This place has some pretty good California fusion type food, a decent wine menu and friendly service. It would be a pretty good place to have a small dinner party (of six or so people). It's a good place to meet friends for a bite to eat after work, and if you feel like staying out, you can always head upstairs to Ruby Room for some music and more drinks.
This place has cheap drinks and cheap food and is conveniently located in the center of Shibuya. Thus many foreign people congregate there to plan their evenings at other places, or go for a few drinks before the last train home. I have no complaints about this bar. Service is fast and fair, and if you know a lot of alcoholics in Shibuya, you might just run into one of your friends here. If it is full, there are plenty of other bars in the immediate vicinity.
There is only one redeeming quality of Heartland. It has some cool tv screens with interesting visuals up above the bar.
This is the kind of place that gives foreigners in Japan a bad name. Western businessmen go here to hunt for Japanese girls. If you ever meet a girl who says that she likes going to Heartland, just walk away. Cleverly disguised as a classy venue at the base of Roppongi hills, the place is a meat market for professionals. The ladies that go here are interested in bagging a rich businessman from overseas, and the men who go know that the women are willing to do pretty much whatever it takes to get their meal ticket (and plane ticket). I know a guy who was threatened by the girl he picked up at heartland. She said that if he broke up with her, she'd call the police and make up some incriminating stuff. I'd like to see an animal instincts documentary film maker produce a film about the predatory and mating instincts of the human animals that go to this watering hole.
The two times I went to this place, it was nearly too crowded to even get in the door, let alone get a drink, which took about ten minutes. The decor is unique and interesting, but I found the clientele to be a bit of the 'i'm part of the in crowd and am not interested in talking to strangers' group. I'm not sure why I went to the place twice.
This place reminded me a little bit of a higher class HUB bar. It is a bit smaller than the average hub to my recollection, but they have a wide selection of drinks (including a bunch of beers on tap) as well as a pretty good selection of food. The prices are pretty good too. A pint of Guiness was under 1000 yen last time I visited, which is less than most other places in the city. But remember the rules, no rowdy drunks and respect the other customers, as it says on their rules list.
Only worth going in the summer when it's hot outside, otherwise it isn't really worth going at all. One of the redeeming features of the place is that the glasses are made of ice, which is pretty fun. Yes the place is cold and probably expensive to maintain, so it reminded me of the bubble days in Japan when expense accounts and a general lack of concern for the neverending supply of money led to the birth of such kinds of places. It might be worth going once for the experience, but in terms of yen/minute value, this place is a little expensive.
Oh A971. You can't really go wrong with the 500 yen beer, but you can go wrong with the clientele. I would imagine that the place is getting a bit more quiet now that so many finance types have been sent home or lost their jobs. It's a meat market for money grubbers thinly veiled in the pleasant atmosphere of midtown. It's a pleasant enough place during the afternoon or early evening to go for a beer, but one the trader types get off work, it's time to pack up and move on to a different venue.
2 things about combine. The first is that it's been a pretty trendy place to have events related to urban culture and electronic music. Lots of 'cool' people go there to mingle in the fairly relaxed atmosphere. It's a decent place to eat too. However: A friend of mine was outside the place one evening and was angrily yelled at by the owner/manager of the place for having a small stereo playing at a moderate volume. If the guy is rude enough to pull a stunt like that, I won't be frequenting his business again.
A few years ago, this place didn't have such ridiculously bad line-ups. Then some foreigners 'discovered' the place and it was mentioned in a bunch of guide books and now getting a few delicious gyoza without a long wait is darned near impossible. The wait might be worth it if you haven't had gyoza before and want to try it, but there are plenty of mom and pop ramen places with equally good gyoza. If the line is too long to tolerate, there is a decent Thai place just across the alley on the 2nd floor.
On the west side of Shinjuku, this little area reminded me of a district in ichijoji which has the same 'days gone by' feeling to it. This tiny narrow street and side streets is full of good places to find cheap beer and greasy or salty meat, most often pork or chicken. Only the adventurous would come here on a date, but it is a good place to go as a small group. Too many people, and you won't all fit in a single bar.
Tall people watch out though, there are some very low corrugated roofs to cut your head on.
