Anyone who’s spent time in Tokyo knows that there are endless transportation options in this city of 13 million. Whether you decide to take the always-crowded, yet never-tardy subway, rent a bike, or try your luck at Uber or taxi, you can easily get to where you need to go in this highly navigable city. However, in the short week that I’ve been in Tokyo, I’ve discovered the wonder that is walking around aimlessly. On my first day of orientation at TUJ, one of the student guides said to me “I spent my first two months in Japan constantly walking around without necessarily having a purpose.” The guide shared with me that he would come back to his apartment close to 1 a.m. every night simply because he would spend countless hours wandering “aimlessly.” At first, I thought this sounded a bit strange. How could he pass up the efficiency of the Tokyo subway? Wouldn’t he waste time commuting on foot when he could be visiting the thousands of sights to see around this massive city? I remained skeptical of the guide’s seemingly bizarre recommendation until a few days later.
Picture this: its 7 p.m. on a Friday night. You’re standing outside of your university after an orientation event. It’s way too early to go to a club. You could go to a bar, but you’ll need to take the subway to get to any decent ones. Going back to your apartment would guarantee getting sucked back into that season of Tokyo Ghoul that you’ve been binge watching for the past week. What is there to do? You decide to walk. Where? You aren’t exactly sure yet, but you elect to follow the narrow winding streets to see where they take you. This is what I did a few nights ago and let me tell you, it was well worth it.
I believe that there is a common misconception that in order for something to be exciting or worthwhile, it must be well-known or on the mainstream radar. Every major Tokyo travel blog will tell you to experience Shibuya night life, to dip your toes into the anime-obsessed Akihabara, and to devour crepes on Takeshita street in Harajuku. While all these suggestions are lovely and definitely worth your time, there is something to be said for the charm and unassuming beauty that aimless wandering in lesser-known neighborhoods presents. After strolling for about two hours from TUJ’s Azabu Hall to inner-city Roppongi Hills, I was pleasantly surprised. From getting a bubble-blowing lesson from a senior Japanese man, to exploring tiny bookstores, to eating at a local Star Wars themed Ramen shop, my walk was truly delightful. I believe that taking the time to explore off the path of main attractions helped me get a more authentic view of Tokyo. As I walked down the pinched streets, I watched as couples reunited after a long day of work in quaint cafes. I marveled at the intricately designed products in the windows of curious little shops and boutiques. I chuckled to myself as I saw toddlers gazing in awe at trees covered in multicolored neon lights. I finished my night exhausted from walking, but overjoyed from the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes that I experienced during my little journey. For anyone looking for an alternative way to explore Tokyo, lace up your shoes, turn off your phone, and just start walking!