9 Days in Japan: Part 7 – Tokyo Continued

My husband and I got married and went on an incredible six-week honeymoon around the world. All of the posts on England, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, a cruise through Asia, and Japan can be found on our Amarvelous Honeymoon page. The final country we visited on our trip was Japan, and we’re in the midst of an eight-part series highlighting this amazing country.

This was our penultimate day in Japan, and we had a jam-packed itinerary as we attempted to squeeze in our final Tokyo activities. Today, we planned to spend most of the day in the Shibuya neighborhood. We experienced ramen, conveyor-belt sushi, Starbucks with a view, multiple street performers, the incredible Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, the Meiji Jingu shrine, shopping at Takeshita Street, and the world’s busiest intersection. Read on to learn what makes Shibuya a necessary addition to your next Tokyo itinerary.

Day 8 in Japan

We were staying at the APA Hotel Iidabashi-Ekiminami in the Tokyo suburb of Chiyoda. The two previous days had been spent at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. I didn’t think we had such a late start, but we must have been exhausted and slept in a bit. Our first meal of the day was actually two bowls of ramen from a nearby restaurant that was already serving early lunch. The restaurant, which as of this writing has permanently closed, was called Tsujita Okunoin. It was a three-minute walk from our hotel and on the way to the train station. It was a long and narrow restaurant with an open kitchen against the long wall and a bar top with chairs along the kitchen. We found two chairs together and sat to dine. Our favorite ramen from Japan was actually in Osaka (at a restaurant called Ramen Makotoya Shinsaibashi, if you’re ever in Osaka). Although not as good as Makotoya’s, we found these bowls to be tasty and very filling to start our day off.

We decided to quickly begin our day in the Shinjuku neighborhood, which is a popular city district famed for its narrow, winding alleys and numerous snug taverns. We took the train six stops from Iidabashi Station to Shinjuku Station. It only costs ¥160 (JPY), or $1.52 (USD). After the train, we walked over to the Shinjuku Golden Gai. I would actually suggest you flip flop our itinerary and visit this area in the evening, as it was totally closed up and desolate when we were there. I bet it would be a cool nightlife area with bar hopping in the evenings. Wish we could have gone into a pub and enjoyed a beverage, but although it wasn’t too early for ramen, it was too early for drinks.

Along the walk from this neighborhood, we passed several different street activations and performers. There was a small children’s parade, a solo singer busking, a small trio of female singers on a mobile stage, and this random lottery activation where you are supposed to stick your hand inside a giant horse’s mouth and see if you won a prize (we didn’t win haha!). As a New Yorker, I found all these performances and activations to have the same lively vibe as when we walk through Times Square.

Next stop was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which was only a 19-minute walk from the previous neighborhood and led us into Shibuya neighborhood for the remainder of the day. The entrance fee was ¥500 (JPY), or $4.74 (USD). So far on the honeymoon, we’d seen some immaculate and very impressive gardens in Beijing China, but the roses and trees at this garden were really special. My favorite parts were the beautiful greenhouse with tropical plants and an indoor waterfall, a foot bridge over a koi pond shaded by a weeping willow tree (my favorite), a lush lawn for lounging surrounded by humongous shade trees including a blooming magnolia with flowers the size of my head, and a French-inspired formal rose garden. I think we spent the most time today in the rose garden. They probably had hundreds of varieties. I really enjoyed reading the name plaques for each one and took photos of the ones I found most beautiful. Hopefully one day I can find their seeds or saplings and plant them at my home. My absolute favorite flower was the hot pink Lavender Lassie Rose.

After the garden, we continued our walk to the Yoyogi Pony Park. This was totally spontaneous, but we saw it on the map and were intrigued, so we decided to walk over and check it out. It was only a 22-minute walk and not out of our way. Upon arrival, we learned that the rink and ponies were mostly for children to ride, not adults. They were attractive horses, and I did enjoy seeing them though. So if you too are a horse fan, then check it out. Otherwise, you can probably skip this unless you’re traveling with children.

We followed the ponies with a minute-long walk over to the Meiji Jingu shrine. We passed by the main sanctuary, torri-gate, and Ema (tablets conveying visitors’ gratitude and wished). As it’s a sacred place for prayer, we didn’t take too many pictures in this area.

