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I came here a few nights after Lou Reed died. I was heartbroken in a way that I can't quite fully explain now. I was lonely but bout couldn't really communicate with the people around me, so I got drunk and wandered through Tokyo and ended up in this neighborhood. I was walking by, on my way to another bar when I heard Rufus Thomas blasting out of the speakers down the alleyway. I decided to follow the music and ended up here.
Tsutomu was sitting behind the bar and though neither of us really spoke the other's language, we communicated through our love of soul music and rock and roll. We spent a couple hours drinking together listening first to Curtis Mayfield and alter lots of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. I was glad I had finally found someone who I could mourn the loss of Lou with. It was one of my favorite moments in my entire time in Japan.
If you wanna be in the thick of the shit but not spend too much money AND be able to sleep well at night, Hotel Listel Shinjuku is the perfect place for you. Private rooms are affordable and there's free wi-fi in them so that you can finally have some private time with internet porn. What? Don't pretend you don't know what I"m talking about. Everyone needs a little "special" time for themselves and wi-fi helps a lot with that…
Anyways, Hotel Listel Shinjuku is close to pretty much all the dope things you wanna see, do and drink in Shinjuku. It's dangerously close to Golden Gai which is either a good thing or an incredible detrimental thing depending on how you look at it.
While it's not exactly at Shinjuku Station like one may think by the name, it's only a few stations away. And while it's not exactly a capsule hotel like one normally thinks of them (more like well portioned bunks), it's still a great place to stay. I mean, considering the price and how centrally located it is, it's pretty hard to beat Ace Inn Shinjuku. It's also a great place to stay if you['re traveling alone since there are loads of other travelers always coming through. Tokyo is the second biggest city in the world, but despite being constantly surrounded by other people. You can still feel pretty lonely. Staying at Ace Inn Shinjuku is a good way to change that.
Cheap, clean, and friendly, it's hard to find such a great hostel anywhere in the world, let alone Tokyo. From the supercool, patterned exterior to the dope looking wooden bunks all the little details remind you of how thoughtful the Japanese are when it comes to the appearance of things. Plus the folks here are SO accommodating! The one draw back is that it's kinda way the hell out there. That said, you can still walk to Akihabara and get your weird on at any number of maid cafes.
Sure it's one of the most populated intersections in the world but that doesn't mean it can't be one of the best places to visit for a broke-ass does it? The people watching at Shibuya Crossing is stupendous. Just sitting there for like a half hour you will see every bit of imaginable Japaneseness that exists. Plus you can make it an al fresco dining experience by picking up some of the delicious food that Japan manages to stock its convince stores with, and a chu-hai (powerful and delicious carbonated shochu drink). Then you can just sit and watch the world go by.
Ueno Park is lovely. Not only is it full of pretty shrubbery and ponds of coy fish it's also home to some of Tokyo's best museums including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the National Science Museum. Plus the zoo is here too. And the best part about all of these museums is that they are really cheap to get into, usually around US$6.
But behind that the park is lovely itself. There's lovely temples that smell wafting incense, and random buskers doing whatever it is the random buskers do. I ended up spending two days in Ueno park and barely spent any money at all!
Did you finish the book you were reading while traveling and now you're itching for another English language tome to read? Good Day Books is the place for you. This great third floor bookstore only carries secondhand books and it's selection is fantastic! I visited twice in my two weeks in Tokyo. Plus the staff is super friendly and knowledgeable. If you don't read any Japanese, being able to sit and read something in your won language provides a little bit of sanity in your very hectic Tokyo life.
Oh…My…God. It's like I've died and gone to tchotchke wonderland! Imagine if Urban Outfitters just focused on weird things and cool books and things that make you go hmmm. It's exactly like that but like 100 times better in the way that only Japan can make it happen.
Lightsaber chopsticks? Check! Rad Little silhouettes with which to decorate your light switch? Check! A hat that makes it look like you have a turd on your hear? Check!!! Plus there's awesome art books, rad baby gifts, and a million things that beep, buzz and whirr. When I grow up I wanna live here.
Whatever it is that you're looking for can be found at Don Quijote. While there are locations all over Tokyo this Akihabara location is the grandest of them all. It's like eight floors of electronics, costumes, tchotchkes, underwear, ball caps, shoes, porn, blowup dolls, and literally anything else you can imagine. You could lose a whole day of your life in "Don Qi", as the locals call it. In fact, I may have.
Like so many places in Japan, there's a very vague line drawn between bar and eatery. Usually there's not one at all. Mr. Kanso falls into this category. You can totally get smashed on awesome sake, shochu, beer, and/or hard booze, and you can eat. But what makes this place special is that their food selection is all canned food! From SPAM to pate the variety here is very impressive. We had some goose liver pate because, well, that shit is awesome. But the coolest part was the crazy sake they has that once opened, it overflowed and, upon touching air became a delicious sake slush instead of a liquid. So cool!!!!
I'm pretty sure this place was named in honor of the Bones Brigade, the first rockstar crew of skateboarders, but the Japanese/English conversation that the bartender/owner and I had was patchy at best. That said, the theme of this second floor bar is definitely California. There's Grateful Dead paraphernalia around the small space as well as a surfboard, a skateboard, and an Easy Rider poster. Plus the super cool and friendly owner plays really awesome films like Lords of Dogtown and Coffee & Cigarettes. And best of all, the drinks are cheap.
Hip locals and visitors mingle with abandon while taxidermy dear heads look down from their place on the wall. When it's not too busy, the bartender sits behind his computer DJing whatever he feels like and taks no requests (as per the sign on his laptop.
The drinks are cheap, there's tinsel floating from the AC unit, an illuminated globe sits on the bar, and a framed photo of Saint Joe Strummer himself is framed against the cool floral wallpaper. Rock n roll is here to stay at Beat Cafe.