Japan

Don’t Leave Tokyo Without…..

Tokyo has to be one of the most mental and futuristic cities on the planet. Before I decided to come to Korea, I watched Lost in Translation so many times and was in awe of this completely foreign place. Oddly enough, that movie is one of the reasons why I decided to come to East Asia. I wanted to experience streets glowing with neon lights and feel lost in a strange place. So last year, I took advantage of the 5 day Lunar New Year holiday to finally visit Tokyo! Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer vastness of the city- there is so much to see that it can be overwhelming and I feel like I hardly even scratched the surface! Despite the fact I’m no Tokyo expert, trust me that you shouldn’t leave without……

Losing your Mind at the Robot Restaurant

10409240_10153628502159838_1897052104802275261_nEDITIf you really want to experience something you will never experience in any other city EVER, you need to check out the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. Although it says “restaurant” in the name, don’t come here for the food- it’s just overpriced bento boxes similar to what you’d pick up in a 7/11. Come for the dancing, fighting robots! I don’t want to ruin the surprise or give too much away, so that’s all I’m going to tell you about it!

 

Geeking out at Akihabara

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This neighbourhood is the geek capital of Tokyo. You’ll find streets and streets filled with huge anime, manga and electronic shops- the shops filled with young, single guys lusting after expensive anime figurines. You really need to come here to witness Japanese geek subculture for yourself!

 

Experiencing So Much Cuteness you Want to Die at a Maid Cafe

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While you’re in Akihabara, make sure you visit one of the many Maid Cafes! When you arrive, you will be greeted by a maid who will show you to your table and treat you like royalty and show off her cuteness to you. Our maid talked us through the menu, giggling and letting us know which things she would draw on for us. Like, if we ordered a cappuccino she could draw a bunny or teddy on top. I was boring and went for an iced americano, sorry cute maid!

Before you can eat your food, you need to “bless” it and do a dance and shout “moy moy kyoon” which is a Japanese expression to describe the feeling your heart makes when you are in love. Seriously, too much cutenes!! You can pay extra to play games with maids or take a photo together. I opted for the photo (with props, of course) but there were lots of young single Japanese guys playing Uno or Hungry Hippos with the maids.

Expect to see young, single guys everywhere in Akihabara. Again, another insight into Japan’s unique subculture.

Edit: When I visited I had no idea that the girls in the Maid Cafes were often much younger than 18. Therefore, I would refrain from visiting. I’ll leave you with this post from Donna at Haute Culture. Do your homework and make your own mind up about it!

 

Eating Super Fresh Sushi

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Before I came to Tokyo, I was so scared of proper sushi! I’d had California and maki rolls before but never eaten raw fish. My first night in Tokyo, I visited a sushi restaurant but avoided all raw fish. By my final night, I was brave enough to try it and I loved it! I’ve since had sushi back in Korea but it’s nowhere near as fresh and tasty. My personal favourites are fatty salmon, red tuna and eel. Yum!

 

Navigating Ramen Street

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Japan’s other ubiquitous dish- ramen! This is nothing like the pre-packaged stuff, instead, expect really fresh noodles, meat and pickled vegetables in a rich bone broth. The city is full of ramen restaurants and it’s hard to know which are the best. To make things easier, pay a visit to the ramen street under Tokyo Station. The best and most popular vendors from around the city have opened shop down here. Just head to the shop with the longest queue!

 

Trying to Catch a Glimpse of Mount Fuji

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I swear Mount Fuji is right behind me!

The elusive Mount Fuji is the quintessential image most people have in their head when they think about Japan, and no visit is complete without trying to catch a glimpse of it. Due to the icy conditions, the mountain itself is only open for hiking in July and August. Unfortunately, when I was there the weather was pretty cloudy so I didn’t make the journey out to see it. I did kind of see a faint outline of it from the top of Tokyo Skytree if I squinted really hard and held my head in the right position and put my sunglasses over my camera lens and zoomed as far as I could…. Yeah, so I didn’t really see it. I would definitely love to in the future though, and if you get the chance to, you should too!

