TOKYO p.2 / Shinjuku / Shimokitazawa / Ikebukuro
(Article updated to 2020)
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and is a must for every time you visit the Rising Sun. It is a megalopolis that boasts over 10 million inhabitants and is always in evolution: for this reason you never stop discovering it and every time you go back you always notice something different and new. This wonderful city is the hub of Japan because it encompasses all aspects of the whole country in its iconic neighborhoods. In Tokyo you must necessarily go back in time: explaining the emotions that this city manages to give is not possible, you have to live them. Only those who have been there can understand it. As a minimum stay, I recommend staying no less than a week: Tokyo should also be turned on foot, admired in its alleys and glimpses. You can't do a hit and run, it wouldn't make any sense, especially if it's your first time here.
Information before leaving, how to get there, how to move, where to stay here.
It is one of the largest and liveliest neighborhoods in Tokyo, in fact Shinjuku is said never to sleep. Its railway junction is the busiest in the world and is one of the few areas in the capital with many skyscrapers.
As it is easy to guess, this area offers a lot in terms of restaurants and night entertainment, as well as a wide range of budget hotels and perfectly connected with public transport.
WHAT TO SEE
TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING More commonly called Tokyo Palace, it houses the metropolitan government headquarters of the capital. Here you can go up to the top floors for free to enjoy a fabulous view of Tokyo, particularly fascinating at sunset. [open 8:30 am - 5 pm, closed on Saturday and Sunday]
KABUKICHO Vast red light area inside Shinjuku known for its lively nightlife since 1872. Here, in fact, in addition to numerous restaurants and normal commercial activities, there are also night clubs, host clubs, love hotels, soap lands, pachinko and numerous other adult venues run by the Yakuza (the Japanese mafia). If you are wondering if this is a dangerous neighborhood, the answer is absolutely not. The important thing is not to bother the girls, the managers of the premises and not even photograph people on the street. Fun fact: walking around the courtyard always look up because on the top of the Hotel Gracery you will find the giant head of Godzilla!
GOLDEN GAI It is a small area of Kabukicho formed by a tangle of very small streets and 200 bars that can accommodate about three customers, never more than ten. The premises here are bizarre, have a dilapidated facade and seem to have come from a very distant era. It is no coincidence that in the past this area was mainly frequented by artists. Personally this is one of the areas of Tokyo that I love most: I recommend you to come in the evening because it is after sunset that the bars come to life. It would be better to go with someone who knows Japanese well, since finding someone who speaks English is very difficult, much more because in these bars you are tight and are suitable for those who want to socialize.
OMOIDE YOKOCHO It is a small area basically composed of two narrow streets that will take you back in time to the Showa period (1926-1989). At the end of the Second World War, in fact, the first food and clothing stalls settled here. Today it is a very interesting area made up of about 80 very narrow izakayas with a dilapidated air that offer yakitori, soba and gyoza. At each change of season the shops are decorated with characteristic ornamental motifs: in spring, for example, with cherry blossoms while in autumn with Japanese maple leaves. Compared to Golden Gai, Omoide Yokocho is very touristy: it is not uncommon to see European and American tourists sitting tight at the counters. Certainly for this reason the quality of the food is not very high, as well as the prices are decidedly high. But if it's the first time you come there then try one of the many kiosks, it will still be a memorable experience. We recommend visiting from 17:00 to 22:30.
SHIN OKUBO Neighborhood located next to Shinjuku but with a JR Line stop in its own right, otherwise called Korea Town. Here in fact the Japanese ideograms are followed by hangul: dozens of Korean restaurants and shops with beauty products will make you lose your head! I personally loved this neighborhood madly and here I did the best cosmetic shopping ever. The prices are very low, both for cosmetics and for food (delicious street food), as well as for grocery stores and the hundreds of gadgets for sale concerning the Kpop.
WHERE TO EAT AND TO DRINK
The whole area of Shinjuku is full of clubs, bars and restaurants: you will be spoiled for choice. I recommend you try Chinese (there are so many restaurants) and Korean cuisine in Shin Okubo.
