Visiting Minato City: A View from Tokyo Tower

Minato City seen from Tokyo Tower.

Minato City seen from Tokyo Tower.

Minato (港区), or Minato City as it’s often referred to in English, is the business and diplomatic hub of Tokyo. Not only does it boast 49 embassies but is also home to companies such as Honda, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Sony and dozens of others who decided to choose the skyscrapers of Shiodome district of Minato as their base in Tokyo. If that wasn’t enough, there are 10 colleges and universities strewn across the area, making Minato City a real competitor for the title of the Heart of Tokyo, should such a competition ever take place! Yet if it did, it wouldn’t be all the above mentioned assets of the district that would probably weigh the scales down in favour of Minato, but a local landmark and tourist attraction that can be seen from many places in the city. I’m speaking of Tokyo Tower.

Tokyo Tower and the Zojoji Temple (増上寺, Zōjōji).

Tokyo Tower and the Zojoji Temple (増上寺, Zōjōji).

During my flying visit to Tokyo back in 2010, I was lucky enough to visit quite a few unmissable tourist hotspots and recognisable landmarks. One of those was indeed Tokyo Tower located in Shiba-koen district of Minato.

The Indie Traveller Tokyo Japan  Tokyo Tower 02To make my money last while backpacking my way across various countries, I’m forced to keep a tight budget. As a result, I walk a lot – something I actually quite enjoy. And so, while wandering around Tokyo I spotted it’s Eiffel Tower replica from many places. It gave me a feeling of being anchored and the knowledge of how far away from the city centre I was. Finally, after a few days of seeing the tower from afar, the day had come to finally see it from up-close.

At the feet of Tokyo Tower.

At the feet of Tokyo Tower.

Built in 1958, partially from scrap metal obtained from American tanks that were damaged in the Korean War, Tokyo Tower is essentially a replica of the Eiffel Tower from Paris. However, it is whole 13 metres higher than its French counterpart. It managed this after an 80-metre-long antenna was installed on the top. It is this antenna that helped Tokyo Tower keep the title of the tallest structure raised in the territory of Japan until 2010 when the famous Sky Tree opened for visitors.

That warm sunny May afternoon I had a fantastic traditional Japanese lunch with a friend near Daimon Station and afterwards strolled towers the landmark. On arrival, like so many tourists, I purchased a ticket and a fantastically amiable and polite uniformed young female lift operator catapulted me to the top of Tokyo Tower in seconds. Once on top, Minato City, and in fact the whole of Tokyo, unfolded at my feet in all its modern greatness.

Minato City seen from Tokyo Tower.

Minato City seen from Tokyo Tower.

Minato City seen from Tokyo Tower.

Minato City seen from Tokyo Tower.

Minato City seen from Tokyo Tower.

Minato City seen from Tokyo Tower.

Roppongi district seen from Tokyo Tower.

Roppongi district seen from Tokyo Tower.

The Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay seen from Tokyo Tower.

The Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay seen from Tokyo Tower.

Japan: The Background of My Trip to Tokyo

Flag of Japan.

My trip to Japan was very short indeed. In fact, it was just a 6 day long break I took in the middle of my tour of South Korea and I spent all of it in Tokyo area. Although I didn’t get to see the wonderful rural Japan about the existence of which so many of us have no idea, I did acquire a pretty good understanding of what modern Japan has to offer.

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

The 21st century urban Japan is amazing and confusing, fascinating and at times scary. Everything seems to be happening fast. You’re surrounded by the noise of the living city and often maddening J-Pop music blaring out through the speakers of passing mobile-advertisement-vans or from huge screens fixed on buildings above street level. Oftentimes you get to witness a clash of the traditional with the modern – while crossing the street you bump into a genuine sumo wrestler or a monk only to see that behind him walks a perfect specimen of an otaku in full cosplay who decided on an outing beyond the borders of Akihabara, the district of Tokyo renowned for catering to needs of an otaku. A word of explanation to the layfolk: otaku is a person with obsessive interest in anime, manga and video games while cosplay is an abbreviation of costume play which basically refers to the practice of wearing accessories and costumes of one’s favourite fictional characters, usually characters taken from comic books or video games. It’s worth noting that in Japan cosplayers form a real subculture and their practice of wearing costumes is accepted as part of Japanese street fashion. Also, just to make a distinction, to be a true otaku one doesn’t have to indulge in cosplay yet to be a true cosplayer you most certainly are an otaku!

Tokyo seen from Tokyo Tower.

Tokyo seen from Tokyo Tower.

Meiji Shrine in the Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.

Meiji Shrine in the Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.

Yet even in the bustling Tokyo a traveller or city dweller can get some respite in the immaculately maintained parks, like the Yoyogi Park complete with the adjacent Meiji Shrine, or the Imperial Palace East Gardens. If you don’t fancy any greenery then you can always kick back at a beach on the artificial Odaiba Island. Although swimming is not allowed, the view of Tokyo with the Rainbow Bridge at your feet and Tokyo Tower in the background more than makes up for this. Yes, Tokyo as a representative of modern Japan seems to have it all and my experiences there left me wanting more. Who knows, maybe soon I might find myself in the Land of the Shogun, visiting the more traditional cities like Kyoto, or traversing its islands one after another and having random conversations with the most amiable people that inhabit them.

The frantic district of Shibuya.

The frantic district of Shibuya.

Destination
1 Seoul, South Korea
2 Tokyo, Japan