I spent most of my first day walking around the city without any preconceived plan. My hotel is located just east of Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world according to Wikipedia, which serves well over 3 million people every day. I already had the 'pleasure' of almost getting lost in the labyrinth of exits and arcades at the station the night before, so instead of revisiting the station area again, I chose to walk the opposite direction, towards the Imperial Palace Gardens and Tokyo Station. The roughly one and a half hour walk to Tokyo Station was very pleasant, but nothing what I had expected. The stereotypical picture of Tokyo is usually composed of skyscrapers lined with neon lights and crowds of people crossing busy traffic lanes. After all, Tokyo is the largest megacity in the world by population (35,600,000), so one naturally expects crowded streets with tons of activity and lack of space. However, the residential area of Shinjuku was composed mostly of low-rise buildings, three-four stories high, tightly packed together with only a one-lane street in-between and hardly any people around.
The metropolitan area of Tokyo has several large parks and many smaller ones which really do act as urban voids within the dense urban fabric, providing retreat from the surrounding metropolis. The area around Tokyo Station looks like any other business district, with generic office towers and construction cranes on every corner, however, I did not explore it in great detail yet, so I will return to it in the next few days.
I must admit, after reaching Tokyo Station, I was somewhat disappointed. Even after visiting the infamous Roppongi area, my thirst for the 'crazy neon lights and crowds' was not yet quenched. Tokyo seems to be a perfectly livable city, with incredibly organized infrastructure - from roads and train tracks, to shopping mall escalators and (highly sophisticated!) toilet system - and an even more admirable ability to keep everything impeccably clean.
But the area around Shinjuku Station did not disappoint. This is where Tokyo's reputation comes from. The facades transform under the flickering sea of neon lights and the buildings disappear. What are left are business men in suits sitting in bars and tiny local restaurants, young girls and guys in stylish outfits with died and spiked up hair roaming the streets looking for ... what? I haven't figured it out yet. In Tokyo, everyone always seems to be rushing somewhere else.