Touring Shibuya and Shinjuku during COVID-19 – virtually!

Touring Shibuya and Shinjuku during COVID-19 – virtually!

by Meagan Henry
Stripes Japan

What do you do when you’re ready to experience the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and can’t hop on that plane or train to go right now? Well, Arigato Japan Tours has one option - take a virtual tour! I had the treat of spending an hour with Alex, one of their experienced guides currently working from home due to COVID-19, to learn about some new sightseeing spots and food to try in Shibuya and Shinjuku.

From virtually crossing the Shibuya Scramble (one of the busiest intersections in the world) to getting a zoom tour group photo on Godzilla Road, we followed a fun itinerary full of ideas for when we can finally explore in the future.

Joining me on this one-hour Zoom tour were people at home in Italy, the UK and others here in Japan. Some had canceled plans to come visit Tokyo earlier this year, while some were just hoping to visit (or come back for a repeat visit) soon. With a diverse group, Alex made sure to cover a little bit of everything, including history and current pop culture or events in the area.

Arigato Japan usually hosts in-person tours that revolve heavily around the foods to try and I can see why! I can’t wait to go into Shibuya to try the recommended lobster ramen and “Hachiyaki,” taiyaki (filled waffles) shaped like Hachiko the dog!

Something I really appreciated as a bit of a foodie was how Alex took the time to break down some of the differences in how to order common Japanese dishes. I’ll admit, even after a year of practice, I usually just look at a menu and point at something that looks good without worrying too much about what it is! So, it was really helpful to hear about the different ramen broths, or sauces and styles of grilling yakitori (skewered meat and vegetables). After hearing from a food guide and walking through areas packed with food options together, even the most seasoned traveler would pick up some amazing tips and tricks for really enjoying Japanese cuisine!

The amazing thing about neighborhoods like Shibuya and Shinjuku is that they have so much to do, that even locals can always find something new. I’ve lived in Japan for the last year and have visited Shibuya Crossing to see the Hachiko Statue and walk through Center Gai numerous times but was excited to add new places to my list through this virtual tour.

Prior to this experience, I hadn’t really considered taking tours in Tokyo but now, I think a local food tour would make for a great date night or group activity when we’re finally able to venture out. Arigato Japan’s virtual experience through Shibuya and Shinjuku definitely made me a little more eager to get out and see things in person, but it was a nice reminder of what awaits. The tour was a reminder to take advantage of the experience we get to have living overseas when we can do so again safely.

Meagan Henry is a military spouse currently living at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo with her husband, 4-year-old son, 2-year-old daughter and very furry dog. Her background is in educational technology, and she has contributed to research on learning, self-regulation and resilience and parenting. She has worked as part of research teams at The Walt Disney Company, Sesame Workshop and New York University, and is currently a freelance writer.

Take a virtual tour
Arigato Japan hosts food tours and is also hosting virtual experiences due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Tokyo Online: Virtual Experience in Shibuya and Shinjuku
Cost: 1500 yen (about $14) per person for one-hour tour. 
Location: Via Zoom online teleconferencing app

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