We are staying in Tokyo: The most populated metropolis on Earth. About 36 million people live and work here. Try to imagine half the entire British population crammed into a city about 4 times the size of London… that’s about the scale of Tokyo!
(Photo from Amazing Maps)
Although we were able to get the iglide car through customs quickly, getting the proper permits is a long process, so our official Japanese tour isn’t scheduled to begin until May 28. Before we’re allowed to travel throughout the country, we need a crazy amount of documentation – a parking certificate for Tokyo, dozens of documents covering the retrofit and customization of the car, plus a Japanese inspection and exhaust test. I even had to travel to the German embassy to have my identity confirmed for my Japanese driver’s license. After all this is completed, we should be able to get on the road. In the meantime, the car has taken the stage as the star of our booth at an autoshow nearby.
My first impression of Tokyo is how clean and well organized the city is. You won’t find any dirt in Tokyo, at least not in the city center, and the metro stations are so clean you could eat off the ground. Every train is exactly on time, and stops so precicely that you can stand on an arrow that says “door 5” and every time, door 5 will open directly in front of you. Perhaps in such a crowded city you need that level of organization to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here I can show you an example of how crowded the city is – the picture below is outside the Shibuya station. Every day, thousands and thousands of people cross through this area.
On one hand, Tokyo is very modern, but you can still see the traditional old-world Japan. I had fun visiting one of the super modern areas, the Akihabara district, also know as the “electric city.” Here I found dozens of anime and electronics stores, like the Sega shop I stopped into.
Only a few blocks away is the old, traditional area of the city, where the streets are very narrow and lined with traditional Japanese houses. At the core of this area of the city is a large temple. Seeing the overlap between old and new is a very interesting part of being in Tokyo. This photo shows the temple with modern cityscape, including the Skytree Tower in the background.
At 2080 feet tall, the Skytree is the tallest building in Japan, and the second tallest in the world after China’s Shanghai Tower.
A colleague invited me to participate in the annual Buddhist festival called Sanja Matsuri. The festival features about a hundred ‘mikoshi,’ or portable shrines, in which gods are symbollically placed and paraded about the streets to bring good fortune to the local residents and businesses. I had the honor to carry one of the shrines, which was incredibly heavy!
It was only later that I learned what a rare chance I was given. A Japanese visitor told me that it is a very great honor for every Japanese person to participate – and he has never had the chance. What an honor, thank you Japan!
Since I’m still waiting on all the paperwork, I’ll be sure to show you more of this amazing city!