This is the last leg of our Tokyo trip on a budget. We saved this day for our attempt to be one with nature. From the concrete jungle that is Tokyo, we needed a sweet escape and appreciate the city in spring which is actually the best time to be there. We planned to spend the morning, have a picnic, take a lot of photos at Shinjuku Gyoen. It was the end of March and the cherry blossom trees were still not in full bloom, but thank god there were some early bloomers.Still, with sore feet and legs, we went straight to a Family Mart and shopped for our picnic food: sushi rolls, chips, churros, sandwiches, and coffee. From Shibuya station, Shinjuku is just 7 minutes away.
You can actually walk from Shinjuku station to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden if you’re not a group of little grandmas with early signs of arthritis like us. But if you are, take another train via Marunouchi Line and alight at the Shinjukugyoenmae station. From this station, you can save yourselves a good deal of energy that you would be needing for the day ahead. You may ask around or use Google maps to locate the park entrance since it’s not visible from this station.
SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN. Entrance fee is ¥ 200 ($ 1.60/ ₱ 73). It was a bit crowded since it was practically cherry blossom season, but not as much as in April so it was a very nice day to sit on the grass and have a picnic like everybody else was doing.
We sat next to the Real Housewives of Tokyo.
Obligatory photo ops with cherry blossoms.
The park was actually really huge that we weren’t able to see everything during the 2 hours that we were there.
I can only imagine how this would all look like in full bloom. I will definitely come back but I’ll make sure it will be in early April.
We thought we could take the time to get in touch with Japan’s history by shrine-hopping but we were just able to visit one. Next time, I’ll take note that some temples and shrines close early in the afternoon.
HANAZONO SHRINE. The only shrine we were able to see was the Hanazono Shrine. It’s a tranquil shrine in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku. There weren’t many tourists when we went there.
If you’re a superstitious person or you just want to immerse yourself in their traditions, you may buy an ema (a small piece of wooden plaque) and write any wish you have and hang it up at the temple.
Shinto worshippers clean their hands and mouth with water at the cleansing station.
HARAJUKU. Our next stop was Harajuku, with the hope of seeing teenage girls wearing all the clothes they own at once.
I had read that many of their kind hang out at Takeshita street but we didn’t even dare to pass. There were tourists actually standing at the end of the street just looking at the crowd as if this was an attraction to them.
Harajuku Street is actually a lot calmer.
5 PM in the afternoon is not a very good time to look for Japanese restaurants. A lot of them are closed at that time and re-open at 6 so you have fewer choices. Things are quite expensive in Harajuku, including food so we were lucky we found this local restaurant hidden from the main streets. They only served gyozas and vegetables if I’m not mistaken.
KIDDYLAND. After loading up on gyozas, we went to Kiddyland: Japanese toy paradise. It’s a 5-storey toy store with all the Japanese (and non-Japanese) cartoon characters you can think of, even the creepy ones.
DON QUIJOTE. Since it was our last night in Tokyo, we had to save the night for souvenir-shopping. The best place to do this is in Donki (Don Quijote). There are many branches all over Tokyo but since we stayed in Shibuya, we opted to shop near as we were sure we would be carrying a lot of stuff after shopping. It has everything your family or friends want you to bring home – Green tea-flavored Kitkats, instant ramen noodles, souvenir shirts, and magnets.
Our Japan quickie was one helluva trip. If you need tips on how to go about planning yours, watch out for my next post.