Exploring Tokyo {Shibuya, Harajuku, Yoyogi, Shinjuku}

Yoyogi Park

Our very first day in Japan was cold and wet, the skies an extraordinary grey. Such unfortunate weather begged the question: what does one do in Tokyo when it’s raining? We had a bit of trouble deciding what our itinerary would be like since the weather ruled several of our plans out, but we eventually powered through the gloom and managed fill our day with plenty of activities. Here’s a quick list of what we did!

1. Himonoya, Shibuya

The first thing we did was have brunch in bustling Shibuya. We found a spectacular old-fashioned tavern-like place, dimly lit and surrounded by dark textured walls that constantly had water trickling down them, providing the coziest of atmospheres. Himonoya serves grilled food items, mainly fish and squid, but they also grill sausages and rice balls (yaki onigiri) among other things. Their menu is surprisingly affordable.

Himonoya, Shibuya Himonoya, Shibuya Himonoya, Shibuya Himonoya, Shibuya

2. Shopping in Harajuku

Straight after brunch, we hopped onto a train and headed to Harajuku Station, just one stop away from Shibuya Station via the JR East Yamanote Line. Because of the drizzle, Harajuku wasn’t as busy as usual, which meant less of a crowd to fight our way through. After slipping and sliding our way past all the clothing, bag and shoe stores along Takeshita Street (and purchasing a couple of things along the way), we ventured towards Yoyogi Park.

Takeshita Street, Harajuku

3. Yoyogi Park & Meiji Jingu

Yoyogi Park is just a short walk from Harajuku Station. It is an extensive, thickly-wooded park that acts as a sanctuary for wild birds and, most notably, houses the grand Meiji Shrine. The dark skies and light drizzle gave us some very interesting opportunities to take some moody, dramatic pictures of the area.

Yoyogi Park Yoyogi Park Yoyogi Park Yoyogi Park Yoyogi Park Yoyogi Park

4. Tonkatsu Wako, Shinjuku

We had dinner in Shinjuku at Tonkatsu Wako, a chain restaurant that specialises in breaded, deep fried pork cutlets (tonkatsu). This particular outlet is located in the SUBNADE underground shopping mall conveniently connected to Shinjuku Station. Their pork cutlets are perfectly light, crisp and airy on the outside, and satisfyingly tender and juicy on the inside. Most set meals are priced under ¥2000, and you get rice and soup on the side to boot!

Tonkatsu Wako Tonkatsu Wako Tonkatsu Wako Tonkatsu Wako

Excerpts from Japan: The Vivid Colours of Tokyo

We kicked off our first hour in Shibuya sipping drinks at Starbucks and munching on a shared green tea macaron. Miraculously, we managed to find a seat in the crowded café. The little outlet overlooks the Shibuya crossing. The crossing itself is quite a wonder.  Being one of the busiest intersections in the world, it is known to cater to more than 3 million people each day!

As I sipped on my green tea soy milk frappuccino (cold and sinfully delicious), we discussed where to go and what to do now that we were in Tokyo. The first thing we needed to do was to check into our hotel, the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu. But we could only do that at 2:00PM, so we acquainted ourselves with the bustling city for a couple of hours and purchased a bunch of stuff from an interesting store called ‘LOFT’.

Our hotel room was located on the 19th floor and we had a pretty fantastic view of the Shibuya crossing and the city skyline. We relaxed in the room for awhile, often looking out the window and peering down at the hundreds of people. I snacked on the roasted chestnuts we bought in Chinatown the day before while James tried the yummy-looking mooncake he selected and purchased from there.

It had been cloudy and drizzly the entire afternoon, which wasn’t exactly the best weather to go gallivanting about. However, we wandered around Shibuya Mark City, which was the shopping mall connected to our hotel. After a bit of window shopping, we returned to our room and I took the opportunity to take a great number of photographs of the city from the window.

When the rain clouds finally started to clear, James and I decided to head to Shinjuku by train.

We spent a good deal of time in glittery Shinjuku and eventually had dinner there. We found a quaint little ramen place along one of the streets. A nice lady who spoke a bit of English greeted us outside while we chose what we wanted to eat from a Japanese menu outside. It wasn’t written in English, so we just pointed at what we wanted and the lady helped us out. Then, we followed her into the dimly lit eating place, excited and a little apprehensive. The ramen bar was tiny. There was an L-shaped bench that hugged the wall and a barely visible kitchen on the opposite side of said bench. Space wasn’t a commodity here. But it was cosy and warm and welcoming. Apart from the staff, the place was completely empty when we walked in. We were served our orders a few minutes after filling in a piece of paper with a genius list of things that we could choose to our liking, such as what kind of toppings we wanted in our ramen,  the thickness and hardness of our noodles, how spicy we wanted the soup to be, et cetera. Thank goodness the list was in English! But really, the whole picking and choosing how you wanted your ramen to be like was such a good idea!

As expected, the ramen itself was amazing. I just can’t tell you how amazing! The noodles were firm, the soup was deliciously warm and the ingredients were bursting with flavour! Oh, and on another note, within a few minutes of us starting on our meal, the place was suddenly full of customers. Strange.

After our filling ramen, we went back out into the cold and back onto the streets of Shinjuku. We entered Bic Camera and took a look at all the cameras and electronic items they had for sale. I bought some camera related items, including some Instax Mini film and a small photo album.

After wandering the Shinjuku streets for a little while more, we decided to go elsewhere. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building sounded good, so we headed in that direction. Unfortunately, when we got there, I started to get very tired and there was a fairly long line of people waiting to go up to the observation deck. So, we ended up not going up the building and instead, found a little store called ‘Danish Bar’ selling sweet Danish pastries in odd shapes. James bought one for us to share. It was covered in almond slivers and oh my god, it was so yummy! I wish they had outlets here in Australia! They’d be very popular!

It was quite late by the time we got out of Shinjuku, so we decided to call it a night and head back to our hotel room for some much-needed rest. It had been a very long day but I think that our first day in Tokyo was a huge success!

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