7 Days in Tokyo: Day One – Shinjuku & Harijuku (Part One)

Headspinning neon, to-die-for fashion, orgasmic food, offbeat entertainment, zen tranquility, time travel (I’ll explain), and lots… and lots of people.

The stories about Tokyo are all true. My husband and I just returned from a week-long vacation to the most populous metropolis in the world. Having missed the summer tourist crowds in the last week of September, we felt very much like strangers in a strange (and intimidatingly large) land, but at the same time, it was a land packed with welcoming, gentle, kind, and patient locals.

We debated taking a day trip during the week to escape the throngs of people, but we quickly discovered that there is so much to experience in Tokyo itself, including surprisingly expansive quiet spaces. Seven days wouldn’t be enough to see it all. So we decided to give ourselves plenty of time to get lost exploring the vast Blade Runner-esque city, starting with our home base on Day One: Shinjuku and Harijuku. First, some nitty gritty (and hopefully helpful) details about our arrival.

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The bustling alley outside our hotel in Shinjuku

ARRIVAL

We took a direct ANA flight from Seattle to Narita airport, located about 40 miles outside Tokyo. It’s about a 9.5 hour flight. We left on a Thursday at 2pm (Seattle time) and arrived at 4pm on Friday (Tokyo Time). The mind-blowing part was on the flight home when we literally traveled back in time, leaving at 6pm Friday (Tokyo time) and arriving at 11 am Friday (Seattle time). International date line: you so crazy.

One of the most stressful decisions we had to make was how to get from the airport to our hotel. The rail lines are direct, but complex, and it wasn’t something we wanted to figure out after a long, exhausting flight. We opted to bus it. The Airport Limousine Bus Service took a little more time (about 2 hours) due to rush hour traffic, but the ticket counter is easy to find at the airport, the buses run regularly and they’re prompt. Expect to pay about $60 for two people.

The bus dropped us off at Shinjuku Station, and from there it was a relatively easy walk to our hotel, the Tokyo Stay Shinjuku. Probably our biggest tip to you future Tokyo travelers is this: Google Maps is your best friend. We would have been lost in the maze of neon alleys, but my husband used Google Maps to expertly direct us through the twinkling concrete jungle. The app was also incredibly useful in navigating the tangle of train routes. We just input where we wanted to go and it told us exactly which stations to enter and which lines to take. Stay sharp though, we still got confused and frustrated several times along the way.

We’re here, we’re finally here! But first… sleep. Click here for a look at our first full day exploring Tokyo: Shinjuku and Harijuku.

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