Stepping out of the shrine landed us right into the cramped network of passageways that make up Shinjuku Golden Gai 新宿ゴールデン街, a tight grid of tiny bars, a denser version of Nonbei Yokochō のんべい横丁. The block is one continuous amalgam of shacks, compressed and perfectly defined, like the output of a scrap metal yard. It's a survivor of an earlier time, before building and fire safety standards, and now surrounded on all sides by taller, cleaner structures.
Onward just a few hundred metres to the heart of Kabukichō 歌舞伎町, the area's red light district, where a significant number of businesses are still run by yakuza ヤクザ (Japanese organised crime syndicates). Among the usual “attractions” the area is also known for its hostess clubs, where men pay to drink and engage in conversation – and nothing more – with the hostesses.
A wall gleamed with billboards of the equivalent for women, bleached-haired dolls with varying degrees of vapidity.
Out of the tower, a stroll down the hill and back underground to employ the city's fantastic transit network. We took the Toei Ōedo Line 都営地下鉄大江戸線 from Akabanebashi Station 赤羽橋駅 an easy 15 minutes across town to the ever-flowing corridors of Shinjuku Station 新宿駅.
The more than 3.6 million passengers that pass through the station on an average day make Shinjuku Station 新宿駅 the world's busiest, and even towards midnight it's still bustling, but in a way that feels subdued for the number of people. The structure sprawls like a giant ant nest above and under ground for blocks, with over 200 exits and access to five adjacent stations without coming up for air.
Leaving the station we started our expedition through Shinjuku Ward 新宿区, no less busy, but at least with more space. Streets enclosed by buildings clad in giant screens and neon signs, connected together by a web of alleys.
Taking a turn down an unassuming path led to the grove of Hanazono Shrine 花園神社, in sudden contrast to the surrounding area. Peace, quiet and yozakura 夜桜 (“night cherry blossoms”).
The view past Roppongi 六本木 and Akasaka 赤坂 with the skyscraper district of Shinjuku 新宿 in the distance, where the north and south towers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building 東京都庁舎 are visible. Incidentally, they're another great spot to view the city from, and entry there is free.
While parts of the city can be hectic, the skyline's slowly pulsing red lights seem to slow things down, if you think to watch them.
Looking to the south east with Shibuya 渋谷 rightmost, Cerulean Tower セルリアンタワー above the rest.
Up the road and into Tokyo Tower 東京タワー to check the view from the main deck at 150 metres. The tower's central location amongst the city's buildings makes the view an impressive one, even without a visit to the top deck at 250 metres.
In the far field on the right, Tokyo Skytree 東京スカイツリ stands 634 metres tall, roughly twice the height of Tokyo Tower 東京タワー.
After chit chat on the Yamanote Line 山手線 we exited at Hamamatsuchō Station 浜松町駅 and took a ten minute stroll to the commanding red gate of San'en-zan Zōjō-ji 三縁山増上寺.
Crossing via the north side of the temple, tiny faces of Jizō 地蔵 statues hid in the shadows of the Unborn Children Garden; Tokyo Tower 東京タワー stood beyond sakura 桜 on the bend.
Down Nonbei Yokochō のんべい横丁, a customer, perhaps a salaryman サラリーマン, contemplates a bar.
Departing the quiet lane, we dissolved back into the noise and then the now-familiar flow of Shibuya Station 渋谷駅, bound for Hamamatsuchō 浜松町 and Tokyo Tower 東京タワー.