Japan, or Tokyo at least, was a lot more interesting than I had anticipated.  Based on feedback from friends who had visited before us, I was expecting a totally overwhelming, Blade Runner-esque city by which we would feel trampled.  Thanks to having several friends who live there, that wasn’t the case at all and we really had the opportunity to explore many of the faces of Tokyo.



The food was incredible.  Sometimes we didn’t know what we were eating, but it was really first-rate.  Japanese food doesn’t always have the strongest flavors, but the chefs really know how to bring the most out of the quality ingredients they use.


The Japanese are well-known for their thoughtful and intricate packaging, and we saw plenty of that.  While it sometimes seemed excessive, there was no doubt that great attention had been paid to all the details.


Take this box as an example: It contained just a single slice of cake but the box had sheets of cardboard that kept the piece upright, gel packs to keep the temperature controlled, and where the lid was secured with a sticker, there was a tiny perforation so that when you wanted to peel the sticker away, you wouldn’t have to struggle to lift the sticker’s edge.


The spaghetti mess that is a Tokyo subway and rail map was actually quite easy to use.  With few exceptions, we navigated without problem and it was only at the largest stations (Shibuya and Shinjuku) that we ended up lost.  On the platforms, there were diagrams showing by station which exits and landmarks were closest to which car of the train.  So you could decide which car to sit in based upon which exit you would want to use at your destination station.  Almost too much information!


Tokyo is a city in which even the locals regularly get lost.  We were pleasantly surprised to find large maps on most every corner.  Truly, it is easy to find where you you are and where you want to go.  The only challenge is that these maps were not oriented in the normal “north facing up” way that you might expect.  Instead, each map was oriented so that the direction you were facing as you read the map corresponded with “up” on the map. While this orientation of the map makes it very easy to relate the information on the map to what you see around you, it makes it very difficult to relate the current map to any previous map you’ve seen of the area, because the orientations of the map may be totally different.

Those are my key observations about Tokyo. Here are links to some of the entries I wrote about different experiences there:


If you only have a few hours’ layover at the Tokyo International Airport, you can take a fun trip to nearby Narita town, visit an ancient temple, and try the grilled eel, which is the town’s speciality. Read more…

P1160145Tsukiji Fish Market

The famed wholesale fish market is quite a sight to see, but you need to hurry as it is slated to be closed and redeveloped as a new wholesale market is being built on the outskirts of town. Read more…


One of the more interesting neighborhoods is Ueno, near the University of Tokyo. There is a beautiful park, museums, and quaint residential streets offering lots to explore. Read more…


One of the more enduring symbols of Japan is the sakura, or cherry blossom. We were lucky to visit in springtime and the sakura are every bit as impressive as you might imagine! Read more…


The center of youth fashion in Tokyo, the Shibuya neighborhood is an intense blur of energy, pedestrians, and retail. It includes the multidirectional “mob crosswalks” that have appeared in countless films. Read more…

P1150584Harajuku and Ginza

From timeless traditional shrines to cutting-edge youth cos-play (“costume play”) to high-end luxury shopping, the Harajuku and Ginza districts offer a unique cross-section into Tokyo society. Read more…

P1150869Shiodome and Naka Meguro

Another pair of neighborhoods that offers stark contrasts: Shiodome is a modern section of town filled with high-rises. Naka Meguro is a hidden gem of small shops and charming restaurants along a tree-lined river. Read more…

Taro 001Okinawan Cuisine: Teyandai

A friend brought us to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that features cuisine from the island of Okinama. From sea grapes to baguette with ice cream, it was one of the most interesting and delectable meals we ate in Tokyo! Read more…


A short trip outside of Tokyo, located in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, is the town of Hakone. This charming town is known for its hot springs and makes for a fun overnight trip. Read more…

If you would like to find a Google Map showing all of my favorite restaurants and sites from our Tokyo trip, please click here.