I’ve known for quite a while that Tokyo is often recognized as the most expensive city in the world. Its society is also widely known as “crazy” about discipline and orderliness, which at least is perhaps the major reason why Tokyo looks so attractive, neat and clean.
“Tokyo has been a major city for centuries, surpassing in size the great capitals of Europe since the seventeenth century,” wrote John H. and Phyllis G. Martin in their book, Tokyo: A Cultural Guide to Japan’s Capital City.
It is a city that offers visitors one of the most modern facades in the world and boasts towering skyscrapers that, it is claimed, can withstand future earthquakes. Yet past traditions are retained despite all the modernizing in the second half of the twentieth century.
The first impression is felt on arrival at Narita International Airport. Airport personnel work quickly and adeptly. They are responsive to the people queuing at the immigration counter.
Leaving the airport and traveling by bus for around 90 minutes to Tokyo, we watch neat roads and orderly traffic. A rural atmosphere with plantations and warehouses also prevails on both sides of the toll road leading to Tokyo.
In Tokyo, the various high-rise buildings, overpasses and railway lines give the idea that we are entering a modern city. Beautiful and well-arranged parks are inseparable from Tokyo, with their dominant sakura trees, adding distinctive color to the city and enhancing its freshness. Scattered sakura flowers on public roads and parks don’t prevent people from relaxing on plastic mats available at many places.
In contrast to the traffic in Jakarta, for two days no car horns can be heard. In Japan, this is of course unsurprising because when the country was rocked by a major earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, it continued to maintain traffic discipline and order.
In general, traffic is light and smooth as commuters in Tokyo heavily rely on the subway system. Access to subway stations is easy and convenient. Moreover, Japan strictly regulates car ownership, making people less dependent on private cars for their travel. Traffic jams can only be found around some shopping areas like Omotesando, Harajuku and Roppongi.
Tokyo’s infrastructure indeed affords greater space for pedestrians and cyclists, enabling more people to walk instead of driving. There are lots of fences to chain bicycles along the sidewalks.
Unlike Indonesia, many older people in Tokyo are still working with zeal. At Narita, for instance, most check-in staff members are relatively old. Some work as taxi drivers and provide cleaning service at hotels.
Japan has the highest percentage of senior citizens in the world. Based on a census in 2010, Japan has a population of around 128.5 million, of whom the elderly make up 30 million, or 23 percent.
Visiting the city for two days certainly is not enough to get a thorough picture of a city boasting diverse tourist destinations like Disneyland, Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Imperial Palace, the Asakusa Kannon Temple and shopping centers. But the short visit did amaze us and make us wish to return another time.
This brief stay gave us some valuable lessons and we can in fact do the same. We can imitate how the Japanese pay considerable attention to comfort and give utmost care to apparently trivial things.
For instance, on rainy days all of the shops make umbrella stands available and customers wishing to carry them are provided with free plastic bags to prevent water from dripping on the floor.
Litter boxes are placed everywhere and those already full are promptly replaced by garbage collectors. On Saturday and Sunday mornings at about 6 a.m. the Roppingi area was littered with rubbish, but by 7 a.m. it was all cleared.
Nearly every restaurant display models of every food offered, with lists of prices ranging from around 1,000 yen (Rp 100,000) to 2,000 yen. Their menus are also replete with the nutritional contents of relevant specialties.
The Japanese are known for their punctuality, which is distinct from Indonesians. The tourist bus serving us always arrived on time and was ready for our tours as scheduled. Many positive things can be learned from Japan, with its close emotional ties with Indonesia.
Current bilateral relations have gotten a boost as Japan is among the largest investors in Indonesia and a lot of Indonesian students are studying in Japan, although history has its gloomy side — Japan once occupied Indonesia.Tokyo Tower
From the city’s 333-meter Tokyo Tower, visitors can experience the magnificent view of tall buildings and the busy streets of the metropolis. Open since 1958, Tokyo Tower has been one of the city’s symbols and among the tallest towers in the world, higher than Eiffel (320m). The orange-and-white tower was originally meant to be a radio antenna.
Located in the Shiba Park area, the tower has three parts: foot town, the main observatory and the special observatory. On floor 1 of Foot Town are convenient stores, souvenir shops, an aquarium and an elevator to observation decks. Floor 2 has some other souvenir shops. Floor 3 houses the Tokyo Wax Museum and Space Wax, and floor 4 a game corner and Noppon Square.
The main observatory, at a height of 150 meters, has two floors where visitors can enjoy the beauty of Tokyo. A glass floor also helps. The special observatory, at 250 meters, is the highest place to observe Tokyo.Tokyo Imperial Palace
Surveying the Japanese Emperor’s principal residence in Chiyoda, Tokyo, is like grasping the attitude and character of Japanese society in general, which is mostly closed, exclusive and less receptive to foreign cultures.
Surrounded by a lake, buildings and a park measuring 7.41 square kilometers with various houses, like the royal family’s private homes, it is not open to the public.
Visitors can only get closeand take pictures at the main doors connected with a broad bridge. They can also relax in the tidy and gorgeous park in front.
The park is adorned with statues of imperial soldiers and has a parking area farther from the palace. Although nobody can witness the palace interior, the royal mansion near Tokyo Station is always teeming with tourists. Asakusa Kannon TempleStaggering: The Tokyo Tower stands amid office buildings in Tokyo. Visitors can experience the magnificent view of tall buildings and the busy streets of the metropolis. Bloomberg/Tomohiro Ohsumi
To complete the Tokyo visit, Asakusa Kannon Temple is the old est holy place in the city and the bastion of Japan’s traditional values amid its modern lifestyle. It is an indispensable destination.
Asakusa, one of many tourists’ favorite spots, has many buildings in its complex, like Kaminarimon (Kaminari Gate), Sensoji Temple, Dempoin Temple and Asakusa Shrine. There are also Nakamise and Shin-Nakamise shopping streets, where visitors buy souvenirs and cookies.
Sensoji is an important shrine in Asakusa. Legend has it that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645.
A musical show combining Balinese traditional instruments and Japanese Shamisen (guitar) with jazz musical rhythm made the song “Sakura” sound more melodious and artistic. The performance by Japanese artists received warm applause from those attending the commemoration at Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Tokyo.
Modernity without abandoning tradition as presented by the music was the image Garuda Indonesia wished to convey to its business partners in Japan and Japanese and Indonesian government representatives.
“This event constitutes an attempt to further promote Japan as a very important market of Garuda Indonesia,” Garuda Indonesia president director Emirsyah Satar said. It was also intended to strengthen ties between the Japanese and Indonesian communities.
The first Garuda Indonesia flight to Japan took place on March 13, 1962 from Kemayoran Airport, Jakarta to Haneda Airport, Tokyo, via Hong Kong. The 100-seat Lockheed L-118 Electra for the route was flown by pilot in command (PIC) Capt. A. Muthalib, Jusman Repon and Capt. Roekanto Jokomono.
From 1996, all Garuda Indonesia flights to Japan have used Airbus A330-300s, and since 2009 Garuda Indonesia has served its flights to Japan with the latest 222-seat A330-200s, comprising 36 business class passengers and 186 economy class passengers