Tokyo is Japan’s capital, and now I can see why. It is a beautiful, vibrant city, full of life on all levels. The urbanization, all the office, and government buildings did not take the traditional cultural image of Japan away. It was fascinating to see how spiritual meccas like Senso-ji Temple fit beautifully in between the skyscrapers. Ingenuity in Tokyo’s transportation system makes the city one of the most accessible in the World. And let’s not forget that Tokyo is home of the second tallest man-made structure in the World and the biggest fish market too.
Where Did We ?
Top 5 Experiences
I think the Tokyo Sky Tree is at the top of my "to do in Tokyo" list. It is the second tallest man-made structure in the World after Burj Khalifa. Features stunning 360-degree views of Tokyo and the surrounding cities. It has 2 observation decks on 350 floor and 450th.
Senso-ji Temple is Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. It is a vibrant place where spirituality meets good food because there are over 90 shops leading to the temple selling excellent and fresh food from Wagashi to Takoyaki and Yakitori. Draw your Omikuji, but don't get upset if it is not good luck, just tie it somewhere. Make sure you try the Sembei (rice crackers). There are multiple flavors and seasoning, the best I have ever had.
Shibuya Crossing is one of the craziest urban phenomena I have witnessed, and is the busiest intersection in the World! Hundreds of people, sometimes over a thousand cross at a time. You can get a great view of the crossing while you sip your coffee at the Starbucks on the 2nd floor of the Q- front building. It is definitely an experience you should put on your to do in Tokyo notes. P.S. And because you are reading this blog I will share a secret with you. There is an observation rooftop that is open to anyone, located on the 8th floor of the MAGNET building. You can easily spot it, its right on the intersection.
Kabuki theater is a vibrant piece of art, featuring elaborate makeup worn by its performers. It is sometimes referred to as the art of singing and dancing. It is ONLY performed by male actors, and female performers are not allowed. When tickets go on sale, they do get sold out in hours almost like a Beyonce concert. In Tokyo, you can enjoy Kabuki in the world-wide famous KabukiZa Theater. We went there at 11 am and purchased standing tickets for only 1 act (about 35 min), and it was totally worth it for the price of 800 Yen.
Tsukiji is the World's biggest fish market and definitely a place worth visiting. The "big fish" auction starts during the early hours of the day around 3am, and usually, you need to stand in line to put your name in if you would like to join the bidding. There is an inner and outer market. Stop by the outer market and get some super fresh sushi breakfast.
Other SEEs and DOs worth mentioning
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The Mari Go- Kart is an extraordinary way to roam the streets of Tokyo. We were walking around in Ginza when we spotted the karts going crazy around the city, by the time we called the company they didn’t have anything available for the rest of the day, but definitely something we would try next time. Definitely on my to do in Tokyo list for my next visit to Japan.
If you are into designer clothes and shoes and premium end shopping experience, this is the place to be. The newly opened Ginza 6 shopping mall is beautiful and will keep your credit card with a high balance (chuckle)
And because not everyone is tuned for high end shopping in Ginza, street style shopping in Harajuku is just as good! There are so many small Japanese boutiques that you can find here that you would need more than a day if you are a shopping maniac.
The Emperor’s residence is located on a small hill in the center of the city just a few blocks away from Tokyo Station. If you really want to go in, make sure you check the scheduled guided tours, because currently only they are allowed entrance into the palace.
This is a lovely avenue in Shibuya/ Harajuku. It is mainly a shopping street that is lined with zelkova trees which makes it very pleasant to walk around especially if its a hot day.
Takeshita is a tiny pedestrian street lined on both sides and above with fashion boutiques, cafes, restaurants and more. It is indeed a very colorful place to be.
P.S. There is also a cat hat vending machine.
Tokyo National Museum along with The Museum of Nature and Science and the Zoo is located in the beautiful Ueno Onshi Park which main entrance is at the back of Ueno Train and Metro Station. The museums are very good, and transportation to and from is very convenient.
This is a contemporary museum dedicated to the history of Tokyo in the Edo Period. The nearest train station is Ryogoku. The admission fee is 600 Yen.
