I can very clearly remember my initial impressions of Tokyo, as I wandered around the planet’s most densely populated metropolitan region in an almost permanent daze on the first day of what was to be the shortest of my four visits to date, exactly ten years ago. I had sneakily booked the flights on a hastily arranged business trip to allow a full weekend in the Japanese capital, before retreating to the Honshu hinterlands of Gifu prefecture for two days of mouthblown glassware quality control. No, seriously. Debating the subtle permissible variations in the rim thickness and air bubble density of a 40′ container of designer flower vases with the Japanese would have been one labour too many even for Hercules…

For once, I had done absolutely no research on my destination, and intentionally so. The thought of having the combination of a national language entirely incomprehensible to me, and its native populace’s equal inability to converse in my own made this a relatively unique and irresistible opportunity to feel bewitchingly clueless in a city that had long fascinated me. My first twelve hours in the country involved a tragicomic first encounter with an izakaya restaurant vending machine, a near and very unintentional participation in the sumo championship semi-final match, and an entire night spent exploring the incredible neon lit alleyways of glitzy and seedy Shinjuku. Ever since that day, Tokyo has excited, humbled, amazed and surprised me in equal measures, on every single day of every single visit.

And this week has been no different. With zero moral pressure to visit the obligatory tourist highlights, I instead made the most of the eight days and nights to explore lesser visited districts and boroughs, obscure sights, and most importantly, a good many Japanese gastronomic hotspots. Having thoroughly trawled up and down the lanes of Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ginza on previous stays, this was the turn of hip Shimokita, bougie Daikanyama, understated Toishido, and funky Ebisu too. All on foot. Tokyo is a city so incredibly exciting, but equally safe, that any unplanned change of route is rewarded with smiles of wonder rather than a panic-infused clutch of the wallet. I walked upwards of sixty kilometres around the city, self-sacrificially fuelled by wonderful katsu curries, brothy Michelin starred ramen, and ocean fresh sushi, and it has been phenomenal.

Social activity has also resumed, after its unfortunate hiatus in the first half of 2022: Couchsurfing events were organised; strangers were met, befriended, and seen again; I have felt comfortable – and relieved – to interact, engage and exchange views with other travellers encountered. The tall, incredibly dull 19 year old German business management student in the hostel this evening was perhaps too immense a challenge so soon, but I will learn, of that I am sure. I feel alive, again, I truly do. Whilst slinging my backpack over the shoulder again to any corner of the globe would have gone some way to curing the malaise, coming to Tokyo has rocket boosted me beyond belief. Tokyo is a city that has incredible energy to give, and it wants to share it with inhabitants and visitors alike.

And so, as I sit here in my favourite seat of my favourite bar at my favourite time of the day in my favourite city in the world, things are going rather swimmingly well. A glass of whisky in hand at 17:45 on the 52nd floor of the Grand Hyatt on my last night in Tokyo not only offers a rather overpriced viewing of day turning into night from a spectacular vantage point, but it does so on the exact spot that Bob and Charlotte meet in the melancholic masterpiece of a movie that is Lost In Translation. Twenty years of business travel, with many hours spent alone or in random company in business hotels, mean that I empathise with the movie, with Bob, and with Charlotte on an intimately personal level. This is my fourth visit here, and I sit in the same spot every time. Life truly is outstanding. Especially as I know that I will be back here in exactly one year from now. Arigato Tokyo.

Whisky in hand, it ain’t a bad life…

People! Fun! Yay!

Tokyo ❤️

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