Day 12: Tokyo
If you like upmarket shopping, you’d love Tokyo.
I’m not a big fan of shopping, but had a good time anyway spending the day mostly hitting up stores.
Luxury brands are much more readily available in Tokyo (and shops throughout Japan) than in Portland. Every department store I was in had a wide selection of nice pens (Parker, Montblanc, Platinum, etc.) and nice watches (Omega, Cartier, Rolex, Longines, etc. plus a broad selection of higher-end models of domestic brands such as Seiko and Orient that you don’t generally see in America). What’s perhaps more surprising is that you see a similar lineup of pens and watches in discount electronics stores—the equivalent of our Best Buy or Fry’s. The other difference is that if you do happen to see, say, an Omega in a department store in the U.S. (which you just don’t see…so let’s say at a jeweler in the mall), it will be at its full retail price. The prices marked on the watches in Japan, at least for the ones that I have a rough idea of a fair price off the top of my head, were selling at what I’d consider the correct “street price”.
Anyway, I didn’t come to Japan to spend thousands of dollars on a watch, but it was neat to see so many different models in person that I’ve only seen pictures of before since they’re just not in stores anywhere I normally go.
It’s actually harder to find good souvenirs in Tokyo than other places I’ve been in Japan (if you want something other than anime/character-related toys), at least in the stores close to rail stations. The stores are largely targeted at domestic shoppers, so it makes sense. I suspect if I had done a bit more research and ventured farther from the stores nearly attached to the stations I’d have seen more. I ended up finding the sort of stuff I was looking for but after dinner went back to grab one more thing and the store was already closed so I’m out of luck!
My plan from the start was to save souvenir shopping until the end. Given I packed everything for my two-week trip in a small carry-on suitcase, there wasn’t any room for even small trinkets that I could have picked up along the way. I figured in Tokyo I could get a cheap duffel bag to throw a bunch of clothes in and check on the flight home, freeing up room for souvenirs.
The only downside of this plan is that there was a lot of cool stuff in little shops in and near the attractions in the various cities I went to: more interesting in the sense that it was related to specific sights and the history of the area. But I just didn’t have a good way to drag extra stuff around the country with me.
Tokyo seems like a really neat city. When I was here at the beginning of my trip I was still wrapping my head around how to get around, what I’d be doing to fill up my time, adjusting to everything… now at the end of my trip it feels somewhat normal to be in Japan and I just popped between different stops on the train around Tokyo to check them out (and hope there were good souvenirs).
The city is definitely big—in every way. Big land area (you can ride a train for 30 minutes and get off and there are still just as many high-rise buildings as when you got on at the other end), big population (metro area has something like 15 million more people than the New York City metro area), big buildings.
It’s impressive how many people the rail system moves. Shinjuku Station is the busiest rail station in the world, used by an average of over 3.5 million passengers per day. That’s a lot of people, and no other train station in the world comes even close as far as I know.
Tomorrow I’ll grab breakfast then hop on the train to the airport. Then it’s on the plane for the long flight home, kill a little time at SeaTac, and finally back to Portland. It’ll be nice to be home, but nearly two weeks in Japan is just enough time to have convinced me that I could spend another two weeks here!