I can’t imagine how long it would take a videographer in the editing room if a week’s worth of vacation takes this long to organize~ But the good news is (though not so good at that time), you’re now already reading halfway to the trip. We dedicated the second half of the trip to everything in and near the capital, so that means 3 more days (Day 4-7 of 7) and a total of 4 nights in our hotel in Shinjuku 新宿, Hotel Gracery.
Hotel Gracery ホテルグレイスリー
+81 (0)3 6833 1111
Nearest JR station(s):
- Seibushinjuku 西武新宿
- Shinjuku 新宿
Nearest subway station(s):
- Shinjukunishiguchi 新宿西口
- Shinjukusanchome 新宿三丁目
Better known as “the Godzilla hotel”, the 30-storey hotel features themed rooms of the kaiju, namely the the Godzilla Room (starts at JPY 39,800 per night on weekdays, JPY 49,800 on weekends and holidays) that has its claws permanently reaching into your room all night, as well as the Godzilla View Rooms (starts at JPY 15,000 per night), in which you can stare at Gojira ゴジラ even while you’re taking a dump. I didn’t get a chance to view these rooms, but we got up close and personal with head itself. Metro provides a definitive report on the themed rooms, but overall, I think the Standard Twin rooms (the rooms we got) are quite spacious, since Japanese living spaces are generally pretty compact. What I like most about the hotel was that the bathrooms and toilets are separate, so when you’re holding your bladder and your stay-in partner is having a shower, you don’t have to interrupt them singing just to pee. See all the rooms available Shinjuku’s Hotel Gracery here.
As with the posts of the series so far (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 of 7), you’ll navigate through this looooong post here by clicking any one of the subjects listed below, the one you’d like to view first. Then you’ll come back to this list here whenever you see the upward arrow symbol (↑) and click it.
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Day 4 of 7, we woke up early to say goodbye to old capital, and hello to the modern capital. There are so many reasons why I personally prefer Kyoto than Tokyo, but I digress. Though this isn’t my first time visiting both cities, the bullet train ride was my first, and hopefully of many to come.
The Kyoto-Tokyo Tokaido Shinkansen line 東海道新幹線 experience was a major joy. All hail to Japanese technology – it’s the best public transportation in the planet IMO. It took us around 2 hours and 30 minutes to get to Tokyo from Kyoto Station (distance between 2 cities extends over 5000km), and I kid you not, putting aside air turbulence, the ride was far more seamless than a Singapore Airlines plane ride (KrisFlyer Silver member here). Even the normal cars offer seats that are more spacious for your legs than the business-class seats on the plane, and you have a handbag hanger embedded on the back of each seat, which makes life much easier for traveling women. Normal cars have 5-seated rows (3 + 2), whereas the Green cars, i.e. the business class of shinkansen, have 4 (2 + 2). It’s very easy for you to fall asleep during the smooth ride, even though it’s speeding at approximately 250km/h. I recommend taking the Nozomi train, which has limited stops (and therefore, the fastest train out of the 3: Nozomi のぞみ, Hikari ひかり, and Kodama こだま), so you’ll have fewer interruptions during your nap and reach Tokyo faster. And don’t forget to reserve your seats to get a better deal, just as you do with airplane tickets. Take a look at the official Central JR Company website for timetable of the trains from where you are to your destination.
Before we waited for our ride, we tried a couple of ekibens 駅弁 (literally “train” “valves”; the ben as in bento 弁当) that are sold throughout the concourse. I got a petite sushi-filled one, and it was 100x better than Sushi Tei. My man’s ben was delicious as well, although he claimed he’s had better. I’m praying so hard to see these ready-made sushi bentos sold in major convenience stores throughout Jakarta. They’ve sorta started this revolution on the lower-ground of Aeon Mall, but that’s not even in the same province! Though in no way will they ever be as delicious as the original ones in Japan, at least offering Japanese-inspired convenience foods to the mass would be an effective way to get citizens to eat (and enjoy) more veggies rather than the usual gorengan (fried foods/snacks). More veggies = more nutrients = more food for brain = fitter brains = smarter citizens. Aaand I’m digressing again.
The world’s most populous metropolis (over 38 million residents!) seems to have everything for everyone: Fashion capital, shopping haven, ultimate nightlife, cultural and entertainment center, dining destination and otaku land. It isn’t short of greeneries either, although you really can’t compare the lush views in Kyoto with that of Tokyo. If you’re coming here solely for uber-extensive shopping experience, just bring empty luggages and then head straight to the Ginza district 銀座. It’s an upmarket galore, studded with boutiques, galleries, museums, cafes, restaurants, and department stores.
Since we weren’t looking to shop for anything, we didn’t include the popular district in our itinerary, but the one we’ve missed this day was the Harajuku district 原宿, where the lolitas ロリタ, ganguros ガングロ, and other Japanese sub-cultures hang out. I’ve personally been there and bought a Squall’s Griever necklace for my second bro during my visit 11 years ago, and when we’re done strolling to and fro Takeshita Street 竹下通り we walked even further into the loooong passage to Meiji Shrine 明治神宮, which was just across the Takeshita Street entrance. It was a nice walk because of the greens surrounding you (the whole Meiji Shrine complex is covered with 70-hectare forest), a completely different feel right after you walked out of the Harajuku area. If you go further south-westward into the forest, you’ll reach Yoyogi Park 代々木公園, one of the largest and most relaxing parks in the city. It’s mainly a recreational area for locals (also where the Yoyogi National Stadium erects), where they love to jog and have picnics by the ponds during hanami 花見 season (cherry blossom season).
