Waking up in the middle of busy Shibuya was honestly one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Knowing that the horrific trip to get here was over, and it wasn’t a dream, and we were actually IN JAPAN was heavenly.
That said, the next hour or so was seriously so stressful, it made me worry about the rest of the holiday.
We only booked one night in a hotel, as we wanted to stay in AirBnBs and experience more authentic Japanese life, so with our suitcases in tow, we walked out into the middle of Shibuya for the first time.
Shibuya Crossing is HUGE, and there are so. many. people. Although we came to learn that the atmosphere and attitude of the people in it make it one of the nicest places I’ve ever been to, it was our first time being on the crossing and it was daunting. We were lugging around our suitcases, trying to find somewhere to store them after being told by a woman in the office (who was only trying to be helpful, I guess) that our bags were too large for coin lockers.
It took us a good hour to try and find the shop that she had suggested instead, going into department stores, basements and up streets that took us in loops, only to discover, after giving up on the shop in the basement of the Shibuya 109 building, that our bags did indeed fit the coin lockers.
By this time, we were running late for our first activity of the day, the Studio Ghibli Museum. Stressed and panicking slightly, we tried our best to navigate the Shibuya Subway Station, getting stuck behind ticket barriers and getting our Suica cards stuck. The time for us to be at the Museum came and went, and we almost gave up. With one last shred of moxie, we decided to just wing it and go anyway, even if we’d lost our slot.
I’m so glad we did. Although we’d heard stories of people being denied entry to the Museum because they were late for their slot, when we got there, it wasn’t even mentioned that we were late. Everyone was super friendly, and they even gave us a free gift – a movie ticket with a movie cel style middle!
The Ghibli Museum was MAGICAL! Photos weren’t allowed inside, so I took a few outside, but the inside just made me feel like a kid again, even if Harry did give himself a concussion on the spiral staircase! There were so many things to see – I especially loved the permanent exhibit of Hayao Miyazaki’s workspaces, the ink and paint they use on the animation cels, his initial sketches. As an illustrator, it was like mecca, to be able to get into his brain, even just a little.
Considering we’d missed breakfast due to the luggage debacle, we headed to the Straw Hat Café. Unfortunately, there was a rather long wait, but we were determined to eat here – the experience of eating in a Ghibli themed restaurant and our hungry bellies made the wait seem worth it; it seriously was! The food was amazing; we had a mushroom tagliatelle and then the best strawberry shortcake I have ever had in my life. This cake has ruined all cakes for me – I DREAM about this cake.
After that, we spent a long time looking around, took our pictures with the Laputa robot, and spent far too much money in the Mamma Aiuto! gift shop. It was seriously a lovely first morning, and it’s something that will stay with me all my life.
We headed back to Shibuya and checked into our second accommodation, an AirBnB just around the corner from Shibuya Crossing, ducking into the famous Don Quijote to have a quick peek. Don Quijote is a chain of department stores, famous in Japan and Asia for selling anything and everything, and it really does. We could have spent hours in there, but we were conscious of our reservation for the evening, so we headed back and got ready for going out.
There was still a little bit of time before our 9:30pm booking, so we headed down the streets to Golden Gai, a little criss-cross area full of tiny little bars, barely big enough to hold five people. Each one had it’s own unique style and interesting looking people – we settled on a little bar called Anchor, wherein sat a very nice Russian man, along with the barman. We talked to them both easily, a mix of Japanese and English, and learned a little bit about Russia, and Japan. It was really fun and I could easily have stayed there for longer, but we thought we’d try another bar while we had time.
We then found another little bar at the end of an alleyway where the barman was playing slide guitar. We went in and sat down, and eventually got to talking about music; the barman showed us his albums that he’d recorded, and gave us delicious bar snacks. Everyone was so friendly that it was almost a shame to leave.
The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku is one of the craziest places I have been, and this is coming from someone who lives in Cornwall, with a load of pirates, festivals and myths. The place was bonkers from the get go – even before you get in the door, you have the opportunity to take a picture sat on a robot. You then go and get your reserved ticket in a little shop where the walls are plastered with famous people that have visited the restaurant.
Heading down into the restaurant itself, we got ourselves a beer and watched the band, a girl and two guys dressed as robots playing english covers. After a little while, we were shown into the arena, which was as bright and overwhelming as the rest of the place, with massive screens behind the audience showing wacky graphics.
The show was completely bonkers and overwhelming and so professionally done. There were dragons, butterflies, pandas, turtles – I’ve never actually taken acid before, but I can imagine the effect being very similar.
It’s definitely something to see – I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world like it.
My next blog will be all about Riri the Panda from Ueno Zoo!