Shibuya Crossing is one of the craziest urban phenomena I have witnessed. It is the busiest intersection in the world! Hundreds of people, sometimes over a thousand cross at a time. It is almost like the blood that’s rushing through your veins with every heartbeat. You can get a great view of the crossing while you sip your coffee at the Starbucks on the 2nd floor of the Q- front building. It is definitely an experience you should not miss.
P.S. And because you are reading this blog I will share a secret with you. There is an observation rooftop that is open for anyone, located on the 8th floor of the MAGNET building. You can easily spot it, its right on the intersection
This is Tokyo’s central train station which will most likely be the embarkment point for your travels to other cities (if you are planning to do so) The impressive part is the shopping area on level B1. You can find more than 60 stores offering fresh bento boxes, other traditional Japanese food, Western food and Wagashi (Japanese sweets)
Whether you just want to shop around for Wagashi and Takoyaki or wish to draw your omikuji (a good or not so good luck fortune), Senso-ji is the best place. The food is absolutely amazing, and the temple is magnificent. Just be very patient, there are a lot of tourists like us.
Tokyo Tower is a signature image for the city. It is primarily used for communications but also serves as an observation tower. It is located very close to Roppongi. At 333 meters, it is the second-tallest structure in Japan after Tokyo SkyTree.
Traditional Izakaya @ Gohanya Isshin
A hidden gem in the basement of a small building in Shibuya. You will never know it is there if you don't use Foursquare. It is a traditional Japanese restaurant setting and no shoe policy. The meals are home style but with a high "gourmet" kind of feeling served in a relaxed, casual atmosphere with friendly service.
Soba Noodles @ Kanda Yabusoba
Soba is a noodle type of dish, made of buckwheat. We went to a traditional soba house in Akihabara/ Electric town. Kanda Yabusona has 9.4* on FourSquare (my go-to app for all restaurant and coffee shops research), so we thought it is going to be a good option. It was great! I had the Tempura hot soba, and it was amazing, so delicious. Also, the soba noodles are made in-house, and the kitchen is open so you can see how they make them.
Wagashi @ Takshimaya
Wagashi is the name for all Japanese confections. They can be sweet or savory. Namagashi, in particular, is a beautiful, mostly sweet snack widely served at a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. Wagashi making is just like art! Elaborate and beautiful.
Sushi @ Sushi Maru
If you haven't had Sushi or Sashimi at the World's Biggest Fish Market- Tsukiji, you have never experienced the real taste of Japan most famous dish. The fish is so fresh, delivered to the little restaurants around the market every morning. Our choice was Sushi Maru, this meal will set you back about 30$, but it really was worth it.
Takoyaki @ Gindaco
Takoyaki is my favorite snack on the go. The fried balls are made of wheat flour- based batter with chopped octopus (tako), tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion. The cooked takoyaki is then served with takoyaki sauce and may and very often Bonito flakes.
1. Subway-cheapest and best choice
2. Train- the second best option especially If you have the JR pass, there are some lines you can use in the city center.
3. Bus- you can use your Pasmo card for the subway on buses too.
4. Taxi- it is not terribly expensive and final a resort to get from point A to point B
Make sure to check out our article on JR Pass and The Shinkansen trains
Even though English will get you far, I think it is quite fun to learn some phrases and also makes a good impression on the locals.
Good morning- Ohayo Gozaimasu
Hello- Kon'nichi wa
Hello (night)- Konban wa
Thank you- Arigatou gozaimasu
How are you?- Ogenki desu ka?
1. Designer Shopping @ Ginza
2. Casual/ Street Style @ Shibuya and Harajuku
3. Food and sweets @ Asakusa
Best Coffee Shops
1. Turret Coffee @ Tsukiji
2. Streamer Coffee Company @ Shibuya
3. The Roastery by Nozy Coffee @ Kita Aoyama
If you are visiting from the US, one thing that you need to know right away is tipping is neither required nor encouraged. Sometimes service charge is included in the bill at a fancier restaurant but no tip. Pay the bill, and that's all.
The biggest bill is 10,000 Yen (about 100$), and even though the coins can be quite annoying, you want them for a refreshing drink at the vending machine.
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