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Neon nights

After dark I find myself exploring the streets of precincts such as Shinjuku. Tokyo comes alive at night like no other city, with its love for neon transforming whole districts into massive corridors of light reaching all the way up the skyscrapers. It feels like I’m in a cheery Blade Runner.

Every now and then I brace myself and take on the challenge of eating, at which I have wildly varying rates of success when brave enough to branch out from sushi and tempura. The one constant seems to be that I must detach my eyes and brain from my taste buds. You see, despite being a huge fan of Japanese food, once in Japan, it’s not all that simple.

Indeed, without being familiar with most of the dishes on any menu, ordering is often a case of blindly selecting something and crossing your fingers. What I’m brought, more often than not, is a selection of slimy morsels I just can’t quite acquire a taste for. The house special they might be, but that doesn’t help with the gagging reflex.

By chance, my final day in the city is a Sunday, meaning I get to catch a particular Tokyo idiosyncrasy I’ve been eager to see – the Harajuku cosplay kids. After all, if there’s one thing Tokyo is obsessed with above all else, it’s style and, like most things in Japan, there’s always someone willing to take it to quite an unexpected extreme. In this case it’s the world’s oddest teenagers.

Every Sunday they get dressed up in their cosplay outfits, whether it’s a corpse bride gown or a dinosaur suit and head to Harajuku where they try to outdo each other and pose for tourists. It has to be seen to be believed and is Tokyo at it’s most surreal. This is a reason why, heading to the airport after a week of sensory overload exploring Japan’s capital, I still feel as disorientated as the moment I arrived. 

When to go: Summer (June to August) is busiest. June to July can be especially wet, while August is incredibly hot. Autumn months (Sep to Nov) are cooler.

Getting around: The city has an easy-to-use subway system. A one-day ticket costs £4.20. Currency: £1 = 150 Japanese Yen (JPY)

Accommodation: Dorm beds at Anne Hostel Tokyo cost from £15.50pn including breakfast.

Traditional ryokan Homeikan has twin rooms, including breakfast, from £65pn.  


Getting there Fly from London Heathrow to Tokyo from £1198 return with Virgin Atlantic.  


 Photos: Getty, Thinkstock, Andrew Westbrook 


Big trip to Tokyo: Japan's capital is 'as exciting, overwhelming and surreal as it gets'
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