Standing sixty floors above the organized chaos of the world’s most populous metropolitan area, the air in my lungs momentarily ceased to exist as my breath was stolen away by the sight before my eyes. Nothing could have prepared me to witness such a magnificent expanse of man-made. Stretching to the furthest horizon, Tokyo, Japan, filled every possible inch of land, train tracks and crowded streets criss-crossing endlessly between massive skyscrapers and closely packed buildings. Here, from the sixtieth floor of the Sunshine City shopping mall, my already culture-shocked mind absolutely exploded. Entering a country so foreign, a land of yen and kanji and superior technology, had been about as exhilarating as I could handle. Throwing in the revelation of such a condensed area teeming with life and bursting with the incredible engineering feats of mankind made my trip to the “Land of the Rising Sun” one that I will never forget.
Despite my new feelings of insignificance after being introduced to the enormity of Tokyo, the rest of my experiences in the city were unbeatable, each sight and sound and taste more amazing than the last. To begin the day, we had risen early and explored the narrow side streets of the Itabashi district. The quiet of the early morning in the neighborhood sharply contrasted the busy atmosphere we were later exposed to. We watched the owners of small shops open their doors or sweep the clean sidewalk outside of their storefront, sampling fresh-baked “pan” (bread) and juicy fruits.
After breakfast, we took the “shinkansen” (bullet train) to Shinjuku, in the heart of Tokyo. Emerging from the train station, we were awed by skyscrapers that gave my neck a bad kink and crosswalks that seemed to spin every direction. Everywhere, colors and advertisements pulled my attention as I was engulfed in a briskly moving sea of bobbing black-haired heads. In each store, whether it was a little tourist shop or a huge department store, we entered a shopping experience unlike any other. Not only was everything you could imagine technology-wise, clothing-wise, or snack-wise available, but the service was top-notch, friendlier and more helpful than my American mind could believe.
For lunch, we struggled to choose from the infinite food options available. Grab something to go on the bottom floor of a department store (the most extravagant food courts in existence)? Enjoy some delicious sushi? Or ramen noodles on the run? Or what about the soba shop over there? Suffice to say, food is GOOD in Japan. With full stomachs we headed to the Sunshine City mall for more shopping and the spectacular view from its central location in Tokyo’s skyline. After seeing the city from above, an undeniable highlight of the trip, we eased our overwhelmed senses with “kakigori” (a shaved ice treat) and spent the rest of the afternoon browsing the shops and picking out our dinner destination. We ended the day with a 7-course creative sushi extravaganza, which was different and tasty, but nothing compared to the “kitensushi” (sushi on a conveyor belt) that we consumed later in the trip.
Over the next few days, I continued to be wowed by the quality and quantity of everything in the city. From the sinfully rich crepes and fun shopping in Harajuku to the fancy “kabuki” (traditional Japanese theatre) and high-class shopping in Ginza, I returned with countless memories of my adventures in Japan, not to mention a new perception of a world remarkably different from my own.
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