Tokyo is a city bursting with color and life. From the quiet ramen shops to the hectic Shibuya Crossing, there is something here for everyone. Tokyo is a massive city full of diverse areas. For instance, Akihabara sits as a center for anime and pop culture just two stops on the train from Ueno, an area home to many ancient Buddhist temples.
My group and I rented a small apartment in Harajuku, a perfect place for the four of us. Looking out of our window, we could see clusters of high school students chatting away in their matching white uniforms. They were most likely bound for the nearby Takeshita Street, a hub for Japanese pop culture and one of the most energetic places in Tokyo. Later in the night, university students would gradually join the crowd. After all, Harajuku is home to the College of Art and Beauty, a beautifully-simplistic building nestled into the quiet backstreets and tightly packed residencies of this modern neighborhood.
Takeshita Street offers visitors a plethora of desserts and souvenirs to choose from. The road is densely packed with people and shops. Some larger buildings contain winding maze-like passages and courtyards, offering dinner, drinks, and trinkets to visitors.
If you walk the other direction from Takeshita Street, you will find a much more peaceful atmosphere. A forest of 100,000 trees arises from behind the tall buildings of the bustling cityscape. The entrance to the famed Meiji Shrine is a giant torii, a Shinto religious symbol. Guests to the shrine walk beneath the entrance gate at its sides, for the center is reserved for the kami, spirits of nature worshipped by followers of Shintoism. Vast areas of natural beauty, majestic holy structures, and shaded areas for resting make up the grounds of the Meiji Shrine.
Shinjuku is my favorite area of the city due to its harmonic blend of historic destinations, such as the famed Piss Alley, and modern creations, like the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.
There were moments in Tokyo when the world seemed to pause. They were few and far between in one of the most populated cities on Earth, but that only made their occurrence that much more noticeable and special. A moment that stuck with me was when my friends and I dipped into a dessert cafe to escape the summer rain. I wiped away the fog on the windows an watched the neon signs of Akihabara dance outside. We waited for the storm to pass in the warmth of the cafe, the smell of baked bread wafting through the room. On another day, we went to a hole-in-the-wall ramen bar that was around the corner from the Apple store in Shinjuku. The small restaurant was welcoming and its food was delicious. Tokyo is full of happy moments waiting to be found.
Beloved by tourists, the Mario Kart street tours are a common sight in popular areas of the city.
The Shiodome skyline lies within the Minato area of Tokyo. This is where my Dad spent his time in the city while here for business. The entire area caters well to visiting businessmen, with the Hamarikyu Gardens and Tokyo Bay sitting a short walk away from the massive skyscrapers. For my companions, the Shiodome area servers as a spectacle of modern architecture and contemporary beauty. I, on the other hand, felt consumed in the dizzying landscape.
Overall, I loved my time in Tokyo. It is a paradise for explorers and aims to please even the most jaded of travelers. The growing city is filled with incredible views, delicious food and interesting people. What I enjoyed most about the city is its mix of unique and vibrant cultures, all coexisting to produce a remarkable unity between the old and the new.
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