Tokyo: travel guide to Shibuya - what to see and where to eat
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and is the obligatory stop for every time you come to visit the Rising Sun. It is a megalopolis that boasts over 10 million inhabitants and is always evolving: for this reason you never stop discovering it and every time you go back you always notice something different and new.
This beautiful city is the hub of Japan as it encompasses all facets of the entire country in its iconic neighborhoods.
In Tokyo we must necessarily go back in time: explaining the emotions that this city is able to give is not possible, you have to live them. Only those who have been there can understand it.
As a minimum stay, I recommend staying no less than a week: Tokyo should also be explored on foot, admired in its alleys and views. You can't hit and run, it wouldn't make any sense, especially if it's your first time here.
Make sure you buy the pocket wi-fi from Italy and pick it up as soon as you arrive in Japan at the airport (alternatively you can have it delivered to your hotel). This tool is essential because it allows you to always stay connected to the Internet during your trip. Upon your return, you can send it by post by inserting it in the letter envelope that will be provided to you and leave it at the airport post office. The best and safest site to buy it is this.
Google Maps works perfectly throughout Japan, but if you want to use the site that the Japanese themselves use, download the HyperDia app (it's also in English) to find public transport timetables.
Japan Rail Pass: considered indispensable by many, in my opinion it is not always so. My advice is to make a precise and feasible itinerary before leaving and to calculate with HyperDia how much you will spend on transport. Very often making this purchase is useless. Otherwise, it must be bought from Italy at this site.
Powerbank: it is always better to buy one so as not to be left with a dead phone.
Cash: here's what NOT to do before leaving, exchange money in Italy. Exchange is never cheap, so it's best to exchange them as soon as you arrive at the airport. However, bring a certain amount of cash (needless to say that nobody will steal it from you) because they can understand that cards cause problems, especially at ATMs. I advise you to top up PostePay (the classic yellow one, not the Evolution one) and if you have a debit or credit card it is always better to contact your bank to warn them that you will be making payments in Japan (if you don't warn them, they could block the card) ; also ask to put the card in "worldwide payments" mode. Keep in mind that cards are used much less in Japan than in the West, so it's always good to have a certain amount of cash with you. Many restaurants only accept cash.
Health insurance: it is good to be careful and buy valid insurance that covers as much as possible (you never know what can happen). In Japan, healthcare is both public and private, and being outside the European Union, prices and bureaucracy are different. You can buy it here.
HOW TO GET
From Haneda Airport: This is the closest airport and is only 30 minutes away from the city. Although it does almost only domestic flights, over the years it has also increased international routes with various companies. The most convenient means of transportation is the Tokyo Monorail (monorail train) which goes to JR Hamamatsucho Station. Cost ¥500
From Narita Airport: This is Tokyo's main international airport. The most used and efficient means of transport is the Narita Express, which connects the airport with some important subway stations in Tokyo. The cost of the ticket varies according to the landing station. Cost from 3070¥ to 3250¥, 60 minutes of travel
From Kyoto: the best way is undoubtedly the Shinkansen. Choose between Nozomi or Mizuho, the two fastest. Cost ¥14,170, 130 minute journey
HOW TO MOVE
The best means of transport to use in Tokyo is definitely the subway.
Extremely easy to use, tidy and safe, the capital's subway is made up of numerous lines owned by different companies (Tokyo Metro and Toei Line, for a total of 13 lines), as well as JR.
There are no real subscriptions except for:
Tokyo subway ticket: can be used on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Lines. They can be bought on the subway and in Bic Camera shops, bringing your passport with you to show. This ticket is divided into time slots: 24h for ¥800, 48h for ¥1200 and 72h for ¥1500.
Common one-way ticket: valid for one day on the Tokyo Metro and Toei Lines at a cost of 900¥.
Tokyo combination ticket: valid for one day on Tokyo Metro, Toei Line, Toei Streetcar (Toden), Tokyo metropolitan bus, all sections of the Nippori/ Toneri Line and JR lines in central Tokyo. Cost ¥1590.
