A JDM-Virgin's Guide to Tokyo...
by Eric Bauer
After a series of emails asking me to give out directions to some of the cool things to do in Tokyo (Japan), and since it is almost one year to the day when I left for that wonderful country I thought I'd give yall a quick Automotive Tourist Map of Tokyo!
The story starts at Shinjuku Station but you can start from Tokyo Station or anywhere else - that much is up to you...
Walk down Shinjuku Dori eastbound for a couple more blocks and you'll end up in front of Isetan Department Store - one of the largest chains in Japan. Also there is Virgin Megastore. Most interestingly is the bus stop - hop onto the #70 Line heading East - I believe the fare is 200Yen each time you board the bus. Stay on there for twelve stops and listen for Aoyama Itchome - that's your sign. Hit the 'exit' button and get off, across the intersection - oh what's that? Honda Headquarters and main showroom! You might want to go back there a couple days in a row as the cars on display change every day. Just because one day there was a bunch of CRV, HRV, and SMX, doesn't mean that the next day won't be all CivicR, IntegraR, Accord SiR, NSX TypeS, etc...
If from Honda HQ you hop on the westbound #81 bus, or on either the Hanzomon or Ginza subway lines you'll end up in Shibuya. Shibuya is almost as big as Shinjuku. Has of course its own JR station. Night clubs, bars, Tower Records, HMV (Japanese Major Record Store chain), etc.
Or if from Honda HQ you get back on the #70 bus heading South/East away from Shinjuku then in 5 stops you'll end up in Roppongi. Again a younger neighborhoud but with a pronounced Western influence. McDonald's, Sbarro, Hard Rock Cafe, etc. It is highly likely that you might see a bunch of 30-40 year old bored American housewives chatting it up around their respective Frappucinos at Starbucks...
From Roppongi, hop onto the westbound Hibya subway line and take it to Hatchobori (8-9 stops as I recall), you can then transfer to the (JR?) Keiyo Line and take that in the South/East direction towards Shin-Kiba. At Shin-Kiba transfer this time onto the Tokyo Rinkai Kosoku line towards Shinonome (1 stop). As you pull into Shinonome station look out the window towards North/West... you ought to see an orange and purple three story building - Super Autobacs Shinonome!!!
Wanna do some more sightseeing? Get back on the same line you were on, towards Kokusai Tenjijo (1 stop). You are then at the foot of Ariake station for the Yurikamome (Tokyo Monorail) and within walking distance of Tokyo Big Sight. For those that recall, Tokyo Auto Salon when it was a little smaller than what it has now become used to be housed there. Now it's at the Exhibition Halls near Tokyo Disneyland on the other side of town.
Get on the monorail. At Odaiba Kaihinkoen station you'll be right next to one of the larger Sega Joypolis - imagine multiple levels of all of Sega's arcade games in one building. Multiple SegaRally2 full stations lined up next to each other - it doesn't get much better than that... ;) There's another Joypolis in Shinjuku BTW.
Continue on the monorail and it will take you across Tokyo Bay on the Rainbow Bridge. End of the line is at Shimbashi.
There, at Shimbashi, if you take a southbound JR to Tamachi station and get out onto the main street you'll be within sight of the Mitsubishi HQ and main showroom.
If once at Shimbashi you decide you want to go back towards central Tokyo, simply get on a northbound JR line for Tokyo station.
From Tokyo station you could walk in a North/West direction and end up at the front of the Imperial Palace and adjacent Gardens. Even a motorhead like us ought to go see at least part of it - beautiful stuff!
Or you could stay on the JR at Tokyo and take it up to Akihabara. You've probably heard countless stories about this neighborhoud. They are all true. If you are into HiFi/Audio/Home Electronics then leave the credit card at the hotel - you'll go nuts here. Everything is here. From Plasma HDTVs measuring AT LEAST 16x9 and meant to be HUNG on the wall (they are only a couple inches thick) at price tags of upwards of $20,000 to the latest Playstation games. It's all here. McIntosh, ultra-limited edition Harman/JBL stuff, etc something for every size of wallet...
On the way back, hop on the Hibya subway line back towards Tokyo. Get out at Ginza, right after Higash-Ginza! This ought to put you at the intersection of Chuo Dori and Harumi Dori. If Tokyo has anything like Manhattan's Times Square this is it! On this intersection you will find on one corner Nissan HQ and main showroom - Now may be the only time you get to sit in that R34 Skyline GT-R...
At the same subway stop you can hop onto the Marunouchi line. North/West direction will eventually take you back to Shinjuku...
You still aren't wiped out? Ok then from Shinjuku take the Northbound JR to Ikebukuro to see Toyota HQ. Exit on the East side of Ikebukuro station and aim for Fuji Bank. Go up that street by the Sunshine Cinema 2 and pass by the Sunshine City department store. If you get lost ask for directions to Toyota Amlux: "Sumimasen, Toyota Amlux wa doko desu ka." is the right thing to say. Anyone ought to be able to point you in the right direction. It's 6 floors tall and kind of hard to miss...
Make a U-Turn and go back to Shinjuku. On the West side of the JR station, there across the main plaza you'll see Subaru HQ and its showrooms.
Got all that? Seems like a lot but once you get into the habit of subway hopping you'll see it's no sweat. Call ahead and find out what the schedules are. Some places are closed midweek so that they can be open both days on weekends. Usually falls on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Wanna visit some aftermarket tuners? I highly recommend you call ahead of time to check if a. they are open, or b. whether they are busy or not... Most if not all are located in phone books there, or you can ask friendly sales staff at places like Super Autobacs.
Good luck and Have Fun! Keep your eyes peeled and you will see the same kind of craziness running through the Tokyo streets that I was priviledged enough to witness first hand last summer. A conversation knowledge of Japanese is not necessary to get by in Tokyo as most people are more than willing to try out their English - but it sure doesn't hurt.
Oh and raise an "oki Kirin" for me over dinner when you're there, will ya?...