Growing up in North America, I had a skewed vision of Japan. It seemed that every time it came up, it was portrayed as colourful, fast, extreme, shocking, and futuristic. When I was selected to be part of the G20 YEA Summit in Fukuoka this year, I knew I had to stop in to see Tokyo for myself. Neither I nor my life partner Christian had been anywhere in Asia before, so we decided to go together, and since we had little time to prepare for the trip we booked flights and hotels and went in with an adventurous mindset.
We arrived in Tokyo on Friday after a 13-hour flight from Montreal. Once we figured out how to get out of the airport, we headed to the hotel to settle in. Back in my corporate business travel days, I thought nothing of hopping into a cab, but now that I’m on a budget we’re all about those buses and trains. Luckily, Tokyo has the most efficient and timely transit system in the world – it is honestly amazing! Trains are on time to the minute, or early, rarely late.
We chose to stay at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo in Shinjuku, which is widely known to be the entertainment and shopping hub of Tokyo, with Harajuku, Shibuya Crossing, and Akihabara just a couple short hops away. My travel partner, Booking.com, provided us with this stay in return for sharing our experience, and they’ve offered you $40 CAD off your next stay with Booking.com! Click here for your discount, and tag me @theTrendyTechie on Instagram and Twitter when you’re on your adventure!
As a born-and-bred Canadian, I’m used to sweet foods in the morning. But as I learned, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pancake in a Japanese breakfast! On two of the mornings, we ate at the Hyatt’s beautiful breakfast restaurant, which offers a savoury Japanese buffet featuring various umami dishes.
I’ve heard about Tokyo’s population density (the city’s wards combine to a population of 30 million, which is approximately the same as the entire population of Canada), but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer volume of people in Shibuya. Shibuya Crossing is known for its omnidirectional crosswalk where 3000 people regularly cross the street at once, just around the corner from a vibrant shopping and nightlife neighbourhood.
Just around the corner from Shibuya Crossing, we found this tiny little street with about a dozen micro restaurants and bars. When I say micro, I mean it – these places seat 3-4 people at max.
Going for a swim
If there’s one thing that is immediately apparent about Japanese culture, it’s that every interaction is undertaken with great respect. Many people told us about the baths, so we knew we had to experience the pool at the Hyatt. Located on the 28th floor, it has incredible views of the city, and is impeccably clean. This was the first time I’d seen antibacterial baths at the entrance to the pools – all guests must wade through these waters to get to the swimming area. Out of respect for other guests I took only a few photos:
Tokyo is known to have one of the world’s most vivacious club scenes, so we couldn’t miss out! The clubs here close at 5am, which is also when the trains start for the day. Funnily enough, the trains end at 12am, so at that point unless you want to take an expensive Uber, you pretty much have to decide whether or not you’re committing to another 5 hours of frivolity (and it seems like many people choose to do so). We knew we’d be among them, so we went back to the hotel, watched the sun set over the skyline from our window’s stunning view and took a long nap, waking up around 1am to get ready and go out.
When we left the club at 4:45 AM, I was struck by how bright it was outside! It was like broad daylight already:
Harajuku is hyped up online as the most eclectic fashion hub, where students come out in extreme fashion on the weekends. While we did see a few people who were dressed to the nines, it wasn’t nearly as parade-like as we expected. It mostly felt like any other trendy neighbourhood in a major city, with Takeshita street attracting all the tourists (and charging them as such), and the more savvy shoppers heading to the outer streets and the hidden boutiques tucked on the upper floors. What was really unexpected about Harajuku was how much traditional culture there was there as well, with a sprawling historical park just steps away.
Since Christian and I are both developers and long-time geeks, we knew we had to check out the “Electric City.” Akihabara embodies the mental image I had of Tokyo prior to this trip, with towering buildings containing tens of floors devoted to anime, tech, and arcade games from all decades. The most impressive arcade gamers were playing music-related games, from guitars and drums to full pianos and DJ sets. It was unbelievably watching these people play…and more than once, seeing parents playing while their kids stood patiently and watched!
These last three days have felt like a whole week! Now I’m writing this from the shinkansen, aka the bullet train – we’re headed to Fukuoka, where I’ll be part of the Canadian delegation at the G20 Young Entrepreneur’s Alliance Summit! Stay tuned here, on Instagram, and on Twitter for an inside look at the journey.
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About my partnership with Booking.com: I am proud to partner with Booking.com for my travels to Japan! In return for sharing my experiences with their platform, Booking.com covered my stay in this hotel. I take great care when choosing the companies I work with, and what stood out to me about Booking.com was their continued efforts to support the women in tech at their company and in the world.
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