We spent Christmas Eve (Christmas Day if you ask my Hispanic husband) exploring the Gotoku-ji Temple. This is another must-do! The highlight is the plethora of lucky cats, but the adjoining cemetery is spectacular. If you’re looking for souvenirs, there is shop on site selling the lucky cats. We brought home four of them and still wish we had more.
Next stop was Shimokitazawa, where we spent a couple of hours exploring the local shops, such as Darwin Room, Chicago, and Flamingo. None of the shops stood out as spectacular, but you can’t go wrong exploring a Tokyo neighborhood.
We then headed back to Shinjuku and to stop at Bingoya Craft Shop. This is a great place for quality souvenirs, ranging from hand-painted pottery to children’s toys. The owners were extremely helpful, detailing the cultural significance of each piece we purchased.
We then walked the mile back to our hotel, squirreling our way through the local neighborhoods. It allowed us to see glimpses of Japanese life away from the tourist circuit.
My husband wore ill-fitting shoes during the first few days of our trip. Consequently, we took a day to rest his feet, choosing to stay within a few miles of the hotel. The highlight of the day was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. It is open daily (except Monday) from 9:00-16:00. For a mere ¥200, you will gain access to over 100 acres of perfectly manicured gardens. This place is massive. You could easily lose a day here.
We stayed at the Citadines Shinjuku Hotel for approximately $160/night. There is ample space, the kitchenette is well equipped, and the staff is amazing. The hotel is situated in a quaint area of Shinjuku with many local restaurants- or even a Domino’s Pizza if you are feeling homesick. The streets hum with activity during the morning and afternoon work rushes, yet remain tranquil at night. It is a short walk to the Shinjuku-gyoemmae station on the Marunouchi Line. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is just south of the subway station. We will absolutely stay at this hotel when we return to Tokyo.