Shinjuku district ↑
Sadly, we didn’t really explore the greater Shinjuku area as well – not a bit beyond the range from Hotel Gracery. But you can actually reserve a full day of walking tour around the area’s vicinity, because the attractions are so conveniently packed together.
West from Shinjuku Station (a.k.a. world’s busiest train station) is the city’s Skyscraper District, or Nishi-Shinjuku 西新宿 (literally “West Shinjuku”), which features Park Hyatt, where Bill Murray hung out with ScarJo in Lost in Translation (2003). There’s also the 243-meter tall Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building 東京都庁舎 nearby, where you can view the city at night from the observatory on the 45th floor. Southward from these skyscrapers lies a major mother nature break from urban life, the Shinjuku Central Park, although it’s nothing compared to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden 新宿御苑 just further east from the Shinjuku Station. The Shinjuku Gyoen is a super duper large (58.3 hectares!) used-to-be imperial garden that welds garden ‘scapes of the English, the French, and the traditional Japanese. You can imagine the diversity of the flora: There are over 2,400 tropical and subtropical species on display in the greenhouse. Locals flock here during hanami season
, but I imagine seasoned playboys come here a lot to purchase different bouquets for every woman.
Now, for the eats: The area’s most visited hashery would be the ramen chain Nagi. My friend got the chance to try it while he was there with his family, and so now it’s automatically added into my bucket list. The miniscule ramen shop is tucked in one of the 6 tiny alleys in Golden Gai 新宿ゴールデン街 area (and dozens of other chains throughout the city and overseas), Shinjuku’s famed old-school district. The area is a great place to witness old Tokyo, especially at night, when the bars lined along these alleys are open. If you’re looking to fill an empty stomach, there are dozens of tiny food stalls and hawkers along the alleyways of Omoide Yokocho, where you’ll be if you keep going northwest from the Shinjuku Station’s West Exit. If you’re just looking to chill in a more familiar setting, something awesome and proven superior for the Western tongue would be Santouka Ramen (reportedly #1 ramen in L.A.), located on the 7th floor of nearby department store MYLORD.
Shinjuku Station 新宿駅
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Shibuya district ↑
This is the city’s trendiest fashion, entertainment, and nightlife center, particularly the areas surrounding the Shibuya Station. The famed Shibuya Crossing, in particular, would be one of the most hectic sights you’ve ever seen when it comes to pedestrian traffic. Maybe it’s the bright lights, the 2-storey TVs, the game centers, the izakayas 居酒屋, or the 9-storey music giant Tower Records (which was a haven for earporn junkies, btw), but the sensory overload throughout seems to draw young crowds into the hub more so than other demographic. To get the best view of the scramble crossing, head over to the popular bar on the 40th floor of Cerulean Tower, the tallest building in the area (and one of the priciest high-end hotels as well). your From day to night, it’s constantly crowded with teenagers.
What most tour guides won’t tell you is that in all its appeal for young Tokyoites, Shibuya is also the IT center in the nation. During the late 90s, Japan witnessed the birth of many venture high-tech enterprises in a concentrated area now called the Bit Valley (“Bit” as in binary digits tech lingo, “Valley” as in that of Silicon Valley), also known as the Shibuya district itself. With the nation’s broadcasting giant NHK headquartering in the area, entrepreneurial youth groups gathering themselves here, the local culture’s impressive work ethic, and the increasing global allure of the tech industry, it’s no surprise that Bit Valley has gained worldwide recognition in the last decade.
Shibuya Station 渋谷駅
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Hachiko monument ↑
Head northwest as you exit the Shibuya Station to see the legendary Hachiko ハチ公. This plaza, where the Akita Inu waited for its master for a decade to return, has now turned into a favorite meeting place with friends for locals. If you’re not familiar, just watch Richard Gere play the master in the 2009 movie.
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Other popular points of interests around the district include the Moyai monument nearby the station, the newly-established high-rise office, cultural, shopping and dining complex just east of the station, Hikarie, the little pizzerias and cafes stretching along the 100-meter pedestrian slope Supeinzaka (or literally “Spain hill”), the 8-floor DIY haven Tokyu Hands (my personal bucket list item), the 7-floor hobbies and crafts store Loft, the Love Hotel Hill area to the west of Koen Street (rowsss of love hotels), and world-class cultural complex Bunkamura, where you’ll be able to sip coffee like many inspiring artists and writers at Les Deux Magots Paris. For trance music and general EDM lovers, be sure to stop by Club Asia and Womb. The likes of Hardwell, Guetta, Alesso, Skrillex, and Armin van Buuren regularly spins at these massive clubs.
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Abura Soba ↑
At the end of our stroll, we treated ourselves with the spicy oily vinegar-y luscious noodles!!! This Shibuya outlet of Abura Soba is just a short 4-min walk southward from the station, so it’ll be easier on your legs by the time you’re done shopping.
Abura Soba: Tokyo Aburagumi Sou Honten 油そば 東京油組総本店
+81 (0)3 3406 1911
M-Sa 11:00am – 04:00am
S 11:00am – 09:00pm
That’s another wrap for today! Woohoo, 3 more days to “edit”… the constant waiting for page loads is slowly improving my patience by now. Hope you’re not scrolling too much this time. Next up: Day 5 of 7 | Urayasu: A day well-spent at Tokyo DisneySea!
Out of the many, many attractions, where is the one place you’d love to visit in Shinjuku? What about in Shibuya?