I love cities you can disappear into, and Tokyo is one of them. There are more than 30 million people in the surrounding metropolitan region, and it’s safe, super clean and easy to get around.

It kind of feels like the future, for all the tech. And it’s full of interesting things to do — and eat!

Tokyo nights
Tokyo's nightlife is a sight to behold - and this is only one street. Kevin Rector/Baltimore Sun
Yellow lanterns are illuminated at a special nighttime event. Kevin Rector/Baltimore Sun
Large koi swim in a pond near a temple we visited. Kevin Rector/Baltimore Sun

I was ready to get lost in it all the moment I stepped off the train from the airport. But, I also had a job to do. I was sent here by The Baltimore Sun and the International Center for Journalists to report two stories relevant to Maryland readers: one on a futuristic magnetic levitation train developed here and proposed for the Washington-Baltimore region, and the other on exports of liquefied natural gas arriving from a terminal on the Chesapeake Bay.

You can read my maglev story here. I’m still working on the LNG story.

But, back to Japan.

The maglev
Most of my time in Japan was spent reporting, including on the magnetic levitation train, or maglev. It passes so fast, it's practically (or actually) behind you by the time you think to take the picture. Kevin Rector/Baltimore Sun

I was tremendously lucky to be connected, through the ICFJ, with Junko Takahashi, a fixer and translator based in Tokyo who worked with me throughout my time in the country. Junko not only provided critical support for my reporting and opened doors that would have otherwise remained closed, but showed me the city – and a great swath of the surrounding region, including her hometown of Osaka – as only a local could.

It was Junko who took me beneath the gleaming surface, to an eatery under the railroad tracks, a food stall with the best takoyaki in town, and a favorite shall-remain-nameless haunt of hers that helped me better understand the world around me – and always hit the spot after a long day of reporting. We also hit up a mountain ryokan with hot baths and a Hanshin Tigers professional baseball game, both of which should be on the bucket list of anyone planning a trip here.

At a Hanshin Tigers game
Junko is from Osaka, so is a big fan of the Hanshin Tigers, a professional baseball team. When we learned they were playing in Yokohama, not far from Tokyo, on Saturday night, we decided we had to go — and show some team spirit! Kevin Rector/Baltimore Sun

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector traveled across central Japan this summer to report two stories — one on a futuristic Japanese magnetic levitation or maglev train being proposed for the Baltimore-Washington region, the other on liquefied natural gas exports arriving in Japan from the Chesapeake Bay.

To read his first story on the maglev, click here.