I knew before I went to Tokyo that I wanted to stay somewhere around Shinjuku, so I spent I lot of my time in the area.
One of the most popular areas of Tokyo is Shinjuku. As soon as you get off the station you’re overwhelmed by neon lights, bright screens and competing loud music.
There are shops everywhere, and a massive Godzilla head watches over you. This is the Tokyo of films. In Shinjuku you can shop at popular places like Don Quijote (don’t go there, it’s a nightmare) or Tokyu Hands; you can go to tourist traps like the Robot Restaurant (I didn’t visit) and you can enjoy lots of weird and wonderful bars.
It’s a good area to explore, and if you’re based around there, you will get to know it well.
GOLDEN GAI AND BAR-HOPPING
Golden Gai is a traditional area of Shinjuku where you get hundreds of tiny little bars in a few narrow alleys. In the past it was mostly a local crowd, but when we visited it was very touristy.
There are lots and lots of bars in the area and around Shinjuku in general, so there are plenty of options. We went to From Dusk Till Dawn, which despite being mostly empty on a Friday night was a cool place with good music and friendly staff (drinks for Y700).
We also went to Capcom Bar, a videogame-themed bar where you can play games while enjoying food and drinks inspired by them. I tried the Hadouken (for Y700), which was good and looked great too. It’s a fun place to visit – even if it’s clearly very touristy it’s still an interesting experience.
TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING
A great option to see Tokyo from above is the Metropolitan Government Building. It has two observation decks (north and south) on the 45th floor and it’s amazingly free to visit (I visited twice and you need to wait a bit to get in but not much).
You can get amazing views over the city day and night (the north tower is open until 11pm), and it’s definitely a highlight of any Tokyo trip – you get to see the city sprawling in all directions with no end in sight.
Tokyo is a whole world and this is the perfect place to spot its magnitude. I visited the south tower during the day and north tower in the evening and both were great.
The Shibuya scramble crossing is a famous intersection which highlights how Japan is hectic and orderly at the same time. When the lights are green, up to 3,000 people can cross at the same time. It’s nice to watch it from the station and then join the crowds on the ground, which is really fun.
Shibuya is an area at the heart of Tokyo where you can get lost for a few hours exploring the place and going into shops. It’s also full of neon signs and bright lights, but a bit less gritty than Shinjuku.
Harajuku is internationally famous as the place you see in photos showing Japanese girls dressed up in the weirdest outfits. The area is full of shops selling all sorts of kawaii tat. There are lots of little roads to explore and watch the local crowds – although it is very touristy so you’re really watching other tourists!
If you venture off the main roads things get a bit more interesting. I found Mojo, a hidden-away cafe serving nice pastries (two drinks and a pastry for Y1200) which was perfect for a slow break. And heading towards Omotesando is also a good option to escape the crowds.
Meiji Jingu is an Edo temple localted in Yoyogi, a huge park next to Harajuku. The park is beautiful and so is the temple – a great place for a quiet break on a sunny day.
FOOD AND DRINK:
AOYAMA FLOWER MARKET TEA HOUSE
A flower shop which is also a tea house is the perfect setting for an instagrammable drink. The Aoyama Flower Market Tea House is a popular place for tea with a light meal or dessert. I went on a Monday to avoid queuing (it gets very busy), and it was definitely worth the visit.
I had the Collette tea which was really good with the ‘Halloween’ eclair, very good too (both for Y1530). The whole place is decorated with plants hanging from the ceiling and little vases with flowers everywhere. A bit girly, but a perfect stop for a little treat.
We had lunch at this nice restaurant in fancy Omotesando. It is a vegan restaurant serving delicious set lunches with local beers and yummy dessert. A bit expensive at Y3000-4000 per person, but definitely a good option for a treat.
YEBISU BEER MUSEUM
Ebisu is a nice area just one stop from Shibuya. There you can find the Yebisu Beer Museum, a grandiose bar with a small gallery where you can learn about Yebisu beer and taste the different varieties. You can get any of their beers for just Y400 or a tasting set of three for Y800 – it’s definitely worth a visit!
RAINBOW RAW FOOD
Also in Ebisu we went for lunch at Rainbow Raw Food, a vegan place serving a nice selection of light meals. We had the sushi lunch set (Y1500 per person) which was really delicious – and the only time I had sushi in Japan so definitely a good thing to do.