Sunday 8 January 2023
Today we have another busy day of sightseeing ahead, focusing on the areas of Shibuya and Shinjuku.
After a breakfast of sushi from the corner shop, we start by catching a train to Shibuya Station. This is another mega station which covers an area approximately the size of Wales. First, some admin; we must validate our Japan Rail Passes. These rail passes can only be obtained in Japan, but are only available to foreign non-residents. Thus, there is a complicated system (the Japanese love complicated ticketing) whereby you must purchase an exchange voucher before you travel, then exchange this for a ticket upon arrival. So we must locate the appropriate ticket office in this station the size of a small country. It takes some considerable time, but we finally find the office and obtain our tickets.
We now set off to see the famous intersection of Shibuya Crossing. Outside the station, a large queue has formed to have photos taken with a dog statue. Never ones to miss out on an opportunity to queue, we wait in line for a picture. The statue is of a dog called Hachiko who waited every day outside the station for his owner to come home from work. When his owner died at work and did not return, the dog continued to wait for him outside the station for 9 years.
There’s also a colourful mural opposite the statue further celebrating this mega loyal pet.
Billed as the busiest intersection in Japan, possibly the world, this set of 5 pedestrian crossings where the lights all go green simultaneously, is an iconic Tokyo sight.
Coffee at Starbucks
We cross the famous intersection to reach Starbucks, which has a 2nd floor seating area overlooking the crossing so you can sit and watch the comings and goings on the famous intersection.
At the top of the Magnet by Shibuya 109 department store, there is a small roof top cafe, Mag’s Park, with views over Shibuya Crossing. Entry costs Y550.
We didn’t buy anything, just forked out the required money to get a bird’s eye view of the crossing.
We fight our way back through the station maze to find, on our second attempt (we’re getting better at this) the exit to Shibuya Stream. This regenerated area along a small stream has several bridges and a few statues.
It’s not that exciting, but I’m glad I came for the Instaworthy Tokyo lips. From here we head back to station for the next destination on today’s itinerary.
Meiji-Jingu is a Shinto Shrine build of cypress and copper. It’s really busy, and we exit the station in a throng of people, all walking towards the shrine.
The path is lined with displays of donations of sake and fine wine donated to the shrine.
We pass through several gates to reach the shrine. Here, a large queue forms, so we join it and wait in line, not sure what for. When people reach the front they throw money into a box and clap.
Round the corner are lots more queues, so being a lemming, I join one. Here you can pay upwards of ¥1000 (£6) for a good luck amulet, with prices rising according to what sort of luck you’re after. I can’t really back out, so am now the owner of a small but expensive bit of cloth which will allegedly bring good fortune. At ¥1000 a piece it’s certainly bringing someone good fortune!
We walk from the shrine into Shinjuku.
This bustling suburb lined with shops and restaurants, neon lights and billboards; from huge skyscrapers to the thinnest building I’ve ever seen.
All is watched over by Godzilla who is climbing the cinema roof.
After a quick drink and sit down in a random bar, we continue to today’s final destination; Shinjuku Goyen.
Shinjuku Goyen is a park in a former Imperial Garden. Is open from 9-4.30 Tue-Sun and costs ¥500. We arrive just before the ticket booths close for the evening. January isn’t the best time to visit a Japanese garden, but it’s still a pleasant stroll through the gardens as the sun sets.
The garden is divided into zones. My favourite is the traditional Japanese Garden.
There’s also a pretty lake lined with beautifully fragrant narcissi.
Dinner at Hidakaya
We stop for dinner at a small noodle bar opposite the Olympic Park. It’s cheap and the portion sizes are enormous. I get the combo which consists of Rahmen, fried rice and gyoza. After yesterday’s chopsticks fiasco, today I have come prep with a fork secreted in my handbag. I enjoy the rice and gyoza but am defeated by the noodles, only managing about a quarter of the bowl, and that includes what I spilled down my top!
We return to our hotel for a well earned beer and a rest. It has been another epic day of sightseeing and we have walked a total off 11 miles. at least tomorrow I get to sit down, as we’re going to a sumo tournament.