Golden Gai (Landmarks & Historical Places / Shinjuku)
Many of these small bars have seating charges which they will only tell you about after you've finished. Going in for just one beer might not be as economical as you originally planned. Each bar has its own sort of theme or style as decided by the owner. There are foreigner friendly bars, and they are fairly obvious, what with their English signs out front. The most scenic way into the area is along a little diagonal pathway lined in trees and shrubs, which is completely unlike anything else in the kabukicho district. You can find the path next to the Mister Donut shop on the main drag in Shinjuku.
From Hachiko, cross the scramble to the north (parallel to the yamanote line tracks) and turn right. After going under the tracks and passing the pepper lunch, turn left. The street is really quite unlike anything else in Shibuya, with stacks of tiny bars in two story buildings. Some of the bars are so small they could only seat 4 people. The one I visited, was the third space for a crew of rock climbers. These bars all share the same outdoor toilets and work together to decorate their street during festivals. There is also a pretty good cold ramen noodle place in the B1 close to the main street.
This place would be a great place to have another much needed park in the city if it weren't reserved for the royal family. Of the 5 large green spaces in central Tokyo, 2 of them are off limits to common folk. From the outside, you can get a great look at the moat and walls that keep people out. The gates themselves are quite interesting to look at, and during cherry blossom season, the area of the palace gardens closest to Yasukuni shrine is absolutely stunning (and absolutely pack full of people trying to see the magnificent view)
I went for a walk around this majestic looking building in the spring one year. The central Tokyo government buildings have the highest security anywhere in Japan. In addition to police on every corner, there were motion detectors on the top of the fences, video cameras everywhere and police cruisers roaming around. Other than the quite memorable security, the building itself is architecturally quite interesting due to the shape of its roof. The classic architectural style of the columns is at a discord with the pyramid shaped roof. A unique building to be sure. They day I went, tours were not allowed inside (because it was a weekend.)
I went to the campus by bicycle on a random Wednesday afternoon, but there was absolutely nobody around. It was towards the end of semester, and a friend of mine said that perhaps the students just didn't feel like going that day. The empty campus with old brick buildings and big trees gave the place a really calm and peaceful feeling. There are actually 5 Todai university campuses around the city, so be sure to check their website to see which of the campuses you would like to visit.
This park is decent, but not great. There is however, a giant lotus pond surrounding an octagonal building on a causway. From this park, you can see one of the most intriguing examples of modern architecture in Tokyo, a modular construction of apartments sticking out from a central core. Back to the park: on Sundays, there are vendors selling their junk/collectables, and there also seems to be a fairly substantial homeless population here.
This is a great garden to visit during cherry blossom season. If you can find a place to sit down and have you alcoholic picnic, the park is beautiful and variegated. It closes surprisingly early (especially since the hanami parties in other parks go until last train) and remember that it is closed on Mondays. I've tried to go to this park twice and not been admitted, once on account that it was Monday, and the other time, because it was 4:00 and the park was closing soon. Other than having somewhat inconvenient times, the garden is wonderful.
This place is pure tourist trap. There are many better places to visit in Tokyo which will offer a more fulfilling cultural experience than Sensoji. The street up to the temple from the gate is lined with tourist shops selling touristy junk. The temple itself is decent (don't forget to look at the ceiling: there are some pretty interesting paintings up there) but the lead up to it and the way out really ruin the experience. This place probably tops my charts of tourist traps everywhere in Tokyo. The only place that can even compete is Kiyomizudera in Kyoto.
The Sanja-Matsuri is a great place to get a first hand look at the Yakuza celebrating and having a good time. Recently, the police have been cracking down on the festival (it got a little bit violent a few years back) but it is still a pretty good festival in which everyone but the children gets drunk.
The Shrine itself is decorated with colourful paintings and of course a liberal application of Vermillion orange paint. If you make the trek up to Asakusa to see the Temple, don't forget to see the shrine as well.
Sanja Matsuri is the 3rd Saturday and Sunday of May.
Bunkamura usually has some kind of interesting art exhibition going on, one of the times I went, it was a Russian Constructivist Painter show, which was interesting. Due to the gallery space's somewhat limited size, they don't get A-list Art Exhibitions, which are usually found in Ueno, but they do get their fair share of quality works.
The shopping area of Bunkamura is very different from the rest of Shibuya, offering expensive brand name goods and other expensive stuff. Expensive is the keyword here. Bunka by the way, means culture, so this is the cultural village of Shibuya.