Tokyo / by Levko Ivanchuk

People gather to TOKYO from here and there with memories of their home. And then, TOKYO gets everyone’s home town.
— Tokyo Banana Box

This quote is annoying if you are a grammar nazi, nor is it particularly important. It is printed on every box full of small, banana flavoured cakes that one should bring from Tokyo as a souvenir (or, correctly, お土産). Japanese turn English language slogans into an amusement for tourists, however, even if this quote is very much 'lost in translation', it still conveys a meaning - Tokyo is a great place to live. 

Of course, it is an exaggeration and yes, I must say that it is solely my personal opinion. But, I would not be saying this if I had any doubts or secondary thoughts. It would be a mistake to call myself an adventurous person - I know people who have travelled far more than I did - but I must point out that I've seen places, or at least I think so. There are many places I can compare Tokyo with. Even if my lack of travel to Asian countries does not make me a good 'reviewer', I do have a couple of things to say that, hopefully, prove the quote we started with.

It is impossible to understand Tokyo, since there is no such thing as Tokyo. It might sound weird to someone who has not been here. 'Tokyo' or, more correctly, 'Edo', is a concept, no more than just a word people use when they want to describe the geographical area that is like a big lightbulb on Earth (if seen from space, at night). In some cities, there is a clearly defined area that people call 'downtown' or 'city centre'. Usually, that area contains all the good stuff (although, in Winnipeg, the term 'good stuff' will take a completely different meaning). Downtown is where people go, meet up, enjoy their free time and just relax. Tokyo has no single, centralized area like that. Instead, it has a lot of them. 

In reality, when you look at the map of Tokyo, you will immediately notice a huge green blob right in the middle and you will tell yourself "Aha! That is the Imperial Place! That is the city centre!". Technically, you will be right. In really, that would be a very ridiculous assumption. In fact, Tokyo is not about the place - it is about the people that you meet. 

Weirdly, every place you go to is ... good. Sometimes, very good. In a month, I haven't visited a 'bad' place. Every restaurant has decent food, cheaply priced even at high-end and touristy places. Every bar sells cheap & good alcohol. The service is exceptional, even if you don't speak much Japanese. We are talking every single place I visited in a month - and that is quite a few of them. Of course, inevitably, I will find something revolting and this theory will break down, but, just the fact that it takes me so long to find a shitty place is, simply, astonishing. 

Of course, the area I explored most is Shibuya. I love Shibuya. I don't mind tons of people moving around and I don't care about a statue of a dog either. But I do like the concept of it - a huge place where you can find anything, where millions of people pass by every day, where it is always crowded. Yet, no single trash bin - and no litter. Only in Japan, my friend. Police are diving directions and helping people out. Everywhere is super clean, if you take into account the number of people. You are rarely invited to a restaurant by some man on the street, and no one can stop you from admiring the huge buildings and enormous screens with ridiculous Japanese advertising. It just ... works. A society where discipline is key just works. Shibuya is a great example of that. 

Yet, as it is with many cities, you don't find a great night in popular places. You have to explore, wander around the back streets - where locals go. So we did. 

Truth to be told, at first I had a temptation to share the exact location of this place, but then, there is no need for that. If you ever find yourself in Tokyo, and if you only stick to the guide book or someone else's advice, you won't find a great evening.


Massive, multi-million people city, where space is limited and therefore it is generally crowded might seem like a terrible place to be. At first glance, who wants to be crowded up in a line up for an escalator, stepped on ones feet a couple of times, only to find out later that ones train is delayed by an hour. In truth, such things seem to be impossible in Tokyo. In fact, compactness somehow brings people together. In a bar, you won't have a waiter, but your bartender will inevitably become a part of your party. It might sound like an 'intrusion to ones privacy' at first, but then, if one cares about such things, perhaps something should be reconsidered.  


Our bartender, みちさん, was skillful, relaxed, busy and enjoyable companion. If anything, I would go as far as calling him 'the shepherd into the valley of darkness'. His sake was dangerously strong and dangerously easy to drink. 


みちさん was excellent with his English, drinks and 

rubik's cube. He was able to solve it in a a decent time while drinking with us. Truly incredible skills as for a bartender. 

Other guests featured two unnamed Japanese men, probably in their late 20s, well dressed and well mannered. Next to me sat a typical, average couple. They both looked Asian, sounded like they were from Jersey (which turned out to be true) and neither of them was Japanese. Our English gave headaches to two unnamed Japanese men as they tried to understand American, Japanese, Australian and Canadian accents.