World’s largest metro area dazzles with calm efficiency
Traveling to Tokyo, Japan, is exhausting, but exciting. Depending on the airline, you can expect to spend at least 15 hours on a plane. When I travel abroad, I usual go with one of my best friends, who lives in New York City. For this trip, I travelled from Baltimore to New York City by Amtrak and then flew on Korea Air from New York to Seoul, South Korea, and then on to Tokyo, Japan. A total of 17 hours in the air. The round-trip ticket was around $1,400. Tokyo is 11 hours ahead of Baltimore and you can expect jet lag. Many people in Tokyo do not speak English, but many do understand it a little.
Tokyo has about 14 million people (a little odd that I did not see any pregnant women!) and it’s the largest metropolitan economy in the world. It is a major international finance center. Its architecture has changed twice in the past century with the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and World War II. Tokyo has evolved to include beautiful skyscrapers, neat box buildings, myriad flashing signs, vending machines on every street corner, public transport that runs on time, and large pedestrian walkways. Most important, however, is that Tokyo is safe and clean. When visiting Tokyo, there are several must see tourist attractions, unforgettable buildings, and a thriving gay area that is filled with bars and people.
There are several shrines, historic palaces, and stunning temples. Tokyo has beautiful sites and landmarks. The Meiji Shrine, erected in 1926 and dedicated to the Emperor and Empress of Japan, is a famous landmark. Shinto shrines are around the city – structures with significance to the ancient Japanese religion. Senso-Ji and Shofuku-ji are also famous and beautiful historic sites. A great place to do some souvenir shopping is Nakamise Shopping Street. You can also enjoy a scenic view of the Tokyo Bay.
Tokyo has the Skytree, which, at 2,080 feet, is the world’s tallest tower. (The world’s tallest structure is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2,717 feet.) The Skytree has an enormous circular deck that features windows on all sides, allowing a 360-degree view of Tokyo. Other buildings in Tokyo that are unique include the Nakagin Capsule, Tokyo Tower, Midtown Tower, and Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.
Tokyo’s main gay nightlife is located in Shinjuku Ni-chome. AiiRO Cafe is a small corner gay cafe that offers a welcoming atmosphere, a diverse crowd, a place to gather outside, and a place to meet locals. (AiiRO Cafe also has a bartender with a unique life story. He was raised in Indiana, studied Japanese in undergraduate school, moved to Tokyo, and has lived there for the last ten years with no plans to move back to the US.) Leo Lounge is a great place for the gay community to relax and meet locals. The drink prices are reasonable and staff are friendly and fun. GB is a large video bar where the gay community goes for drinks before clubbing. Kinsmen is a gay bar with a cozy feel that allows interaction with strangers to not feel awkward. The Eagle Tokyo is a small bar with awesome people. It also has a very unique and famous large wall painting that displays two guys holding each other. (Tao Tao, a friendly and cute bartender at the Eagle, also has a unique life story. He is from China, speaks English, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. He moved to Tokyo without speaking Japanese just to attend a university. He learned English and Japanese at the same time.)
Other noteworthy bars include the following: Bar Blacknude is a gay bar that offers karaoke, lively entertainment, and muscular staff. Ashura Bar is a gay bar that is open 24 hours on the weekend. Bar Prop is a new gay bar that just opened in August 2017. It is trying to make a name for itself by offering strong drinks and a welcoming environment for foreigners. Members Yui is a gay bar for bears that like to sing. It is a famous karaoke bar. Kitsune is a gay friendly sushi bar and restaurant that offers creative dishes. Home is a gay neighborhood bar that offers locals and foreigners a place to relax and drink. Finally, Keivi is a gay bar that mixes Chinese culture with Japanese culture.
Tokyo has something for everyone. If you have vacation time in the fall or just want to get away for the holiday season, Tokyo is a great place to visit.