Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: Dakota, Lisa, Daniel and Emily in Marunouchi & Harajuku

Japan Tour Guide (JTG) is an online portal that aims to match volunteer Japanese guides with visitors coming to Japan. Read about their tours put together for tourists by these friendly local guides in this regular column!

We received a guide request from four university students, Dakota, Lisa, Daniel and Emily from Edmonton, Canada. They wanted to enjoy biking around the Imperial Palace and visit somewhere locals like. It was their first time to come to Japan, so we, Shota Asaka and myself, Yuka Takada, took them to some exciting places in Japan! We first met up with them at Yurakucho Station.
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First, we went to Tokyo International Forum, which stands between Tokyo Station and Yurakucho Station, and is a multipurpose exhibition center. When we got there, we found out that a flea market was being held, so we strolled around for a bit before heading for the Forum Art Shop. Not only does it sell souvenirs of Japan, it also sells so many kinds of goods from all over the world! Then, we headed to the museum of Aida Mitsuo, a famous Japanese poet, which was located in the same building. All of his poems were translated into English. They all seemed to be interested in them and read them closely. There was also a place to experience calligraphy, and they tried to write some of their favorite characters with a brush. I wonder if they were able to create precious memories there.
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Next, we headed for Tokyo Station to have Soba for lunch. They all had never tried Soba before, so they looked at the menu thoroughly. We all ordered either cold or hot Soba, and some of us ordered it with a mini Tendon. Before we started to eat, Shota and I taught them a little about Japanese manners. We taught them the words “Itadaki-masu,” and “gochisou-sama”, polite phrases that Japanese say before and after eating, that is said with our hands put together to express our gratitude for the meal. I think one of the good points of traveling with locals is that you are able to learn things regular tour guides probably don’t tell during their tours.
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After having lunch, we walked towards the Imperial Palace to go biking. The weather was pleasant and the wind felt so good.
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Lastly, we went to Monster Café in Harajuku. It is really popular even among tourists from other countries these days. The ornate and unique inside of the café surprised all of them! We ordered a big parfait with five colored whip cream and ice cream. They all looked like they enjoyed Japanese “Kawaii” culture a lot there!
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After taking one last picture together, we hugged, shook hands with each other, and said goodbye.
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This is just a small look into one of the many adventures you can have with Japan Tour Guide. We are looking forward to guiding you around the city and showing you the ins and outs of Japan!

Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: Bartosz in Shibuya

Japan Tour Guide (JTG) is an online portal that aims to match volunteer Japanese guides with visitors coming to Japan. Read about their tours put together for tourists by these friendly local guides in this regular column!

We received a guiding request from Bartosz, a tourist from Poland. He wanted to visit somewhere exciting with shops and entertainment related to anime. Japanese manga and anime subculture fascinated him back in Poland that he dreamed of coming to Japan one day. The guides were both university students, Kodai Ikeda and myself, Kate Esterly. We met up with Bartosz at the Hachiko statue in Shibuya.

 

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First, we headed for Mandarake, an anime shop that widely sells mangas and classic sci-fi figure dolls. After passing the big Shibuya crossing, it was ten minutes’ walk to the shop. Bartosz was surprised to see so many mangas at once, since he has only been to smaller-scale anime shops in Poland. He decided to purchase some mangas that he couldn’t get in Poland.

 

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In the same building, we went to another anime store called ‘Animate’ which was few floors above. The shop sells all kinds of merchandise of popular anime, particularly popular among female audiences. We enjoyed reflecting on different anime from old to new as we walked through the aisle.

 

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Then we headed towards PARCO in Shibuya, a department store that consists of about 180 shops. Not only does it include fashion, shops of Japanese pop culture can be found as well. We went to the ONE PIECE MUGIWARA STORE, where it has all sorts of merchandise and gallery of the popular anime, ONE PIECE. It is a great spot to take pictures too!

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As we were getting hungry, we headed to Ichiran to eat Japanese ramen. Located in Spain-zaka, a small slope with Spanish design, Ichiran is famous for its addicting Tonkotsu soup that is pork marrow bones and fat cooked for hours. After we entered, we placed our order at the vending machine and got our tickets. We could choose our favorite toppings such as boiled eggs or extra porks too! Then we filled out our order sheets (there’s English too) to select the type of broth, spicy level, noodle hardness level, etc. The restaurant is a bar seating style, where we are seated in individual cubicles. We enjoyed our delicious meal and especially Bartosz, who ordered Japanese beer that tasted exceptionally good with ramen!

