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Why do so many people believe Tokyo is the best city in the world?

The below article was published in issue 11/95 of the Tokyo Journal and translated to English. The only copy I’ve seen online links back to my old blog, which I’ve since taken down, hence republishing here. It’s more of a list of quirks that people who lived in Tokyo in 1995 like about Tokyo kind of list, but if you’ve ever visited, there’s at least a few you can still appreciate:

250+ Reasons Why We Still Love Tokyo

Tokyo train fares are up. The stock market is down. Gun use is  rising like a hot air balloon and real estate prices are falling like a  dropped bag of leaves. The only things unchanging in Tokyo, it seems,  are the numbers of corrupt politicians and cookie-tossing drunks. You  can’t even find a strawberry daiquiri frozen yogurt bar anymore. What  the hell is happening to this city?

For a moment we actually considered joining those 3888 people  that the Ministry of Health and Welfare tells us Tokyo loses every day  to the rest of Japan, thus raising the average intelligence level of  both places.

But then we came to our senses. Who would feed the carp in Arisuguwa  pond? Who would pay the NHK fares? Who else would look for their name  each day in the “Undelivered Mail” column of Japan Times? It  didn’t take us long to remember that – as far as we are concerned –  Tokyo is the best place in… yeah, the whole damn universe.

But at least something good came out of our temporary uncertainty. We  were able to recall all of the things that keep us from packing up and  jumping ship. Or at least enough to keep us here until we get the shakes  again.

For the next time – God forbid – that we ever fall into an hour of doubt, here are…


