Shibuya is a very vibrant district with the famous crosswalk in the middle. Compared to the relatively quiet Asakusa district, we had to get used to the massive neon lights and multi-story houses. Outside the metro station, the statue of the dog Hachiko (watch the movie if you want a good cry!) is always surrounded by picture takers and street performers. People everywhere, so much fun!
We had dinner at Genki sushi in Shibuya where you sit at a counter, order items from a personal screen and then the food is delivered to you on the conveyor belt. I loved the sushi. It wasn’t fancy or expensive but still everything was so tasty and fresh. My husband who is allergic to shellfish and doesn’t like raw fish still enjoyed his sushi made with chicken and cooked salmon. We had so much food that night and it was all so good!
After a matcha tea, we were off to experience the famous crosswalk by night. There are cafes such as Starbucks overlooking the square so if you’re lucky or willing to wait, you can get a table by the window. You can also see the crosswalk quite well from inside the train station, walk towards the department store.
The next day we went to the Shinjuku area and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings Observatories in the morning. These are two twin towers with free observation decks with an amazing view over Tokyo. Go on a clear day like we did. There is also a restaurant as well as a gift shop up there in each observatory.
Then we went to the Yoyogi park and the Meiji shrine. The shrine area is located in a forest and it was absolutely beautiful. Very serene even though there were, as everywhere, lots of visitors. Japanese families enjoyed their time in the sun and took wedding and family photos which was fun to watch. The entry to the shrine is through a 12 meter high wooden torii gate.
In the afternoon we went to the Takeshita area which was absolutely crazy. This pedestrian street is a favorite teen hangout and was so crowded. We had so much fun when we took snapshots purikura-style (add the filters you wish, hilarious) and visited a cat café with Oriental cats. There are also several crêpe cafes on the street and they had massive tasty servings. Great afternoon!
Back in Shibuya, we went for dinner at the Ichiran ramen restaurant. You stand in line, order the food from a machine, get paper tickets and then take your seat at a wooden booth. There are curtains before you with the kitchen staff moving around behind them. You fill out a form with extras and then you are given the most wonderful bowl of ramen noodles. Slurp away! It was so good, almost hard to believe. Needless to say, it wasn’t our last bowl of ramen in Japan.
More shrines and the castle park
The next day, it was our final day in Tokyo and we started off by going to the Chiyoda district by train. We went to the Yasukuni shrine that had pretty parks and a zen garden with a lake. Somehow I dropped my phone and credit card wallet into the pond but everything survived the fall and the water… Lucky me… The Kitanomaru park was close by and we enjoyed watching the rowing boats on the lake in the park.
Our next area to visit was Yanaka which is an old-fashioned street with lots of cat things due to some comic book character. We had some fun cat-shaped filled cakes and looked at a lot of cat stuff. We also went to the cemetery nearby which is famous for its cherry trees. Since we were right in the sakura season, it was wonderful to watch all the flowers, and the cemetery had lots of pretty statues as well.
After a busy day, we actually returned to the Metropolitan building to see the Tokyo skyline by night. And then we had sushi, lots of it again. It’s very easy to order even though we don’t speak Japanese since there are photos of every dish with the price next to it.
And that was it for our days in Tokyo. Although we visited some of the neighborhoods, Tokyo is a gigantic city. You need to be able to maneuver the public transport system to get around. We relied on trains, and since there are several train companies, the pre-charged metro card came in handy. And yes, the rumors are true – avoid the before and after work hours since the trains are crazy busy. There are carriages for women only which are slightly less crowded.
Next, we were going to something completely different: a traditional ryokan in Hakone!
Japan – part 3: Ryokan in Hakone