This article is part of the “Two Weeks in Japan” series and follows Two Weeks in Japan, Part 5: Takayama.
On August 17, 2012, at around 5pm we finally arrived in Tokyo for the second half of our trip. We stayed in a western style hotel in the Ikebukuro district which was the cheapest of the entire trip but it was in the basement, with a very tiny bathroom (I had to lean in order to shower without bumping my head).
We found the best rāmen place while exploring Ikebukuro in our first night. For the first time we used the machine at the door for ordering. You put the money in, choose the dish and it returns a ticket that you have to give to the waiter. This way waiters don’t have to handle money. Pretty smart!
In this place, I ordered a different kind of rāmen. The noodles didn’t have any soup but there were rather two extra bowls with a different sauce each. Since I didn’t know how to eat that in the beginning, I asked a man that was sitting nearby how to do it and he explained and invited us to join his table. He was maybe under 50 and could speak a bit of English; as most of the Japanese people we met, he was very curious to know about us, where we came from, etc. and then he said something like “Tokyo is very expensive! It is a shame my cousins are staying with me and my wife and I have no extra room for you but I give you my number and the next time you come to Tokyo you can stay at my place! By the way, I can drive you around after dinner if you want, my car is nearby…”. This could be seen as creepy from a Western point of view but I truly believe he was sincerely being nice. We were tired anyway so we kindly declined and went to the hotel as a new intensive week was about to start.
Tokyo is a HUGE city. It’s more like a set of cities so we decided to explore one or two districts each day if we could. Thus, the next day was a very big one! We decided to go to the Shinjuku district and visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with the purpose of seeing the landscape from the top. The view was impressive: buildings and more buildings spread until the horizon, giving us a good idea of the dimensions of the city.
After coming back down from the Metropolitan building we had to wait for a while because of the thunderstorm and the heavy rain that had formed meanwhile. Luckily we found that there were what seemed to be underground streets so we proceeded to our next destination: the Square Enix Store!
While we were looking for it, another very Japanese thing happened. I couldn’t find the store so I asked a young man who was entering a restaurant (it was lunch time) if he knew where it was. He explained where it was but then postponed his lunch a bit and walked with us for a while until we were at the store! Go to a city like London and ask someone where something is and you’ll see the difference.
Harajuku and Shibuya
After visiting the Square Enix Store we headed to Harajuku, the young and hip district known for its Gothic Lolitas. We took some photos of street artists and funky things we found in the streets and walked further south to Shibuya.
Whenever you see videos of Tokyo, there is a good chance you will see Shibuya Crossing, supposedly the world’s busiest crossing. Our first impression was that we expected it to be somehow bigger. It is indeed packed. It’s amazing the number of people crossing when the pedestrian traffic light is green and then give way for the cars. It was also amazing to see the scene in that same cross in Resident Evil: Afterlife after we had been there. Luckily we didn’t experience a zombie outburst.
Next to the crossing there’s the statue of the famous dog Hachikō. Being the good tourists we are, we took the typical picture next to it 🙂
After that we passed a bit by Kabuki-Chō, the red light and yakuza district where we saw many love hotels and other funky things but the craziest thing I managed to do was to be able to change a pair of sneakers that Helena bought in one store in Shibuya by a different color in another branch of the store in Kabuki-Chō. Pretty bad-ass!
And that is all for the first day in Tokyo! I will try not to take too long to post the rest of the trip…
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