250+ Reasons why we still love Tokyo 

  1. A governor who was once a comedian that would dress as a woman
  2. It’s not Saitama
  3. We can see the future: when the Big One hits we will all die
  4. Inokashira Park in the spring
  5. Cine Vivant in Roppongi
  6. ¥100 cups of Ice Block
  7. The Rainbow Bridge is actually pretty scenic
  8. Police stations that lend umbrellas
  9. The Yakult Swallows – who (unlike the Giants) really belong to Tokyo since they have no fans anywhere else
  10. Bad skin, Brylcream and vote-buying are back in fashion, thanks to Ryutaro Hashimoto
  11. Blood-type gum
  12. Automated taxi doors
  13. The most valuable coin in use in the world: ¥500
  14. The price of Doutor coffee
  15. Yoyogi Park in the summer
  16. A steel, phallic landmark –  the symbol of Tokyo – that really pisses the French off
  17. Morning jogs around the Imperial Palace
  18. Tiny sinks over the toilet tanks to wash our hands in
  19. Tiny floral displays in the tiny sinks over the toilet tanks
  20. The Sea Life Park in Kasai
  21. Buying plastic food models in Kappabashi
  22. Hotel rooms that come equipped with shampoo, soap, razors, tooth and hair brushes and condoms
  23. Scented erasers
  24. Blood-type calendars
  25. Tokyo girls who wear less and less each summer. In a few  years the hottest trend will be to walk around stark naked and we want  to stick around for that
  26. Spicy Chicken Burgers at Mos Burger
  27. Full-service post offices and no disgruntled postal works
  28. Death cults in other countries have boring stuff like  doctored Kool-Aid and high-explosives; ours has Nazi nerve agents,  botulism, anthrax, ebola and lasers. So there
  29. The Tokyo Shock Boys
  30. The constitutional right to urinate, whenever wherever
  31. Taxi phones
  32. English conversation classes for infants
  33. Drinking fountains that shoot streams that could put out the Towering Inferno
  34. Great friends
  35. Officers of the law can be neutralized by stealing their bicycle pumps
  36. Blood-type condoms
  37. Fresh senbi crackers from Asakusa’s arcade
  38. Holograph business-cards
  39. Oshibori
  40. Three-hour conversations with strangers while waiting for the doctor
  41. Beat Takeshi, Beat Takeshi, and more Beat Takeshi
  42. Handy chalk boards in front of stations so our friends can write messages like “We left without you. Ha ha.”
  43. Endless wine at Il Bianco
  44. ¥100 shops
  45. Tanning salons with names like “Black People”
  46. The golden commemorative pay phones in Chiyoda-ku that were put up in honor of the Cron Prince’s wedding
  47. Smokey, closet-sized jazz clubs in Koenji
  48. Our own Daibutsu statue in Itabashi-ku that no one knows about
  49. Being able to guess what song the person in the train next to us with the Walkman is listening to
  50. All-night movies
  51. Train stations that lend books
  52. The after-hours window at the Otemachi International Post Office
  53. Tai-yaki stands outside Okachimachi Station
  54. Wide-screen TV broadcasts
  55. Tell-it-like-it-is cigarette brand names like “Short Hope”
  56. First-come, first-serve lines for cheap sumo tickets
  57. Used-book browsing in Jinbocho
  58. Free research services at the American Center Library in Shiba Koen
  59. Kids in Harajuku wearing black leather despite the 35° C summer heat
  60. Stray cats
  61. Water bottles in the streets to ward off stray cats
  62. The little old lady in Yaesu wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with: “Get It While It’s Hot!”
  63. The Tokyo English Life Line: 5721-4347
  64. The Japan Hotline: 3586-0110
  65. The Sumo museum near Ryogoku Station
  66. Less yakuza than Osaka
  67. Special high-tech, no-tatami apartments for foreigners for ¥2 million a month
  68. Special low-tech, no-toilet apartments for foreigners for ¥20,000 a month
  69. “Future Retro” fashion
  70. 12-year-old girls in Shibuya who would be mistaken for prostitutes anywhere else in the world
  71. Sandwiches with fruit in them
  72. The double-decker London bus that runs from Ueno to Asakusa
  73. Nippori’s 14,000 jizo statues
  74. Mrs. Edo-san
  75. It’s not Chiba.
  76. Classic pre-worn kimono for a few hundred yen at the Saturday Salvation Army Bazaar in Koenji
  77. The Christmas lighting down Omote-sando in December
  78. The back page of the Mainichi Daily News, which is the  closest thing to a “local” newspaper that exists in Tokyo.  Unfortunately, the rest of the paper sucks
  79. Koala bear biscuits
  80. Shonan boys
  81. 24-hour Citibank ATMs
  82. Pornographic literature in banks
  83. 8-foot-high basketball hoops
  84. Telephone poles in the street to hug or hang on to when walking home drunk
  85. The deep-frozen bento from am/pm convenience stores
  86. Bonsai: trees that are smaller than us
  87. Underground arcades
  88. The comedy duo “Un-chan, Nan-chan”
  89. Mean female rock bands like Super Junkey Monkey, 5,6,7,8’s, and Supersnazz
  90. It’s not Nagoya
  91. Slippers in the office
  92. Late-night ramen at the Kaotan shop near Aoyama graveyard
  93. Guessing which LDP politicians has drawn the short straw to make the gaffe about the war this time around
