Things to know before visiting Tokyo – according to chef Tim Anderson

If you’ve never been to Tokyo before – and with the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, there’s no better time to visit – American chef Tim Anderson is more than capable of being your virtual guide.

Author of new cookbook, Tokyo Stories, and owner of Japanese soul food restaurant Nanban, he’s been visiting the Japanese cityscape since he was a teen. He shares his impressions of the city he adores…

Remember to look up

“There’s such distractions everywhere, and the city’s so vertical – I never know how I’m not running into people all the time because I’m always looking up,” says Anderson. “Even in a big city like London, everything’s still on street level when you’re walking around – the bars, the restaurants, they just occupy the ground floor. But in Tokyo, it’s everywhere. The bars and restaurants are stacked on top of each other and there’s karaoke places and shops nestled within them, and they go underground.”

No other city is really comparable

“I can’t think of another city quite like it,” says Anderson, who reckons Las Vegas might come closest. “I love Vegas actually, but it’s a different kind of weird fake place, and it’s not as dense. You get the strip in Vegas and there’s crazy casinos everywhere, but you can still see the sky, it’s not layered on top of itself like it is in Tokyo. It’s hard to convey just how dense it is, there’s just so much in Tokyo.

“It’s sunnier than Blade Runner, and cleaner,” he adds wryly.

Some areas offer total sensory overload

When visiting, Anderson tends to stay in Shinjuku “which is one of the busiest, craziest areas,” with “over the top stimulus all the time.”

He says: “Living in the middle of Kabukicho, Shinjuku or Shibuya – all these places you see in movies – it seems like: How could you do it? And the answer is, you don’t, you live in some other part of Tokyo.”

It’s easy to not leave the confines of the city

“I have friends who live in Tokyo, and the problem is, they never left, because there’s so much to do there.”

You will spend lots of money

“There’s so much to do and so much to buy. People say, ‘Oh, Japan is so expensive,’ but actually, it’s not really expensive, it’s just that you’re constantly spending money because everything is awesome,” says Anderson, almost giddily.

“Everywhere you go there’s something cool to buy, whether it’s a weird flavour of Pepsi, or beautiful traditional Kyoto sweets for tea, I cannot stop spending money when I go to Japan.”

You’ll come back penniless, he says with a laugh: “Absolutely, whatever money you have in your bank account, you will empty it in Tokyo.”

Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Hardie Grant, priced £26. Available now.

- Press Association

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