TRAVEL: Tokyo is a chaotic city of firsts

Cherry trees blossom in Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen National Park; top right, a hedgehog at Harry Hedgehog Café in Roppongi.
Cherry trees blossom in Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen National Park; top right, a hedgehog at Harry Hedgehog Café in Roppongi. Amy Lyne

TOKYO is crazy. It's busy and it is a city of endless firsts found nowhere else.

It was my first time in Japan, first time seeing Japanese cherry blossoms, first time experiencing the city's somewhat organised chaos and large shopping districts and visiting a hedgehog cafe.

I stayed in Shinjuku, a large shopping, business and entertainment district in Tokyo that is also central to one of the largest train stations in the world, Shinjuku station.

The district is a loud, busy and colourful place with huge skyscrapers, small restaurants and bars stacked on top of each other and huge, multi-level arcades with every kind of game imaginable.

There were vending machines, photo booths and the strangest offering of Kit Kats I had ever seen - from wasabi to sweet potato and the more appealing strawberry cheesecake and raspberry.

I visited Tokyo at the end of February and despite it being in the midst of winter I was lucky enough to see the beautiful pink cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, one of Tokyo's largest. It was something I had hoped for, and walking through the park I caught a glimpse of the bright pink blooms and branches hanging over a lake with tall skyscrapers in the distance.

While I could have spent countless hours walking through Shinjuku, we decided to venture into the Tokyo Metro system to visit a bit more of the city.

The metro is confusing at first, but with the help of the friendly locals we soon understood how to get around. I had heard about Tokyo's hedgehog cafe before I travelled to Japan. We decided to find the cafe, Harry, in the Roppongi district, to see what all the fuss was about.


Tokyo's Ginza district, which is famous for shopping.
Tokyo's Ginza district, which is famous for shopping. Amy Lyne

When I heard hedgehog cafe, I imagined a coffee shop with little hedgehogs around that I could play with in between sips of a drink. Instead, a hedgehog enclosure replaced the coffee table.

After paying for a half-hour time slot, we were given gloves and a small container of worms. In that time I picked them up, fed them and took as many photos as possible. On the second level of the building there was also a bunny cafe.

It was definitely an experience, one I knew I would not find anywhere else in the world. While it is a simple concept, the line snaking out of the door was proof the place was popular. It gave people the chance to play with pets if they could not own one themselves.


A hedgehog at Harry Hedgehog Café in Roppongi.
A hedgehog at Harry Hedgehog Café in Roppongi. Amy Lyne

Three days in Tokyo was not enough. Even three weeks might not be enough to discover everything it had to offer.


Shinjuku - Central to shops, bars, restaurants and the metro which gives you access to the entire city.

Shibuya - Another huge shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo, known for its youth fashion and culture. It is also famous for the the Shibuya Crossing, the world's busiest intersection, also known as a scramble.

Ginza - The Ginza district is Japan's most famous shopping district. There are numerous multi-level department stores, many of which are upmarket, housing some of the world's most luxurious brands.

Roppongi - Known for its night life, with numerous bars, night clubs and restaurants. It is also where I found Harry Hedgehog Cafe and Pet Store and the Ms Bunny Bunny Cafe and Pet Store.

Topics:  japan shopping tokyo travel travel-international

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