Tokyo Day Two Part One – Walking Around Shinjuku and Tokyu Hands
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After my glorious 10 hours of sleep, I awoke at 6am to an absolutely stunning, sunny day in Tokyo. For breakfast I had the option of going to Girandole or getting room service, but since I had some work to do I opted for the latter. While my meal was comped as part of my stay, I would have had it for free anyway as a Hyatt Diamond, which is one of the six reasons why I love being a Hyatt Diamond. I was tempted to order the Japanese breakfast, but I knew I was going to have a lot of other Japanese food all day, so I decided to go American and get some scrambled eggs, OJ and coffee. I really do enjoy Japanese food, but I find it nice to break it up – miso salmon in the morning just doesn’t do it for me.
The breakfast came and was beautifully presented. When staying in luxury hotels, it’s all of the small touches that really make the difference. I really liked the small card with the day’s weather – with Celsius and Fahrenheit. The coffee was gourmet and freshly brewed and the Japanese yogurt and fruit was also good. Overall, it was a well presented and delicious meal – a great way to start the day.
I had lunch plans at the New York Grill for midday, so I planned to explore the Shinjuku area a bit more and simply walk around as much as I could. I walked out of the hotel and made a right and just started going. TPG reader Robb had recommended Shinjuku Gyoen garden, which also happens to be the #1 TripAdvisor recommendation for the area. I decided I’d walk around until I found it.
The hotel is approximately a 10-15 minute walk to the core of Shinjuku so they operate a shuttle that runs every 20 minutes during the day to drop off. I didn’t plan to take the shuttle, but it was there when I was leaving the hotel, so I figured I’d try it out. It’s an immaculately clean passenger van that drops you off on the north side of Shinjuku. The Garden is on the southeast side, but whatever – it honestly was a stunningly gorgeous day and I couldn’t wait to walk around.
The people watching was stupendous. I couldn’t get enough of the interactions – the most memorable being a young executive and CEO-type crossing the street from opposite sides and when the young executive sees the older gentleman he started bowing profusely and then changed directions and started following the CEO-type. The older businessman seemed flattered, but also mildly annoyed and gestured for the other man to continue on his way, which the younger man refused. I didn’t stay to watch it all play out, but it was interesting to watch regardless.
I specifically loved the women’s fashion. It’s so varied and independent from what you see in the US. Yes, there are ladies with Louis Vuitton bags and perfectly manicured hair, but there are also a lot of really trendy women as well. I noticed the school-girl look is still popular, with lots of girls wearing knee-highs and sporting plaid skirts. The men’s fashion was very similar to US, except every man has a man-bag. I mean every guy is carrying a tote, briefcase or full-blown murse.
I also noticed a lot of people with umbrellas, which I simply couldn’t understand because I’ve been so Vitamin D deprived in NYC lately, I was soaking up every last bit of sun. I even noticed a maintenance worker with an umbrella, which I thought was comical.
I walked south and then east and ended up walking across the same bridge that I saw from the restaurant at Takashimaya the night before.
I had gotten 20,000 Yen at the airport, but figured I’d need more. I had read that most ATMs won’t accept US debit cards, but the Citigroup and 7-Eleven ATMs will. I passed by a 7-11 so I decided to get some more cash with my Chase Continental Debit card and had no issues. The only weird thing was that the money gets dispensed in a square box and you have to reach in to get it. For a split second I hesitated thinking the box would snap shut on my fingers! However, the machine was super friendly and even chirped some sort of melody after I took my cash.
I continued walking and knew I was getting close to the park. I wasn’t sure where the entrance was, but I figured they’d have a couple, so once I saw the edge of the park, I decided to walk north, which was a mistake. I kept walking and walking and was not running into any entrances. I’m pretty stubborn, so I continued on my path, but finally had to give up and turn around when I hit the very northern edge, which ended up turning into apartments, so I would have had to go far out of my way and at that point I realized I should cut my losses and go back.
One of the things I really love about Tokyo is its cleanliness. The streets are pretty immaculately kept, which is confusing because I had trouble finding trashcans. When I was walking along the park, I noticed several areas that had straw brooms in the fence so people could sweep and they also had mesh netting to put over the trash to keep it from getting messy. How clever! If they had straw brooms laying around NYC, they’d probably be stolen or set on fire – or both.
I finally reached the park entrance and to my utter dismay, the park is closed on Mondays. I guess I should have checked on that, but oh well- it is what it is. Feeling a little annoyed, I also realized I was parched so I decided to grab a drink from one of the numerous vending machines which are on pretty much every street block in Tokyo.
I’m an avid iced coffee/Americano drinker, so I wanted to see what Japan had to offer on the java front. I started to browse the numerous offerings and there she was – Black Wonda. How could you go wrong ordering “premium beans” and before I knew it I was dropping in my Yen coins into the machine. Within seconds I cracked the can open and took a swig of the unsweetened iced coffee goodness that Black Wonda had to offer. To be honest, it was kind of disappointed at first – it was kind of watery. However, even though the coffee wasn’t that strong I did end up enjoying it and it gave me the energy to tackle my next task: Tokyu Hands.
Feeling reinvigorated, I decided to tackle Tokyu Hands – the crazy arts and crafts “lifestyle” store that is known for its seemingly unlimited assortment of random goods. Once I got in the store, I surveyed the floor guide – I mean, where do you start? DIY Tools and Materials or Assorted Hobby Craft? I went with the latter and I let the games begin.
The assortment was truly astonishing. I mean, where else in the world can you walk five feet and browse animal skin rugs and fake flower arrangements? I’ll let the pictures do the talking here, but let’s just say I picked up a variety of random goods that will be given away to very lucky TPG readers upon my return. What I also found fascinating is that just across the floor on the Takashimaya side of the building there were immaculately composed designer collections – a very interesting contrast to the randomness of Tokyu Hands.
I was going to get these for my niece and nephew, but didn’t want to drive my sister in law/TPG Gal Friday insane!
To be continued…
Reminder – Full disclosure: My flights and hotels were comped by Delta and Hyatt respectively.