Hey New York, you’re great and we miss you but we think you could take a few pointers from Tokyo.

Contrasting buildings in Tokyo

#1 Tokyo is really clean. Surprisingly clean. It looks as if someone went out and swept up the streets moments before we walked down them. But outside of a few leaf blowers here and there (it was fall when we arrived) we didn’t see any street cleaners. The city’s cleanliness is particularly striking because there are no garbage cans anywhere. Our friend Steve told us that people just carry their garbage with them and dispose of it at home. This kind of self-control is definitely something to be emulated.

#2 Tokyo is really quiet. Surprisingly quiet. You’d think that a city with nearly 13 million people would have a dull roar but even downtown in the heart of the bustle, the noise level rarely went over a murmur.

#3 Tokyo is quite green. Space comes at a premium in this city and residents take advantage of every available piece of real estate, including the curbside. All over the city you’ll find small gardens dressing up the sidewalks. You see this even in areas where there are more businesses than homes. It adds a real sense of life to what might otherwise be seen as a sprawling metropolis.

Potted plants dress up a street curb in Tokyo

#4 Finally, Tokyo is extremely orderly. Trains times are posted and they are pretty darn accurate. Even the people in the train station act as if there is a higher order.  The first day we arrived in Tokyo we had to switch trains in Shinjuku Station, a train station with 3.75 million people passing through each day. We were a little unsure at first. We originally tried to get on a semi-special express when we needed to be on the plain express. But aside for our fish out of water feelings, what stood out to us most were the lines that people waited in to get on the train. Now these are regular old commuter trains that run more like our subway than Metro North or the Long Island Railroad. There’s a line to get on the next train and a second line to get on the one after that. Once the first train comes everyone in the second line shifts in unison to where the first line used to be. Again, truly a feat of self-control. We’ve heard that things do get a little crazy around rush hour but we were fortunate to miss out on that experience.

~ Molly