 

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Lastly, we went to Big Echo, a karaoke shop. It was Bartosz’s first-time experience to sing at karaoke. He tried to sing his favorite anime songs as much as he can with the help by Kodai. He enjoyed singing a lot. After walking back towards the station, we greeted each other and said goodbye.

 

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This is just a small look into one of the many adventures you can have with Japan Tour Guide. We are looking forward to guiding you around the city and showing you the ins and outs of Japan!

Tokyo Is Yours

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We at WAttention are not huge fans of graffiti, but there are some exceptions to the rule. Though the author (or artist?) behind these taggings is obviously anonymous, “Tokyo is Yours” has been showing up all across Shibuya and beyond, especially along the back alleys.

We personally find it encouraging. How about you?

Tokyo Must Do with Japan Tour Guide

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Get a taste of “real” Japan with sights recommended by Japan Tour Guide, a group in Japan that matches visitors with volunteer guides. (http://tourguide.jp/)

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Today’s Guide: Tomonari Watanabe

Tomonari is a student from the Tokyo University of Science. He guides foreign visitors every weekend in Tokyo, where he was born and raised. To date, he has guided some 300 groups of visitors.

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Spot 1: Kichijoji (10:00am)

Take a stroll around the most desirable town to live in, as voted by the locals. The picturesque Inokashira Park here is famous for cherry blossom viewing and boasts a large pond where you can paddle a boat in. You may even catch some street performers along the river path.

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For a satisfying and affordable meal, try yakitori restaurant Iseya.

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Spot 2: Shibuya (1:15pm)

After seeing how the locals live, see how they play.

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Shibuya is where you can shop for the latest fashion, eat a variety of food and try all sorts of entertainment, such as concept cafes–maid cafes, ganguro cafes (witness extreme makeup!) and even a goat cafe!

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Between Shibuya and Harajuku, there is Cat Street which has many street fashion clothes shops and general shops where you can enjoy window shopping.

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Spot 3: Harajuku (3:00pm)

The most famous place for foreign tourists in Harajuku is definitely Meiji Shrine. Feel purified both mentally and physically while experiencing Shinto, the Japanese traditional religion.

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From the shrine, you can easily access the trendsetting Takeshita Street, which is famous for its clothes shops and crepes. For high fashion, Omotesando Street is just round the corner.

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Spot 4: Shinjuku (5:15pm)

In the skyscraper district of Shinjuku, there are many shopping malls, bars and clubs where you can experience Tokyo’s nightlife. For a feel of Japan’s early post-war days, head to drinking alley Omoide Yokocho. Or visit Hanazono Shrine, Shinjuku’s guardian shrine for some history and culture.

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For dinner, why not treat yourself to Kyomachi Koishigure, where you can enjoy Kyoto’s traditional atmosphere and savor delicious Japanese food and sake.

 

Cat Street

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This is “Cat Street”, called by this name for two reasons. First, it seems that cats seem to like walking this street.

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Many new shops by aspiring fashion designers and up-and-coming fashion lines can be found here.

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Not only new fashion but also cafe or restaurant you can enjoy in this street.

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Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: Ayu in Bunkyo Ward

Japan Tour Guide (JTG) is an online portal that aims to match volunteer Japanese guides with visitors coming to Japan. Read about their tours put together for tourists by these friendly local guides in this regular column.

We received a request from Ayu, a tourist from Indonesia. She asked us if we could take her somewhere less known, where foreign tourists usually don’t go, to get to know the local Japanese culture. The guides were university students, Satoru Sekiya and Kae Nishimura. We met up with her at Todai-mae Station, and gave her a tour of great spots in Bunkyo Ward.

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University of Tokyo
First, we headed to the University of Tokyo, which is the top-ranking university in Japan. We got there in 5 minutes from the station. We saw a statue of Hachiko, but it was a little bit different from the statue of Hachiko in Shibuya. We recommend that you see both statues!

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Yushima Tenmangu Shrine
This shrine is not so far from the university. This shrine receives offerings of ema (small wooden plaques). Around this time, many students write down their wishes to pass the entrance exams into junior, senior high school and university. They pray for success to enter the school they want in April. We wrote down our wishes on ema too!

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Then, we took the subway to Korakuen Station in Bunkyo Ward, where the rest of our sightseeing spots for the day awaited us.

