Travel books always say that it is inevitable that you will get lost in Tokyo – a city composed of whirlwind of traffic and people, buildings standing in all available land – with 12.5 million people living in just 2,100 square kilometers of land!
Frommer’s Japan Guidebook (2008) best expresses it this way: “Your most frustrating moments in Tokyo will probably occur when you find that you’re totally lost… accept is here and now: You will get lost if you are al all adventurous and strike out on your own. It is inevitable. But take comfort in the fact that Japanese get lost too – even taxi drivers!”
So it was no small comfort that we actually got lost in Tokyo during our first day there! We ventured out to Shinjuku district by train to go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) Building, which has an observatory on the 45th floor. Getting there was no problem since there were distinct signs in English pointing the way to TMG coming from the train station. Unfortunately for us, it was all underground so we have no idea of what is above ground!
In expensive Tokyo, the TMG Observatory is one of the city’s best bargains – going up and using the observatory is FREE of charge (with better views of Tokyo compared to Tokyo Tower Observatory, which charges Y1,420!!!).
The views were really great from TMG’s observatory – we even had the chance to see Mount Fuji from a distance!
After sunset, we explored the area known for shopping, the huge Takashimaya Times Square. We also went to the 8-storey bookstore Kinokuniya to buy my wife’s origami books, but ended up buying some japanese craft books instead!
Then this is when everything gets exciting … we ventured inner into Shinjuku district to see the infamous redlight district of Tokyo – Kabukicho. This area is home to over three thousand bars, cinemas, hostess joints, karaoke boxes, nightclubs, pachinko parlors, love hotels, soaplands and massage establishments. We roamed around and when we finally got hungry from all the walking, settled in one Japanese Restaurant that looked decent enough to have a meal. Unfortunately, everything is in Japanese and the servers do not speak nor understand English. But that did not deter us from ordering – “turo-turo” style.
After a hearty dinner, it was time to go back to our hotel in Ueno. But getting back to the Shinjuku station took us a while to reorient us with the streets (with no street signs or names!). And then it hit us, we’re lost! And when one gets lost in Tokyo, make sure you ask three different people for directions – and follow one that is a clear majority (2 out of 3). Japanese are so polite that even if they do not know the answer, they will give you one, even if it is incorrect!
Getting lost in Tokyo and surviving it. What a first day in Tokyo!
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