Tokyo, Japan (Day 1 – Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Maricar!)

Tokyo is truly an eclectic and vibrant city.  Even though we live in Seoul which is a big city; Tokyo is a very different animal.  The city really doesn’t appear to sleep, our flight arrived late and when we arrived to our apartment, there were plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs that were still open.  One thing I can say for sure is that the Japanese stay up later and party harder than Koreans, it’s incredible.

Day 1 Itinerary:

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory
  • Meiji Jingu Shrine
  • Yoyogi Park
  • Gonpachi Sushi
  • Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing
  • Shibuya Shopping
  • Maricar (Shinagawa)

Our day began with a visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building which has an observation area on the 45th floor. The best thing about the Tokyo Metropolitan Govenment Building is that there is no charge to go up.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo(Take the subway to Tochomae Station and follow the signs for the TMG)
Hours of Operation: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM

We arrived right around 9:30 AM and was in the first elevator to go up, we had no wait.

The observation floor is not outdoors, so there is glass in the way and not exactly ideal for photos, but to see the city at no cost, it’s definitely recommended. They also have some gift shops up there and a cafe, so you can roam around.

Next up we headed over to the Meiji Jingu shrine which is a shrine of national prayer for peace and prosperity.  It was built as a result of combined efforts of all of the Japanese to commemorate the Emperor Meiji’s virtues. The shrine building was lost in a fire, but was reconstructed in 1958.  The inner garden consists of 173 acres and the outer garden is 74 acres, so it’s really gigantic.


Meiji Jingu Shrine
1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo (You can access the park from quite a few subway stations, so select the one that works best for you. We definitely took the long way as we went out of Yoyogi station A1 exit and walked about 25 minutes to the shrine (oops!).)

As you can see from the map, the shrine is in the middle of a large park so no matter what you’re gonna get some steps in.

We ended up taking a side entrance and here is the gate leading into the park.

We finally made it to the shrine.

After we left Meiji shrine, we stopped into Yoyogi park, which is right next door.


Yoyogi Park
2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo
Hours of Operation:
May 1 – October 15: 5 :00 AM – 8:00 PM
October 16 – April 30: 5:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

I loved all the little graphics for the prohibited things to do at the park.

And this sign made me a little concerned….crows don’t usually warrant a caution sign…

As soon as we entered the park we stopped by the little convenience store and loaded up on ice cold water and I got a delicious watermelon ice pop! It was pretty warm and we needed to cool down.

The park is pretty large and is a nice little walk with some water features and an area they call the “Bird Sanctuary.”

The “Bird Sanctuary” is where we discovered why there was a caution sign about crows.  Look at the beak on that crow! It’s HUGE, probably the size of 3 pigeons!!  They were definitely not afraid of you and were super aggressive with food.

Other than the terrifying crows, we saw some run of the mill pigeons and some ducks.

We decided to take the subway at Harajuku, while we were walking we saw a huge line stretching many blocks and went to investigate.  We were told that it was the release of the Jordan ones.  It was absolutely crazy how long the line was! If you’re into the newest hottest clothing and accessory trends, definitely roam around Harajuku a bit. 

All this walking had definitely worked up an appetite, so we headed to Shibuya to Gonpachi restaurant to get some grub.


Gonpachi Restuarant
14F, E.Space Tower, 3-6, Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (Take the subway to Shibuya station and take Exit 1)
Hours of Operation:
Soba: 11:30 AM – 3:30 AM (Lunch is from 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM)
Sushi: 11:30 AM – 2:00 AM (Lunch is from 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM)

When you arrive, they will ask if you want to sit in the sushi or soba section.  We opted for sushi and were pretty happy with our selections. 

They have 4 different set menus, and I decided to try the “Lunch Kiwami Course” for ¥4,000 (a little less then $40). This set consisted of 3 kinds of appetizers, 2 kinds of Sashimi, Kuroge Beef Sirloin Steak, Steamed Egg Custard, 6 pcs of Nigiri, Seaweed Miso Soup, and Dessert.

Also don’t forget to try the Japanese beers as they are very tasty.

These were my 3 appetizers: corn cake, octopus in ponzu sauce, and razor clams and shiitake mushrooms. All 3 were delicious.

Tuna and Barracuda Sashimi

Kuroge Beef Sirloin Steak

Steamed Egg Custard

6 pcs of mixed Nigiri

and Yuzu Sorbet for dessert! I love yuzu so much, for those of you who have never tried it,   it’s a citrus fruit that looks basically like a  grapefruit but with uneven skin, but has a much milder flavor inside than grapefruit.

