Monday, June 9, 2014

Tokyo rated No. 1 city in the world in Trip Advisor survey

Tokyo rated No. 1 city in the world in Trip Advisor survey

I'm a bit surprised by this.  Not because I think there's nothing to do in Tokyo, or that it's not a fun city.  I love Tokyo.  It's a crazy place at times, with too many people for my comfort.  But when I'm in the mood, a Tokyo junket hits the spot.  I drink in the energy and get high from it in a way, and then after a day or two, I'm exhausted and satisfied but not hung over.

There are probably other cities with as much to do.  I have never been to New York City, London, Paris or Hong Kong, so I can't compare them.  I do imagine they're pretty lively places, though.  Tokyo is a place I've visited twenty or thirty times, maybe more.  I lost count a long time ago.  So I can confidently say if there is something you enjoy, you can find it in Tokyo.

Tokyo isn't as expensive as people make it out to be.  You can save money on lodging by doing a little pre-trip comparison shopping.  The Sakura Hotels are cheap and clean and conveniently located.  They have hostel options, too, and group rooms available.  But there are some very nice business-type hotels scattered all about.  You can find a perfectly serviceable single room for under 100 bucks a night within easy walking distance of a train station just about anywhere in the city you're interested in staying.  Just do a little online research.  My wife and I spent an amazing Christmas in one in Shinjuku that I'd consider pretty hoity-toity compared to my usual choices and it was about 110 bucks a night for a double room.  You have to adjust your expectations a little.  A business hotel is cheap and clean, but yes, the rooms are small by American standards.  You're going to be a little cramped but that's part of the Japan experience.  Paying 90 dollars a night and crabbing because you didn't have room for a dinette set in your room is stupid, and yet you'll see more than a few reviews along those lines while doing your research.  Ignore those fools.

Eating can be expensive, but again, doing some research before your trip will help you save here, too.  And even if you take the lazy person's option and read or do nothing but your luck when you get here, there are quite a number of inexpensive fast food options available all over the city.  If you're willing to eat McDonald's, you can get a meal for 680 yen.  It's not the healthiest food, obviously, but you can also consider nutritious and healthier onigiri at any convenience store-- a couple of those will set you back about 220 yen or so.  That's about 2 dollars.  There are set menu options at healthier restaurants, too.  If you want to pig out, find a Shakey's Pizza for lunch buffet.  That will run you around 11 dollars or so and you can pack in enough calories to keep you going all day.  And part of the next.  If you want sushi, check out one of the conveyer belt sushi restaurants of which there must be thousands.  Not as many of them as there are McDonald's, which number in the millions, approximately one for every single person living in the Tokyo area. But you can fill up on delicious sushi for 15 to 20 dollars.  Again, just do a little research and don't walk into Outback Steakhouse because you know the name and expect to eat cheaply, then complain later you're being gouged.

And things to see?  Things to do?  Are you kidding me?  If you can't find a museum, a zoo, a live show, sporting event, a temple or a prime people-watching experience in Tokyo, you don't deserve to be let out of your house, much less travel abroad.  Why would anyone even go to Japan without first finding out things to do?  You can read a couple of complaints in the comments on that linked story, but I guarantee those are from contract workers here who are pretty boring people themselves and not worth the effort.  Or that weird species of human, the disgruntled lifer, those people who hate Japan with ever fiber of their beings but have been here for years and can't seem to gather the energy to go back to wherever or whatever hole spawned them.  Probably due to burning those bridges as well.  Weren't happy at home, not happy here.  I don't give a rip about someone who can't entertain himself or herself in Tokyo.  Go to a movie, for the love of corn, or go get falling down drunk in a hostess bar.  Buy a porno manga and go jerk it in the privacy of your own bathroom.

You can do that much, at least.

My brother came with his daughter and even as raw neophytes, they had a blast, in the heat of high summer.  He found a nice hotel, they ate at restaurants even I'm too shy to go into, they hit Disney, walked around Harajuku and Shibuya and would have caught a Yomiuri Giants game if they hadn't worn themselves out having so much fun beforehand.  They're mountain people, so they took an overnight trip outside the city to experience that but came back wishing they'd just planned an extra night in Tokyo itself.  They wanted more.  But the thing is-- my brother did his research and made an itinerary.  Plus, he's got a brain and can think on his feet for when opportunities unplanned for present themselves.  There's a lot of open-mindedness there, too.

Don't let anyone con you into thinking Tokyo isn't worth it.  The only drawbacks I find with Tokyo are 1) so many people make it difficult to get around and 2) it is unbearably hot and humid in August, which is when my summer vacations always occur.  If you can handle the people and the heat, you will have the time of your life.  Or, you know, go in fall or early spring.  Still have to deal with all the people.  Just writing about it now makes me ache to go back there and find some more fun!

What I'm surprised about is it took Travel Advisor this long to figure it out.

PS-- Yes, it's true my wife does not like Tokyo.  But that's the crowd thing, not the lack of entertainment or the cost.  She just does not like large crowds.

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