After 2 long days of Tokyo's concrete jungle, we thought it would be nice to take a break from that and do something different.  We were thinking of going to Nikko, but from Shinjuku it was going to take us almost 3 hours just to get there.  None of us felt like spending that much time traveling, so we settled on Mt. Takao.  Mt. Takao is only about 45 minutes from Shinjuku station by a rapid train.  Instead of going to Shinjuku station, we found a station that was a little closer to our hotel, so we tried to catch a train from there.  The only problem was, it took us longer than we expected to reach and find the station, so we missed our scheduled train.  We quickly got back on the wifi hotspot and found a different train was only about 10 minutes behind.  We got on that train (which required a couple of transfers) and made our way to Mt. Takao.  When we reached Mt. Takao, the area was pretty full of people out for a Saturday morning hike.  We wanted to hike up trail #6 and down trail #1 (Here's an English Map), so we studied some signs near the train station and set off down the road we hoped led to the correct trail.  There were a couple of spots to turn off that were signed only in Japanese, but we eventually found what we were pretty sure was the right turnoff and we headed up it.  It took us a little bit, but we eventually did confirm we were on trail #6.  Very quickly, we found some nice statues and scenery:

Hiking Mt. Takao Trail #6

The hike was steep and uphill the whole way and even though it was a cool morning, we were quickly stopping to shed our layers.  For some reason, Tyler thought he needed to basically run up the mountain, so we passed a lot of people and made it to the top pretty fast.  When we got to the top, all of the trails converged and there were several restaurants/shops and vending machines arranged around the viewing areas.  The day was pretty hazy, but the views were still nice.  It was a great change from being in Tokyo.  We were just a couple of weeks before full time spring there, so the trees didn't have any leaves on them yet.  I bet the area would be pretty spectacular during the fall when the leaves are changing.

Summit of Mt. Takao

We took a break and ate some snacks, then explored the summit area a little bit.  We were lucky and on one side, you could just barely make out Mt. Fuji through the haze.  It was pretty awesome to see, but it was too bad the haze made it tough to see.

Mt. Fuji

Family Portrait at the top

We were fed and rested, so we were ready to head down.  We walked around looking for a sign to route 1.  Eventually, we just decided it must be the biggest one leaving the top since it was supposed to be the most popular route.  We started down it and then saw some signs that confirmed we were on the correct path.  After a little bit, we came across the first of several buildings that are part of Yakuoin Temple.  The temple buildings were really spectacular and we stopped to take lots of pictures.

Yakuoin Temple

We explored the temple for a while and continued to marvel at the different buildings.

Various temple buildings

Eventually, we headed down to the last several buildings.  They had some really amazing wood carvings decorating them.

Temple Carvings

We left the temple and continued our way down the mountain.  We're very glad we didn't come up this was as it was super steep (and paved.)  This is one of the few mountain hikes I've ever done that felt harder and longer going down than going up.  We stopped and took a few pictures looking back through the haze towards Tokyo.

Looking back towards Tokyo

By the time we made it back to town, it was almost lunch time.  We knew that it would be too late to eat if we waited to get back to Tokyo, but there wasn't much near this train station to eat, so we headed to a convenience store and bought some sandwiches for lunch.  We bought what we thought was chocolate milk for Tyler to drink, but he immediately complained and said it didn't taste good.  Erin and I smelled it and realized it was actually a cold coffee drink!  So we now know that Tyler doesn't like coffee.  We finished up our lunch and caught a train back to Shinjuku and went back to our hotel to relax for a little bit and plan the rest of our day.

We decided we would walk through Harajuku and end up in Shibuya to see the famous scramble crossing.  We headed back out around 3:30.  Harajuku station is only a couple of stops away from Shinjuku which was nice since the train we were on was packed.  We got off in Harajuku and headed to Takeshita Dori.  Takeshita Dori is a super popular street with young Japanese and is known for its shops and filled crepes and it was absolutely packed on a nice Sunday afternoon.  We walked along the street looking for a place to buy a stuffed crepe.  I took a picture just to capture how packed the street really was.

Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon

We found a crepe shop that looked good and ordered a strawberry and whipped cream crepe.  It is served rolled up like a cone shape and absolutely stuffed full of whipped cream.  After our snack, we continued down the street and made it to the main high end shopping street, Omotesando.  The street had been blocked off and was just being opened as we arrived.  There were lots of foreigners wearing green and we guessed that we probably just missed some kind of St. Patrick's Day parade or celebration.  There were two stores we really wanted to find so we started down through the massive crowds.  We forced our way through the crowds and eventually found the first store, Kiddyland.  Kiddyland is a giant toy store and it didn't disappoint.  Tyler and I were in heaven and spent quite a long time going through the different floors.  You had to pay on each floor, so we got to go through many checkout lines with all of the things we bought.  After Erin finally managed to drag us out of there, we headed just a couple of buildings down and found Oriental Bazaar.  Oriental Bazaar has lots of good Japanese souvenirs and it was Erin's turn to be happy.  They had all kinds of cheap dishes, chopsticks, sake sets, etc.  A lot of places that sold that type of stuff had really nice pieces with really high prices, but Oriental Bazaar had lots of inexpensive things to choose from.  After paying for Erin's purchases, we headed up the street towards Shibuya.  We weren't sure exactly which way to go, but we followed the direction most people were going and ended up at the famous Shibuya scramble crossing. 

Shibuya Scramble crossing

It was neat (and packed), but we had heard it was even better at night, so we had timed our visit so we would eat dinner in Shibuya and would be able to see the scramble crossing at night.  We wandered around the streets outside Shibuya station and eventually ended up at a Yoshinoya.  Yoshinoya is a chain Gyudon restaurant that you can find all over Japan.  Gyudon is a thinly sliced seasoned beef served on top of rice.  It is cheap and quick and was what we needed as everyone was getting hungry.  Tyler didn't like the choice and was very hesitant to try it, so we ordered him a small bowl.  I ordered a pork bowl and a few minutes later, it arrived.  Tyler was pretty nervous to try it, but we convinced him it would be fine.  He tried it, and it became one of his favorite and most requested meals of the entire trip.  By the time we finished eating, it was getting dark, so we headed back out and searched around for the Tokyu Hands store.  Tokyu Hands is well known for having a huge range of merchandise and it didn't disappoint.  Each floor had a seemingly endless supply of stuff and was packed full.  We found a few interesting items, but it was getting late, so we had to rush through it a little.  We headed back towards Shibuya station and got back to the scramble crossing intersection.  It was now all lit up and awesome.

Shibuya at night

We waited for the light to turn and then everyone sped across the intersection.  The pictures don't really capture how many people are going through the intersection or how chaotic it really is.  It certainly is a cool thing to experience.

Shibuya Scramble Crossing at night

Shibuya station is also home to the Hachiko statue.  We stopped for a quick picture and headed back for our last night at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku.


Since it was our last night in Shinjuku, I convinced Erin and Tyler that we should head over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building to see the free observatory there.  It was late and we were all pretty tired, but we decided it was our only chance to try it so we walked to the building from our hotel.  As we walked up, the whole area was dark and there didn't seem to be anybody around, so we thought it might be closed, even though it said it was supposed to be open much later.  We found a sign at the door which said to go down a level and that entrance would be open.  We found some stairs and headed down and finally saw some signs that it may be open.  There was no line and we took and empty elevator up to the top.  The doors opened and the place was pretty packed!  There was some kind of wedding reception going on and there were tons of people up there looking at the view and browsing the souvenir shops.  We walked around and looked at the various viewpoints.  I was able to grab a picture of our hotel building.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

We finished up and walked back to our hotel and quickly got ready for bed.  It was well worth keeping Tyler up late, we all really enjoyed the view.

Continue to Day 4

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