My dispassionate advice is to buy the Suica card (cost ¥1000 of which ¥500 goes on deposit) with cash, Visa or Mastercard.
It is a very practical card to top up your money on for travel on the JR, subway (Tokyo Metro, Toei, bus, Tokyo Monorail), but it does not work for the Shinkansen and airport shuttles.
It is the most comfortable way to travel because you just need to top up a certain amount of cash to travel without worries. You can find it at the machines in the stations with the Suica symbol.
WHERE TO STAY
In Tokyo it is always advisable to stay in a hotel near a subway station connected to the center or in any case well connected to the major sites of interest. This is true even if it is not the first time you visit it because this choice will save you a lot of time and money; in fact, the cost of the Tokyo subway varies based on the mileage travelled.
So, unless you really want to stay in a particular or decentralized area, the best neighborhoods to sleep are Shinjuku and Asakusa (for cheap solutions), the station area and obviously Shibuya, a neighborhood that I absolutely prefer the convenience of connections over to the bustling night life and the most amazing range of shops and restaurants.
This is by far my favorite neighborhood in Tokyo. Maybe because Hachiko is here, or maybe because all the trends and fashions that fascinated me during my teenage years were born here (I was a great manga reader and at the time I was a fan of Mihona Fuji's Gals!) , the fact is that in Shibuya there is a unique, youthful, trendy but also and above all unpredictable air.
Here there are many meeting points that have become iconic, essential places for any tourist and traveler, but moving away and walking along the side streets you will come across dreamlike glimpses, characteristic alleys full of izakayas that will leave you speechless.
WHAT TO SEE
It is no coincidence that this is the busiest and most famous intersection in the world, on the other hand people come from all over the world to photograph it! At any time of the day, but also of the night, many people pour into the street to cross the pedestrian crossings.
There are strategic observation points where you can be fascinated by this human anthill, such as the famous Starbucks in Shibuya.
A few steps from the Shibuya crossing and the subway exit (small note: Hachiko has an exit that bears his name) is the statue of Japan's most famous dog, a symbol of loyalty.
Among young Japanese it has always been a meeting point par excellence, but since American cinema has made it famous worldwide, more and more people come to visit it.
Shopping centre, hub of current youth fashions, it is a real institution. It boasts dozens of shops over 10 floors (on the top floors there are bars and restaurants) and it's the perfect place to make one-of-a-kind purchases since the brands you'll find here are almost all Japanese, impossible to find abroad.
Opening 10am - 9pm
It is a huge department store where you can buy the most varied design objects, for the kitchen, DIY or travel. There are actually many in Tokyo but this one is particularly large and well stocked.
Opening 10am - 9pm
MEGA DON QUIOTE SHIBUYA
If it's the first time you enter and you experience a slight headache, don't worry, it's more than normal. This huge shop is a chaos of objects, lights, jingles and people. Here you will find everything, really everything: from sweets, to skin products, make-up, household and kitchen items, but also clothing, detergents, suitcases and much more. At an affordable price.
Finding this shop is not exactly easy, but with a little patience you will arrive at your destination.
Visiting Rope means entering the last "temple" of a very specific Japan which maybe (or maybe not, who knows) is disappearing due to the laws adopted following the arrest of dozens of girls in Tokyo alone who practiced enjo kōsai. This term was coined in the mid-90s to indicate the practice of chaperones by very young girls which very often resulted in complete relationships with much older men, in exchange for gifts and money.
The life of Japanese students has always been characterized by hard study and work to try to pave the way for the future. The lack of entertainment and money to spend on themselves has led many of them to do enjo kōsai.
Linked to this phenomenon is that of the shops that depopulated in Tokyo in the 1990s and until well into the early 2000s, shops where these girls sold their used underwear (burusera), but also clothes, shoes, photographs and even saliva and urine. These shops were so busy that over the years they have become a real social problem.
Rope is the last officially existing shop where young students can sell their clothes, just as they used to sell bodily secretions or escorts.
