Shibuya Scramble Intersection

Shibuya: the busiest place on earth

Where better place to take a toddler than the world’s busiest intersection? Welcome to Shibuya, the western gateway from Tokyo’s suburbs to the city.

 

The Scramble Intersection – Shibuya

The “Scramble Intersection” is the number one reason that tourists travel to Shibuya. That may seem like a strange reason to travel somewhere, but the crossing event that happens every few minutes is a sight to behold!

We arrived at about 9.30. Normally I would be thrilled to arrive at a tourist attraction and find it less busy than expected, but when the whole point of the attraction is to see how busy it is, arriving at a quiet time is a little disappointing.

 

Where better place to take a toddler than the world's busiest intersection? Welcome to Shibuya, the western gateway from Tokyo's suburbs to the city.
It’s rare to see the intersection completely empty of people and vehicles.

 

Then again, when one has a particularly active toddler in tow, one is never too disappointed by a lack of crowds. Emma was also thankful, she didn’t really understand why I had dragged her to such a spot, especially when I had dragged her there four years earlier.

I went and took some photos while Emma gave Hannah a snack in the comfort of her RECARO stroller. There’s no doubt that the food tray has been well-used on our Japan adventures!

As I watched the movement of people across the intersection, it occurred to me that about half of them were Japanese people, living their daily life. The other half were tourists like me, who had come to the crossing for the purpose of photographing people crossing the crossing.

I wondered briefly when the last time was that a single phase of the lights went un-photographed… then the lights changed and I too did my bit to record another mundane moment at a photogenic crossing.

 

Where better place to take a toddler than the world's busiest intersection? Welcome to Shibuya, the western gateway from Tokyo's suburbs to the city.
Not very busy, but still interesting

 

The Statue of Hachiko – Shibuya

The crossing isn’t the only interesting part of Shibuya. There are a few other curiosities around to make the trip worthwhile. One of these is the statue of Hachiko.

This is a statue of a dog. The story goes that some old bloke used to walk to Shibuya station with his dog every morning. The Dog would then return to the station in the evening to greet his master (what the dog did during the day is anyone’s guess). When old mate died, the dog continued to return to the station every night for the next seven years. There it would wait patiently until the last train had gone.

When the dog died, the locals set up wherever the pre-war equivalent of a Go Fund Me page was, and raised enough money to make the statue.

Shibuya dog
Who’s a good boy?

 

It’s worth noting that the statue that stands there today is not the original one. That was melted down for its metal during the war. I wonder how those locals would have felt about their precious dog statue being used to make kamikaze aircraft

Today, the statue serves the dual purposes of resting place for pigeons and mildly interesting background for selfies.

 

Myth of Tomorrow – Shibuya

Inside the Shibuya station complex is a huge artwork titled Myth of Tomorrow. The work of art has an interesting back story that you can find out about here.

The artwork is impressive. It dominates a huge wall on a concourse between the main part of the station and a neighbouring department store.

Myth of Tomorrow depicts a nuclear explosion. It draws you in with vivid colours, and almost cartoon-like pictures. Yet, as you study the details, you quickly realise how harrowing the scene is.

 

The Myth of Tomorrow Shibuya
The Myth of Tomorrow artwork. Most people didn’t even look up as they walked past.

 

I stood and admired the stunning artwork for several minutes. Eventually I turned my attention to the hundreds of people walking past. I noted that not one of them looked up to the masterpiece hanging above them.

I wondered if it was because the Japanese experience of nuclear weapons is still to fresh and raw (even after all these years), or perhaps because of the new threat presented by an unstable neighbour. Perhaps it was simply because they were commuters on their way to work and they pass it so often that it doesn’t even register anymore.

 

The Best Indian Restaurant in Japan – Shibuya

This comes with a disclaimer – I have only ever eaten at one Indian restaurant in Japan. Emma and I discovered it when we were last in Shibuya, four years ago. But we had such good memories of it from that time, that we decided we must go back and see if we could find it again.

