About Madison S
Lives in London, United Kingdom
Since Sep 2014
Hello! I'm Maddie- a native NYer whose Wanderlust has taken her abroad again and again. Having lived in six countries, and visiting others for school, work, leisure, and sport, I've adopted many localities, and am an admirer of a great many more. An avid scholar of language and culture, I hope to keep expanding my travel repertoire, and sharing great stories with the rest of the travel community. To give you some background on my travels, I spent months each year since childhood in Old Montreal, where part of my family lives. Summers were spent visiting folks in Ft. Lauderdale and L.A. My first big trip outside of the US on my own was to Australia & New Zealand at 12- I caught the bug early! I then moved to Japan where I studied for part of high school & uni. I am very familiar with Japanese cities, Sapporo and Osaka especially. Some of my favourite travel destinations include Goreme, Dubai, Marrakech, and Queenstown. (Plans for 2015 include China & Uganda!) Nice to meet you!
Points of Interest & Landmarks
, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Sacred & Religious Sites
Historic Walking Areas, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Architectural Buildings, Government Buildings
Points of Interest & Landmarks, Architectural Buildings
Starting off the day in bustling Shinjuku, you'll find a mix of the eclectic and the traditional waiting for you, offering a seamless blend of entertainment and education. Shinjuku is home to a number of Tokyo's most impressive skyscrapers, but also some of its most beautiful and luxuriant gardens. Known as a trend-setting district, it's famous for its fashion and shopping, especially among Japan's most avant-garde youth. With an energetic nightlife and a penchant for the original, it's no wonder that this is one of Tokyo's most popular wards, and a must-visit destination. Explore underground malls, endless department stores, rooftop restaurants, public parks, and museums, all packed into one exuberant locale.
Located in Shibuya, Shinjuku, the Meiji Jingu is a handsome Shinto shrine, built to honor the Meiji Emperor and his wife on the site of an isis flower garden the couple had once been fond of. Though the original was leveled during wartime, its restoration is nestled in the heart of a 175-acre evergreen forest with trees donated by patrons across Japan, creating a tranquil green space in the heart of Tokyo. The inner shrine, Naien, contains the main complexes of the structure, including a small museum which houses items once belonging to the Imperial couple. Outside, the Gaien is home to the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, host to over 75 murals depicting the life and times of the Meiji Emperor. With its charming grounds, Meiji Jingu is a wonderful place to take a breather and absorb the history of Japan's capital, and the role it played in creating the Japan of today.
Harajuku is the place to go for trendy shopping, people-watching, and daytime dessert. Takeshita Street is its most well-known destination, and is often thronged with visitors who want to take advantage of the area's reputation for Japan's most outrageous, diverse, and forward-thinking fashion fads - both in the stores and on the street. Blocked off to any automotive traffic, youth culture and luxury chains collide on Takeshita, where young people often dress to the nines (and in their funkiest outfits) to visit Takeshita's cafes, restaurants, independent boutiques, and second-hand stores. The people-watching is only beat by the window shopping in this area, which you can do with a sweet treat in hand here, as the many creperies offer a distinctly Japanese twist to the typical French food: sweet adzuki bean and green tea, anyone?
Also located in Shinjuku, the Gyoen National Garden was established as a private home during the Edo period, and today spans acres of public parkland dotted with colorful tulip trees, vast Himalayan cedars, and Imperial plane trees. Also boasting 1,500 cherry trees, Shinjuku Gyoen is especially breathtaking in the springtime, when its blossoms burst into life over a two month period in shades of pink and white. But with enough foliage to look gorgeous in any season, babbling brooks filled with koi fish, and a greenhouse that is home to over 1,700 warm-weather plants, the garden is always a splendid break from the inner city. Because English and French landscaping techniques are employed to the north, while the traditional Japanese aesthetic is installed along the south, it is best to take your time exploring the grounds in their entirety, and if you'd like to rest your legs, there is even a tea house onsite.
While you are in the Shibuya area, it is worth making a short stop at the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble. This busy street crossing is the most famous of its kind - it stands right outside of Shibuya Station, allowing those on foot to cross from any angle or direction, and all at once. When the traffic lights change to red the crowds surge forward, and the mingled crowds of businessmen to fashionistas make for quite a sight! The scramble is also well-located to jump off to other sites, including the famous statue of Hachiko at Shibuya Station, or the prominent Shibuya 109 building, where over 100 shops cater to the sharpest dressers. If you're feeling hungry, there is also the Tokyu Food Show in the basement of Shibuya station to explore, offering counter after counter of fried fish, fresh vegetables, saucy noodles, and tempting sweets.
