Out of this World: Tokyo

There are more bars and handles on the train than at a trapeze show or on a monkey bar. There are people who wear masks to protect strangers from getting ill, rather than staying home and getting better themselves. There is a poster in the train with what looks like a butt-face (literally), sticking his finger up his…nose, and that is just the beginning of their quirks.

When anyone asks me to describe Tokyo, my word for it is: overwhelming.

I remember trying to plan my trip here (as I would for any other destination). I would do a quick search of ‘Things to do in Tokyo’, stare at the results and decide I’m better off looking at videos of raccoons stealing food from cats. It was just that overwhelming.

Arriving here was not much different. The city is crowded with noise, colours, humans and tall buildings that can sometimes feel like it’s all caving in on you. The other extreme of it is the simplicity of their homes. Small and uncluttered with storage solutions that are ingenious and rooms with enough space to just fit what you need.

Almost everything feels like a juxtaposition.

Senso-ji, Asakusa

The city is crazy with tiny alleys of calm. Designer buildings and big brands line the sky while traditionally dressed men and women fill the streets. It is a city that beautifully blends the old and the new, without overlapping each other.

During our stay, we participated in a ceramic class hosted by a local ceramic artist, strolled through the Imperial Palace gardens, visited Tokyo’s oldest temple – the Senso-ji and Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the late 19th-century Emperor Meiji who opened Japan to the West.

The streets of Ginza, ceramic class, Nakameguro and guards in front of the Imperial Palace.

We tasted stunning local food, shared 30 minutes with some purrfect creatures, witnessed the madness of Shibuya and Mario Karts on the street, and of course, walked down the alleyways of Shinjuku where my beliefs about the absurdity of this city were confirmed.

Japan isn’t simply ‘crazy’ though, it’s just different in a completely unexpected, ‘out-of-this-world’ way, and if that doesn’t convince you that it’s worth visiting, maybe seeing schoolgirls in VR will.

Shibuya, Shinjuku, Mario Kart and Robot Restaurant.

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Pens&Lens was launched in October 2016 as part of a passion project by partners-in-crime, Mark and Lynette. Combining their love for travel, stories, people and places, they wanted to share the views of the world they see from behind their pens and lens.