Last November we spent two weeks in Japan. We started our trip from Tokyo, and then moved on to other cities. There is so much to see in Tokyo, and we could have easily spent our whole vacation there. However, my Japanese colleague suggested cities that everyone visiting Japan should see, so we changed our travel plans and ended up touring around. But we started our vacation from Shinjuku in Tokyo.
Tokyo is divided into 14 prefectures, and Shinjuku is said to be the center of trade and administration. There are over 300,000 inhabitants, so Shinjuku really feels like a little town in itself. Tokyo is huge, and when you visit the first time, it might be difficult to know where to even look for accommodations. I had read from somewhere that for first timers, Shinjuku would be a perfect choice. It is relatively easy to navigate, clean, has good transportation and is close to several sights. Shinjuku is situated along the Yamanote line which circles around Tokyo, so we were able to get there by using our Japan Rail Passes. The railway station, Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world, so plan to get lost there at least a couple of times. We stayed three of our first days in Japan with Airbnb in Shinjuku's Koreatown.
The west side of Shinjuku is the center of Tokyo's skyscrapers while on the east side you will find all the shopping streets with their neon lights. On our first day we walked around just to see some of Shinjuku. We walked over to Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, which is an amazing place if you want to experience some quietness within this giant city. It is also one of the best places in Tokyo to see fall colours during the autumn or cherry blossoms in the spring.
There are houses in all shapes and forms in Japan. One fun thing to spot on your walk is "koban", police boxes. They were established to bring police closer to people and to prevent crimes on the streets. They also serve tourists as you can ask for directions or report lost items to them. Police boxes are often different shapes and at least in Shinjuku, it was easy to find them here and there.
Later we walked to the area of all the skyscrapers, Nishi-Shinjuku. There are several observation decks in Tokyo, and we wanted to see Tokyo from high up. To do that you don't necessarily have to line up and pay to visit Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree, you can visit the Government Building for free, like we did. There was no lines to get in either. There are two towers and we chose to visit the north tower where the observation deck is at 202 meters. If the weather is clear, you can even see Mount Fuji from here, but unfortunately it was a bit hazy and we didn't manage to see it. The northern tower is also open in the evenings if you would rather see the lights of Tokyo instead.
From Shinjuku we continued our trip to Kyoto and to other cities, until we returned to Tokyo for the final days of our trip. At that time we explored the other side of Tokyo.