Archives for posts with tag: yoyogi park

Tokyo’s Yamanote line is bloody long but we’re nearing the end of the line now (well, it’s a circle so I guess I could just keep going)… 

6. Shinjuku – Ichigaya, Golden Gai, Meiji Shrine
Shinjuku is perhaps one of the wards that most often features in movies and postcard pictures of Tokyo. Arriving at the world’s busiest train station with over 100 exits is confusing to say the least. Shopping and nightlife are probably the most common reasons to come here which explains why pretty much everybody comes here! The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has it’s little headquarters in a purpose-built skyscraper overlooking central Shinjuku

Skyscrapers on the western side of Shinjuku station

and the neon bill boards are everywhere you go. For an escape from the mayhem you can head into Golden Gai which has escaped the knocking ball and still hosts traditional restaurants and bars in its warren of streets (though some restaurants may not want to serve foreigners).

For a clear mind head to Meiji shrine in nearby Yoyogi park (most of the park is in the city of Shibuja) where the towers and hundreds of trains vanish

Meiji Shrine, Shinjuku

from your mind. The shrine was created to remember Emperor Meiji. Another notable part of Shinjuku is Ichigaya which I best remember as the first place I saw of evening Tokyo. Watching people pay 500 yen to fish in the river by the train station was intriguing and the name just reminded me of students with skin problems or maybe that’s just my pronunciation.

7. Katsushika – my ward, Shibamata Taishaku-ten
Katsushika is mostly residential and it’s where I live. It’s the eastern-most of the 23 wards which make up Tokyo and the Yamanote line doesn’t run through this area but I thought it deserved a mention anyway. Despite there being no

Garden of the Shibamata Taishakuten shrine in Katsushika

Yamanote there are still several JR lines and other private railways which pass through the district. Nearby is a beautiful Buddhist temple called “Shibamata Taishakuten“. I visited this temple recently thinking that its location in one of the outer suburbs would mean that it would be almost free of visitors. I was quite wrong as the streams of tourists (both Japanese and foreigners) coming and going demonstrated. As with all parts of Tokyo the most heavily built-up parts are those surrounding train stations and Katsushika is no different with a bustling area of shopping centers, department stores, discount stores (well, discount in a Japanese sense) and massage parlors (for the over-stressed salaryman).

8. Koto – Odaiba, ageHa night club, 
First off is Odaiba which is a group of islands created from reclaimed land over the past century and linked to mainland Tokyo by the Rainbow bridge as well as others. This area provides the only real link to the big, blue sea near central Tokyo and it’s a popular place for entertainment, sunbathing (while shielding

New architecture (the twin, linked skyscraper) and old architecture (the wee church) meet in Odaiba, Tokyo

oneself from the sun under and parasol or UV tent) and shopping. Somehow the area reminded me of Salford Quays in Greater Manchester or the Docklands in London. There are modern forms of transport in the form of an alien-shaped ferry and a flashy driver-less monorail. On top of that there are wide open avenues and modern buildings which try very hard to look cutting edge with gaping holes in the middle of the tower or bridges linking twin towers together. And to ice the tasty cake even more there’s a big wheel and plenty of shopping. Including shopping for your dog or cat. In Odaiba you can rent a cat for half an hour, you can buy a new puppy or kitten in the mall, you can buy clothes including kimono for either pet and then treat the furry animal to a meal at a pet cafe where the only food available is for canines and felines. Koto ward is modern mainly because of the extensive destruction in the 1923 earthquake and bombing raids in WW2. One of Tokyo’s biggest and most popular night clubs, ageHa, is located in this area and popular with those not intending to get home the same day as they go out.

Last stop: Shinagawa with a little building called Sky Tree which is the largest tower in the world, Taito to see the pandas and Toshima…

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Continuing the journey on Tokyo’s Yamanote line to explore what this mega city has to offer…

Route map of JR’s Yamanote line which forms a circle around much of central Tokyo. The larger or more important stations are in bold.

Some other Yamanote line facts for those hungry for useless information: A complete circle is 35km and takes about 60 minutes while visiting 29 stations. What really shows the scale of things in Tokyo is that 3.7 million people use this line every day compared with the 5 million who use all of New York’s subway lines (and its 468 stations) or with London and the 2.7 million who travel on the Underground’s 12 lines which serve 275 stations.

4. Minato – Shinbashi, Roppongi
Now we’re entering the west side of the Yamanote line. Minato is foreigners’ land. If you need your embassy then it’ll probably be here. And if you need a skyscraper then it may be in this city center too.

Roppongi at night

Tokyo Tower is around here somewhere too. It was designed to look like the Eiffel Tower and painted in red and white aircraft safety colours. Tokyo Tower was supposed to host the TV transmitters for the 40 million people who live in and around Tokyo but the ever-growing skyline means that Sky Tree has recently been built in Sumida to take over this role. And then there’s Roppongi where all the foreigners either live or head to at the weekend. It has Tokyo’s best-known night entertainment places and apparently the best. Be prepared to spend up to 1000 yen (GBP £8, €10, US$12) for a glass of beer though!

5. Shibuya – Yoyogi, Sendagaya, Harajuku

Tokyo Tower – Big but no longer big enough

This has to be the coolest ward or at least second to Shinjuku in terms of the number of neon lights and shops. Firstly there’s Shibuya itself which is home to Shibuya Crossing where you can join in the crowds and be one of 100,000 who cross a single road every hour in front of the train station. Or if you’re feeling a bit claustrophobic then head to Starbucks where you can drink a coffee and watch the crowds below instead! Even Starbucks is crowded so those in need of relaxation might want to go to Yoyogi park (see the Shinjuku section in the next posting). The stranger person among you may want to do a bit of shopping at Shibuya 109 which is world famous for creating the “kogal” subculture (school girl uniform style). If busy streets, school girl fashion and relaxing in the park don’t do it for you then why not a bit of culture at the National Noh Theatre, Noh being one of Japan’s traditional theaters and makes for a confusing conversation when you ask the staff questions like “Is this the Noh theatre” and they reply with the obvious answer “no(h)”.

Harajuku at the weekend

Harajuku is also in Shibuya and famous too for the fashion named after the area. Head here on Sundays to see the Harajuku girls walking the streets in clothes and hair that must have taken hours to prepare. This is “the” place to see Cosplayers in Tokyo and probably the most famous Cosplay area in the world. Two highly contrasting streets can be found in this part of Shibuya – Takeshita Street being the main street of Harajuku and crammed with cosplay teens seeking to spend all their money – and nearby Omotesandō which is trying to be western Tokyo’s answer to Ginza with dozens of high-end fashion stores. Take your pick.

Next stop: Shinjuku, the king of Tokyo’s cities, Katsushika for somewhere to sleep and Koto to try and find the sea…