Hunting for Godzilla in Shinjuku!
03.04.2015 - 03.04.2015
After a brief convenience store bought lunch, we headed to Shinjuku with our first stop being Shinjuku Goen (garden). During our last visit to Tokyo we were disappointed to find it closed but today it was open and rapidly filling with tourists and residents alike, all eager to visit the cherry blossom trees. With the highest concentration of the trees in Tokyo, it’s a prime viewing spot and spring is the only time the garden charges for entry. Needless to say, the park was filled with cherry blossom trees in full bloom and was absolutely magnificent. I’ve never seen so many blossoms, or people for that matter, fill a park and it remains an absolute highlight of the trip.
After a good hour or two we left the park onto something more commercial and modern. Shinjuku has an amazing vibe and has a little bit of everything packed into it. Narrow streets lined with restaurants and pachinko parlours give way to roaring roads, with the entire area covered in towering neon signs. The whole area buzzes with energy and life, giving it a real sense of modern Tokyo. Despite the warren-like roads, even late at night, couples and business men walk through the area and you very quickly begin to realise just how safe a city Tokyo is.
We had a blast exploring the streets, ducking into the colourful arcades and window shopping but the real highlight came when we finally managed to find the Godzilla hotel. The hotel has had quite a bit of press lately and I was eager to see what the fuss was all about. After a bit of a search, we finally spotted a claw gripping the edge of a building’s roof and, after moving back, Godzilla was visible. It didn’t disappoint and as you’ll see from the pictures he looms over the area, occasionally blowing smoke. They really did go all out on him and it’s proved to be a popular hit.
As night fell, the area came to life with its neon and bustle proving some excellent photo opportunities. We ended up having quite a search for something to eat, many of the places seeming quite pricey for the apparent value of the food but we finally happened across an excellent okonomiyaki restaurant in an underground shopping centre. Here’s a quick travel trip, if you’re visiting Japan then aim straight for these shopping centres and train stations if you’re looking for food. Unlike British equivalents, these places are designed to attract the hungry and the restaurants are usually good quality and affordable. Even better, they usually have English menus or at least window models of the meals that you can point to. It’s a quick and easy way to get food and hands-down beats trawling the streets looking for restaurants.
Well-fed and watered, we made our way to one of my favourite areas of Tokyo, Golden Gai. It’s by no means easy to find but well worth it when you do, the narrow streets and tiny bars giving an atmospheric, if seedy-looking, experience. We’ve always joked that Japan would be the only country we would be happy to walk through such an area and it’s of course completely safe. Many of the bars can only fit a handful of people in and are apparently exclusively for regulars, but others openly welcome western visitors and a good many had taken the invite.
Just across from Golden Gai is the small Hanazono Shrine. It’s been standing since the area was a vegetable field and looks fantastic lit up at night. It’s only a ten minute visit at best but well worth a look, especially given its proximity to Golden Gai.
So, that’s our first day in Tokyo covered. Feel free to browse the photos below and ask any questions in the comments section below. We’re by no means experts but will be happy to answer any questions if we can!