Many people like to define Japan and its capital; the truth is that Tokyo escapes all the clichés we would like to attribute to it.
Is it modern? Certainly: when you go to Japan, you jump at least five years forward. The technologies, the everyday devices, the remarkable organization of the city make Tokyo a controlled jungle where life is sweet, where everything seems easier. However, have traditional culture and values been drowned under futuristic structures? Not at all, because Tokyo also has magnificent temples where one forgets the buildings to fully feel the presence of the kami (Shinto gods).
If the landscape, ephemeral, is destined to change, the Japanese spirit remains. It is embodied in everyday gestures (undressing before entering a house, for example), in the kitchen, in appearance as well because it is not uncommon to meet a person in a kimono in the subway, while his neighbour on the right will have a suit and tie and the young woman on the left will have ultra-fashion clothes!
In the most populated megalopolis in the world, the cleanliness of the area strikes the visitor. Parks, streets, stations and subways border on the irreproachable. And on the metro side, their punctuality makes their Parisian counterparts blush with envy! In Tokyo, the diversity of shops, the profusion of everything and anything leaves you dazzled and dreamy. Buildings are never overwhelming. Some places even clearly have a rural feel. Past the very large six-lane arteries blocking the urban space, we discover with surprise pedestrian streets that look like villages. The streets have no names here, and everything is divided into squares ranging from the district to the block.
Each neighbourhood has its own identity. Shinjuku, Asakusa or Ueno, none of these places look alike! It would have been easy to divide our Tokyo-style walk between tradition and modernity, yet we will not do so. Opposing times, genres or places is not in the Japanese mind, because everything here is married.
Let’s start our journey with the Tower of Tokyo and the Zôjô-ji temple, perfect examples of all these differences that give Tokyo its charm, and also its wonderful unity.
Symbol of Tokyo and the post-war rebirth of Japan, the Tokyo Tower climbs to an altitude of 332.6 metres. It is adorned with a beautiful orange-red colour and its structure recalls the Eiffel Tower of Paris! At its feet stretches over several levels a centre that includes restaurants, cafés and even an aquarium. The tower has two observatories, the main observatory (on two floors) at 145 metres, and the special at 250 metres. The view over the whole city is magical, especially at night! Concerts and DJ mixes are regularly given at Club 333 of the main observatory. Note that the tower is even more beautiful after sunset, when it is adorned with its warm illuminations!
At the foot of the Tower of Tokyo, nestled in the hollow of green spaces, stands the temple Zôjô-ji. This Buddhist sanctuary has several buildings, the main one featuring a magnificent golden altar. Statues, torî (porticoes marking sacred spaces), imposing doors… This place is ideal for neophytes because it allows them to learn about Japanese architectural wonders, while enjoying in the background the beautiful Tower of Tokyo; Jizo’s alleys impress, calm, colourful and mystical. These small statues with crocheted caps and bibs protect the souls of deceased children, in the manner of angels in Christianity. When the wind turns their paper mills, you’d think you could feel the breath of the gods!
After this unique walk, we will head without transition, in the next post, from the big and brand new Tokyo Skytree to the traditional district of Asakusa, through the trendy streets of Harajuku.