A visit to the lively ward of Shibuya district, admiring the city’s skyline from the Metropolitan building in Shinjuku, having outdoors fun with a picnic at Yoyogi park, discovering some of the oldest districts of Tokyo in Yanaka… our last few days in Tokyo were a bit more relaxed.
Atmospheric, vibrant, fun and crowded, that is Shibuya. Known for it’s night life, the endless shopping streets, the restaurants of all kinds, the mega shopping malls and for Love Hotels Hill. Love hotels can be found all over Tokyo, but Shibuya’s Love Hotel Hill has the biggest concentration of these kinky hotels that offer double rooms for short periods of time. And being Shibuya such a busy area and being so close to that many bars and nightclubs, is not rare that they are all here. Typically guests can “rest” for one to three hours or can stay overnight and they can choose between the different themed rooms. Those nigtbirds who have been lucky to find “love” might share some romantic privacy in one of this. After all, I don’t think is a bad idea right?
One of the images most representatives of Tokyo comes from the pedestrian crossing outside Shibuya Station. It’s said to be the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world and it is better appreciated from high above. The hundreds of people crossing from all the different angles, merging into one mass once they had reached the center and dissolving again after reaching the other side. Though it wasn’t the busiest time of the day when we stared at the crossing from the Starbucks at the second floor of one of the shopping centres, it was a lot of fun!
Shinjuku ward is the large entertainment, business and shopping area around Shinjuku Station. We came here looking for a book store where to buy a Japanese cooking book and we immediately were captured by the good vibe of the busy streets. Shinjuku can easily compete with Shibuya when it comes to shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, pachinko parlors, karaokes… Hundreds of stores selling trendy clothes, enormous shopping malls heaven for tech freaks… and when you get tired of all the shopping, nothing like a visit to the chair massage department of any of the malls where the locals cheekily come to rest. There is no need to say that we tried them too. Shinjuku is also where to find broad types of “entertainment for adults”, there are a wide variety of red light establishments for both sexes and all sexual orientations.
The business district of Shinjuku is home to some of Tokyo’s tallest buildings, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building whose observation deck is open to the public and what is best, it’s free! On a clear day even Mount Fuji can be seen from the observation deck, but the day we went it was a bit cloudy and misty so we didn’t have the pleasure of viewing the beautiful snowed peak. Instead we just enjoyed the breathtaking views of the city, the changing colours of the skyline as the sun was setting and Tokyo’s iconic flashing red lights coming to live.
Once the good weather hits Tokyo, life moves to the many parks that are around the city. Sun and heat was the weather forecast for Saturday, so we joined David and his colleagues again at Yoyogi park. The normally quiet park transforms into a lively gathering spot. Families with their children, friends, teenagers in love… all pick up a blanket, sun cream and some food and head for the park. Serrano ham, chorizo and cheese that David had brought from Spain, Chinese red wine that we had bought in Beijing, Hungarian marzipan chocolate courtesy of Balaz… yes it was going to be a proper picnic. A bit of twirling the hula hoop, playing a game of badminton, music and good company completed the perfect day out in the park!
That very same day we went to a Spanish – Japanese party which is organized every few weeks by a Spanish-Japanese couple. We enjoyed exchanging stories, getting to know a bit more about Japanese culture and costumes and meeting really interesting people. Like Egoitz, a guy from Bilbao who has been in Tokyo studying Japanese for over a year and who told us many curiosities about how Japanese society is organized, the Japanese protocol or the working culture in Japan. Or a Japanese activist who is putting a lot of effort on getting Fukushima closed down and had been recently in Bilbao talking about it. And Yuko, a lovely girl who surprised us with her Spanish after only 2 months of classes. Conversation flowed even better with a glass of red wine, patatas bravas, pan tumaca and Spanish omelet, although not the best it tasted delicious after 7 months away from home.
We left the historic neighborhood of Yanaka for our last day. Beautiful traditional style Japanese wooden houses and large concentrations of small cute little temples are what we found in this residential neighborhood, which still retains the charm and warmth of the past. We found out later that it was one of the only sections of Tokyo that remained undamaged after the bombing of World War II. We also bumped into a lively, small and rustic flea market that locals organized twice a year to sell things they no longer need. I couldn’t avoid browsing around the stalls and buying a couple of little bargains.
A Miso Ramen dinner with David put the perfect end to our stay in Tokyo. I can believe it is time to leave, where did the 10 days go?
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