anyway, i think the best season in Tokyo is autumn 😉

  68. My husband and I were in Tokyo years ago and loved it. We are now seniors trying to get back there and it seems impossible. We cannot find a totally non smoking 4 star hotel. I believe the tobacco companies have a hold on Japan. After reading reviews of people using points to stay in the high end hotels, I feel that people who travel extensively and have points get all the upgrades and perks and little people like us have to pay the high prices for the hotels to make up their profits. I guess we’ll never get back to Japan. What a shame.

  69. @Maxine: are you that sensitive to smoke? I don’t smoke and hate the smell of smoke, but haven’t had any problems in Japan. Hotels there will still have non-smoking rooms/floors. The only potential issue is smoking in restaurants, where unfortunately they still have smoking sections. But if I recall that was only issue at one meal during our week+ long stay last time.

  70. “As someone who primarily likes sightseeing by just wandering aimlessly in an area and seeing where I’ll end up, Tokyo delighted me more than just about any place.”

    This is my attitude. I also like to know what I am looking for so I research and determine which neighborhood to focus on before each trip. For those who like nature getting away from the urban areas is a quick and easy train ride in multiple directions.

    @Maxine: If you do try for another trip look at small family run places. Especially old ones, many are 100% non-smoking and far cheaper than a large hotel. Focus on Yanaka and Asakusa for starters.

  71. A PS for Justin:
    My love of tokyo and the research I put into trips led to my publisher asking me to do a travel book. Due out next year in August and entitled Tokyo Stroll. I think you will like it, most of the information is not in other travel books.

    We are in the final stages of editing so the book is not yet on Amazon etc.

  72. Comparing to Asia is a big understatement for Tokyo. No city in Asia can match the maturity of the culture, and the sophistication of the culture.
    It’s more fair to compare to global capitals, and even then, I can’t see what new York, London or Paris offer that Tokyo doesn’t (except pretty buildings, but who cares after some time of living somewhere?).
    Tokyo on the other hands offers plenty of things you won’t get anywhere else in the world. From someone who lived there:
    -Infrastructures, transport etc. You can dream of the Japanese efficiency, no matter where you come from.
    -Consistency in excellence, anywhere any field. You can’t get this anywhere neither. This is why it’s the top city for food in the world (according to Michelin and just anyone who lived in Tokyo), top city for fashion, top city for vintage etc.
    -The sophistication and preservation of good taste of the Japanese culture. Forget about akihabara and other geeky mainstream areas that are famous. Elevate your experience and go discover Yoyogi hachiman, daikanyama, nakameguro, aoyama etc and you’ll see the most fashionable people you ever saw, the most sophisticated retail concepts etc. Even NY etc can’t compete because the sense of detail is pushed to an extreme in Japanese culture.
    -The cleanliness safety etc of.course
    -The service of course
    -Strong art culture scene with many nice museums and galleries (I come from Paris and found the offer in Tokyo amazing. Many foreign museums/galleries want to exhibit in Tokyo because of the populations curiosity and interest in culture).
    -If you’re passionate about any field, the Japanese will have the most passionate people in that field in the world probably. I see it for fashion, watched, vintage stuff, etc. They’re geeks when they’re passionate and that’s fascinating.
    -Nature is accessible, 50 min Subway and you’re in Kamakura. Hakone not far etc. I can’t have this balance in most very big cities elsewhere.

    So yeah, I’ve never heard anyone disappointed by a trip to Tokyo. I heard people disappointed by any other big city in the world (including mine, Paris).
    It should say something and hope opens the eyes to the people who still compare this city to Asia. Thats a bit ethnocentrist coming from white western writers.
    Feel free to reply to me.

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