POSTED: September 4th 2013
NewsUpdate

ALASTAIR HIMMER: Tokyo Cool animates the city for the 2020 Olympics

Yes this is an amphibious vehicle supporting the Tokyo 2020 bid
Yes this is an amphibious vehicle supporting the Tokyo 2020 bid

Alastair Himmer is a former sports and lifestyle writer for Reuters who has lived in Tokyo since 1992 and currently working as a freelance journalist, consultant and event promoter /Taka Imai image
Alastair Himmer is a former sports and lifestyle writer for Reuters who has lived in Tokyo since 1992 and currently working as a freelance journalist, consultant and event promoter /Taka Imai image

ALASTAIR HIMMER in TOKYO / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Only in Tokyo could you rent a cat to stroke while you sip coffee, have a robot cook your noodles or purchase bananas, or even buy an umbrella from vending machines thoughtfully designed for such random emergencies. Even ride an amphibious vehicle.

Japan's hi-tech capital, inspiration for the scenery in Ridley Scott's cult movie "Blade Runner", has turned convenience into an art form with its automated wizardry.

The crackling neon, whizzing trains and giant video screens across the city bear a striking resemblance to Scott's vision of Los Angeles in 2019 - the year rugby's World Cup comes to Japan.

In Tokyo the future is now and has been for many years. It could almost be the slogan for Tokyo's 2020 Olympic bid. If it weren't so obvious.

I've lived here for 21 years. I came straight from university in England on vacation in 1992 and never went home. Why? Because it's too much fun. It's a common story among expats in Japan.

Visitors see snap-shots of the bright lights, blur of people traversing the famous 'scramble crossroads' of the city's business and fashion districts, marvel at the vending machines - Japan even has them at the top of Mt Fuji.

Tokyo's credentials as a tourist destination comes under the spotlight again as it pits its economic might, gadgetry and cutting-edge cool against Istanbul and Madrid in the bid to host the 2020 Olympics, having lost out to Rio for 2016.

It's gearing up. The conveyor-belt sushi known the world over is set to undergo a revolution with a new 'slingshot' system which fires out dishes on electric rails to customers who order via touchscreens - a first even for a country where weird science is the norm.

A snip at 105 yen ($1.06) per plate and the electronic menus are also in English among other languages, making ordering fool-proof.

Many stereotypes about Tokyo are shattered long before travelers have figured out the sensor lights in their hotel. You'll be surprised how cheaply you can eat out.

Japan has made staggering progress since Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964.

But the capital retains a great deal of its beauty and charm, shrines and quaint old shops often tucked beside gleaming new skyscrapers.

Many of the iconic structures built for the 1964 Olympics still look as futuristic as they did half a century ago. New Olympic venues will be built on giant shock-absorbers to withstand earthquakes. Way cool.

Which brings me back to why I'm still hooked on the city - the intoxicating synergy of edginess and sophistication.

I live on embassy row in 'Art Deco' Daikanyama in central Tokyo with its European-style street cafes, hip bars, surf shops, elegant boutiques and Japanese gardens.

From my kitchen you can see Tokyo Tower and Mt Fuji from my sofa. How's that for 'sexy'?

Close by lies the Bohemian splendor of Shimokitazawa - the Camden Town or Lower East Side Manhattan of Tokyo - likewise surrounded by leafy walkways, cycling routes and parks. Night views over Tokyo Bay and the kaleidoscopic Rainbow Bridge are breath-taking and where much of the Olympic action would take place in 2020.

There is a buzz in this city which never sleeps. Club until morning or rise before dawn to visit Tokyo's famous Tsukiji fish market, the biggest in the world.

Olympics or no Olympics, keep your fingers off the giant tuna or risk getting ejected - albeit ever so politely.


Keywords · Tokyo 2020 · Olympic bidding · summer Games


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