FUKUHACHI It is one of the oldest izakaya of Omoide Yokocho. Here you can enjoy a wide variety of yakitori, the famous Japanese skewers cooked on charcoal, accompanied by beer or excellent umeshu. [opening 12 am - 12 pm and 3:30 pm - 12 am, address: 1 Chome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0023]
NOBUYOSHIKA SHIN-OKUBO / 延吉香 新大久保店 A small Chinese izakaya frequented practically only by Japanese, almost all salary men who come here for dinner with their colleagues before returning home. It offers a vast menu at absurdly low prices, in fact it is always full. Excellent quality of food. [opening 11 am - 12 pm, website, address: 〒169-0073 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku City, Hyakuninchō, 2-chōme − 2−１ 本 橋 ビ ル B1]
PARK HYATT / NEW YORK BAR Drinking a cocktail sitting in the same place as Scarlett Johansson in the film Lost in Translation has always been a dream in the drawer. As a big fan of Sofia Coppola I wouldn't have missed an evening in the world at the New York Bar, located on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt. This is an experience that I recommend to all those who love live music and refined environments, especially for couples. In a scenario reminiscent of Blade Runner you will be literally fascinated by the atmosphere. It is not possible to reserve a seat, so arrive early if you want to find the place you want. You must also follow the dress code: after 5 pm too short clothes are not allowed and men must wear a shirt. Sportswear and short sleeves are not allowed for both sexes. [live jazz music every evening from Monday to Wednesday 8 pm - 11:45 pm, from Wednesday to Saturday 8 pm - 12:30 am, Sunday 7 pm - 10:45 pm, to listen to live music a tax of 2500¥ per person from Monday to Sunday from 8 pm and Sunday from 7 pm, website, address: 3-7-1-2, Nishishinjuku, Tokyo 163-1055]
LIQUOR MOUNTAIN This is not a restaurant but an incredibly stocked wine shop located in Kabukicho. If you too like Japanese liquors and spirits like me and want to make big purchases at very good prices, then you cannot miss this shop! Here you will find a wide choice of high quality products, as well as numerous accompanying snacks (such as salted dried fruit) and all the disparate curiosities to make an excellent aperitif or after dinner at home. [opening 4 pm - 4 am, closed Sunday, website, address: 1 Chome-2-16 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021]
Also called Shimokita, it is a cultural district with a vintage flavor far from the crowds of tourists. It is an excellent destination to experience a more calm and serene Tokyo, walking through the characteristic streets and shopping.
This area was populated by college students during the 60s and 70s, who could find small lodgings at low prices here. Since then the atmosphere has not changed: there are many shops selling hippie clothing and antiques. There are also many bistros where you can enjoy excellent curry, as well as okonomiyaki and yakisoba. Not least the bars where you can listen to live music of emerging bands.
It is not a mandatory destination, but if you have an afternoon for unconventional shopping then Shimokita can be a good idea.
Newly expanded neighborhood thanks to the large Sunshine City shopping complex and aquarium. Ideal area for shopping, although it is not a fundamental destination in my opinion except for a couple of shops that I recommend for fans.
TOKYU HANDS On the top floor of this Tokyu Hands there is a well-stocked and chic pet shop. If you have a little friend at home here you will find excellent quality products both to eat and at the level of toys, leashes, harnesses and coats. I brought tuna without preservatives and dyes to my cat (and he really enjoyed it!), As well as super kawaii bowls for kibbles and water. There are also hamsters, birds and rabbits for sale. Also inside the shop there is a special paid area where you can pamper cats. [opening 10 am - 9 pm, address: 1-28-10 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo]
MANDARAKE Ikebukuro also has its Mandarake location, certainly the least well-stocked among the others in the city. Here you will find above all more recent titles. [opening 12 pm - 8 pm, address: 〒170-0013 Tokyo, Toshima City, Higashiikebukuro, 3 Chome − 15−2 ラ イ オ ン ズ マ ン シ ョ ン 池袋 Ｂ１Ｆ]