Nowhere in Japan is more wild, bright and colourful as Harajuku. This neighbourhood is filled to bursting with amazing places to see! Below is my list of the best places get those iconics shots of Kawaii Tokyo! All the stops are located at the bottom in a handy dandy google map for you to follow and are in an easy to follow directional order.
Exploring Harajuku is more than just walking down the famed Takeshita Dori Street. There are so many side alleys and hidden shops you need to explore to get a real sense of what Harajuku is all about and not just the touristy side of things. I’ve tried to make this list an easy to follow walking path from the station so you don’t have to backtrack too much!
Japan has the reputation of being unique, quirky and sometimes even flat out weird. But not weird in a bad, but weird in a good way. These unique experiences which are synonymous with Tokyo are the reason some people make the trip out there. While I would always advise you pair your adventures in Japan with some traditional experiences as well, I do completely understand those who want to find all the most bizarre activities this country has to offer. Here are my favourite weird and wonderful places and adventures to can find in Tokyo!
Travelling to Japan as a first timer is a daunting experience. Going to a city where they don't use the Roman alphabet, let alone speak the language, is just one more hurdle which can make those first few hours in the city all that more confusing and intimidating. But trust me, Japan is one of the most incredible cities in the world and the kind people you'll find there are always more than happy to help you out with any pickle you might find yourself in. That being said, after many "first times" in Japan, I've plotted my top tips to ensure your first few hours there go as smoothly as possible, and you've set yourself up for success for the rest of your trip to Japan!
When visiting the famed area of Asakusa and the Sensoji shrine you're bound to work up an appetite! Luckily, Nakamise Shopping Street and the side streets around it, have a plethora of amazing street foods to choose from. I decided to make a day of this the last time I visited. Come HUNGRY because there are so many different things you NEED to try! This one area offers up so many traditional Japanese street foods, each one costing only a dollar or so. You can easily spend under $15 for an entire 10-course meal! There are plenty of food tours of this area, but it's so easy to do it yourself. While having a guide is a great way to ask questions and find out more from a local's perspective about the area, doing it on your own means it's up to you to find your way around and interact with the locals yourself.
When you think of visiting Japan, no doubt one of the first things you'll imagine is walking into an ancient temple, painted bright vermillion, the smells of incense wafting the air. One of the most iconic of these temples is Sensoji in Asakusa, Tokyo. Perhaps the most visited temple in Tokyo, Sensoji is also the oldest temple in the city with over half millennia of stories to tell.
In the cosy, seaside village of Yokohama, you'll find the fabled Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. Although it's dubbed a "museum", the experience you'll have is more in line with a trip to Epcot. The museum is almost like visiting a food-themed amusement park which sends you back in time in tastes and visuals.
About an hour from Tokyo lies the seaside town of Yokohama. It is the second largest city in Japan with a population of 3.7 million. Despite being such a big city it still keeps the small town feel that it once had when it was first established. Yokohama makes for an easy day-trip from Tokyo. It’s a scenic escape with a myriad of peaceful gardens and exciting activities.
Blocks away from Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in Tokyo, you'll find Nakano. Nakano feels like the amalgamation of everything we dream about Japan being. You can find some of the best ramen shops, grandmothers dumplings, bustling Japanese shopping centers and the best in Japanese pop culture. And the best part about Nakano is that it's a low-rise neighbourhood, meaning that unlike Shinjuku with it's towering neon skyscrapers, this feels more like a quiet suburban community.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to do a bunch of psychedelic drugs in the year 2200? Well, wonder no more because the Robot Restaurant here in Tokyo is here to show you! The "restaurant" isn't really a restaurant at all. What it is, is a futuristic, energetic, vibrant, exciting, surprising and overall insane display modern, Japanese cabaret.
If you’re looking for the busiest, liveliest, brightest, craziest area to stay while visiting Tokyo, there is no other option for you other than Shinjuku. Shinjuku is home to the world’s biggest railways station, where more than two million passengers flow through their hallways each day. Just a taste of the immensity of this mini-city.
Visiting Tokyo in the wintertime is one of Japan's best-kept secrets. So many people avoid travelling in the winter due to the cold but if you layer on those coats and scarves, you'll be treated to a Japan which is sometimes only seen by locals and those few tourists who make the effort to brave the elements. Winters in Tokyo are meant for soaking in hot springs, visiting Mount Fuji on a clear day and best of all, eating delicious winter food! Dining in Tokyo can be had for as little as under $20 or as much as over $100. I've been sure to include various price points in this list so whether you're looking for a cheap lunch or a luxurious dinner there is something for everyone!
Depending on where you're setting off from, you're most likely looking at an at least 13-hour flight to Japan. If you don't have the cash to splurge for first class - and let's face it basically no one does - see if your airline has to ability to upgrade to upgrade your seats for some extra legroom.
During the cherry blossom season, when many people make the pilgrimage to Tokyo to witness this natural phenomenon, festival food stalls crowd the pathways around the temple. Off-season, there are only a few, run down stalls on site, selling traditional Japanese street food to locals and tourists alike.
The name Ameya-Yokochō comes from the word "ameya" which in Japanese means "candy store". After WWII sugar was hard to obtain but in this area of Japan, there were many candy stores still selling the precious sweets. Even today you can still find a few stores selling Japanese candy.
Asakusa is located Tokyo's <i>Shitamachi</i>, or "lower city". The Shitamachi district of Tokyo is a place where the old ways not only survive but flourish alongside modernization. It is named the "lower city" because, in the Edo period, this was the red light district, then considered a "lower" form of entertainment. These days the "red light" aspects of entertainment have disappeared but have been replaced with more socially acceptable forms of entertainment like shopping, cinemas and restaurants.
Sushi-Nova is a restaurant where diners can enjoy sushi delivered right to their seat via a high-speed conveyor. For travellers, you'll be pleased to hear that all their tables of four provide outlets to charge your devices and they even have free wifi! (which yes is a big deal in Japan)
I think in retrospect we should have spent more time researching. But I will say, that this cafe, unlike many many other, ensures that the light inside is very dark, as the animal are nocturnal and sleep during the day. This cafe also didn't allow you to pet all the owls, and some were only for observation.
Today, the gardens are the only accessible part of the Imperial Palace available every day. The Palace is still the primary residence of the Emperor. Their current home is a more modern building as it was finished in 1993 and located in the Fukiage Gardens. Much like Buckingham Palace, it is not accessible to the public except for private guided tours.
After walking around the Imperial Palace Gardens all morning, we were due for a bit of rest before facing the rest of the day. Half way towards our next destination we decided to take a rest in the next large park we came across. This turned out to be Hibiya Park.