Tokyo is the World's Coolest City. 12 reasons why . . .
1. The culture of cleanliness
Everybody I talked to asked me to be prepared for the sheer number of people in Tokyo. I was ready for the crowds . . . what I didn't expect was the cleanliness. This, despite the fact that there is no trash can in open sight anywhere in the city. You will be hard-pressed to come across a city as clean as Tokyo—Japanese people carry the trash in their hands, their pockets, or a spare plastic bag until they arrive at their destination. Alternatively, you can duck into a convenience store (which abound in the city) and dispose of your garbage there.
2. The world's most efficient railway system
Tokyo's extensive public transportation system carries 40 million daily passengers. With 13 subway lines and more than 100 surface routes run by Japan railways and other private companies, Tokyo's railway system is beyond sophisticated. With its operating speed reaching up to 320km/h, the bullet train is a rite of traveler passage in Tokyo!
3. A plethora of vending machines
Vending machines are prolific on every corner in Tokyo. What makes them unusual is that they sell not just candy and chips and gum and soda, but many of them can dispense alcohol and cigarettes as well.
4. The world's biggest fish market
Considering the traditional Japanese diet is fish and rice, it's not surprising that the world's largest fish market is located in Tokyo. Handling more than 2000 tons of seafood each day, Tsukiji-shijo is a mecca for fishermen, auctioneers, and buyers for Tokyo's best restaurants. Once you've strolled through the market you can enjoy fresh sushi in any restaurant (ranging from cheap to costing a small fortune) on one of the five streets that run perpendicular to the market.
5. Ramen you can dream about
Who doesn't love a bowl of noodles? Ramen is comfort food for many of us, thanks to the ubiquitous Cup of Noodles found in every Asian supermarket aisle in the U.S. Ramen styles from all over Japan comingle in the capital and you'll find thick and fatty bowls of spicy miso ramen just down the road from refined Michelin-starred ramen restaurants.
6. Cool cafes
Because sometimes you just need a furry friend! Animal and pet cafes abound in Tokyo, from snakes to hedgehogs with cats, birds, penguins and owl cafes in between. You can eat, drink and interact with familiar and rare animals here. But Tokyo is also home to other unique and themed cafes—such as the Kawaii Monster cafe (a colorful, trendy and totally Instagram-worthy cafe located in Harajuku), Robot restaurant (a show with dazzling lasers, robots, dancers and, only-in-Tokyo-madness) and Ninja, vampire and Alice in wonderland cafes.
7. Cutting-Edge Fashion Sense
Five minutes after you arrive in Tokyo, you're struck by it: this is the most trendy city you've ever been in. Forget Paris, Rome, London. The most stylishly dressed young people are to be found on the over-crowded pedestrian paths of Harajuku or Shinjuku. Little Bo Peeps, Goths, best friends wearing identical outfits from head-to-toe, along with a few people wearing traditional yukatas (kimonos), that's Japanese street style!
8. Tradition isn't dead here
Make no mistake—Tokyo is not your average big faceless metropolis. If you're missing a taste of the thousand-year-old Japanese culture, you need only walk a few steps from Tokyo railway station to arrive at the majestic Tokyo Imperial Palace or take a break from Harajuku's crowded streets to take a leisurely stroll at the serene Meiji shrine (a three-minute walk from the busy Harajuku station.) For a more spiritual adventure, visit the Senso-Ji temple in Asakusa.
9. The railway/metro stations are food/shopping destinations
Need a midday cuppa or a bite to eat during sightseeing? Head to any railway or metro station in Tokyo: you'll find restaurants, cafes, lockers and entire shopping malls at your local transportation system. In fact, you never need to leave the station if you don't want to!
10. The world's most Michelin starred restaurants
For the 12th year in a row, Tokyo has retained its position as the city with the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world: 234 in the year 2018! As a base of comparison, Paris comes in 3rd place, after Tokyo and Kyoto with 134 stars! If you want fine dining, you're in the right city. This includes not just sushi, but also French, Italian, Tempura and Izakaya cuisine.
11. The world's biggest, busiest pedestrian crossings are here
Ths Shibuya scramble is the busiest intersection in Tokyo—when the lights turn red at this busy junction, they all turn red at the same time in every direction. Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides like marbles spilling out of a box while simultaneously, images pulsate from three huge television screens facing the crossing. As many as 2500 people cross the street every time the light changes, yet the traffic moves in an orderly fashion. Nobody runs, jostles or pushes anyone.
12. Everybody is super-helpful
There's a big language barrier in Tokyo but people are so helpful that you get around it. On our first day, my family and I were lost, facing a giant map of the railway system, trying to determine the next line to catch. An elderly man approached us and asked, "May I help you get to where you want to go? I'm retired and it's my hobby to help people find their way." He spent the next five minutes navigating us in the right direction. That's how people are in Japan—so helpful you just wanna hug them!