Since I’m now 48, I’m pretty sure there are places in Tokyo it’s not legal for me to go.
One of those places is Shibuya. Shibuya is the center of youth culture and Kawaii culture in Japan. The 109 building is the center of women’s/girls fashion and I’m pretty sure there’s a permanent restraining order for men over a certain age as there’s no reason for men to go in there other than for nefarious purposes. I’m pretty sure I’d be arrested if I went in there.
The different regions of Tokyo, like most major cities, have different personalities. I think what sets Tokyo apart is that the different personalities can be reached on one train line, the Yamanote line which runs a circle around Tokyo.
Today I started in Ginza which is the Beverly Hills/Rodeo Drive region of Tokyo and which, until recently, had the most expensive piece of property in the world. It is the land of Bulgari and Tiffany and Prada and Japanese brands like Mikimoto. (It also has Ito-ya, one of the best stationery shops in the world.)
A few stops away is Akihabara, which is the tech-geek section of Tokyo. It’s the place where you see sweaty men in t-shirts carrying laptop bags as they buy computer parts and wander around anime and comic book shops. It’s also the region where Maid Cafes are popular.
Near Shibuya is Harajuku which is famous for CosPlay and Dancing Elvises (Elvi?). It has parallel streets that cater to different groups. Takeshita Street is the center of what’s cool and stylish. Where Shibuya is cute and young, Takeshita street is edgier and a little more sexy and artistic. One block away is Omotesando which is another, slightly cooler version of Beverly Hills.
Shinjuku is all about department stores and shopping and skyscrapers. The East side is different than the West side, but I like both a lot.
I ended the day in Ikebukuro, which does the difficult job of mixing youth culture with adult culture. It has game centers and stores and art centers and it’s one of the few places where you see mothers and fathers and groups of high school boys and girls roaming around. It’s also one of the few areas that feels like a college town.
Tokyo is not what I’d call coherent, but it’s a lot of fun. If you go to the right places.