Tokyo: Shibuya & Shinjuku

This all started with my mom mentioning she was going to stop in Japan before coming to Australia to visit me. Immediately I cut her off – do you seriously think I’d let you go to Japan without me! I am sure she rolled her eyes then said fine start looking for flights.

We decided that we would venture to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto in the span of 7 days. Just barely enough time but if you hustle you can fit quite a bit in here. First – let’s start with Tokyo the small city of 13 million people.

With only 4 days in Tokyo each day got a couple neighborhoods. By splicing the city into sides and then hoods we could see as much as possible by minimizing travel time. First we explored the WEST SIDE.

SHIBUYA

  • Shibuya Crossing

As one of the busiest intersections in the world this is a must do in Tokyo. Seeing the 5 way cross way from every angle is worth it. Normally it is suggested to go to Starbucks but it is overcrowded and hard to get a good view. Two alternatives are entering the train station. There is a second story that walks you towards the trains and that route includes great views of the crossing. The second place is…

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  • Mag’s Park Rooftop at the Crossing

Free and located on the 7th floor this view lets you take in all the action from above. After taking the escalators up 7 floors through stores you walk through some food stalls to the rooftop. This view is really not that crowded which is surprising consider they advertise a free great view on the side of their building. Stay afterwards and get the fried chicken for lunch there.

  • Meiji Shrine Park

Not far from the crossing is a beautiful park with a shrine in the center. Rows and rows of barrels of sake are installed as an offering. I am told the symbols are actually advertisements which makes me love it even more. Stop by the food station nearby and grab the dango. Delicious.

  • Talkeshita St

On the way towards the next stop we ran through this crazy street. PACKED is an understatement. Food vendors and clothing shops sell everything you can imagine and more. Go hungry because I was unsure what everything was but I wanted to eat it all.

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

46 floors up and free – yes you are sensing a theme – this building has 360 degrees of the city. Wildly impressive and a great place to escape the cold and grab some wifi.

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Tokyo Metropolitan Gov Building
  • Harajuku St

Hipsters paradise. Loads of thrift stores with 90s clothes for sale, street art and restaurants. We went to Sakura Tei where you can order your food and cook it yourself. Wildly intimidating when everyone around you is Japanese but I think we did alright.

SHINJUKU

For a mere $72 you can experience some of the weirdest theatre imaginable. Initially I wanted to see some traditional Kabuki theatre but considering I don’t speak Japanese I think it would be lost on me. So to the modern touristic English version found in the Robot Restaurant. Each act is weirder than the last but if you have the right attitude you’ll laugh, clap along and actually realize most of it includes live singing and musicians not just dubbed tracks.

  • Golden Gai

Shinjuku offers nightlife, a red light district (but a polite discrete Japanese version) and an area with 200 bars in a handful of streets. In order to see and learn all that was around there we took a free walking tour with Tokyo Localized. Dai took us through Godzilla st, explained how prostitution works from the love hotels to host and hostess clubs where you can pay to have a girl or guy be your girlfriend or boyfriend for the night, drinking and talking with you. Full of cultural facts this was a perfect way to see what the nightlife is like in Shinjuku.

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There is so much to see in Japan but these couple west side neighborhoods really give you a great literal taste of Japan if you only have a limited schedule.

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