When I learned that I would need to travel to Japan for work, I came up with the title of this post almost immediately. I like Japanese whisky and I like green tea. In the end, there was no whisky – the duty free shop at Haneda had even run out of Hibiki – and very little tea. But the title stuck. I still like it.
I had business in a town an hour outside of Tokyo. For these two days, an eleven-hour flight was hard to justify. I tagged on two days in Tokyo to make it more bearable. Here's what happened.
This was my first time in Japan, and I came somewhat prepared. I had purchased a compact guidebook on the city and noted down some points to visit. Almost all of them turned out rather silly. The guidebook also didn't tell me about the two-day travel card I could have bought at the airport. I survived that first day anyway. Here's what I did.
The sights of Tokyo
- Shibuya is famous for a crossing that inspired the one at Oxford Circus, except in London they did it right: They painted two intersecting diagonal crosswalks for maximum chaos. In Shibuya, there's only one. This means no collisions but also no reward for skillful weaving.
- The Meiji Shrine was full of tourists. Maybe they walked up from Shibuya as I did (without a map but with a good sense of direction). There were also plenty of Japanese there, doing the things the Japanese do when they visit a shrine. There was even a Shinto wedding, but overall the vibe was mixed at best. Kevin from New York had left a votive tablet exclaiming that he "felt so much", as if traveling were about reliving your favorite movie and doing better than the protagonists.
- The Tokyo Municipal Government Building attracts unsuspecting tourists with the seemingly unbeatable offer of a free view over the city from the 45th floor. It's hard to turn that down when the lights come out in town – and I didn't – but other viewing platforms might offer 360-degree views and less glare on the windows. Paying for the view might pay.
- The number one spot on this list of ignominy goes to Roppongi Hills. What a waste! Walking around this shopping center with its brands of international exchangeability I lost all sense of being in Japan. One doesn't have to fly halfway around the globe for this. Any major city will do.
What about experiencing Tokyo?  This I did on my second day, but I can't promise that the post about it will follow this one quite as closely – or at all.