There is no place quite like it. Tokyo. For first timers it may be a little intimating but don’t be fooled. You’ll be bewildered by the neon lights, weird and wacky food and the amazing culture.
Shibuya crossing is the heart of Tokyo. In my opinion the best time to visit is after dark, when all the neon signs are lighting up the area. This crossing is said to be the busiest in the world, the atmosphere and buzz is fantastic especially if you are foreign to the culture.
If you are on a budget then this free attraction will give you fantastic views over the cityscape below, you’ll be whizzed up to the 202 metre high observation deck which gives you panoramic views over Tokyo.
The world’s tallest free standing tower was opened in May 2012 and reaches 634 metres high. The Tower Sky Tree has two observation decks, the 1st at 350 metres high and the 2nd at 450 metres high. From the top you can see for miles and miles over Tokyo and beyond.
Top tip: Visit at the end of the day and watch the sunset over the city. Once the haze has disappeared and the sun has set you can often see up to 100 kilometres away to Mount Fuji.
Takeshita Street, Harajuku
Takeshita Street is the place to be. This wacky street is filled with costumed girls, yummy food and funky clothes shops. Takeshita Street is home to Japan’s most crazy teenage culture and fashion. This pedestrian street has boutique shops, delicious crepe stalls and trendy coffee shops – it’s a must visit!
Tokyo Fish Market
Tokyo wholesale fish market opens to tourists at 05:00am with restaurants and stalls selling the freshest fish. The must see though is the tuna auction, if your visiting the auction its essential you get there early, as it’s a first come, first served basis. Only 120 visitors are allowed per day in two groups, the 1st viewing at 05:50am – 06:05am and the 2nd at 06:05am – 06:20am.
Top tip: Check the opening times and get there early as it gets extremely busy especially during peak season.
Believe it or not karaoke originated in Japan and there’s no place like it to pick up a microphone. In Tokyo there’s an array of karaoke establishments, they usually open from 11:00am and don’t close until 03:00am. Most of the karaoke establishments have private rooms which seat up to 10 or more people, they have a television and a couple of microphones, songs are available in most languages and you can get food and drinks ordered to your room.
Become a real life superhero and dress as your favourite character whilst driving around in a go-kart across Tokyo. You’ll need a Japanese or International driving license before jumping behind the wheel though.
Where to eat
Don’t be surprised if you have to queue down an alley for 10 minutes to get a seat in a Golden Gai restaurant. These cupboard size restaurants are quickly turned around to get as many diners through the doors as possible.
Top tip: Look out for English menus as some bars are reserved for locals only and it could get awkward. There’s often a cover charge too.
An izakaya is somewhere between a bar and a restaurant, they cater well for large groups but often have time limits. They serve food and drinks that compliment each other and have ‘all you can drink’ deals.
Top tip: Bring cash as many smaller restaurants don’t take cards.
Teppanyaki style cooking is very popular, the chef will prepare and grill all the ingredients in front of you, you’ll be mesmerised by the chefs chopping skills and there fearless expression when cooking with fire.
Japanese street food stalls are delicious. You’ll find a lot of food stalls at the temples and shrines waiting to feed the hungry tourists. A must try is takoyaki, which are golden fried batter balls filled with fish usually octopus, onions and ginger.
Where to stay
This luxurious hotel has amazing views over Tokyo and the bay. With a pool terrace open in the summer months overlooking the bay and the Rainbow Bridge you couldn’t get more relaxed. There an array of food options from Teppanyaki, Sushi, Italian, Cantonese and an onsite bakery.
Capsule hotels are becoming very popular in Tokyo, they are a happy medium between private yet affordable accommodation which is quite difficult to find it Tokyo. So it’s like a dorm room but each persons cubicle is private. You are often provided with sleepwear, slippers and toiletries as well.
How to get around
Don’t bother using taxi’s in Tokyo, the metro and train system is fantastic and very extensive – you won’t be late! The Suica card is a prepaid travel card which allows public transport in most of Japan. You can also use this at vending machines to pay for drinks too.
If you’re venturing out of Tokyo then it’s worth getting a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) which is only available to foreign tourists. This pass will allow unlimited travel on trains which are run by Japan Railway Group throughout Japan. If you’re travelling extensively across Japan it’s definitely cost effective to get a JR Pass.