Monday, February 13, 2012

Tokyo: Shinjuku

One of our most recent visits to Tokyo was to “see” Tokyo. We have been to Tokyo couple of times but had never been to the “happening” destinations- Harajuku, Shinjuku and Ginza. On this trip, we planned on visiting all of these over 2 days. We planned our visit during the New Year holidays, because we wanted to see the holiday lights and décor. Being peak holiday season, it was difficult to get hotel reservations, since we decided on the trip pretty much close to the beginning of the holidays. Since we were keen on making the trip, we had to settle for a hotel in Kawasaki. It was not such a bad idea, considering Kawasaki is well connected to Tokyo by the JR Line .

We went to Shinjuku and Harajuku on Day 1 and visited Marunouchi and Ginza on Day 2. On both days, we walked a lot to get a feel of the real Tokyo.

Shinjuku is one of the busiest areas of Tokyo and Shinjuku station is the world’s busiest railway station. The entire area surrounding the Shinjuku station is a commercial and entertainment hub.

Most of Tokyo’s tallest buildings are located in the skyscraper district, west of Shinjuku station, and include the twin towers of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government.
The 243 meter high twin towers contain the offices and assembly of Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
An observation decks on the 45th floor are open during working hours to visitors free of charge, but are closed during holidays and certain days each month.

Just opposite the Metropolitan Government Building is Shinjuku’s Central Park. The park is full of homeless people for whom the park is home. They live in blue tarpaulin tents during the nights and roll their shanties down during daytime and most often survive on food donated by charities. We actually saw the homeless people living on the streets in quite a few places in Tokyo, but it is rare to spot homeless people in the smaller cities.  
Interestingly, a manmade waterfall in the park is dubbed Niagara Falls.

Some of the best hotels – Hilton, Hyatt Regency and Park Hyatt are all located in Shinjuku.

The Mode Gakuen Coccoon tower is another of Shinjuku’s landmarks. 
NTT Docomo building is modeled after the Empire State Building and contains the offices of Japan’s largest cell phone service provider. The upper part of the building is a mobile communication tower.
Shinjuku has some of the biggest departmental stores – Takashimaya Times Square, Isetan, Mitsukoshi and Marui being few of them.

The east side of Shinjuku station is where Kabukicho- the entertainment and redlight area is located. Kabukicho is Japan’s largest red light area.  

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