I’m pleased to say that we found it first go, without a single wrong turn. I’m also thrilled to say that it was just as tasty as the last time we visited.

The curries they we ordered were spicy and full of flavour, without being “blow your head off” hot. The variety on offer was fairly limited, but there was still enough choice to cater for both Emma and my tastes.

 

Shibuya Curry
Best Indian restaurant in Japan… that I know of… I only know one…

 

The real hero of the restaurant, however, was not the curry. It was the naan bread. The huge slab on naan was the main event for Hannah, who had already eaten a full lunch. Even with an avocado sandwich under her belt, she still managed to quietly sit and eat half the naan off my plate.

 

Naan bread Shibuya
Bigger than my head. Hannah still managed to eat half of it, despite having already had lunch.

 

Other Things

Shibuya has a wealth of shops, entertainment, eateries and Pachinko parlours. Some of it is high-class, other parts look sleazy and run down. We went in neither, as Hannah had been fully worn out by running around the station and eating two lunches.

Hannah was comfortably fast asleep in her stroller, so we set off for a short hike to Yoyogi Park. She even slept solidly as we walked past the Disney store, which was belting out hits from classic Disney films.

 

Disney Store Shibuya
Hannah was asleep the whole time

 

Shibuya was well worth the visit. It doesn’t offer a lot that is of interest to small toddlers, but it is an integral cultural destination for anyone who wants to visit the things that make Tokyo… Tokyo.

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Spotify Premium songs

Spotify – The Top 5 Ultimate Songs For International…

When I contacted Spotify to ask if they would be interested in participating in the Travelling to Japan With a Toddler feature, it was because I thought the songs of Spotify Premium would be extremely useful to have on the plane.
I wasn’t wrong. We played Spotify premium over Hannah’s Puro Sound Labs headphones at several key points throughout the flights. Hannah loved having her familiar music on hand, and it went some way towards calming her before the inevitable challenge of falling asleep.

What I hadn’t realised was that Spotify Premium would become an integral part of our everyday lives while we were on holidays. It was great! We put it on in the mornings to wake up, we put it on when we needed to relax, and we put it on when Hannah was full of energy, so that she could dance it out!

Having Spotify Premium on our trip was brilliant. We soon formed a firm view of our favourite songs for different occasions. Some of them were songs that I have been familiar with for a long time, others were new to me, but suggested to me before the trip by people who know things…

Now it’s my turn to share the knowledge with you. If you are planning a trip, or simply need some new children’s songs in your everyday life, go ahead and check these out:

Dad’s Top 5 children’s songs on Spotify:

Best song to wake up – Take it Easy – Casper Baby Pants

This little ditty is actually on our “sleep” playlist. It’s a beautiful little song for sending a little person off to dreamland. However, we had the rare occurrence of having to wake a toddler up a couple of days ago, after she was well-and-truly worn out from a big day of sight-seeing.
We tried to stir her gently, but the poor kid was deep in dreamland and reluctant to come back. I figured music was our best option, and this little beauty lulled her back to the land of the living in the most gentle of ways. Hannah wasn’t even cranky about being woken… which is great. because I would usually follow up with this…

Best song to get the day started – You Gotta Have Pep – John Lithgow

Yes, the John Lithgow sings kids songs! Not only that, but he does a bloody good job!

Lithgow’s take on some classic children’s songs is fantastic, but this one in particular is our go-to for getting each day underway. The song is manic, it becomes more and more intense as it goes on! By the end of the song, Hannah is pumped and ready for action! So are we (although Emma is somewhat less enthusiastic about starting her day with John Lithgow yelling at her).