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Tokyo Dome City
Many Japanese people like to spend time at this popular entertainment complex in Bunkyo Ward. Tokyo Dome City consists of a baseball stadium (Tokyo Dome), amusement park, shopping mall and spa resort (LaQua). We had lunch together at a restaurant which served doria, a western-style rice casserole with white sauce, that originated in Japan! It tastes like gratin.

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Purikura
Purikura is a popular activity among Japanese students, young women and couples. These machines let you take pictures and decorate them, before printing them on sticker paper. If you have chance, go try it!

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Don Quijote
Next, we introduced her to discount chain store Don Quijote. There are about 160 stores throughout Japan. They sell many kinds of products from groceries to cosplay goods. We found a unique beauty face pack that had Kumadori (Kabuki face paint) printed on it. This could be a good souvenir for your friends!

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Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

Finally, we visited Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, adjacent to Tokyo Dome City. This is one of the oldest and best gardens among the preserved parks in Tokyo. Open hours are from 9am until 5pm, and entrance costs 300 yen. Feel as if you’ve traveled back in time to the Edo period here. After walking around the park, we went back to Korakuen Station and said goodbye.

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This is just a small look into one of the many adventures you can have with Japan Tour Guide. We are looking forward to guiding you around the city and showing you the ins and outs of Japan!

Why not move around Shibuya via the Hachiko Bus?

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Shibuya City runs the small, non-step Hachiko Bus, which also allows easy wheelchair access. You can go nearly everywhere in Shibuya by this bus!

Bus Route(Uehara-Tomigaya)
Uehara-Tomigaya Route map(PDF 31KB)

Uehara-Tomigaya Time table(PDF 85KB)

Bus Route “Jinguno Mori Route”(Jingumae-Sendagaya)
Jingumae-Sendagaya Route map (PDF 64KB)

Jingumae-Sendagaya Time table (PDF 18KB)

Bus Route Honmachi-Sasazuka Loop “Haruno Ogawa (A Stream in Springtime) Route “

Honmachi-Sasazuka Loop Haruno Ogawa Route map(PDF 67KB)

Honmachi-Sasazuka Loop Haruno Ogawa Time table (PDF 87KB)

Bus Route Ebisu-Daikanyama Loop “Yuyake Koyake (Sunset) Route”

Ebisu Daikanyama Yuyake Koyake Route map(PDF 72KB)

Ebisu Daikanyama Yuyake Koyake Time table(PDF 57KB)

Information

Fee:100 yen

Shinjuku in Photos: The Station & Skyscrapers

Shinjuku Bus Terminal

Shinjuku is a large district of Tokyo that is home to all kinds of great and wonderful things to see and do. You can look out over the district from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, wander one of the many side streets that line Shinjuku Station, or even get lost in the numerous passageways within the station itself. But what are the top things to do that won’t set you back a few hundred dollars?

In this series, professional cameraman Heath Smith provides a photo tour of his top five places to see—all of which are free, or relatively cheap!

2. Explore Shinjuku Station itself

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Shinjuku Bus Terminal, viewed from inside the station.

Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world with more than 3.5 million commuters traveling through it every day. If you are willing to go exploring, you can find some really spectacular sights that let you look out over the district.

Cocoon Tower (left) and L-Tower (right)
The iconic Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (center) and L-Tower (right).
The mad rush of people as they leave Shinjuku Station on the east exit.
The mad rush of people as they leave Shinjuku Station on the east exit.
Shooting from the Shinjuku west exit pedestrian bridge
Shooting from the Shinjuku west exit pedestrian bridge.

3. Walk the Path of the Giants

The Sompo Japan Building, as seen from the pedestrian bridge.
The Sompo Japan Building, as viewed from the pedestrian bridge.

Shinjuku is home to many of Tokyo’s tallest and attractive skyscrapers. If you walk from the Sompo Japan Building towards the Park Hyatt Tokyo, this path will lead you by a lot of interesting sites, like the Shinjuku LOVE Sculpture, and the courtyard of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building.

The Shinjuku Mode Gakuen as seen from below
The Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower from below.
The Shinjuku "LOVE" Sign is just one of many located all around the world.
The Shinjuku “LOVE” sign is just one of many located all around the world.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building, seen from the courtyard
The Tokyo Metropolitan Building, seen from the courtyard.
The road next to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building passes alongside most of the skyscrapers here.
The road next to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building passes alongside most of the skyscrapers here.
Lastly, don't miss this amazing view from the atrium of the Shinjuku NS Building.
Lastly, don’t miss this amazing view from the atrium of the Shinjuku NS Building!