35 million people and lots of fish
It isn’t until you look at it from above that you get a feel for just how big Tokyo is.
Wandering the streets, the buildings don’t seem excessively huge, the views aren’t especially impressive—in fact, the only remarkable thing seems to be how many people are riding the subways. But from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, it’s a different story. Buildings, large and small, stretch off in every direction, disappearing into the horizon. Literally. You can’t see the end of them. We could go on and on trying to describe it, but…it’s big. Very big.
We had just one day in Tokyo, and though we obviously saw just a tiny fraction of the city, we tried to hit as many highlights as possible.
Our morning started at the Tsukiji wholesale fish market, an enormous bustling market on the waterfront where many restaurant owners and other shoppers browse that morning’s catch. Men and women in rubber gloves and aprons strode purposefully along the narrow rows of buckets and styrofoam coolers, filled with every imaginable form of sea life. Squid in their own ink, octopi curled into little balls, tiny gleaming sardines, massive chunks of tuna, all manner of shellfish, slimy sea cucumbers, bright red snapper, eels and countless things we couldn’t identify.
It was an impressive sight, but, mostly, we felt in the way. Stop for more than a second, and suddenly someone is trying to get by you or stack a container of fish right where you happen to be standing. Motorized carts zipped through the narrow aisles at alarming speeds, adding to the slightly stressful atmosphere and threatening to break our legs.
The rest of our day included the season’s first plum blossoms at the Imperial Palace East Gardens, Shibuya crossing, an intersection famous for its timed release of hundreds of pedestrians, and a failed sushi lunch— we couldn’t find the restaurant and ate bread and donuts on a curb instead.
Later that night, we finally got our sushi in the neon-clad district of Shinjuku, snagging plate after plate of fresh fish from a conveyor belt and calling out a few special requests.
After watching the sun set and the lights come on across Tokyo from the observatory, we had a new appreciation for where we were. Walking along the street back to the subway, with lights flashing and glimmering in all directions, we were just a couple of the tiny dots we had seen from so far above. Two of 35 million people in Greater Tokyo.
It was a one day crash course in the largest city in the world and we only wandered a few of Tokyo’s thousands of streets and a handful of its neighborhoods. But it was a fun one day.