Best song for dancing – Dino Stomp – Play School

We have stacks of Play School songs on our “Hannah” playlist. They are the kings of kids’ songs. Many of the songs on their albums take me straight back to my own childhood, and it’s an absolute joy to discover them all over again and share them with my little girl!
Dino Stomp is not one that I’m familiar with from my childhood, but it has become an all-time favourite in our household. Hannah loves to stomp along with it. In fact, stomping is Hannah’s first official dance move. Not a great song if staying above someone else (probably a good way to get prematurely ejected from a Japanese Airbnb), but as all of our apartments have been ground floor, we have no worries! Stomp away, little one!

Best earworm – My New G’Nu Kazoo – Jimmy Barnes and The Wiggles

Jimmy Barnes and The Wiggles, need I say more? This song is short, loud and incredibly good at burrowing deep into your subconscious. Be warned, you will be humming this long into the night, well after the little one has gone to bed. Guaranteed to give your better half a headache.

For a double dose of Barnesy and the Wiggles, play back-to-back with We Love Haggis, Stew and Shortbread.

Best song for Daddy-Daughter duets – Down In The Meadow – Play School

Hannah can’t sing many of the words in this song. In fact, she can only really sing one of them. But the sheer joy of her “CHOOOOOOOO!” at the end of my “Boop boop diten datem whatem…” makes it all worthwhile. Hannah eagerly awaits her turn to sing her part while I sing the rest of the song.

We have been known to stroll through the streets of Osaka singing this song together, much to the bemusement of the locals.

There are thousands upon thousands of great kids songs available on Spotify. If you are planning an international adventure, or just looking for some new tunes, go ahead and start with these!

 

Disclosure – Spotify provided Blog of Dad with a Premium Spotify subscription for the purpose of review during our Japan adventure. The views expressed in this post are entirely my own views, based on my experiences with Spotify Premium. For more information, visit my disclosure page.

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Burnished Chaos
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Japanese Robot Toilets

Robot Toilets – Seriously Great

Blog posts about rectal hygiene are not my usual fare, so I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. Robot toilets are amazing and the rest of the world is way behind Japan.

The Robot Toilets – Everyone in Japan has one

Well, maybe not everyone. But they are extremely common in Japan. Look through Airbnb listings and you will find that most places (except for some of the really old residential apartments) offer an arse-cleaner. Even when I first visited this country, about 15 years ago, the robot toilet was fairly widely available.

That surprised me back then, because I had been led to believe that standard Japanese toilets consisted of little more than a hole in the floor (quite a few public toilets still offer this as a choice). Back then I was also too squeamish, and unsure or the controls to give it a go, so I took care of my rear-end the usual way – like a barbarian.

Cleanliness is Godliness…

You see, here’s the thing – using a robot to spray-clean your caboose is surely more hygienic than the good-old fist full of dunny rag.

I said I’m not going to go into much detail in this post. I really don’t feel the need to get into the nasty specifics of the task at hand (so to speak), but just think about it for a moment, which is really better – wiping away the last remaining drops of clean water from a sparkling rectum, or chasing dangleberries with the two-ply…?

#ablogginggoodtime

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Shinjuku

Shinjuku – Food, Food Everywhere and Not a Place…

A visit to Shinjuku was on my “must do” list for our time in Tokyo. Emma wasn’t overly fussed – tall buildings, ridiculously busy streets and electronics stores aren’t really her thing. Thankfully she humoured me and off we went.

After briefly getting us lost, I found the part of town with which I am familiar. It felt like I was visiting an old friend – I have fond memories of the place that go back 15 years. I won’t go into too many details, but let’s just say they include accidentally crashing a private meeting of very serious-looking business men (they were not happy), and partying the night away in an underground night club that definitely didn’t meet fire-safety standards…

Anyway, Shinjuku is probably my favourite part of Tokyo. I always feel an amazing energy just standing on its streets.

 

Tokyo Government Building

Once we were in familiar territory, there was no need for maps. I guided us directly towards our first stop – the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This twin set of towers is a must-do for anyone who doesn’t like to spend money, and likes to get up high. The towers offer a spectacular view of the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, and best of all, access is free!

We joined the short queue at the elevator.