Just a 10-minute walk up the road, we were at Takeshita Street, which is a road closed to vehicular traffic. It’s designed so the heavy flow of pedestrians can meander down the street and shop or dine in the colorful and trendy shops and restaurants. I thought the bright colors and kitschy characters on this street were adorable. Not to mention the great and unique shopping. I found a pair of fancy earrings for a pretty reasonable price. That was a score for Japan, as I found the pricing mostly similar to my hometown, New York City.

After shopping, we needed a pick me up, so we walked down the block to the Tokyo Plaza Omotesando Harajuku shopping mall to a rooftop Starbucks with a garden and great view of the city. Once again, we ordered our favorite drink in Japan, the affogato Frappuccino. Yum!! Then we took a break and sat to enjoy our drinks on the rooftop terrace.

We were walking down the Fire-dori Street and stumbled upon Shibuya Nitori, basically a home goods store. Think HomeGoods or Ikea of Japan. I can hardly resist a home store in America, and I wasn’t about to pass up my opportunity in Japan. First off, it was HUGE, and that had me all the more excited. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I am so glad we went in! It really was set up more as a shop for locals, as opposed to tourists. We found some really excellent and useful souvenirs for ourselves and family back home. The best part is that it was affordable, being that it wasn’t really stuff you would think to buy and fly home with. We got this incredibly delicate clear glass tea pot. It was packaged in a nice box, so it held up well on the flight (as a carry-on), and we use it all the time. Had we found something similar in a more touristy shop, we easily would have spent double.

Just up the road was our main attraction of the evening, the Shibuya Crossing. I know what you’re thinking… a crosswalk, this was the highlight of my day?! Well… this is the world’s busiest crosswalk and totally puts other busy crosswalks around the world to shame. They call Times Square of New York City “the crossroads of the world,” but after experiencing Shibuya crossing, I beg to differ. It’s basically five crosswalks at one intersection where vehicular traffic halts in all directions and then (depending on the time of year) hundreds (or thousands) of people cross at the same time. A literal sea of people. There is a great high-up vantage point from a Starbucks in the intersection if you wanted to experience it in person and then from a bird’s-eye view. It was really cool. While waiting at our crosswalk, we even saw this awesome experiential Super Mario street go-cart group race past us. I mean… seriously, how cool is that?! Had I known this existed, I totally would have booked the experience.

Video Credit: Domanation Travels

Dog lovers: There is a dog statue in the Shibuya Crossing intersection called Hachiko Memorial Statue. This bronze statue honors a loyal Akita dog. The story goes that the dog would meet his owner at the train station every day after work to escort him home. When the owner passed away, the dog continued to walk to the train station every day and wait for the owner to arrive. This continued for almost 10 years until Hachiko’s passing. To honor the dog’s loyalty and fidelity to his owner, a statue was placed at his waiting place. Hachiko the dog was cremated, and his ashes were buried in the cemetery with his beloved master, and his furs were stuffed and are on display in the National Museum of Nature and Sciences in Ueno Japan. Every year on his death day, there is a ceremony in the dog’s memory. Additionally, he is remembered with pop culture references in statues, movies, books, and other various media forms in Japanese culture. What a special pup.

We finished our evening with the best conveyor belt sushi at Katsumidori Seibu Shibuya. The restaurant was just next to the Shibuya Crossing in an upstairs floor. We actually got there right before they were stopping to take customers. We had to wait for a few minutes to sit down because they were so busy but it was 100% worth it. Conveyor belt sushi is drink and food items that go around on the belt in front of you. Depending on the color plate that you select, that determines price. It’s an adventurous kind of dining experience, because although you have a choice to select what you want from the belt, you are limited to what they are serving. You don’t really order special things as you would at a regular sit-down restaurant. My husband still raves over the rice-to-fish ratio in the nigiri. As you can see from the picture below of our finished plates, we obviously enjoyed the meal!

And that closes out another day on our six-week honeymoon around the world. This seventh day in Japan was jam-packed with an array of activities including dining, shopping, shrines, gardens, and monuments. We had such a great time exploring without a strict itinerary for the day. Some of the best finds were just stumbled upon as we strolled hand-in-hand through the city.

Join us in exactly two weeks when we post our final part of the nine days in Japan itinerary, which also marks the end of our honeymoon. Can’t wait to share it with you!

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