What with all the hoo-ha about the growing influence and danger of AI, for the sake of some acts of journalism, I decided to ask ChatGPT where I should visit in Tokyo.
Here are the top three places it is recommended and what it says about them:
1. Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa
Located in the Asakusa district, Senso-ji is Tokyo’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temple. The temple is known for its striking architecture, colorful gates, and the bustling Nakamise shopping street. Take a stroll through the vibrant streets, try traditional snacks, and soak in the historical atmosphere of this culturally rich area.
2. Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko Statue
Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest intersections in the world and has become an iconic symbol of Tokyo. Experience the organized chaos as pedestrians from all directions cross the street simultaneously when the lights turn red. While in Shibuya, don’t miss the Hachiko Statue, a bronze statue of a loyal dog named Hachiko. It has become a meeting point and a symbol of loyalty for the people of Tokyo.
3. Meiji Shrine and Harajuku
Set within a tranquil forested area, the Meiji Shrine offers a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the shrine is a popular spot for traditional weddings and New Year celebrations. Afterward, head to Harajuku, a vibrant neighborhood known for its quirky fashion, unique shops and trendy cafes. Takeshita Street is a must-visit for its lively atmosphere and fashionable boutiques.
Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa
Now, I wasn’t exactly blown away by its suggestions, but for a laugh, I decided to visit these three tourist attractions and see what all the fuss is about. I’ll start by saying I’ve never really been a fan of Asakusa. Too busy, too many rip-off joints and apart from Senso-ji Temple and the nearby Sumida River, there isn’t much to do around there. Things haven’t changed much since I last visited about 10 years ago. The tourists are returning and the tour groups with their leaders waving flags are still here in abundance. People are dressed in cheap imitation kimono and Nakamise shopping street, which leads to the entrance of the temple, is packed. It feels more like an amusement arcade than a religious hub. I’m not impressed and, to be honest, I hope it’s another 10 years before I visit this area of Tokyo again.
Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko Statue
Anyone who thinks that a visit to the Hachiko statue outside Shibuya Station is worthwhile seriously needs to think more about what’s important in life. The tiny statue of a dog which is usually overrun by people loitering around and using it as a landmark to meet is woeful. Busy, noisy and totally devoid of any charm, this area located right outside Shibuya Station sucks. The crossing which is seconds away from Hachiko, on the other hand, is worth seeing and crossing as it kind of symbolizes what Shibuya is all about. Hustle and bustle, throngs of people and massive screens showing commercials on loop is what people expect to see when visiting this part of Tokyo and they won’t be disappointed. Even as a long-term resident of the capital, Shibuya crossing still excites and still acts as a beacon of everything you want and desire from a trip to Tokyo.
Meiji Shrine and Harajuku
Meiji Shrine and nearby Harajuku are, in their own way, well worth your attention. Absolute opposites in terms of aesthetics and experiences, it’s amazing to think they are only a few minutes away from each other. On one side of Harajuku Station is Meiji Jingu and, on the other, the packed streets of Harajuku and ura-Hara (Harajuku backstreets). Meiji Jingu is a beautiful oasis of calm and a lovely walk through some woods and the temple itself is stunning and everything you would expect. I used to use Meiji Jingu and nearby Yoyogi Park as a resting spot when I was shopping in Harajuku. Purchase a few beers and some food and then camp out in the park for a while before returning to the cauldron and madness that is Harajuku.
Harajuku has changed over the years, but if you’re in the mood for shopping, squeezing your way down Takeshita Dori with millions of others and chomping on giant crepes stuffed with strawberries and cream, then this is very much the place for you. I still have a modicum of fondness for Harajuku. It’s become a different place over the years but it does everything it says on the tin. So, thank you very much to ChatGPT for reminding me of the area’s charms.