  94. Fruit Gummy
  95. Akihabara – still the largest variety of new electronic goods in the world
  96. Expressmail that is
  97. Reading all the magazines at 7-Eleven without having to buy one
  98. Sophisticated late-night TV programs about people who shoot rockets out of their rectums
  99. Eda-mame
  100. National Health Insurance
  101. Drinking beer on the revier’s edge at Tsukishima
  102. The Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art (MoT): Badly designed but beautifully built
  103. Otaku and their unbridled enthusiasm for the perverse and arcane
  104. Irasshaimase
  105. Salty Toothpaste
  106. More bootleg records and pirate videos than anywhere else
  107. Vending machines that take notes of any denomination
  108. Asakusa – for keeping its downtown identity
  109. Checking in at TCAT
  110. The ultimate LSD-boat-shaped bubble building on Asahi TV dori which finally got a tenant – a Korean bathhouse
  111. The constant supply of free tissues
  112. The freedom to enjoy a cigarette without fear of legal action
  113. Unrivaled gate-crashing possibilities
  114. Great opportunities for boycotting French goods
  115. The adrenaline rush that comes with having a wallet handed back with the month’s rent still inside
  116. The rowdy post-war buzz at Ueno’s Ameyocho “black market”
  117. Love hotels, especially Shibuya’s love hotel alley
  118. See-through garbage bags: a rare opportunity for social scientists, the naturally curious and the penniless English teachers
  119. ¥1 coins that float
  120. The fact that freeloader friends from overseas are so scared of the high yen that most won’t even attempt to come and stay
  121. Capsule hotels
  122. People watching Roppongi Almond on Friday night, Hachiko on Saturday, Harajuko on Sunday, Kabukicho anytime
  123. Yoyogi Koen subway station’s fish tank
  124. The most multinational and sexiest selection of waiters in the world
  125. The bus ride from Narita through Tokyo’s outskirts: so spectacularly unscenic the the city center actually looks nice
  126. Getting out of town for the weekend
  127. Staying in town for the weekend
  128. Under the tracks at Yurakucho – end the evening face-down in a pool of sake and nobody gives a damn
  129. Another basement bar that we never knew existed… in our own basement
  130. Ground Chicken in a Riceburger as Mos Burger
  131. Lunch sets
  132. Nezu Park at sunrise
  133. DJs with the world’s most electic taste in hats
  134. Ward-tax funded newsletters like “Hello, Toshima!” and “Ni Hao, Toshima!”
  135. Ayoma Cemetery cherry blossoms
  136. Small old men in berets
  137. It is warmer than Sapporo in the winter and cooler than Kyushu in the summer
  138. The battle of the outdoor cafés
  139. Discount liquor stores… discount anything stores
  140. S&M wear on the streets – a little bondage never hurt anyone
  141. The neon in Kabukicho, which always seem more dazzling
  142. Clear winter skies
  143. Feeling at home and far away at the same time
  144. All things are done in moderation – including moderation
  145. Hanayashiki Amusement Park in Asakusa
  146. Pocky
  147. The long distance between ex-wives, ex-husbands and ex-lovers
  148. The ozone hole hasn’t reached Tokyo yet
  149. Bongkok’s gridlock, Taipei is a madhouse, Singapore is a  police state, Malaysia is a Muslim police state, Hong Kong is full of  Brits and Seoul is about as appealing as waxing Makiko Tanaka’s bikini  line
  150. Taxi drivers that serve candy and nuts
  151. Bars that stay open all night
  152. Takkyubin
  153. Public phones that aren’t vandalized
  154. Electronic bus-stop signs that talk and show not only how  far way the next bus is, but how long it will take to the end of the  line
  155. One of the best eating cities in the world for a price – except for Mexican food, for some reason
  156. We can walk from Shinbashi to Otemachi without getting wet
  157. Ghosts without legs
  158. Unlimited vice
  159. The sheer number of nationalities, in spite of the failure of the official internationalization policy
  160. Shibuya Pantheon –  and other expensive movie theaters wit great sound and comfortable seats
  161. The adrenaline rush that comes with handing over $10 for a cup of coffee at Spiral
  162. Frozen chunks of natumikan juice for ¥110
  163. Sleeping taxi drivers
  164. The actual service at service stations
  165. Squeaky bicycle breaks
  166. Browsing at Tokyu Hands
  167. Getting off the hook for troublesome immigration  infringements by improvising letters of apology, confessing to being  unforgivably forgetful/busy/burdened by dying relatives, sudden overseas  travel and our own ignorance. Can we have our visa/alien card now?  “Okay”
  168. Frantic meishi networking by frantic foreigners
  169. “The Coffee Milk”
  170. It’s not Kawasaki!
  171. No daylight savings, so we never have to feel like dorks for  going through a complete day one hour early or one hour late for  everything
  172. ¥100 nikuman
  173. Disco pimps – minus the plumage of bubble days
  174. High price of drugs helps keep them out of hands of young children
  175. Fatty beef
