We spent many entertaining evenings in Shibuya, which has become one of the most exciting areas in Tokyo. There are so many bars, shops and things to do here, that it would be hopeless to attempt listing them all. But here were a few of our personal favorites.
A statue of the loyal dog named Hachiko stands eternally vigilant before Shibuya Crossing, an intersection which has become one of Tokyo’s most iconic sights. When the lights turn red, the zig-zagging crosswalks are buried under an avalanche of footfalls as thousands of people try to cross simultaneously. It’s hypnotic, especially when witnessed from above.
It’s best to take Sunshine City’s name at face value. And I don’t mean that it’s filled with sunshine, but that it’s truly a city of its own. This enormous complex spreads across four buildings, including the Sunshine 60, which became the tallest building in Asia upon its completion in 1978.
Along with Shinjuku and Shibuya, Ikebukuro is the third and northernmost of Western Tokyo’s great centers. Built around an enormous train station, this is yet another mind-blowing conglomeration of people, buildings, entertainment, shopping and chaos that could easily be its own city. And a large one, at that.
Apart from the Hie Shrine, the business district of Akasaka doesn’t have much in the way of historic sights for tourists. But the streets which surround the metro station are fun and packed with good, cheap places to eat, and the neighborhood is so central that we visited rather frequently.
Nagatacho is the administrative center of the Japanese government. Ark Hills is a massive complex combining condominiums, shopping and entertainment. And the Hie Shrine is a peaceful place of worship on a wooded hill. We visited these three adjacent, but completely different, spots during one long day in south-central Tokyo.
Had we not lived nearby, it’s unlikely that we would have visited Ningyocho even once. But although this former pleasure district doesn’t have any of Tokyo’s must-see attractions, we returned repeatedly, drawn by its restaurants, traditional shops and low-key, residential atmosphere.
By lunch, the historic neighborhood of Fukagawa had already provided us with a surprisingly entertaining day, and we still had a couple things to visit after eating. The Fudo-do Temple dates from 1703, and the nearby Tomioka Hachiman Shrine is famous for its connection to the world of sumo.
Across the Sumida River from Nihonbashi, Fukagawa is one of Tokyo’s original fifteen wards. We spent a day wandering around its uncrowded streets, allowing the district to surprise us with an excellent museum, a tranquil garden and, for lunch, a delicious bowl of the neighborhood specialty, Fukugawa Meshi.
We only visited Meguro because of its reputation as a great spot to view cherry blossoms. But while there, we figured we should see more, and embarked on a walk that took us to four of the neighborhood’s temples.