Tastes Tokyo

Japan: Shinjuku, you’ve scarred me for life

I mean this in the most literal sense.

The day we arrived in Tokyo and walked from the bustling Shinjuku train station all the way to Shinjuku-Gyoenmae where our hotel (Shinjuku City Hotel NUTS) was located, the wheel of my huge suitcase got stuck in a hole on the road. Because I was walking pretty fast, the sudden halt in momentum had me hurtling into the air and landing on my knees really hard (this happened in less than two seconds…but I tend to recall it happening in slow motion now..).

It was a blessing I decided to wear leggings under my skirt that day because the added humiliation would’ve done permanent ego damage (it was a busy street).

Tokyo 2013

Miraculously enough, my leggings survived the commotion. My left knee, however, did not. That tiny incident not only had me painfully hobbling around Japan during the latter part of our journey, but it also left a scar in its wake. My only consolation: Every time I look at it, I remember Tokyo. Haha.

Nothing, not even actual bodily pain, will get in the way of my wanderlust. Despite that little mishap, I gamely explored Tokyo with M and B for four full days. The vibrant district of Shinjuku served as our home base—perfect for its unlimited and diverse entertainment, food and shopping options, and for being conveniently located along the JR Yamanote line, which connects Tokyo’s major city centers.

IMG_2143

From there, we were able to go to Shibuya, Harajuku, Ueno, Meguro and Tokyo station, where all the shinkansen lines converge. I read somewhere that Tokyo was a city of cities, which I think describes it perfectly. Even while only traversing the JR Yamanote line, we saw how every stop revealed a district that was distinctly different from the one before it.

Of course, being billeted in Shinjuku meant we got to see more of it than the rest.

Tokyo 2013

Japan 2013

Japan 2013

What I love about Shinjuku is how it transforms into an entirely different entity the moment the sun comes down. At night, this concrete jungle turns electric:

Japan 2013

Japan 2013

Japan 2013

One evening, we ended up in Shinjuku Ni-chome, located 15 minutes away from our hotel, and we didn’t realize it was Tokyo’s gay district until we’ve crawled through a couple of pubs and kept on seeing magazines with male models in all states of dress and undress. :P

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Tokyo 2013

Every pub we went to offered free condoms. Check out the package’s design—my friend B couldn’t resist keeping some as souvenirs. Haha.

Tokyo 2013

Shinjuku definitely ranks high on my favorite areas in Tokyo.  The only disadvantage I discovered about it is its effect on my wallet. Temptation is everywhere. 

Tokyo 2013

Tokyo 2013

Japan 2013

Japan 2013

One of the places our friends suggested we check out was Don Quijote (also known as Donki), which pretty much sells everything you can imagine—from leopard print contact lenses and assorted KitKat bars to different anime costumes, wigs, tiny portable fans, racy lingerie and luggage tags.

Japan 2013

Japan 2013

Even when I vowed I wouldn’t be shopping much in Japan, I couldn’t resist bringing home some of those false eyelashes Japanese women tend to favor. They come in different styles and thickness and just make your eyes look all bright and sparkly. Haha. When I was about to pay for one of these patterned contact lenses (plaid, leopard print and cheetah), I knew I had reached a new low. I ended up replacing them with different flavored KitKat bars to bring home for my family. :P

Of course, the best part about Shinjuku—especially when you go there during spring—is its famed Shinjuku Gyoen. The massive park is known to be the best place to enjoy Japan’s cherry blossom festival. I was lucky enough to have gone there early in the morning before it got crowded. Only a few people were in the park and it was nice having these beauties all to myself:

Japan 2013

Japan 2013

Japan 2013

<3

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12 comments

    1. Hi there! It actually depends on what kind of trip you have in mind and the places you want to go or stay in Japan. The Kyoto area is definitely much cheaper than Tokyo. Because my friends and I were all on a budget, we opted to stay in backpacker inns/hostels instead of hotels. But even when these places were much cheaper, they were all pretty clean and quite comfortable and the owners are very attentive to their guests. Also, the first time we went to Japan, we were under the impression that everything was expensive there, but this is actually not true. You can do Japan on a shoestring if, for example, you avoid eating in the expensive restaurants. You’ll save a lot on food costs and still not feel like you cheated yourself out of a good experience. Every place we dined in in Japan—from budget to mid-range restaurants—served really good food. For transportation, if you’re planning on doing both Tokyo and Kyoto (which i highly suggest you do), google the Japan Rail Pass as it’ll save you a lot on bullet train rides. :)

      Hope this helps in your planning :) Check out japan-guide.com for suggested itineraries. You can actually plan your trip using that site alone!

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      1. Oh, thanks a bunch ! If you’ve read my posts, we have to pare down so much of our trip because of some expenses ( like construction of a vacation house in Boracay)….. we plan to join a tour but they are so much expensive than going on our own, but we do need to be a bit less clueless, ha ha.

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      2. It’s pretty easy to go around Japan even without joining a tour. It may be a challenge initially to make sense out of their subway system but you’ll get the hang of it after the first two train rides. And japan-guide.com is very helpful. It’ll tell you which trains to take, how much the admission fee to most of the must-see sites are, etc. And I really do recommend the rail pass—it’ll not only save you money but the time it takes to purchase tickets as well. Hope you have a fun trip! :)

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      3. We’ll definitely use that site,. Also, I’m sure you’ve heard of vacation homes for rent. A friend went to Japan and stayed with a family who had advertised on VRBO that a room in their house is available. It’s like cheaper than any commercial establishments.

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  1. Great post! I loved how you had such a sense of humor when you wrote about falling in Shinjuku. I’m sorry that you were in pain during your trip but you were such a trooper about it! You have such a great attitude. Those pictures on the condom wrapper were hysterical! We always use Shinjuku as our home base when we’re in Tokyo too, so reading this was like reliving all my trips there.

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    1. Haha thanks! We were looking for our hotel when that happened, and the funny thing was, the moment I got up from my fall, I saw the sign leading to the hotel. My friends were surprised when the first thing that came out of my mouth after the incident was, “Oh, look! THere’s our hotel!” Like the fact that I tripped did not even happen at all. But boy did it hurt! haha

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  2. I plan to go to Tokyo before I leave Japan. *crossing my fingers* for my employer to let me go on leave. Just seeing the buildings, the lights, the people crossing the streets, the Japanese signs and billboards, etc. That’s enough for me. Thanks for the share. I can’t wait for the Cherry Blossom Festival this January.

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    1. A trip to Japan definitely won’t be complete without visiting Tokyo! You’re so lucky to be working there right now :)

      Re the Cherry Blossom Festival, do you mean January or March-April? :D Some say it’s best to check them out either in Ueno or Shinjuku Gyoen when you happen to be in Tokyo at that time :)

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