 

Hanging out in Harajuku

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Much like Akihabara, Harajuku is the place to come if you really want to check out Japanese subcultures. This is probably the best place I’ve ever been for people watching. The girls have such amazing, unique fashion sense! Takeshita Street is the main place where all of the action happens. You’ll find lots of shops catering to Harajuku girls and creperies which seem to be really popular here! Expect it to be extremely busy on weekends!

 

Spotting Elvis impersonators at Yoyogi Park

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Just around the corner from Takeshita Street is Yoyogi Park. As is to be expected in a big city, Tokyo is full to the brim with creative types. Pair this with astronomical rent prices and you’ll understand why so many people are using public parks as their own open-air rehearsal studios. Here you’ll find lots of wannabe J-Pop groups, break dancers and acrobats doing there thing on a Sunday. When I was there I spotted some competing Elvis impersonators at the entrance and later learned that they are a bit of a permanent fixture! Never in a million years did I ever think I would walk into a park to see professional, competing, Asian Elvis impersonators! Another “Only in Tokyo” kind of thing!

 

Crossing at One of the Most Iconic Crosswalks in the World

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Crossing the road might not seem like a very exciting thing to do in one of the most mental cities in the world, but crossing at the famous Shibuya Crosswalk is something that just has to be done! Wait until the traffic lights turn red, then watch pedestrians spill out onto the road from every direction. For a coffee with a view, check out the main Shibuya Starbucks, which overlooks the crosswalk. If you have the chance to go on a rainy day, go and see the moving procession of umbrellas!

 

Gazing at Neon Lights

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Shinjuku is the main downtown, business area of Tokyo and you’ll more than likely end up here at some point during your visit. To really see Shinjuku at it’s best you should come at night and see the sky lit up with neon lights.

 

Having a Few at Golden Gait

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 The Golden Gait is one of the only parts of Tokyo that wasn’t blown up in the war and one of the only places you can see old Tokyo in the city. As if that wasn’t reason enough to visit, the area is filled with hundreds of tiny bars, stacked on top of each other. Choose one, squeeze in and spend the night sipping on sake with the locals.

Top tip- experience another unique aspect of Japanese culture by spending the night at Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan!

 

Finding your Zen at a Temple or Shrine

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While a trip to Tokyo is absolutely amazing, it’s not exactly a relaxing place! Trying to decipher the subway, eating unusual food, being surrounded by neon lights and crazy fashion can all take its toll and you need to find a bit of zen. Although a lot of the temples can be packed with tourists, they can still provide a bit of peaceful relief from city life. While I was there, I was actually lucky enough to witness a wedding at the Meiji Shrine, near Harajuku. Even if you aren’t as lucky as I was, it’s without a doubt a lovely place to walk around and have a breather!

 

Experiencing Rush Hour (Tokyo Style)

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If you’re brave, jump on a commuter train at rush hour. Train conductors literally push all of the passengers into the train until the doors can close. It really does take being squashed like a tin of sardines to a whole new level! I do not recommend this if you are claustrophobic, or don’t like people invading your personal space!

 

Trying to Get a Game of Pachinko

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Pachinko, a game similar to pinball, is REALLY popular in Japan. So popular that I even saw loads of Pachinko Parlours on a tiny Japanese fishing island not far from the Korean Coast! Gambling for cash is illegal in Japan so this game is a bit of a loophole in the system. Instead, winners try to collect balls which they can exchange for prizes, but there is a bit of controversy over the matter as there are said to be secret vendor shops who will exchange ball tokens for cash. I tried to get some balls so I could try and play myself, but could not for the life of me figure out what the process was! Expect to see lots of Japanese men who have been sitting for hours on end trying to get lucky!

I’m pretty sure I haven’t even scratched the surface on all of the things that you can do in Tokyo but if you only have a few days in the capital, this lift should definitely provide you some amusement and a nice insight into the modern day culture of this weird and wonderful city.

Planning an Asian adventure?

Don’t miss Osaka- here’s what not to miss!

For hotels in Tokyo click here.

