Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

on Tuesday, May 3rd 2016 at 2:41am JST
in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

Well folks, it is late- or maybe early? After a busy first day in Tokyo I got back here to the hotel around a quarter to one, and after an hour of pouring through today's photos it's now nearly 2am. Which also means I've been awake for approximately 24 hours. So if it's alright with you I'm gonna keep the text to a minimum and try and let the photos do the talking!

After my travel companion Alexander made it in from Hong Kong, we headed downstairs around 10am to get a bite to eat at the bakery/deli on the first floor of the building:

Shibuya, Shopping and Shrines


Shibuya, Shopping and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping and Shrines

We decided to head to Shibuya, home of a lot of major shops and department stores. While we could have taken the train, we decided to walk so as to better take in the city. It struck me for the first of many times today that Tokyo has a fantastic mix of urban sprawl and natural greenery:

Shibuya, Shopping and Shrines

And immediately after taking that photo I was nearly struck, literally, by a passing bike. Bicycles are very common and can ride on the sidewalk or the street, so you definitely have to keep an eye out. In fact later on down the sidewalk there was a chicane to try and slow down bikes passing through:

Shibuya, Shopping and Shrines

As we got closer to the heart of Shibuya the urban landscape became more dense and more colorful:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Our first stop in Shibuya was, of course, the Disney Store, the largest in Tokyo. 

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

While it may be the largest, it isn't actually very large. What it is instead is tall: three stories. This was a common theme in shops, restaurants, pretty much everything; small spaces that go up high. The three floors each had a Disney theme: Alice in Wonderland, Princesses/Pinocchio, and Toy Story, all connected by a tight spiral staircase.

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

While some of the merchandise was somewhat different than what you'd find in the US, there wasn't much particularly crazy or interesting. Standouts were this line of adorable Zootopia plush (astoundingly complete too- Flash the sloth is included in the set but was so popular they'd sold out of him) and of course the :sum Tsums:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Having seen all there was to see at the Disney Store, we pressed on into Shibuya:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Not far from Disney we found, of all things, an honest-to-God Tower Records!

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

...which featured a whopping 9 floors:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

We headed towards the famous Shibuya Crossing, a massive Times Square-style intersection:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

We decided to make our way over to Takeshita Street, a major urban shopping district:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

More nature and bikes along the way:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Takeshita Street is, it must be said, intense:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Thing I totally regret not trying: this cool escape-room type game thing where you have to navigate through a field of laser beams:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Takeshita is also a great place to experience Kawaii, aka Japanese Cute Culture.

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Above the store in the above picture was, in fact, another Disney Store. This one was genuinely rather small:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Just across the street from Takeshita Street, once again showing that balance between urban sprawl and nature, is the beautiful Meiji Shrine:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

I could have gladly spent all day here.

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

As it happened, due to the Golden Week holidays, there was a festival of events happening:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

I was starting to fade at this point and we decided to keep moving instead of sticking around until the performances began.

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

We headed back towards Shinjuku, where the Park Hyatt is located:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

The Park Tower in sight, we headed back up to the hotel to regroup before embarking on evening activities:

Shibuya, Shopping, and Shrines

That probably seems like a pretty full day, but it was only mid afternoon. Coming up next: Tokyo after dark!



All Over the Map

on Wednesday, May 4th 2016 at 2:53am JST
in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

All Over the Map

My day began around 8:30am- despite having gone to sleep less than 6 hours before, my jetlagged body would only let me sleep so much. Still, I felt awake and reasonably rested. Alexander (who was less jetlagged than me since he was coming from Hong Kong) was still asleep so I took the opportunity to catch up on Game of Thrones (spoiler alert: it's great!).

Alexander got up and we put together a short list of places we wanted to hit. They were scattered around town so we tried to strategize a route that wouldn't have us backtracking too much.

First we started with lunch downstairs at the deli- white bean soup and a lovely pastry sandwich. And Lemongina! Which is like Orangina but Lemon flavored (there's a third variety, Blood Orangina, I haven't tried yet).

All Over the Map

Our timing was perfect to hop on the hotel courtesy shuttle to nearby Shinjuku train station.

All Over the Map

I've mentioned Shinjuku train station a few times before as it's the closest one to our hotel- it's absolutely enormous, comprising several blocks- and buried underneath this department store complex.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

Up to this point we'd been buying train tickets one at a time- you're charged various amounts by distance, having to swipe your ticket at both the beginning and the end. Since we planned to hit several destinations we decided to buy an all-day combo ticket that would give us unlimited rides on the metro and subway for the day, at a cost of 1590 (about $15). Unfortunately when we got to the ticket machines we simply could not find the ticket we needed. To the Internet!

All Over the Map

Turns out we needed to actually go to the ticket office and buy the tickets in person. Alexander bought his no problem, but my determination to use all of my loose change to buy my ticket caused my poor agent some trouble.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

Space Barley!

All Over the Map

First stop of the day was to Toshima, to Ikebukoro specifically, which features a huge and bustling shopping and entertainment district.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

We entered Seibu Departkent store, an enormous and wonderful department store featuring everything under the sun.

