Where do I even start with Tokyo? Fast paced, ultra-modern and never sleeping, Hollywood Tokyo and real-life Tokyo are actually really similar.
Realizing the feat in front of me, I took my fellow traveller’s advice and decided to tackle Tokyo like a country instead, taking in each area as if it was its own city (which it kind of is). I think that worked fairly well, as I was never overwhelmed or felt out of depth.
One of the most well known districts in Tokyo, Shinjuku is home to the massive and major transportation hub, Shinjuku Station. You’ll undoubtedly travel there, likely get lost in the chaotic underground passage ways and get carried away by the herds of people moving in every which direction.
The only way to survive Shinjuku Station is really to know which side you want to be on – the West or East Exits. It’s especially tricky to cross from one side of the station to the other, as it’s often barred and only accessible if you pay the fare.
Shinjuku is a mecca for shopping, restaurants and entertainment. There are plenty of famous alleys found in this area – mostly to do with food and drinking, such as Omoideo Yokochi, Golden Gai, and Nonbei Yokocho. Also not so much of an alley, but an area, Tokyo’s red light district (Kabukicho) and LGBT district (Ni-chome) is also around here.
Don’t forget to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office close to Shinjuku Station. Definitely not a sexy or flashy building like most things in Shinjuku, but the two observatory decks are well worth it. It’s free to visit and its stunning to see central Tokyo stretch out before you. In good weather, some say you can even see Mount Fuji!
When wanting to cross from one side of the station to the other, always look for an overpass. In Japan, most of the time stations and platforms are connected via overpasses, not underground passes.
Home to the famous, (or infamous) Shibuya Crossing, this area is not to be taken lightly. Somehow this particular crossing attracts an insane amount of people, with numbers hovering around 3000 people crossing at one time!
All through the day, there will be people taking pictures and prowling the Starbucks at the corner for a great shot of the crossing. Try your best, as it’s incredibly hard! I eventually gave up and just joined in the fun, even getting scrambled a couple times.
Also in the area is the renowned Harajuku district (thanks to Gwen Stafani). It’s cute, colourful, fresh and young. There are so many crepe stands in the alley – I’ll applaud you if you can stop yourself from indulging. There’s also so, so, so many cute, cuddly, fuzzy things you’ll think you need. Harajuku is really a feast for the eyes!
And if you make it out of the alley, make sure you wander to the surrounding streets. The shops are a bit more sophisticated and practical. There’s also a good number of second-hand and vintage stores.
- Make your way over to the giant Tokyo Hands close to Shibuya Station. It’s a Japanese department store that carries some amazing things, especially things you didn’t know you needed. I particularly like this location, as it’s a large standalone store and it’s also easy to navigate (which isn’t always the case in Japan).
- Like Ginza, Omote-sando is another luxury shopping avenue. But it’s particularly enjoyable to admire world-class architecture here. Many of the luxury brands are actually housed in award-winning structures and is completely worth a visit. Travel Tokyo