January 2009 : Tokyo

No time for hiking on this occasion but I wandered around Nippori and discovered a load of Indian restaurants and bars. The one below, with the hanging cymbal and Eric Clapton album sleeve stuck to the door looked rather interesting. As did the “80s Groove Bar” down the road.

Eric Clapton bar in Nippori

Nippori is on the JR Yamanote Line from Shinjuku. From the Nippori station you can walk down to Ueno Park, the home of all of the important national museums like the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Science Museum (see the photo of the huge whale). Also home to Elvis dance troupes on a Sunday afternoon!

Back in Shinjuku, for amazing views of the city try any of the restaurants on the 49th and 50th floors of the Nomura building. This skyscraper is west of Shinjuku station, near the Tokyo Hilton.

October 2008 : Shinjuku

The coolest bar in Tokyo is without a doubt Bar ICE (pun intended). On the southside of Shinjuku station, between a McDonald’s and an AM-PM, the bar is tiny but has an exceptional selection of single malt Scotches.

Bar ICE in Shinjuku

Another great place for British beers and fine Scotches is 82 Ale House near exit B2 of Shinjuku-sanchome. Hard to find but worth the effort! Only 400 yen for a Glenlivet, 500 for a Macallan.

March 2008 : Mt Hinode (2959 ft)

There are plenty of good hikes to be had in the area north west of Tokyo. Mt Hinode near Mitake is well sign-posted and popular with the locals, particularly in spring when the ume (plum) trees start to blossom.

Mt Hinode and Mt Mitake

Take the train from Shinjuku to Mitake via Tachikawa, using the JR Chuo and JR Ome lines. Outside the station at Mitake is a tourist information place, everything is in Japanese but the maps are mostly useful.

January 2007 : Shibuya

No contemporary movie set in Japan would be complete without footage of the Shibuya crossing. “Fast and Furious : Tokyo Drift” is a rubbish film but features said crossing quite heavily.

Shibuya crossing at night

There are loads of interesting places in and around Shibuya. Some are very western, eg Irish pubs or Australian bars, but for Japanese beer, shochu and electronics darts Shifuku is great. Further north in Ebisu is the Liquid Room - a small, cosy club / concert venue where we saw Lily Allen before she was famous!

August 2006 : Mt Fuji (12388 ft), Nikko and Ito

Every July and August many people in Japan set off at midnight to climb Mt Fuji, and try to reach the summit before the sun rises. The top is a bit of a zoo but seeing the sun rise from the highest point in Japan is an experience not to be missed.

The climb takes about 5 hours from the car park. Along the way there are mountain huts where you can purchase water, snacks and even oxygen canisters. Note that the the prices increase with altitude!

Vending machine on top of Mt Fuji

The temples at Nikko are on the tourist track but the coastline around Ito, southwest of Tokyo, is much more relaxing.

There are various trains (including shinkansen part of the way) from Tokyo to Ito via Atami. From Shinjuku the Odakyu Line is convenient. Change to the JR line at Odawara.

Nikko templeIto and the Jogasaki coastline