Lost in 3D Tokyo

Shinjuku: My neighborhood for my stay in Tokyo

Shinjuku: my neighborhood during my stay in Tokyo


The never ending tunnel

It was easy to get lost in Tokyo. One time I went out for a walk and ended up in a tunnel that seemed never ending. I figured it would eventually take me to the subway, but after what seemed like endless walking, I emerged and saw that I was back in front of my hotel. Somehow I got all turned around. Another group of my American friends got so lost that they ended up hailing a taxi to drive them just a few minutes.

Shibuya People

A crowded intersection in Shibuya

Asakusa Neighborhood

Asakusa Neighborhood

Why did I find Tokyo so confusing? It wasn’t just because it is the biggest city in the world, with about 36 million people living in the Tokyo Metropolitan area.  It wasn’t just because our hotel was in the Shinjuku neighborhood, which is right downtown among lots of businesses, government buildings, and shopping. I can’t even say that it was because we were steps away from the busiest train station in the world, or because of the the flashy colors and language differences.

A park on the roof of a trendy shop

A park on the roof of a trendy shop

Tokyo is so hard to navigate because it is a 3D city in a way that I’ve never experienced in any other city. It’s literally built so that things are happening on many levels above and below ground.  There are skyscrapers which go way up high, but also deep into the earth, with stairs going level after level underground. After a while of walking around trying to read unclear maps, I finally figured it out — there are multiple “street levels” in Tokyo. I tried to capture it in a video:

Takeshita Street in the Harajuku Neighborhood

Takeshita Street in the Harajuku Neighborhood

A lot of times, what was happening underground was just as interesting as what was happening above ground. For example, I really enjoyed exploring Takeshita Street, known for its fashionable teenage trendiness. At one point, I saw a random staircase leading underground, so I went to check it out. In a dark hallway under the street, Japanese girls had a whole mecca of photo booth type machines, where they could get dolled up and take instant photos of themselves, with photoshop-type features to make them look ultra-glamorous.

A group of us did try out one of these photo machines, but we didn’t know how to use all the special features, like making our eyes big and skin blemish free. It still came out pretty well!

From a photo machine

From a photo machine

Another time, I was checking out an Anime shop, with 5 floors of cartoony fun. On the bottom floor, there were a ton of young guys playing Pokemon or Magic style card games (but something else I didn’t recognize).

As you can see, exploring Tokyo was a multi-storied experience. Our hotel, the Keio Plaza, went up to the 47th floor, and the lobby was the 3rd floor. At first, I was confused about why the lobby wasn’t on the first floor, until I realized that there were ways to get outside from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors! It was especially fun to go up high and check out the scene from up above.

It’s amazing that I didn’t get lost more often, especially when I was trying to navigate the Tokyo subway system, which is like a whole underground world. But I think I’ll save that for another post. Stay tuned — some things are just too complex for maps.

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Categories: Japan

14 replies »

  1. This is so cool! I’d love to visit one of these buildings! But I think this is a very smart way for Japan to fit all of its people.
    Did you see any booths on the streets that sold crazy things like lobsters? Or even booths filled with goldfish?

  2. Tokyo looked really cool! I wished I was there. I think Japan is really smart because of it’s technology. Also I was wondering did you see world champion Pokemon games? That card game that you didn’t know it was probably u-gi-oh it is a game they play in Japan. Finally did you see at a both ells,pufferfish or crab?

    • It sounds like you know more about these games than I do! No, I didn’t see the world championship, but maybe the game they were playing was u-gi-oh. I did get to eat a bunch of eels and crabs, but not pufferfish!

      • Thank’s for the reply. I have two more question how was the weather there and did you have lobster if did how did it taste asking because I like lobster a lot.

      • Hi Spencer. The weather was nice! Similar to here, except in Kushiro it was colder, especially at night. Tokyo is hot and humid in the summer. I didn’t have lobster there — I don’t think they have much of it, and what they do have is a different type. I did have crab though, which is similar. Oh, and when you comment, just use your first name and last initial, for internet safety reasons 🙂

  3. That sounds so cool. I love the skyscrapers those are awesome. Those pictures were really cool to.

    What floor we’re you staying on?

    Who was the person dressed up in the pink plaided dress and blond hair?

    • We stayed on the 14th and 16th floors in Tokyo. The highest floor was 47th, and we had meetings on the 44th, and that was pretty high! And I don’t know who that person was dressed in plaid. Just someone I saw on the street.

  4. It’s pretty cool how they built buildings that high and how they built floors underground. Also I wonder how people would know where to go in Tokyo with a map, because Tokyo has multiple street levels. Guess you have to memorize them…

  5. Are there any windows in the underground part of the hotel? If yes what can you see out of the windows?

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