There was a strong security presence and they were checking bags. I began to unload the multitude of bags that we had stashed under the stroller (the RECARO has a lot of space underneath, of which we took full advantage). Thankfully, the security staff waved me through and indicated that they didn’t need to see it (this saved a little embarrassment – street bins are almost non-existent in Tokyo, and those that we were able to find were often bamboozling in their rules. We often just stowed our garbage under the stroller and disposed of it when we got home).

The lift ride was fast. The clever dad with a small child attached to him had thoughtfully brought water for the child to drink as the lift went up. That helped him to deal with the changes in air pressure. This thoughtless dad had not, so Hannah suffered for most of the trip up. Hannah had good reason to be upset, the feeling of rapid pressure change is quite uncomfortable.

The viewing platform was busy, but not so crowed as to make it difficult to access the windows. The view really is stunning. It shows just how huge Tokyo is. Each window offered something different, including one that tantalisingly claimed to offer views of Mt Fuji on clear days. Despite our day being fairly clear, the great mountain was nowhere to be seen.

After sufficient time spent gawking at the sprawling metropolis below, we headed for the lift. The queue to go back down was much longer than it was on the way up, but thankfully it was moving quickly. As we reached the front of the line, I spotted a final window that I had not yet looked through. A quick look revealed Tokyo Tower and the skyscrapers of Roppongi in the distance. I snapped of a quick photo of the part of Tokyo that we temporarily called “home”.

 

 

Shinjuku Electronic Town

Shinjuku is one of the places to visit for any electronic junkies out there. It has a wealth of stores, big and small, that offer just about any gadget or video game one could ask for.

On my first visit to Shinjuku, many years ago, we trawled these shops for interesting video games. We came away with some fascinating Dreamcast titles (I’m sure I still have them… somewhere…).

On my second visit, I was a little camera obsessed (I still am). I found every camera shop in the place and marvelled at the collections of lenses. I didn’t buy any, but I had a great time looking.

This time, I had a tiny little human with me who doesn’t tolerate long hours wasted away in dingy shops, so reluctantly I gave the wonderful Shinjuku shops a miss. I settled for staring longingly into the shops as we walked past, my neck craned to gain a glimpse of the wonders within. Next time, perhaps.

 

Hungry, So Very Hungry

Lunch time was fast approaching and the three of us were getting hungry. We had passed some exciting-looking restaurants on the way to the Government Building, so we headed back to see what we could find. However, Shinjuku has one glaring problem – most of it pre-dates the modern stroller. Almost every restaurant and eatery that we tried just wasn’t built to accommodate our needs.

Some were on the ground floor, but only had high bar stools. Others were on the ground floor, but the aisles were far too narrow and there was nowhere to park a stroller, even in its folded position. One helpful man tried his best to accommodate us, but as the automatic doors of his shop closed mid-way through trying to wrestle the stroller in, we realised the whole endeavour was futile and that we needed another plan.

Many of the restaurants had pictures on boards that left us salivating, but on closer inspection the only access was via an extremely steep and narrow, often winding staircase. I couldn’t imagine getting down there with just a toddler in my arms – forget about the stroller.

We were now frustrated and extremely hungry. Hannah was well into hangry territory, and we weren’t far behind. Eventually we headed to a sure-fire spot for good food – the department store basement.

That may sound a little funny to anyone who has not visited Japan, but the Japanese department store basement is a sight to behold. They are usually bustling places full of little food stalls, each specialising in some kind of delicious goods. We settled on a large, 4-fish sushi for Emma and I to share (it was “time discounted” – nowhere else in the world would I eat “time discounted” raw fish) and Hannah had inari, which is rice inside tofu skin.

 

Sushi
Time-discounted raw fish – delicious!
Inari, Shinjuku
Hannah’s new favourite food. It was a perfect fit for the stroller tray!

 

Exhausted, we found a quiet spot on the street to sit and eat our food. This is frowned upon in Japan, but at that point in time we just didn’t care. Thankfully, the Japanese are very kind and forgiving of tourist faux pas, so we were able to enjoy our lunch without too many dirty looks.

