Tokyo is what I expected most of Japan to be like–a gigantic, thriving metropolis. Osaka failed to meet my expectations, as it is unfortunately 86 square miles and 18 million people of nothing interesting except Universal Studios. Kyoto–while always interesting to visit–just never seems like a big city, maybe due to its strict zoning laws banning tall buildings.
Tokyo met every expectation I had of it.
The biggest city in the world, Tokyo is gigantic. 35 million people live in the Tokyo metro area, and you can tell. People are everywhere, making Osaka look like a baby in comparison. The train system–both subway and above-ground–I believe sets a record for being the most extensive in the world.
Speaking of trains, I finally had a “crushing” experience on one of them! I’m not sure if any of you have seen the photos of train officials pushing people into a packed train, but those people exist! I got on the train only to be pushed (and pushed and pushed) into some guy who was himself smashed against a wall. I tried to move my feet but couldn’t. Luckily, I was so crammed in there that I couldn’t possibly fall over if I tried! The instant a seat opened up I took it, but standing up was certainly…an experience.
Japan has this incredible thing called a capsule hotel. They are like little cells in the wall that have a mattress and a TV. The TV is extra money, so the bed is it. The capsules are stacked two levels up, and line most of the walls. Curtains cover the opening when you are sleeping. Overall, it is a very cheap and surprisingly comfortable place to sleep.
Tokyo is a bit lacking in historical or religious places. The Meiji Jinju Shrine and the Sensoji Temple are the only two really major temples in the city, although both are excellent. The Imperial Palace was surrounded by beautiful cherry blossom trees, making the area even more beautiful than usual. The Imperial Palace East Gardens and the Shinjuku Gyoen are both incredibly beautiful gardens. Tokyo also has the largest fish market in the world–the Tsukiji Fish Market. I visited all of these places and more.
In terms of amusement parks, Tokyo DisneySea is the most immersive, well-themed park I’ve been to and the rides were excellent. Tokyo also has the world’s only looping, launched spinning coaster–which was amazingly disorienting.