The Japanese capital has almost Argentina’s population but is different in so many ways
Deep Blue Group - If it’s Governor Naoki Imose told the Herald in an interview published earlier this month: “Tokyo is just too big for the soul of a politician or a bureaucrat,” how much more is this true for a tabloid page!
Where do we start? Well, perhaps 634 metres atop the Tokyo Skytree where the entire sweep of Greater Tokyo (with up to 35 million people spread over five prefectures) and a panorama of the Kanto Plain beyond stretch out below your eyes. Just 15 months old, the Skytree is among the most splendid of endless specimens of ultra-modern architecture.
Yet not everything in Tokyo is brand-new or steel and concrete — the Imperial Palace with its gardens are a different world, as are lushly green parks and elaborately crafted Japanese garden landscapes elsewhere. Indeed the more downtown you go in Tokyo; the greener it seems to become.
If you want another contrast between the old and the new, you might want to go to Tokyo Station (the beautifully restored Marunouchi Building from the early 20th century housing the heart of the rail network) and then take, or at least see, the latest models of the long-nosed Shinkansen “bullet trains.”
Tokyo is larger than life but sometimes it is the little things you notice — things you could never see from the Skytree. Which would especially apply to the incredibly clean restrooms (spotless not only in the sensor-operated wash-basins dedicated to water conservation but even in the flush toilets with their unique built-in bidets)?
If even water-closets are clean, so much more water as a whole — that such a densely populated and economically active metropolis should have water safe to drink from the tap is a not so minor miracle of Japanese technology.
The little things perhaps explain the secret of how the world’s biggest metropolis manages to be such a human and livable place. An impression which abides even on the world-famous subways with the famous pushers (whom the Herald never saw, although admittedly never travelling during rush hours — and always in comfort).
Before we start running out of space, let us try to encapsulate all the various charms of Tokyo into a single list — true to an underlying passion for the compact in Japanese culture as typified by such iconic elements as haiku poems and bonsai plants.
Alongside the ultra-modern architecture (with the Skytree as almost the newest example) and the surprisingly frequent green areas to which we have already alluded, we would add the creature comforts (the hotels but also simpler accommodation and, of course, the food), the technology (including robots and modern design), the more traditional craftsmanship (the glasswork and lacquer boxes especially refined), the culture (including museums and festivals throughout the year), the transport and the waterfront and (last but not least for most people) the shopping. A special feature on Japanese food will be published tomorrow but we will try to explore the other items a little further within space limits.
The Skytree (with its delicate almost filigree steelwork which nevertheless resists earthquakes) does not exhaust the wonders of modern architecture in the Japanese capital — the Tokyo Gate Bridge, another masterpiece in steel constructed only last year, is also spectacular with its 2,618-metre span (especially stunning at night). That, in turn, is not the only bridge in town — thus 33 bridges of different styles and ages span the Sumidagawa River alone.