Shibuya + Shinjuku

Today was our first attempt at navigating our way around Tokyo using the rail system. I have to admit, it was a little daunting at first, mainly because of the language barrier, but in the end it was all fairly simple. Luckily the Ginza line took us straight from Asakusa to Shibuya, our initial destination.

Shibuya Station was enormous!! I can only imagine how busy it must get at peak hour. After stepping outside, we were greeted first by ‘Hachiko’ the dog, and then by the famous ‘Shibuya Crossing’.

We spent a couple of hours just wandering the streets of Shibuya, checking out department stores and generally absorbing the madness that is life in Tokyo. It was a little surreal to actually be standing in Shibuya. Through my life it has popped up in so many random places; movies (Lost on Translation), games (Jet Set Radio Future) etc.. it was strange to actually be there experiencing it. As these things always tend to pan out, the reality never quite matches the image that you’ve built up in your mind over the years, but it’s still very special and something I won’t ever forget.

Walking north from Shibuya we stopped at the next suburb of Harajuku. This place is famous as a meeting place for the youth of Tokyo, and particularly those with a passion for cosplay and the gothic lolita scene. Some really interesting sights to be seen walking down the main strip!

Surprisingly, despite the hordes of people crammed into this tiny street, there was no angst, no pushing and shoving, and none of the other frustrating behaviour that you see so often in Aussie crowds. Everyone was looking out for each other and consciously trying not to block the smooth flow from end to end. I guess it’s just another sign of the difference in cultures, but it’s one I think we can all learn from.

After leaving Harajuku we walked through the backstreets up to Shinjuku, another iconic suburb of Tokyo.

We had a good laugh at this awesome road safety sign!! Looks like Japanese cars can shoot out electricity from their wheels at oncoming geriatrics!!

We spent a long time exploring the dozens and dozens of food stalls located in the basement of the Takashimaya shopping centre. This where you can pretty much buy whatever takes your fancy. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a rockmelon selling for around $180!! By the time we’d done a few laps of the place we had taken full advantage of all the free food samples on offer, and also picked up a couple of bento boxes for a late lunch.

Walking across to the Shinjuku Gyoen park, we settled down for a relaxed lunch amongst some beautifully maintained gardens. Such a contrast against the towering buildings and intensive urban sprawl.

On one of the many bridges we crossed, we looked down and saw a heap of fish looking up at us, hoping for some tasty morsels! Amongst them was also a very odd snout pointing into the air. With our guesses varying wildly from armadillos to rats (much to the amusement of the other tourists adjacent to us I’m sure!), we finally agreed that it must have been a turtle!

Random moment of the day: we met a local on the train back to Asakusa who had not only heard of Tasmania, but also knew where Launceston was!