For a change of scenery, after Shinkuku head to Electric City Akihabara! (Akiba for short). The district is home to the city's most impressive electronic shops and arcades, and is also a haven for 'otaku' culture, featuring specialty hobby stores and energetic 'maid cafes.' Chuo Dori street is studded with shops catering to every technological and electronic need, from very small individual parts, to old and obsolete collectables, to the most modern toys and conveniences you can imagine. Akiba is a dizzying maze of side-streets, and exploring these will also turn up a number of vintage stores, comic shops, and unique anime offerings. This is the place to go if you need a new camera for the trip, or want to grab a few 'purikura' (customizable sticker photos) with your crew!
Historic Asakusa, a district with old world grace and an ancient Edo aesthetic, will make you feel as if you've stepped back in time. The jewel in Asakusa's crown is the Sensō-ji Buddhist temple, Tokyo's oldest and most prominent. A peaceful location surrounded by vermillion torii gates, small souvenir shops, and street-side food stalls, it serves as a symbol of harmony and rebirth for the city, with greenery having overgrown some of the scars the grounds suffered during wartime. Entering via the 'Thunder Gate,' a giant paper lantern is the first sight visitors encounter, evoking the power of nature, while the inner structure is home to a five-story pagoda, a well-kept garden, and a shrine devoted to the god Kannon. The temple itself allows visitors to consult an omikuji ('fortune telling paper'), so if you want to see what the future holds, you know where to ask!
Tokyo Imperial Palace resides on the grounds of the formal Edo Castle, and provides another pivotal cultural location for visitors to soak up outside the hustle and bustle of the main city. Though the Palace itself is not open to the public (it is the current home of the Imperial family), its grounds and gardens are. The impressive landscape includes picturesque moats and high stone walls and bridges, over which the main castle can be spotted with its white wall faces and lilting tile roofs. Modeled after its Tokugawa-era counterpart, the Palace puts on museum-quality exhibitions for visitors, and its landscape is lush and lavish at any time of the year, making the Imperial Palace worth a short but edifying visit.
As evening settles in, head for the Ginza district and the nightlife opportunities it provides. Considered home to Tokyo's most up-market shopping and dining, Ginza is always a hive of activity, with packed coffee houses, chic boutiques, luxurious sweet shops, and high-end restaurants open well into the evening. Art galleries, night clubs, and ritzy bars also serve to jazz up a night out, and even if you don't plan to indulge in the sticker prices, Ginza is worth seeing for the elegant show it puts on. Most stores are open every day of the week, so no matter when you visit, the lit-up streets will be a treat to wander. Plus, there are a number of department stores (like Matsuya and Mitsukoshi), whose amazing market floors allow you to eat the finest food without lamenting the exchange rate. Come to shop, eat, drink, and enjoy Tokyo's chic side.
Not far from Tokyo Tower lies Rainbow Bridge, a suspension bridge along the Odaiba waterfront. A testament to Japanese ingenuity and creativity, it is lit up via solar energy at night, when the structure takes on a rainbow hue. The strong colors make for a unique city view, and the bridge was given its fond nickname by the locals. If you're feeling inspired and your legs aren't jelly from a full day's sightseeing, the bridge also has a pedestrian walk on the lower deck.
Ending your night at Tokyo Tower, in Minato, brings the entire Tokyo experience together. A staple in Japan's history and pop culture alike, the Eiffel Tower look-alike was once used as a communications tower, and today houses observation decks where you can take in breathtaking views of the city. Best enjoyed by nightfall, when Tokyo's skyline becomes a blaze of lit skyscrapers and snaking highways, the tower also provides visitors with a museum about its origins, a Shinto shrine, a souvenir shop, and dining options high in the sky. At its base, an area called FootTown houses a small aquarium, restaurant, and market. The roof of the FootTown building is also host to a number of live acts for children, as well as small, tame carnival rides. Included in many stories and films, Tokyo Tower was the city's largest structure for over fifty years and is still a pinnacle in the Tokyo skyline.