While I had vacationed in Osaka and Kyoto before, I had never visited Tokyo outside of the typical Tokyo Narita airport layover to other parts of Asia. My first “official” visit to the city was for interviewing medical students for my hospital’s residency program. Since the interview day was Sunday, it left Saturday open for me to explore.
Given the expansive nature of the city, I was recommended by my colleagues to join the Hato bus tour, which can be easily identified on the streets of Tokyo by their bright yellow color. I was also very glad that the weather-gods decided to bless us with particularly good temperatures that day given that Tokyo is notorious for their hot, humid summers (or so they say… I’m from Texas after all) filled with typhoons (a.k.a. hurricanes).
The day began with a visit to the Meiji-jingu Shrine, which was dedicated to the previous emperor of Japan. We happened upon a festival that day where different traditional dance groups from around Japan came to perform for this ceremony. The bright colors of the traditional Japanese costumes helped liven up the atmosphere.
Next, we toured the Imperial Palace Gardens surrounded by a moat. While the garden was quite serene, this site was made much more memorable for me since I unfortunately became live American bait for the Tokyo mosquitoes: 12 gobbles in the span of half an hour.
Another part of the itinerary included a cruise around the Tokyo Bay. While relaxing, I preferred other cruises I’ve visited elsewhere.
All in all, this bus tour was convenient as it gave a brief overview of the city. On further inspection of a brochure of Tokyo, however, we just skimmed a minute fraction of what Tokyo has to offer in terms of sightseeing.
From what I can tell at this time, Tokyo is much different compared to other major cities of the world in terms of city layout. While the city is one of the largest and urbane in the world with its renowned technological advancements, it has surprisingly many parks, shrines, gardens, and castles interwoven in the midst of its many high-rises. I have not visited another city where such a significant contrast of the “old and new” exists harmoniously.
In addition, while Tokyo is typically depicted as a very large, crowded city with a mind-boggling subway system (my eyes started crossing just from looking at the map), what I have seen leads me to believe that while populous, the city is very “controlled” and very clean, especially given its size. The crowds are not “chaotic;” everyone still behaves courteously.
This tour also allowed me to meet fellow travelers from around the globe, i.e. Sweden, Holland, Germany, Australia, and Vietnam. Stay tuned for more for the evening portion of my day in Tokyo!