My favorite neighborhood in Tokyo

When I think of Tokyo, the first area that comes to mind is Shinjuku. It’s the area in which I spent my first few days on my initial time in Japan as a JET Program participant. A large group of sleepy Australian JETs arrived at Narita Airport on a scorching August morning. From there, we were guided by bus to the air-conditioned luxury of the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku. The following day was to be the start of a two-day orientation program, but we were free to explore far and wide for the remainder of our arrival day.

Given that it was my first ever visit to Japan, and my lack of sleep on the flight, our journey around the city on that day felt unreal. I had no preconceived image of what I expected Japan to be like, but the streets of Shinjuku fit the stereotype with their neon lights, towering skyscrapers, and high amount of pedestrians. However, my biggest memory is of the humidity that seemed to permanently exist in the city, especially for someone who had arrived from the location of a typically chilly Melbourne winter.

Over the course of the next three years, during my time as a Nara JET, I made occasional visits to Tokyo for a mixture of work and leisure-related purposes. There was always a sense of nostalgia to return to the place where I first arrived as well as an energizing boost from spending time in one of the world’s major cities. It was particularly rewarding to have the opportunity to return to the JET Program orientation as an assistant, two years after my own arrival.

My current period in Japan has nearly reached the three-year mark, and my opinion of Shinjuku has changed as a result of living in the relatively close proximity of Yokohama. These days, I see it more as a place to meet up with overseas visitors than as a destination in its own right. However, there are still places of interest to discover such as Golden Gai, an area that would be affectionately described in Australia as a “watering hole” – namely, a place to drink alcohol. Even though I’m not a drinker myself, walking around the maze of narrow alleyways that make up the area is a fascinating experience. The tiny bars with various facades also provide unique opportunities for photography.

Two perennial favorite places of mine in Shinjuku would have to be the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and Ome Kaido. In the case of the former, it is rare for a major skyscraper to offer such an unobstructed, panoramic view of the Tokyo skyline, free of charge to visitors. On a clear day, one can even see Mt. Fuji from there. In the case of the latter, the view from the overpass looking towards the intersection, with the Chuo line overpass and the bright lights of Kabukicho in the background, is one of the iconic views of Tokyo.

Finally, I must mention the selection of restaurants in the area. When I lived in Nara, birthday celebrations and other get-togethers were typically held at Torikizoku, an izakaya chain specializing in chicken dishes. Shinjuku has an abundance of Torikizoku restaurants, which provide a nice dose of Kansai nostalgia.



preconceived (adj.) – an opinion formed before you have a lot of information, experience, or evidence and which is therefore probably wrong
facade (n) – the front of a building
perennial (adj.) – always existing, or never seeming to change
unobstructed (adj.) – not blocked by any object