Probably because many of my US-based friends are academics and technologists, many of them visit Tokyo as part of their professional circuit. I often get requests for recommendations for places to stay and visit while in Tokyo. Usually these requests are coming from busy people who are travelling primarily for business meetings or to give a talk, and might have one or two days free to explore the city. Over the years, I've composed many emails to my friends with somewhat lame attempts to recommend the best places to go. In honor of a few of my friends visiting Tokyo later this month, I've decided to go back over these emails and publicly post my recommendations. It's not nearly as extensive as what Justin did, but it is one idiosyncratic viewpoint (from a bicultural, pop culture and technology obsessed academic). I hope others will add to this.
I still consider Tokyo "home" though I haven't really lived there for almost five years now. It is still the city I know best in the world, and I breathe an emotional sigh of relief when I step onto the streets of Shibuya or Shinjuku after many months away. I love to see what shops and restaurants are still there from my childhood, as well as new arrivals on familiar street corners. The city is layered with memories and personal history for me. So I always struggle to imagine what it must be like to visit Tokyo cold, and only for a day or two, and what I could possibly recommend to people as a way of experiencing the best of "my" city. Unlike Kyoto or other cities that are accessible to the casual tourist, newcomers to Tokyo will often experience it as a overwhelming and alienating megalopolis. The city is so huge and so variegated, and there are very few obvious "sights" and city centers to go to that could give a short-term vistor a sense that they have "experienced the city." But here is just a bit of what I love about Tokyo.
Continue reading »