On our second day in Tokyo, Nevena and I planned to explore Shinjuku Harajuku and Shibuya. Then, as usual, we left our apartment and took the monorail towards the Yamanote line.
View over train lines in Shinagawa
In the morning we explored this huge business and commercial district of Tokyo, which feels as a city on it’s own, complete with parks, huge company buildings, impressive department stores and small temples.
Streets in Shinjuku
Quoting some impressive data everywhere on the Web: Shinjuku station “sees two million people daily”. Whatever the real number, it generally feels pretty confusing and overwhelming.
I have a vague idea that we passed through this station several times during our vacation, but even after a week we still could not find our way at the first go.
Seriously… something that is constant in my Japan travels, is me getting lost in huge stations. Small town girl here! (Funnily enough just this week I was in very small and beautiful rural village in Portugal, with a population of 65, while I wrote about one of the biggest cities in the world).
After some image Google search I found out that this was Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku
As for us, we basically left the station and walked around. No idea which streets we walked, but we saw buildings, a lot of people walking to work and a temple.
You look up and it’s just like the books (honestly that’s all I though).
Eventually at lunch time, in the middle of Shinjuku, we found a restaurant ran by an old couple. This, was the most perfect and charming way to have our lunch, and also what people talk about when they speak of Japan being extraordinarily modern and unbelievably traditional at the same time.
Our lunch set, I do not remember the name of the restaurant, unfortunately
I guess we really had no idea of the distance between Shinjuku and Harajuku because we found ourselves back at Shinjuku station and, instead of walking, we just took the train to Harajuku.
Famous for it’s fashion culture, Harajuku usually sees many young people shopping and showing off their outfits. Besides clothes and accessories shops, around here you can also find countless of cute cafes and sweets shops. Overall it’s a very trendy and young area.
Unicorns for sale in Harajuku – No picture of Takeshita dori also
During our walks here we were able to do some shopping of our own and, because it was Christmas, we got our surprise sale bags. Fukubukuro is known in Japan as a special sale where shops organize their sale items into closed mystery bags, mixing cheap and expensive items. Some stores also make specific visible sets for a reasonable price.
It’s a great time to go to your favourite store and try your luck or just save some serious amount of money. Christmas at its consumerism peak in Japan, really puts things into perspective.
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku
Before leaving we still got a glimpse of the street that leads to Omotesando Hills, another area with expensive shops. We walked that street a couple of days later and so I will leave it for later.
Well I’m not sure how, but we did get to Shibuya. If we did take the train we did not exit at the Shibuya Crossing because I remember being surprised into it.
Heading for the Shibuya station
For what I can remember we exited the station and went around it, exploring the area and the many streets. Shibuya is also filled with famous department stores such as loft and parco as well as some other international shops. It’s known for fashion trend setting.
Eventually we got to the famous Shibuya Crossing, that place where all lights turn green and pedestrians take over the roads of a large intersection.
Shibuya Crossing with a red light
I remember walking through it and then saying, “wait! This is it! We’re here!”. After seeing so many people everywhere I think it lost a bit of the impact it should have caused. Could it have been so? Am I seeing it with pale (instead of pink) glasses now?
Well, that is how I remember it, I also remember us crossing it from one side to the other more than once.
Before heading home, we passed by Hatchiko and boarded the train back to Shinagawa to end our long exploring day.
Once more, we chose the one day pass for this whole day since all three of these areas are accessible by major train stations along the Yamanote line. This one day train ticket costs around 7 dollars.
Shinjuku is both a comercial and business area. On the close up map, to the left, you can find the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, a famous viewpoint over Tokyo since it’s free and near Yodobashi, the highway bus station.
To the right, I marked Hanazono Shrine, a Samurai museum and the Shinjuku Gyoen which seem interesting places to visit in the area.
The youth fashion hot spot here is Takeshita Dori, to get there, just exit the station and follow the crowds. Along this street you will find coffee and clothes shops, two of which, Daiso, the shop where everything costs 1 dollar, and Sweets Paradise, the all you can eat cake shop, one of the best experiences ever (just be careful with the screeching sounds of young girls).
I saw once a TV program that recommended exploring the side streets of Takeshita dori, these will be much less crowded and some also have very cute shops. Perhaps you will even find your way to Togo Shrine.
At the back of Harajuku station you can find Meiji Jingu the famous polemical shinto shrine dedicated to the Meiji emperor and his Empress. Around you can find a beautiful park with dense forest worth exploring. I will post pictures on another post since we returned here the next day.
Shibuya has a lot of shops and a lot of people. It goes without saying that famous here is the pedestrian crossing in front of the Hatchiko exit. Inside advice here, Starbucks; make sure you head to that Starbucks and get yourself a nice (and rare) sitting spot over the Crossing.
For shopping, you can explore the whole area from the Pedestrians area and Loft to Parco, two big Japanese department stores.
What would I do differently
Looking back, I wonder whether we could have explored more and done better, but I guess, If you’re on a tight schedule, you will never see everything completely in a city like Tokyo.
There are a lot of huge shops everywhere, as well as parks and shrines and its incredibly easy to get lost in them while time is passing. I feel that the most important thing is that you see enough to make yourself happy. If one of the things you want to do is go to that Starbucks and sit for hours watching people passing, you should!
I love walking, especially on levelled ground, so for me, I wish we had walked the whole day from Shinjuku to Shibuya, that would have made a long interesting story (note to self: Buy comfortable shoes).
View of Tokyo map for this trip
Green for the Yamanote line, Blue for the monorail and Red for our path, a mix of walking, monorail and train.
On the next day, we went back to explore Meiji jingu, capture the towers of Edo castle, see the night starting in Shinbashi and gaze at the lights in Ginza. Another long day ahead!
Once more, thanks for reading, let’s see if I can keep you interested! (^^ ) じゃねー!