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.
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.