It’s been over three months since we first arrived in beautiful, frenetic, freezing cold Tokyo. I can’t tell you how excited I was—Japan had been top of my travel bucket list for years. I’d even taken a beginners’ Japanese course before we left the country, which gave me even greater appreciation for and interest in the culture. すごい でした!
Below you’ll find my overall impressions of Tokyo, with lots of photos thrown in. If you’d prefer to see more of a structured itinerary, see this post.
Tokyo in chilly February
We knew that visiting in February would mean we’d avoid the crowds and expense of the peak season. Excellent news, I’m sure you’ll agree. The trade-off was that we would be giving up a chance at seeing the city and country at its best – adorned in cherry blossom.
Trading fluffy sakura for skeletal trees was heartbreaking at first, but to my delight blossom arrived unseasonably early on the occasional tree. In Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden I even stumbled upon a cluster of blossoming trees, with tiny green birds flitting around the branches (see above).
Beyond glimpses of blossom, though, I actually came to appreciate the look of Japanese stroll gardens in the stark winter light. With much of the greenery pared back, things take on a more minimal, structural quality, which has a spartan beauty of its own. Especially set against a bright blue sky and glittering koi ponds.
A wealth of beauty and tradition
Tokyo offers a rich supply of historic structures, decoration and traditions. I realise I’m grouping a lot of diverse religious buildings together here, but the temples and shrines in particular are such evocative and ethereal places to visit. We were thrilled to find so many of them, big and small, scattered throughout the city.
Some of my favourite details included…
Beautiful examples of clothing and silk paintings at the Tokyo National Museum, like the fabulous yogi pictured above.
Ema wishing plaques were full of exquisite writing (I can’t get enough of kanji!) and drawings, strung up with coloured elastic.
Incense hanging in the air as people approached the brazier, squinting into the smoke, to light their own contribution at Sensoji.
A series of wedding processions at the Meiji Shrine, complete with delicate kimonos and bright red parasols.
Awe-inspiring and efficient, no matter the season
There’s such a sense of grandeur and scale in Tokyo, whether it’s a towering pagoda or the sleek symmetry of the enormous Metropolitan Government Building above.
It’s a bit of a stereotype that Japan is efficient. I’m speaking with regard to the transport system particularly here, but I found it completely true! Being on a train at rush hour is definitely a bit of a crush, but in general the punctuality, orderliness and cleanliness were so refreshing compared to other cities. How I wish everyone would line up to board as they do in Japan!
Over to you
Have you visited Japan in winter? Or are you planning a trip? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.