When it comes to Asia, Japan is in a league of its own with its unique culture and food
By Cheryl Chia
The Japanese are in a league of their own when it comes to precision, punctuality and quality, with their schedules running like a well-oiled machine. Evidently, politeness is also de rigueur.
Being a first-time visitor to Japan, the country is indeed eye-opening. The temperature and dry weather were also nice reprieve from the humid and wet spell in Singapore.
An almost two-hour bus ride into Tokyo awaits after you step off the flight, so be prepared. Once you are settled in, do obtain a subway map and mark out the route of the places you plan to visit. There are many train lines, so you may be confused.
Visit the Tokyo Tower for the experience but there is a newer, higher tower that provides you with an excellent panoramic view.
The Tokyo Sky Tree
The Tokyo Sky Tree stands at an astounding 450 floors. On a clear day, you would be able to see the Tokyo Bay, Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, Mount Fuji, Tokyo Dome, Shinjuku, Ueno, Asakusa and the Sumida River at the Tembo Deck (floors 340 to 350). Venture up to the tip, Sorakara Point, for an even more breath-taking view.
The lower floors house a mall filled with clothing, cosmetic and food stores. I spotted gyozas the size of curry puffs. Check them out if you have the chance.
Akihabara, known as the “otaku” district, is an eye-opening treat. The bright lights and cutesy-dressed ‘schoolgirls’ and ‘maids’ entice customers to go into their cafes, and huge tech stores such as Bic Camera and lots of food places make it an interesting destination for a night out.
If you feel up for a bit of late night shopping, pay Don Quijote a visit. This is a one-stop shop for anything and everything from green tea Kit Kat to costumes, to household items.
The Tsukiji Market is a must-visit, especially if you’re an early-riser. Only 120 visitors are allowed in on a first-come, first-serve basis starting from 5am. There, you can watch the famous tuna bidding. Head to the information centre to grab those tickets.
The wholesale area of Tsukiji Market, open to the public, showcases the freshest seafood such as octopus, fugu (puffer) fish and slabs of fresh tuna. Start your day off with fresh sashimi.
Harajuku and more
If you are interested to see the colourful dressing of Japanese subculture, head to Harajuku, especially on a Sunday, to see them in their full glory. You can also head to Shinjuku for shopping.
Should you feel more adventurous, head to the neighbouring Kabukicho district to see the ladies of the night, love hotels and pachinko – slot machine – parlours.
Apart from sightseeing, eating is a big part of Japan. On a cold evening, a bowl of ramen from any stall on the street will warm the stomach. Each shop has its own way of preparing ramen and all of them are just as good. It doesn’t cost a bomb either!
Most of the food is ordered through a vending machine to expedite the process. After you’ve tried the street food in Japan, you’d never want to settle for less.
The takoyaki is crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. The closest you’d get in Singapore is from the Gindaco chain from Tokyo.
Japan is a place you’d have to see, and experience, to believe.
This trip was made possible by the Japan Tourism Authority.
Read part two here.
By Cheryl Chia