Our West Shinjuku hotel, the Hilton, has a shuttle to Shinjuku Station, which processes a mind-boggling three million people every day and is accordingly surrounded by hundreds of bars, restaurants and shops. On the western edge of the city proper, one might not think it a convenient location, but it’s close to a number of attractions such as Yoyogi Park, Harajuku, the Meiji Shrine and the nightlife of Roppongi and Kabukicho. We got around with relative ease once we’d got the hang of the metro.
A 45-minute cruise up the Sumida River to Asakusa in North Tokyo (750 yen; about S$12) – especially on such a lovely, clear autumnal day – is a fun way to start the weekend. It’s a few minutes’ walk through Central Tokyo’s pretty Hama-rikyu Garden to where the water-boat departs; the attendant seemed disappointed that we refused his audio-guide to this historical park, a popular destination in itself.
Refreshments on the boat comprised ice-cream wafers and a wonderful Asahi wheat-beer created especially for the river-trip: who’d have thought they’d go so well together?
Vibey Asakusa is full of tourists and youngsters hanging out, but our next stop is the upmarket Ginza shopping district: pedestrianised today because it’s Saturday, with tables and chairs dotted along the middle of the road.
A mewing cat in a fancy collar is perched awkwardly on top of a roadside sign; why? People crowd around, photographing it with their mobile phones. Then it scrabbles down onto a man’s shoulder and they wander off. Performance art?
This winter, the fiercely fashionable Tokyo woman is wearing shorts or perhaps a mini with opaque black or patterned tights and boots, boots, boots – ankle or higher. Everyone is dressed to the nines and I long to follow suit, but shopping for winter gear makes no sense when you’ll soon be back in steamy Singapore.
Matsuya department store is good for a wander; it even sells the exotic Little Bo Peep and other cult outfits you see the teenagers wearing, and there’s a startling display featuring only the bottom half of a couple of mannequins sporting big woollen panties, flimsy little skirts and pink ballet shoes. “No pictures!” warns the attendant, as if there’s the remotest chance I’d want to steal the idea.
Frommer’s says we’d be all right visiting the anything-goes Kabukicho nightlife district as a couple, and we are: though it is heaving on a Saturday night, no one bothers us at all. It could be different on your own; the ubiquitous Nigerians glowering on every corner aren’t touting jellybeans. Japanese business friends of ours, however, were horrified to hear that we’d ventured into this den of iniquity. It’s an unmissable experience: hordes of skinny, anime-styled twenty-somethings sporting sharp street fashion and impossible hairdos; a plethora of bars and clubs, some with themes such as Doctors and Nurses, the Wild West, and other more obscure delights I’d rather not guess at. If you’re in the market for a fantasy, no doubt you’ll find it here.
Read more about Verne’s Tokyo experience and her visit to Tskiji Faish Market, Sushi culture class and visits to Tokyo’s fabulous temples and parks. The full story and wonderful photos are on our Flipbook (Click here).
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