All Over the Map

Unfortunately, the maps and all the signs were only in Japanese. But eventually we made our way to the food floor, a huge department store of delicious food.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

Our destination was the Kit Kat Chocolatory. Kit Kat is the most popular candy in Japan, and there are dozens of unique and crazy kit Kat flavors available, with some of the most gourmet and interesting available at the Chocolatory.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

For a coworker back home I got a sampler box specific to the Tokyo region- Chocolatories elsewhere in the country have their own unique sampler boxes. This one featured Butter, Pistachio/Raspberry, Green Tea/Kinako, and Strawberry.  For myself I grabbed little boxes of Chili/Passionfruit and Strawberry Maple.

All Over the Map

We continued to explore the mall, with amazing foods and flavors everywhere.

All Over the Map

You might think that going to the Kit Kat store (on a major holiday no less) would have meant tourists everywhere, but it was actually quite the contrary. Whereas our Monday shopping adventures had taken us to very westerner friendly places, here there were no westerners in sight, little English signage and few people who spoke English.

The mall was so big we could have spent all day there, and very crowded since it was a major holiday. Here's one other neat thing we found: a 7-11 Premium, which was a lot like a little Trader Joes.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

We made our way back to the train station and headed for Akihabara.

All Over the Map

Akihabara is a major center for Otaku- fervent popular culture fanaticism like manga and anime and video games. It's also a well area for electronics and is sometimes known as "electric town."

All Over the Map

From the moment we stepped off the train Akihabara was completely overwhelming. Posters and shops and lights were everywhere.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

We stopped in this Sega arcade, with 7 floors of video and games.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

Crazy Akihabra shops and restaurants:

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

This used toys, collectibles, games and comics shop (the whole building is one shop) has a bit of everything you can imagine, including two floors just dedicated to anime porn (one for men and one for women):

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

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All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map


Based on a friend's suggestion we checked out Don Quiote, a sort of everything type store (think of a cross between cheapo souvenir stores and Walmart). The various floors not only included clothes, toys, electronics, and food, but also two floors of arcade, a maid cafe (Google it), and a dance revue (the arcade floors and up were a no photo zone, so use your imagination).

All Over the Map

More Kit Kat!

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

And Orange Coca Cola!

All Over the Map

After the overstimulation of Don Quiote and with my jetlag starting to catch up to me, I suggested we visit a temple. Luckily it seems you're rarely far from a temple or shrine in Tokyo, and there was one just a few blocks away.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

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All Over the Map

All Over the Map

In fact, as we headed towards the train station we passed another shrine and checked that out too.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

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All Over the Map

All Over the Map

Next stop was Tokyo Station, sort of the Grand Central Station of Tokyo. Lots of great architecture around here.

All Over the Map


All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

We couldn't help but visit Starbucks, which had some interesting menu options. I tried the Mango Passionfruit Tea Frappuccino and it was great!

All Over the Map

All Over the Map


We checked out Daimaru, a huge and utterly exquisite department store. I basically wanted to buy everything in the building.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

Walking back through Tokyo Station we reached the opposite side, where the original station building still stands.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

And nearby, the Imperial Palace.

All Over the Map

Unfortunately visiting hours for the palace had just ended. Next time!

Back on the train, we headed to Ginza, another major shopping district with a very Times Square feel to it. 

All Over the Map

All Over the Map


We visited the Mitsukoshi department store, which will be familiar to anyone who's visited the Japan pavilion at Epcot...although the actual store has a very different feel to it than its Epcot counterpart.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map


Nearby was the Apple Store- the first Apple Store ever built outside the United States, in fact. Four floors with a very cool all-glass elevator with no buttons.

All Over the Map


Evening came early- it gets dark around 5/6pm- and Ginzu looks great at night.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map


All Over the Map


I finally got to see one of those familiar all-neon signs, which there don't seem to be many of in Tokyo these days.

All Over the Map

Alex, who took us out to dinner Monday night, suggested a sushi restaurant back at Tokyo station, so we headed back on the Subway. The restaurant was located inside the Kitte mall:

All Over the Map

The bad news was that there was a long line for the restaurant (one of the first negative consequences we'd experienced of today being a national holiday)...

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

...the good news was that there was a fantastic chamber orchestra performance happening in the mall atrium:

All Over the Map


All Over the Map

The restaurant was well worth the wait. It was of the conveyor belt variety, of which I am a fan, and surprisingly inexpensive- I ate sushi until I physically couldn't anymore and only spent a total of about $15.

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

Full and tired, we took the subway back to Shinjuku and caught the courtesy shuttle back to the hotel.

We ended the night at the New York Bar, a lounge at the very top of the Park Hyatt Tokyo building. It's featured a bunch in Lost in Translation, but it's even cooler in person:

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

All Over the Map

Well, now it's 3am so it's definitely time to call it a day. Plan for tomorrow is to take things a bit slower and lower key maybe hang out by the pool a bit. I'll definitely be needing to rest up (and not be up until 3am) because starting Thursday it's gonna be early mornings for Tokyo Disneyland!



©2016 Ben Wszalek