It was delicious.

 

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Shinjuku - My Spiritual home in Japan

Shinjuku – My Spiritual Home in Japan

Trains and no idea – My Spiritual Home

On the train ride from Roppongi to Shinjuku, I declared my love of the precinct to Emma. “These are my people,” I stated. “Shinjuku is my spiritual home in Japan,” I added.
The universe has a wry sense of humour, so naturally two things were destined to happen after such a declaration: 1 – the first person we saw was a homeless man (my people indeed), and 2 – I got us lost almost immediately.

 

Trian to Shinjuku

I had been to Shinjuku twice before, so I was aware of the significant homeless population around the park.
Nevertheless, having spent the past few days watching Ferraris, Teslas and Rolls Royce drive past on the streets of Roppongi, I had forgotten that there were such significant issues in parts of the city. I guess I had just assumed that all of Tokyo had somehow become filthy rich.
Getting lost was a little more embarrassing, especially in this day and age of GPS-enabled smart phones. We had emerged from the Metro on an unfamiliar street. I had immediately consulted Google maps and quickly gathered my bearings. The map informed me that we were just a short walk away from the main park of Shinjuku station – a landmark I know well (thanks in part to countless hours spent playing Metropolis Street Racer (WEY HEY!)).
I put my phone back in my pocket and set off confidently in the direction that I knew was correct. The only problem was that I assumed the subway had spat us out on the other side of the street. I was now walking in the completely wrong direction.

Level Crossings – Tokyo Style

We reached a level crossing (yes, an actual level crossing for trains in one of the busiest parts of the busiest city in the world). The boom gates had lowered just before we arrived and we watched the train full of commuters roll past.

It was interesting to see, and even more interesting when another train came from the opposite direction.
Both trains completed the their crossing and we waited patiently for the boom gates to rise.

 

 

level crossing, Shinjuku
Oh look, a level crossing. How novel!

They didn’t. Instead, they stayed lowered, with warning bells ringing, for about 20 seconds, before another train appeared. Then another. Then another. We stood at that level crossing for a full ten minutes.

In total, twelve trains came and went. Hannah didn’t seem to mind, she was sitting comfortably in her RECARO stroller. She just watched on with interest as the trains went past. For Emma and I, however, it quickly became tedious. Seen one train? Seen ’em all.

 

Train at level crossing, Shinjuku
They kept coming…
Train at level crossing, Shinjuku
…and coming…
Train at level crossing, Shinjuku
…and coming…
Train at level crossing, Shinjuku
…and coming…
These people look as happy about all the trains as I felt

I joked with Emma that we were actually going to wrong way, and that we would shortly have to turn around and go back across the level crossing, thereby wasting another ten minutes of our lives

The Truth Hurts

Finally the barrier lifted and we were once again on our way. We walked along happily, taking in the sights and sounds. Then an alarm went off in the back of my mind. We were walking past Yoyogi station – a station that we had gone through on our journey into Shinjuku.
I consulted Google maps. Something definitely wasn’t right. I stopped walking and Emma asked what was wrong.
“There’s something wrong with the maps,” I replied, lamely. “I think they are playing up.”
At times I can be stubborn, and the reality of the situation was slow to dawn. I was reluctant to admit that I had got it so wrong in the place that I had declared “my spiritual home in Japan” just minutes earlier. But the truth of the situation couldn’t be ignored, and soon enough I had to face up to the fact that the maps weren’t the problem – I was.
With great embarrassment, I informed Emma that I had in fact stuffed up. We need to walk back the way we came, and worse, we need to face the level crossing once more.
We trudged back up the road. Thankfully, the boom gates remained upright and we were able to get through without any further delays.
In no time at all we found ourselves in the heart of Shinjuku. Neon lights, skyscrapers, electronics stores…

 

Shinjuku Scenes

I was home.

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