Tokyo is a traveler’s playground. Home to some 37 million people, it is easy to imagine that there is a bit of something for everyone. As an international school teacher, I have lived in Tokyo for 4 years. I have greatly enjoyed my life and experience here but… I am still getting lost.
A few months ago I was off to a department store that I visit semi-regularly just outside of Shinjuku station but this time I took the wrong exit. According the Guinness Book of World
Records, Shinjuku boasts being the world’s busiest train station with approximately 3.64 million riders a day. Operated by 5 rail companies with 36 platforms and over 200 exits it not hard to imagine how even a resident can get lost in its intricate network of hallways, passages, shopping arcades and department stores. It’s practically a destination in and of itself.
On this outing, I accidentally took the west exit of the station instead of the east. There, in the underground, were signs with directions to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, which host two of the highest free observation decks in the city. I had been meaning to make
my way there, but it wasn’t until this episode that I took the opportunity to do so. Located on the 45 floor of each building, you get a real taste of how densely populated Tokyo is, how wonderfully greenery plays a major part in the organization of the city and you get to see Mount Fuji if you are lucky (I was lucky).
Shinjuku is also home to cat cafes, owl cafes,
fshing cafes (catch your own fsh) and
Alice in Wonderland
The Odakyu Department store is directly connected to that exit, though Isetan and Lumine on the east are a bit more exciting. Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera are a short walk away. If you have never been to a Japanese electronics store then you are in for sensory overload. Each floor specializing in something, mobile accessorises, toys or health and beauty. You may walk in for a phone case but end up playing the Nintendo Wii U, checking out the latest in face steamers or crazy robot vacuums. For anyone with a remote interest in electronics or technology, these stores are for you.
The East exit provides equal, if not more, excitement on any given day. I have often gotten lost down the interesting streets lined with massive shopping stores. Personal favourite, Don Quijote in Kabuki-cho can be found here. To any visitor to Japan, Don Quijote epitomizes the absolute randomness availed to this culture. A great place for souvenirs or for just pure time wasting, you won’t soon be bored in this store. From high-end products, expensive bags and watches to Pikachu body suits and sex toys, this store has everything. This is what a true variety store was meant to be like.
Kabuki-cho itself is known as Tokyo’s red-light district. Minus the red-lights, it is filled with bars, nightclubs, Pachinko parlours (sort of weird Japanese gambling madhouses), and love hotels. This area tells the story of the shadiness of Japanese culture. For example, the Robot Restaurant is one such attraction where scantily clad women dance around and perform amongst robots all in the name of entertainment. Walking through the district at night, the well lit neon signage basically beckoning you in, people watching is at its best. From the hordes of Chinese and Korean tourists, to the African men trying to talk you into the gentleman’s clubs and the host girls dressed in maid outfits, a regular smorgasbord for the eyes and ears.
Shinjuku is also home to cat cafes, owl cafes, fishing cafes (catch your own fish) and Alice in Wonderland themed cafes. The Department stores: Isetan, Odakyu, Lumine 1 and 2 to name a few, and malls (Takashimaya is huge) live up to the true meanings of “large stores.” The basement of Isetan is a food floor, full of food stalls selling everything from meat, to rice balls and macaroons; simply put, a fatkid’s playground. A walk through the underground passages on my way back to the station gives allowance for a delicious dinner, cute hosiery, hair accessories and cheesecake. To imagine that I simply left my house to buy some wool, it’s amazing what a day of getting lost can do for you.
Shavonne Davis is an international teacher currently living and working in Tokyo, Japan. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to West Indian parents, she has single-handedly gotten her family to visit parts of Asia. Other than a love of travel, she also enjoys sports, photography and knitting.