  176. Seaweed Pizza
  177. The Sanja festival
  178. Potted plants on the street where anyone could steal them if they wanted to
  179. The miles of piles of fish at the Tsukiji’s Fish Market
  180. Meguro’s parasite museum and its  eight-meter-long tape worm
  181. Door-to-door condom saleswomen
  182. The weather on the day after a typhoon
  183. Summer fireworks over the Sumida
  184. Asakusa’s Samba Parade
  185. Electronic maps at expressway entrenches that identify traffic jams
  186. Toilet slippers
  187. Wave’s listening gallery
  188. Elevator women at the two-story Kinokuniya Supermarket
  189. The 184,129 registered religions that do not produce chemical warfare agents
  190. Pedestrian paradise: we can skateboard all he way down to Dogenzaka on Sunday
  191. No time wasted listening to FM radio
  192. We can sleep late Saturday morning and we never feel we’ve missed anything on TV
  193. We can die and never feel we’ve missed anything on TV
  194. Statistically, the nearest convenience store is an average 4 minute and a 30 second walk away
  195. Brahms road in Harajuku
  196. Penny Lane in Kichijoji
  197. With the first three letters of the English alphabet we can order lunch in any restaurant in fluent Japanese
  198. AIDS is spreading as a slower rate than in Bangkok
  199. We never have to rent an Arnold Schwarzenegger video: at least one movie is on TV each week
  200. Imported beer is more affordable than ever
  201. Ambulance service is free
  202. Taxi drivers don’t tell corny jokes
  203. Hanging out the wash just as the neighbor decides to grill a fish
  204. Our political and economic elites conspired to wreck the  country, thereby making alarmist, know-it-all revisionist James Fallows  look like a big doofus
  205. Styrofoam fruit packaging
  206. SMAP is actually not on all the networks at the same time
  207. Umbrella condoms
  208. It’s too far north for the anopheles mosquitoes to propagate
  209. Iriya – which still has the largest variety of motorcycles in the world
  210. Iriya – which still has the large numbers of traditional brothels in the country
  211. Glasses of hot sake with large sour plums at the bottom
  212. No political surprises – Dietmen are corrupt; they do womanize; they always deny everything
  213. Chopped burdock root burgers at Mos Burger
  214. Questions and answer sessions at the conferences where  questions end up being long-winded statements and answers end being  anything but
  215. Playing footsie sitting around kotatsu in the winter
  216. Feeling really tall at 157 cm
  217. Taxi driver’s white non-biodegradable gloves
  218. If it’s good enough for Jean Pearee, it’s good enough for us
  219. Live wriggling food inside the restaurants
  220. The Meteorological Agency’s spring announcements of the progress of the “Cherry Blossom Front”
  221. Two-ball snowmen
  222. Pretending to fish in the “pond” at Ichigaya
  223. A prince and princess, who unlike Great Britans’s, just say “no” to recreational sex
  224. Real eyeglasses on the Colonel at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Musashi Sakai
  225. White socks, blue dress slacks, brown penny loafers
  226. We don’t have a Raumen |sic| Museu; Yokohama does
  227. NHK’s reassuring consistency of, um, “style”
  228. Even if Kabuki-za is reduced to rubble in the big one, knowing there’ll always be a Danjuro
  229. Gigantic hydra sculpture outside Shibuya’s Children’s Castle
  230. Getting home to find 9-year old underwear stolen of the line
  231. The Justice Ministry’s July 1995 precedent-breaking decision  to confer citizenship to abandoned bi-racial children, without  two-months-olds to prove their mother’s identity
  232. The shinkansen
  233. Walking anywhere, anytime
  234. Cicadas
  235. Punctual trains
  236. Outdoor performances at Conficius’ own Yushima Seido in Ochanomizu
  237. Meeting gaijin we’d never meet anywhere else
  238. Yorkshire terriers with clothes rivalling those seen on Parisian fashion-show catwalks
  239. Heated toilet seats
  240. Dates at the department stores: the exhibit upstairs followed by dinner at the free sample counters in the basement supermarket
  241. The garbage dump in the Bay named “Dream Island”
  242. Street vendors selling poles, plastic buckets, and intimate cleaning utensils
  243. High-school uniforms
  244. Beer machines that stay open untill 11pm
  245. Bicycle locks that wouldn’t fool a stoned gerbil
  246. The phenomenon of losers being able to pick up women they could never look at back home
  247. 500lbs. jocks in g-strings
  248. Golf-cart sized pick-up trucks
  249. School-girls’ used underwear vending machines
  250. A new Godzilla film every four years
  251. A convenient location in Kanto that means we’re spared tired puns endured by people in Kinki
  252. The Yamato Loop line: you can fall asleep and never get taken out of town
  253. Nova TV commercials
  254. The art of reading a newspaper on a crowded train
  255. Telephone cards from Ueno Park Iranians
  256. Instant meishi
  257. Socially acceptable nose-picking
  258. Vinyl bags with zippers for rental videos from ACOM
  259. Shit happens