Explore Tokyo’s entertainment mecca

BUSY: The crowds of Shibuya are a warm-up to the throbbing entertainment mecca of Shinjuku.

Like much of Tokyo, the once war-torn moonscape of Shibuya is a glitzy, buzzing district of skyscrapers, shops and entertainment.

Outside the railway station, I ventured to Shibuya Crossing, nicknamed The Scramble, which lays claim to being the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.

I’ll take their word for it. Beneath the dancing blaze of giant video screens, watching the sea of humanity cross the street, from all quarters, is a stunningly engrossing spectacle, like mass-movement ballet.

By the time the next light phase rolls round, each street corner has been fully reloaded with a fresh stock of humanity, like a seamless video loop. Braving the crowds of Shibuya is a warm-up for the throbbing, pulsating entertainment mecca of Shinjuku.

Over 3 million people pass through the world’s busiest train station each day, and Shinjuku’s entertainment excesses sprawl to the east, in a head-spinning spangle of neon-drenched lighting and LED screens. Strip-clubs, pachinko parlours, jazz bars, love hotels, fetish bars and cabarets all jostle for attention in notorious Kabukicho, Tokyo’s notorious red-light district.

Don’t flash your wallet too openly in these parts – and males on their own can expect plenty of attention from big-talking touts.

Adjoining Kabukicho are the evocative alleyways of Golden Gai, a throwback to Tokyo’s earlier days, home to a time-warped tumble of tiny drinking dens, many who hook punters in with trademark gimmicks, whether it’s a signature drink, off-the-wall décor or outlandish staff costumes, like troll toys or hospital uniforms.

Champion and Albatross are two of the tourist favourites, but aside from these larger bars, gawp up a few staircases to see what takes your fancy. Shinjuku is also home to the mesmerising and glittery escapism of the Robot Restaurant.

This mind-boggling sci-fi cabaret show and its garishly illuminated interior represents a mash-up of the crazy, tacky and raunchy. Three metre robots dance and gyrate like gigantic electronic puppets with bikini-clad singers, alongside raging aliens, mechanical sharks, heavily-armed mermaids, demonic taiko drummers and futuristic ninjas in this laser-lit, neon-gushing extravaganza. From spectacular battle scenes to bizarre romantic ballads, this eye-popping orgy of wacky live entertainment pulls in the crowds.

For a complete change of scenery, be sure to peruse Tokyo’s catwalk cool district Harajuku, where fashionistas, high-end divas and teenage girls in particular come to flaunt their latest looks. You’ll also find the Rockabilly guys strutting their stuff here – like Asian Elvis Presleys.

Nearby, Takeshita-dori and Cat St are where to head if you want to check out the style tribes of teenage girls, strutting their latest subculture statements. Grab a sweet crepe and stroll through the pageant.

The whole Gothic meets glam-rock aesthetic is still huge, giving rise to the name goth-loli girls. Other costume styles I spotted spanned the frilly French maid kit, nurses uniforms splattered with blood, and a multitude of superheroes.

Sunday apparently is the prime day for this exuberant exhibition of teenage costume play. Is there not something a bit dodgy about 14-year-old girls dolled up like French maids?

Perched on the top floors of the 52-storey Toranomon Hills skyscraper, Andaz Tokyo embodies the best of the lifestyle hotel revolution. The hotel’s ultra-spacious guestrooms, with lavish living quarters, faithfully showcase Japan’s cultural emphasis on beauty and purity of form.

The floor-to-ceiling windows serve up show-stopping skyline vistas that sweep across to Tokyo Bay and as far as Mt Fuji. My bathroom was a beautifully wooden haven, fitted out with a deep Japanese soaking tub, fabulous rain shower, and all the contemporary creature comforts.

Additional frills include fluffy slippers, robes and customary cotton pyjamas, yukata. In trademark Andaz fashion, you’ll enjoy a sweep of treats.

The sociability factor is to the fore in the Andaz Lounge, where complimentary Happy Hour drinks and snacks heighten the hotel’s convivial atmosphere. I particularly loved the Rooftop Bar’s terrace, an unrivalled perch for cocktails at sundown.

The setting is also heavily in-demand for lavish weddings, which you may well sneak a peek at. The terrace features Tokyo’s highest stand-alone chapel.

However you choose to immerse yourself in the Andaz Tokyo offerings, this seductively stylish and sociable hotel is a class act.

•For best rates and seasonal specials, head to https://tokyo.andaz.hyatt.com/

FAST FACTS

•I arrived into Tokyo from Osaka, at Shinbashi Station, a stone’s throw from centrally-located Andaz Tokyo. Whether it’s riding the rails of the storied Yamanote Line, which lassoes central Tokyo, or purring through the countryside on a Shinkansen bullet train, the to-the-minute timetabling doesn’t miss a beat. Before travelling to Japan, purchase a Japan Rail Pass, which delivers excellent value for money, total flexibility and travel convenience. Contact Rail Plus, the experts in rail, to secure a pass to suit. www.railplus.co.nz

•Add a Queensland stopover to a Japan getaway. After flying direct from Christchurch to the Gold Coast, Jetstar’s 787 Dreamliner services deliver added comfort at unbeatable value, as you wing your way to Tokyo. For extra-comfort, upgrade to the best-value Business Class experience to Japan. Wide leather reclining seats with a 96cmin seat pitch allowed me to get a decent in-flight sleep, although it is not a fully lie-flat affair. Whether you’re flying in business or economy, bag a bargain fare deal and seat to suit at www.jetstar.com

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