For our last day in Tokyo, it was time to go back on the hunt for those sweet sweet sakura (cherry blossoms) that were popping up all over Tokyo. Since it was our last day, I knew we had to make this one count, so we decided to head over to the Shinjuku ward to view the Shinjuku Gyoen sakura! Since it was Sunday, I also recommended that we explore Harajuku and immerse ourselves in Tokyo youth culture.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Part 1 – Japan Trip Planning

Part 2 – LAS Centurion Lounge & LAS-SFO via United 737 First

Part 3 – SFO Centurion Lounge & SFO-HND via United 777 Economy

Part 4 – Tokyo Tales Day 1 – Yasukuni, Tsukemen, Ueno Park & Ikebukuro

Part 5 – Tokyo Tales Day 2 – Tokyo DisneySea

Part 6 – Tokyo Tales Day 3 – Tsukiji, Ginza & Asakusa

Part 7 – Tokyo Tales Day 4 – Harajuku, Shinjuku Gyoen & Cherry Blossom goodness

Part 8 – Tokyo Tales Day 5 – Nikko, Nikko, and more Nikko

Part 9 – Lounging and shopping at NRT

Part 10 – NRT-LAX-LAS via United 787 Business

 

Harajuku & Meiji Shrine

 

Located just two stops away from Ebisu, it was a simple train ride over to Harajuku on Sunday morning. Harajuku is known for being a hub of Tokyo youth culture, street fashion and quirky identities. The area houses an eclectic variety of shops that can pique the interest of just about anyone. Stepping out of the train station, you’re thrown right into the entrance of Takeshita Street which is a focal point of Harajuku and is lined with tons of trendy shops as well as fun restaurants, cafes and food stands.

 

shinjuku gyoen sakura

Entrance to Takeshita Street

 

The sheer number of people going up, down and through Takeshita Street were claustrophobia-inducing but it was quite an experience shopping around. One of my favorite stores on this street, although it has absolutely nothing to do with fashion, is the Harajuku branch of Daiso! It’s a 100 Yen store where everything in the store is 100 Yen! During my last trip to Japan, me and Ryan H. probably spent close to an hour just in Daiso and walked away with bags totaling over 10,000 yen so you can only imagine how much we bought!

 

Alternative/street fashion at it's best in Harajuku! (Taken 2 years ago)

Alternative/street fashion at it’s best in Harajuku! (Taken 2 years ago)

 

After browsing and people watching, it was time for lunch and we headed off to Gyoza Rou for the quick and cheap meal.

 

First in line for Gyoza Rou!

First in line for Gyoza Rou!

 

The menu is simple  – boiled or fried. For just 290 Yen, you get a serving of six dumplings. You can also add on cucumbers and bean sprouts as side dishes. It was a deliciously cheap meal and the line was quite extensive by the time we left. We arrived right as they were opening and got into the restaurant during its first wave of customers!

 

 

Next up was Meiji Shrine, a popular Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the late Emperor Meiji. Its south entrance is very close to the Harajuku JR station. From the south entrance, it’s about a 15 minute walk until you get to the actual shrine.

 

 

The grounds of the shrine are kept in excellent condition and the shrine is a very serene place surrounded by trees. I was able to pick up a charm from the shrine that is blessed for ‘good studies.’ (Cause what medical student doesn’t need more blessings in that?)

 

Finally made it to Meiji Shrine!

Finally made it to Meiji Shrine!

Clean and gorgeous temple grounds

Clean and gorgeous temple grounds

 

While we were exploring Meiji, there were not one but two wedding ceremonies and processions taking place! Each procession was led by Shinto priests and maidens followed by the bride and groom and then by the family.

 

The blushing bride and her entourage

The blushing bride and her entourage

 

After being templed out for the afternoon, it was time to move on and out from Harajuku and over to Shinjuku for a peak at the Shinjuku Gyoen sakura!

 

Shinjuku and cherry blossom overload

 

Hopping off at Shinjuku Station threw us into one of the busiest railways stations in the world. The pure size of Shinjuku Station is amazing. It’s fun to think how many passengers and trains transit through this station on a daily basis.

 

Shinjuku is a ward of tall commercial buildings and shopping malls

Shinjuku is a ward of tall commercial buildings and shopping malls

 

The main attraction, thankfully, was a pretty short walk from the station: the Shinjuku Gyoen sakura! Before that, Thomas K wanted to make a quick stop at Krispy Kreme to try their spring flavors. Verdict? Let’s just say I prefer Mr. Donut!

 

Krispy Kreme had cute Easter/spring designs at least?

Krispy Kreme had cute Easter/spring designs at least?

 

A few things about Shinjuku Gyoen. It’s a huge park. Enormous. Supposedly, it houses over 1000 cherry trees of over a dozen variety! It’s quite a sight to see. The entrance fee (yes, there is a fee to go into a park) is 200 Yen. A small price price to pay to take in all of the Shinjuku Gyoen sakura goodness we were about to experience.

 

Pictures cannot really capture how beautiful it is to see and experience sakura blooming in person. It’s been on my bucket list to see the Japanese cherry blossoms for quite some time now and it did not disappoint! For hanami (flower viewing) season, people picnic all throughout the park and under the sakura. I’m talking full on picnicking. Several groups had brought pots and pans worth of food to share with their party. It seems like quite a spectacular event to take part in!

 

I’ll let the rest of the pictures do the talking. Enjoy! (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

After quite a bit of roaming and a few too many pictures and Snapchats, our Shinjuku Gyoen sakura time was up. Unfortunately, there were still many trees that had not bloomed fully. I can only imagine how beautiful the entire park would be the the week after (1st week of April) littered with cherry blossoms everywhere.

 

The rest of the afternoon in Shinjuku was lowkey spent walking around the malls/shops and recouping from a long day.

 

Ice cream break in one of the Shinjuku department stores

Ice cream break in one of the Shinjuku department stores

 

For dinner, we trekked over to Shinjuku Island Tower for Ippudo Ramen since Thomas K. had been wanting to try it. Famous for its tonkotsu (pork bone) broth, Ippudo has several store locations throughout Tokyo and all over the world. New York City has a location for those in the states!

 

 

I actually prefer Rokurinsha at Tokyo Station that we visited during our first day in Tokyo, but Ippudo is a solid ramen option.

 

That concludes our final day in Tokyo! It was a little sad but I was pretty excited for our one day trip to Nikko before we headed back home. We would be trading in shopping malls and subways to head up into the mountains north of Tokyo and into the Tochigi prefecture! Stay tuned.