Our friend ordered a different set and he got these perfectly fried prawns with shisito pepper. YUM!

Ours meals were really fresh and delicious, I love how the Japanese manage to preserve the natural flavor of the ingredients and really make those the stars of the show without much seasoning.


Now that we had full tummies, we were ready to charge onward.  We were just down the street from Shibuya Pedestrian crossing, which is right outside of Shibuya Station.  When the walk signal lights up, the pedestrian crossing stops all vehicles from proceeding and a flood of people from all directions (including diagonally) start moving.  I’m sure you have seen the pedestrian crossing in many movies. You can get a decent vantage point of the pedestrian crossing from the 2nd and 3rd floor of the Starbucks.  Be prepared to fight people for a window seat though.


Shibuya is a great destination for shopping. One of my favorite stores, Tokyu hands has a location in Shibuya.  


Tokyu Hands (Shibuya Store)
12-18 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (Take subway to Shibuya Station and approximately 7 minute walk from Hachiko Exit. )
Hours of operation: 10:00 AM – 8:30 PM
For other locations, click here

Tokyo hands basically sells everything you could think of under one roof, it’s definitely a one stop shop! They offer beauty, living, bikes, to arts and crafts supplies.

They even had a pet section!

I enjoyed walking around and seeing all the fun things they had for sale.


As it was getting later, we decided to head to Shinagawa to have dinner and get ready for our Maricar tour. The area of Shinagawa where Maricar is located has lots of little restaurants; so feel free to pop in one and give it a try.

So what is Maricar you ask? It is go-karting on the roads of Tokyo in fun costumes! I had heard about Maricar when I was doing research about Tokyo and of course knew that Scott and his friend would love driving around Tokyo in a go-kart.  I don’t think they really knew what we were getting ourselves into.

Maricar
1-23-15 Kita-Shinagawa Shinagawa, Tokyo, 140-0001 (Take subway to Keikyu Kita-Shinagawa sta. it is a 3 minute walk from that station or take the train to JR Shinagawa sta. it is a 13 minute walk from that station).

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We arrived to the Maricar storefront around 6:45 PM for our 7 PM tour, and they had so many costumes and accessories for us to choose from. There were more than just the Mario Kart characters, they had Spiderman, Ironman, Doraemon, and more.

img_7072

We ended up deciding to be the 3 Luigis!

Mari car has about 40 go-karts in their fleet, but they take about 6 people maximum per tour guide.  On the night of our tour there were 8 of us and we had 2 tour guides.

We had opted for the 3 hour tour as I had read that 2 hours just wasn’t enough time.  The 3 hour tour is ¥11,000 (if you write a review on social media after your tour, it’s only ¥8,000) and the 2 hour tour is ¥8,000 (only ¥6,000 with the social media review). Before you get too excited, since you will be driving on the streets of Tokyo, you must have either a Japanese driver’s license or an International Driving Permit (IDP).  They will make sure you have this before you are able to drive the go-kart, so don’t forget to get an IDP well in advance of your trip if you’re not a local.

When we were ready to start the tour, we were given a lesson on how to operate the go-kart and where the turn signals and emergency lights were. Note: there are NO seatbelt  or roll bars. Getting used to driving the go-kart took a minute, I kept gently tapping the gas, afraid that I might hit the kart in front of me, but in order to pick up any kind of speed you really have to put the pedal to the metal.  The guide took it easy on us the first 10 minutes so we could acclimate to everything.

The tour started at the store in Shibuya and then took us over a bridge, I don’t mean a little small bridge, I’m talking HUGE bridge with lots of curves.  That was definitely the first big surprise of the evening. We continued on to Odaiba and we made our first stop at Aqua City (a huge mall) and a great vantage point for the Statue of Liberty replica that they have on the waterfront.  We had some time for a photo op and restroom break.

Next we drove to Tokyo Tower where we had our second photo stop (sorry it started raining more heavily at Tokyo Tower, so here is a picture from my phone. Had to put the DSLR away!) and then off to Roppongi.

We finished off the tour by going through Shibuya, we got to drive through the pedestrian crossing and honestly everyone there was so excited, it almost felt like we were famous! We are sure that we took Facebook Japan by storm that night.

Go-karting on the streets of Japan is definitely one of the most unique things I have ever done, and it was definitely fun and exhilarating.  I would highly recommend you give it a try! For more information on Maricar, you can visit their website here.

The first day in Tokyo was amazing and we were ready for more! Come back next week for day 2!

If you have questions while you’re planning your own trip to Tokyo, you might want to read my post on Things you need to know and hopefully that will help guide you.

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