Day 3 – Parks, Temples and People

The weather was finally great on the third day, so I decided to see something alive instead of dead things in a museum: parks and people were on the agenda. Of course, together with the obligatory temples 😉

The first destination was Shinjuku Gyoen – a large park in the middle of Shinjuku. Even though the cherry blossoms weren’t in full bloom yet, it was a good opportunity to soak up the sun in peace and at the same time take in the impressive Japanese park design. After breakfast, I quickly headed to the metro. I would be doing quite a bit of subway travel that day, and I was happy that it was easy with the SUICA. I hadn’t thought of a clever route for all the destinations, so I drove back and forth a few times unnecessarily over the day. But I guess things could have been worse 😉

Shinjuku Gyoen

When I arrived at the park, I was greeted by an oasis of calm within the hustle and bustle of one of the most important cities in the metropolitan region. But see for yourself:

Meiji Jingū

Next destination: one of the most famous shrines, at least for Japanese people, the Meiji Jingū, dedicated to the Meiji Emperor. There I witnessed a traditional Shinto wedding procession:

Shibuya – first parks, now people

But now I had enough of the parks and wanted to meet a few people. In fact, a lot of people, because my next destination was Shibuya with the famous scramble crossing:

Ginza and Kabuki

Mitsukoshi Ginza
Mitsukoshi Ginza – one of the oldest department stores in Ginza, with a beautiful facade!

I had done some research while I was sitting in the sun in the park because I wanted to attend at least one traditional cultural event. For a tea ceremony, I would have had to book months in advance, and a Noh play seemed excruciatingly tiring (sorry theatre aficionados!). In the National Museum, I had already researched the differences between the various traditional theater forms, and Kabuki appealed to me more. However, I found the prospect of listening for 3 to 4 hours of spoken-word theater in an archaic Japanese dialect rather underwhelming. I can barely get through a whole Puccini opera, and there I still understand most of the text.

But the largest Kabuki theater in Japan, the Kabukiza in Ginza, also offers events for lazy gaijins like me. For example, attending only the final acts of a drama was both cheaper and much shorter. You do end up sitting in a moderately good seat, but I accepted that and booked a ticket for a traditional fantasy “cursed sword kills everyone” fairy tale.

So from Shibuya, I went to Ginza. I hadn’t planned on going on a shopping spree there; I didn’t really know what I should buy, and I didn’t want to drain my purse on the first week either. Asian clothes were generally too small for me, jewelry too expensive, and I already had more than enough cosmetics at home. So I strolled around aimlessly and passed the time until the performance started.

Phew… culture…

At the entrance, I met a bunch of other Germans who weren’t quite sure what to expect. Then I went in. Unfortunately, taking photos or videos was strictly prohibited. But there’s enough material on the Internet if anyone wants to get a visual impression.


It was… confusing. I probably didn’t understand more than 5 phrases in the 90 minutes. The music and the spoken word were interesting, but in the long run a bit tiring. I laughed when everyone laughed and clapped when everyone clapped.

I dare say that I understood the basic plot. Even after reading it several times, it still seemed pretty confounding, but that’s no different from most Western operas. It was certainly very dramatic – there was suffering, drinking, whoring and killing. Plenty of the latter, because as in every good opera, everyone was dead at the end. But all the subtle details escaped me completely.

Next to me, a few seats away, sat a couple – an older, dapper gentleman who was very enthusiastic. Plus a cute young girl in a short skirt who was trying hard not to look too conspicuously at her hidden Sumaho. I felt a little sorry for her.

That may sound a bit sobering – but it was exciting. However, you shouldn’t think you will understand much, even if your Japanese is much better than mine. The language is archaic, and it seems that even many Japanese don’t understand exactly what is being said. Of course, though, they know all the little formulas in the play.


Back in Shibuya

But I was still completely exhausted at the end of the 90 minutes and glad I had opted for the “short version”. I was also hungry and annoyed that I hadn’t made a dinner reservation. I had already noticed that on the previous day – going out is difficult without a reservation and many restaurants close at 10 p.m.

While exploring the vicinity of the scramble crossing in Shibuya, I had already scouted a dinner place but hadn’t found anything that really suited me. Nevertheless, Shibuya seemed to agree more with my budget, so I drove back there. In reality, it wasn’t that easy to find anything. All the Izakayas were packed, and honestly, I didn’t feel like eating ramen for the third day in a row. Also, considering how hungry I was now, I briefly considered whether I should go to McDonald’s after all.

Horse meat in Mihachi’s

Dinner in Mihachi Shibuya Eki-Mae

In the end, though, I ended up at Mihachi’s right by the train station. I didn’t mind that it was a basement restaurant – it looked cozy, a fun mix of oak beam romance and a modern interior. But the most important thing for me was the food. It was very meat-heavy, which is not something I’m used to. But this time I was curious. The various Kobe beef platters were too expensive for me. But they also had Basashi, and not only that but a whole platter with assorted types of horse meat. Traditionally fried as basashi, as sashimi, as sausages, and so on. I had already eaten a bit of horse in Takahashi and anyway, I had decided not to be afraid of trying something new on this vacation.

What can I say – It was super tasty, plentiful, and not very expensive. I also ordered a Shōchū, with green tea as a mixer – you can’t always drink sake. Full and satisfied, I set off home. The day had been long, but exciting as well.

Dinner in Mihachi Shibuya Eki-Mae
Dinner at Mihachi Shibuya Eki-Mae. A large selection of Basashi – horse meat! You have to get used to it at first, but it was super delicious!