Shibuya at Night

I have gone through quite a bit about one of the most popular districts in Tokyo, Shibuya. From wandering Center Gai to the Shibuya shopping experience and Yoyogi Park, you can easily spend a full day there and feel like you have a lot more to see and do still. But one of the most spectacular sights you can see while in Tokyo is Shibuya at night. Tokyo is famous for its neon glow in the evening and Shibuya is one of the areas where this is most impressive.

Shibuya Crossing in evening

This is one of my favorite views in Shibuya. The 109 building is very iconic.

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Shibuya’s Yoyogi Park

Not a far walk from Shibuya’s shopping district is Yoyogi park. It is one of the largest parks in Tokyo and is also near Meiji Shrine and Harajuku Station.

Fans outside of a concert hall in Tokyo

While making my way to the park, I came across a large group of people gathered outside the NHK Hall for a concert. I’m not sure who the singer was but I know it was a J-pop idol. The thing I found funny was that nearly all of the fans were wearing the concert T-shirt. That is not really something you see in America on a level like this.

Fans in costume for a concert in Shibuya

There were several fans dressed up in cosplay outfits for the concert even, both guys and girls.

After people watching for a little bit, I continued on to check out the park.

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Shibuya Shopping

In my previous post, I gave you a photo tour of the Center Gai area of Shibuya. In this post I’ll be going through all the other shopping and stores I saw in Shibuya.

Many American and European brands are popular in Tokyo. It is not uncommon to see many people with Louis Vuitton handbags or other designer clothing. Other brands like Apple and Disney have prominent locations in Shibuya.

Apple Store in Shibuya, Tokyo
While no one was lined up outside on that particular day, this is the most popular Apple store in Tokyo.
The Disney Store had quite impressive architecture and looked just like one would in America.

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Shibuya Photo Tour

One of the areas of Tokyo I was most excited to visit during my trip was Shibuya. Shibuya is known as the fashion and shopping district of Tokyo, and is also a popular nightlife spot. The area around Shibuya station is often what people think of when they think of Tokyo, with its scramble crossing and large TV screens and numerous other advertisements. It has even been likened to Times Square in New York City.

Advertisements on Shibuya Skyscrapers

Advertisements on Shibuya Skyscrapers

Both of these ads were all over Tokyo. I probably saw more pictures of Tommy Lee Jones than I have the rest of my life.
Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station
This statue is of a dog called Hachiko. The story behind it says that the dog waited loyally outside this entrance of Shibuya Station every day for his master, and for years after his masters death. Today it is a very popular meeting place, and the station entrance nearby has been named after Hachiko.

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Baseball in Tokyo, Japan

My last stop on day 3 of my trip was to Meiji Jingu Stadium in Shinjuku to check out a Japanese baseball game. The home team at this stadium is the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, part of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), akin to the MLB in the US. One difference between baseball in Japan and in America is that in Japan, corporations own the professional baseball teams while in America, they are their own corporate entities. Yakult is the company that owns the Swallows. Baseball in Japan is probably the country’s most popular sport. The most well known team in Tokyo is the Giants, but I decided to see the Swallows because of their outdoor stadium, because the Giants play at the indoor Tokyo Dome.

Tokyo Baseball Stadium in evening

Even though the Swallows are a pro level team, their stadium is more comparable to a US minor league team in size. Because of this, I had pretty good seats at an affordable price. I paid ¥3,600 for my seats along the first base line, though tickets go as cheap as ¥1,500 for unreserved outfield seats.

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Meiji Jingu

After exploring Harajuku and walking down Takeshita Street, I headed to Meiji Jingu, the shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The entrance to the shrine can easily be found right next to Harajuku Station.

Outside Meiji Shrine area

The shrine is located in a large forest area, with a huge torii gate marking the entrance. There is a long main road you can walk down to see the actual shrine, and there is also a side path with a kept garden are and pond, where you must pay for entry. The shrine itself is free to visit though.

Torii gate entrance to Meiji Shrine

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Takeshita Dori on a Harajuku Sunday

Harajuku is the area in Shibuya ward near Harajuku Station known for several things: numerous high school girls, occasional cosplayers, and shopping on the crowded Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street). Sunday is the day known for attracting cosplayers to the area, so I chose that day to visit. Unfortunately, there were very few to be found, possibly due to the cloudy conditions that morning, and rain later in the day. However, great people watching still took place, as Harajuku attracts all kinds of fashionable and trendy people to the area.

outside Harajuku Station

Cosplayers aside, the main attractions for me at Harajuku were taking a stroll down Takeshita Dori and visiting Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine). Takeshita Dori is a pedestrian only street which becomes absolutely packed on the weekends, and is also popular in the afternoon once school gets out. The street is filled with filled with cafes and restaurants, fashion and accessory stores, and idol goods.

GAP store in Harajuku

Shopping is one of the main attractions to visit Harajuku, even outside of Takeshita Dori. Popular stores include Kiddy Land, which is one of the largest toy stores in Tokyo, Louis Vuitton, Tokyu Plaza, and more.

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Exploring Akihabara and Visiting a Maid Cafe

Prior to my trip to Japan, while I was still planning and trying to figure out where to stay, I decided to try CouchSurfing. If you’re not familiar with the site, it is essentially a community of international travelers who let other travelers stay with them during their trip for free. Sometimes the host will also take the couchsurfer around their hometown or hang out with them as well, but it is not required. I did not have any luck finding a host in Tokyo, but I was lucky in another way for using the site. Because I had my trip plans posted publicly, others were able to browse and see that I would be in Tokyo during these certain dates.

Satoshi, one of the leaders of a Facebook and Meetup group called Japanize!, saw that I would be in Tokyo and invited me to their event, which was to take place on the first full day of my stay in Japan. There were two events that day they were hosting, the first of which was exploring the area of Tokyo called Akihabara, and going to a “maid cafe“. Akihabara, sometimes labeled the “electric city” on the train system in Japan, is the gaming, electronics, anime, and “otaku” sector of Tokyo. If you are interested in any of those things, Akihabara will be quite a sight for you. The other event that Japanize! was holding was going to a beer garden, another uniquely Japanese event which I will get into later. Continue reading Exploring Akihabara and Visiting a Maid Cafe

Tokyo Arrival

About two weeks ago, I stepped off United flight 891 and into Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan. It was the first time I had been outside of the United States. To many, Japan would seem like a shocking country to visit for a first trip abroad. Though there is nothing wrong with going somewhere more familiar like Europe, I was ready for something very different. It was also the place I wanted to visit most in the world. So for me, it was the perfect first international destination.

Taito, Tokyo, Japan at night

I arrived at the airport around 4:30pm. There are several things I would recommend travelers to Japan do when they first arrive. The first thing to do when you get to the airport is to exchange currency. Japan is a very cash based society, much more so than then United States, and so you should plan to bring most of how much you plan to spend in cash. I paid for my hotel with my Visa, but everything else in Japan I paid in yen.

The next stop at the airport is the JR East office. JR stands for Japan Railway and JR East is the branch that serves Tokyo. There are two things to do here, and one of them requires planning in advance. If you plan to go to an area of Japan far from Tokyo, like Kyoto or Osaka, you should get a JR Pass. At least a couple weeks before you arrive in Japan, you should purchase a JR Pass. You will get a voucher in the mail, which you need to bring to Japan and exchange for your actual rail pass. You can purchase a rail pass for 7, 14, or 21 days, and you have to choose the date to start using it when you redeem your voucher. If you’re not sure when you want to start using it, you don’t have to exchange it at the airport and can do it at many JR stations. Continue reading Tokyo Arrival