Located near the Love Hotel Hill (it is worth taking a stroll here too, in terms of anthropological study), Rope is certainly an unconventional destination, almost unknown except to lovers of the genre but which will give you the opportunity to get to know a Japan evidently still linked to certain dynamics.
Speaking of this topic, I invite you to document yourself on a cinematographic level because several directors have dealt with this phenomenon.
SHIBUYA MARK CITY
Located a short walk from the Hachiko statue, this large mall is worth the visit for the food court. Here it is in fact possible to buy excellent confectionery and gastronomy products (including sensational bento boxes). There is no shortage of corners dedicated to luxury fruit. Opening 10am - 9pm, website, address: 1 Chome-12-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0043
Historic used manga and anime shop, this is the favorite shop of all fans of the genre. The Shibuya office, in my opinion, is the most beautiful and also the best equipped. Here it is also possible to buy wonderful art and photography books, artbooks of the best known mangakas, action figures and cosplay accessories.
Opening: 12pm - 8pm, address: 〒150-0042 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Udagawacho, 31−2 渋谷BEAM B2F
Chain of record shops that in Shibuya has a huge store on several floors where you can also buy vinyl, gadgets and magazines.
Opening 10am - 11pm, website, address: 1 Chome-22-14 Jinnan, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0041
WHERE TO EAT
In Shibuya, it is impossible to starve - but this adage is easily applicable to almost any neighborhood in Tokyo.
Here the gastronomic offer is very wide, there is no shortage of restaurants, bars, night clubs and food courts. You are spoiled for choice!
Quiet and elegant western-style Japanese cafe, perfect for an afternoon break. You can choose to sit in the smoking room on the ground floor or the non-smoking room on the upper floor. In addition to enjoying the excellent desserts, it is also possible to have a small lunch here.
Here I tried an excellent short cake accompanied by good coffee.
Opening 10am - 11pm, website, address: 16-14 Sakuragaokachō, Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to 150-003
Small hidden ramen bar frequented only by salary men and students. I have dined here on several occasions and have tried practically all the ramen offered on the menu. Very delicious!
Opening 11:30am - 10pm, website, address: 16-10 Sakuragaokacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0031
SUSHI NO MIDORI
Located inside the Mark City shopping center, Sushi no Midori is one of the best-known sushi restaurants and is also appreciated by the Japanese themselves.
Famous for its fresh fish, honest price but above all its generous portions, this place is truly an institution.
I advise you to go there well in advance, before opening, because it is really very popular and you risk waiting even more than two hours before entering.
Opening 11am - 10pm, website, address: 1 Chome-12-3 Dogenzaka, Shibuya City, Tokyo 107-6302
Sushi kaiten very famous especially among the youngest, thanks to the really bargain price. The quality, in my opinion, is low and I know several people who have been sick after eating here.
Since it is very popular and still very successful, I wanted to include it anyway for those who want to try the experience. But I didn't like it.
J.S. CURRY SHIBUYA (CLOSED)
Excellent little place near Bunkamura where you can enjoy a delicious Japanese curry but also declined in spicier variants. The sides are delicious, starting with the korokke (Japanese croquettes).
Opening 11am - 11pm, website, address: 2 Chome-23-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0043
Very cheap yakiniku place frequented by boys and groups of friends. The menu is really vast and also offers different qualities of vegetables and kimchi to create an excellent dinner based on grilled meat with Korean references.
It is the most famous Starbucks in Japan because it is the one from which you can enjoy an excellent view of the busiest intersection in the world.
It is not suitable for those who want to take a snack break in total tranquility as it is always hyper crowded.
Opening 6:30am - 2am, address: 〒150-0042 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Udagawacho, 21−6 ＱＦＲＯＮＴ 1F
Small ramen bar near Shibuya. The owner is very kind and his ramen is delicious. An amusing sign placed in the restaurant reads "Open until late or until the broth runs out!".
Address: 2-20-11 Shibuya, Shibuya 150-0002
TIGER GYOZA HALL
Large restaurant with a modern and captivating design near Shibuya where you can enjoy delicious gyoza while sipping sochu or beer. Here you can also enjoy excellent Chinese dishes.