To find the cheapest flights click here.

Not sure what city to visit? Why not throw in a trip to Seoul as well- another futuristic super city not to miss!

Don’t miss my tips on how to save money for travel so you can start getting yourself ready for your big trip!

If you’ve been to Tokyo, let me know your tips for first-time visitors! Anything else not to miss?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links but all opinions are my own.

 

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Laurenzo
    22nd February 2016 at 4:25 pm

    This is fab! Can’t wait to go someday 😍

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      25th February 2016 at 9:32 am

      Aw Lauren, I hope you get to go soon, know you’ll love it pal x

  • Reply
    Alan
    23rd February 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Tokyo is my favourite city ever! Ran the marathon there a few years back. Can’t wait to visit again!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      25th February 2016 at 9:33 am

      Aw a marathon is an amazing excuse to get to see Tokyo! It’s amazing city 🙂

  • Reply
    Christopher
    31st March 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I live in northern Japan (which is more traditional) but love getting down to visit Tokyo occasionally. You also should try the Super Mario Carts experience. You dress in various Mario Brothers costumes and drive go-carts around on the streets of Tokyo.
    Christopher recently posted…Some New Habits after 2 Years in KoreaMy Profile

  • Reply
    Sometimes Plans are Made to be Broken - Wee Gypsy Girl
    25th April 2016 at 5:10 pm

    […] definitely keen to go back, even though I have been 4 times now! Veeran has only been once to visit Tokyo so he hasn’t experienced the more traditional side of Japan. We don’t know when, or […]

  • Reply
    Alexa
    25th September 2016 at 12:46 pm

    A couple of notes about geek subcultures – a- it’s “moe moe kyuun”. Moe = cute characters. It’s a specific type of cute, like you want to cuddle them and protect them so much it burns. And it’s not just guys lusting over girl characters – point b – go to Ikebukuro to find the shops full of male characters for female fans to drool over. Otome games and yaoi. They call it otome road. If you’ve ever heard of a show called “Durarara!!”, that takes place in Ikebukuro, and you’ll definitely see places there that are familiar from the show. (also, it’s a really good show, even if you’re not into that sort of thing. It’s on Netflix, so check it out ^_^;)

  • Reply
    Baca Manga
    13th November 2016 at 11:54 am

    Love manga and love Tokyo…
    Wish to visit this city in the future!
    Thanks for you article!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      28th November 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Thanks Baca, I hope you get the chance to go!

  • Reply
    Kayti Clayton
    19th January 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Found your blog via Pinterest and so glad I did! I’m headed to Tokyo in September so I’m doing all of my research and planning right now. Love your blog and just wanted to say hi as a new reader and fellow travel blogger!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      2nd February 2017 at 11:08 am

      Hey Kayti! Thanks so much for your message. Japan is awesome- I’m just back from Kyoto and Osaka and had the best time. Will check out your blog 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    Kayti Clayton
    19th January 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Also, just a friendly note – the link at the top of your page to instagram is broken – it doesn’t direct to your actual page!
    Kayti Clayton recently posted…SIX PLACES YOU NEED TO VISIT IN 2017My Profile

  • Reply
    Seoul vs Tokyo: Battle of the Super Cities - Wee Gypsy Girl
    8th February 2017 at 12:55 pm

    […] If you are heading to Tokyo soon, here are some things that you definitely shouldn’t miss on your trip! […]

  • Reply
    Donna
    19th February 2017 at 10:01 am

    Thank you for including my blog in your post and updating your section to reflect existing concerns about explotation of school girls. Now following you 🙂

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      19th February 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Thank you, Donna, for bringing it to my attention! It’s a very important issue and hopefully this little action can put off, even just a few, people from visiting! 🙂

  • Reply
    Don't Leave Osaka Without.... - Wee Gypsy Girl
    16th March 2017 at 8:56 pm

    […] now and it’s my favourite city in Japan (yup, I said it, I like Osaka better than Kyoto and Tokyo!) It’s a pretty misunderstood place but one that’s definitely worth a few days on your […]

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