Tokyo has been sitting at the very top of a rather over-ambitious list of places I want to visit since I was about 12. For a start, I’m a massive sucker for neon. Secondly, Gwen Stefani and her bonkers troupe of Harajuku schoolgirls were a pivotal cultural reference for me growing up. Still are, to be fair. And, lastly, I really, really like sushi.
Coat: H&M. Similar at Shrimps
I got my act together in March, a mere 19 years later, flying out and staying in The Mandarin Oriental, super central with huge rooms, incredible staff and home to the famous Tapas Molecular Bar – an 8-seater restaurant where you sit opposite the chef as he explains everything he creates. And gives you a hammer and a test tube to eat/ prepare your dinner.
Rings: Maria Black
Anywhere with that much Hello Kitty could never have disappointed me, and I genuinely struggle to remember locals in any country I’ve ever visited being as welcoming. Two baffled-looking Brits aimlessly wandering around a spaghetti-esque Metro? They don’t speak English, but they want to help you. We even had someone draw us a map, on scented paper, using 3 different colour pens. Can’t imagine that happening on the Piccadilly Line.
Highlights: Seeing Mount Fuji from the breakfast table, the kaleidoscopic labyrinth that was Harajuku, pretending to be Bill and Scarlett in Lost in Translation at The Park Hyatt, the teeny drinking dens in Golden Gai (6 seats, a crab-style shuffle to get in and a bartender who is also a chef serving you unidentifiable meat alongside rounds of sake.) It was like being in Japan’s version of Diagon Alley, hidden just behind the bright lights of Shinjuku. A cluttered, crazy mess of stacked boxes, lanterns, 200-year-old shouty women and tinpot houses that looked like they’d collapse if you sneezed too hard.The only thing to beat it was The Robot Restaurant – a cacophony of both noise and colour, Lady Gaga tributes, Transformers, discoball Trojan horses and gorillas swinging from the ceiling. My favourite was two Japanese girls dressed as sparkly superheroes, coming out on the platform of a giant, wheeled robot and singing Ave Maria – the duet version, naturally.
A week was by no means long enough – next time I want to take the bullet train to Osaka, go and watch the Sumo wrestling, visit a maid cafe (look it up. Please) and maybe even eat some blowfish. Arigatou Gozaimasu Tokyo, you were every bit as special as I hoped.