I have literally been procrastinating on writing this post because there is so much to write! I honestly don’t know where to start. You know how sometimes you see something in a movie and in your mind you go ‘that has GOT to be exaggerated’, well sometimes, it’s not! Of all the cities I’ve been to, Tokyo is definitely one that exceeded my expectations and imagination.
The biggest issue I had with my trip to Tokyo was miscalculating the number of days I would need and over-estimating my physical strength to keep going without a break. I think I would want to (NEED to) go back to and spend more time there. I will recommend a minimum of 4-5 days here, time crunch or not. I split all the recommendations into two lists – the first a list of top ‘must-sees’ covered in this post, and the second a list of other places (as time permits) that I will cover in my upcoming post.
Top 10 Recommendations, here goes:
1. Sensoji Temple / Asakusa area– I know at this point most people will be thinking, ‘Enough with the temples and shrines, already’. I understand it might be a little over-whelming but they all really are different in their unique way. Each city has several of these ‘must-see’ shrines and temples. I have tried to select the top 1-2 to keep things interesting.
Sensoji is worth the trip for the atmosphere. The place is always crowded with locals and tourists and is located right in the middle of a souvenir and food market. The entire Asakusa area (where the temple is) is bright, colorful and bustling.
2. Meiji Shrine – This is a more somber location than Sensoji but almost just as crowded. The main reason being Meiji is a Shrine and Sensoji is a temple. The contrast between the two types of places of worship can be noted significantly between these two places. You see it in the coloring – bright orange for temples and darker browns and blacks for the shrine – and in the general ambiance.
3. Akiharbara – This is Tokyo’s electronic district. Every product has a crazy number of options. Going around just one of the stores took me hours. They have arcade games here, if you just want to spend the day chilling out. Just a note, nothing is cheap. Everything is as much as you would pay for in the US. Also, I couldn’t find my pictures from here for some reason…..sorry!
4. Tokyo Bay – This was one of those last-minute plans. But it was so worth changing my schedule! The Tokyo Bay, unlike Osaka’s, is crowded with people, chic stores and an amazing view! My friend got this really hip Fedora here for $10, so things are pretty reasonably priced. I went on a wonderful late evening stroll here. The fresh air did wonders for my hangover!
5. Ginza – Speaking of chic stores, Ginza (the fashion district) has plenty of those. And for some reason, everyone shopping here look like they just walked off a runway show. Just like everyone in Miami looks like they walked out of a Sports Illustrated magazine. I would recommend spending an afternoon here. There are some cool bars, coffee shops and several restaurants around. There have lifestyle stores here that have the cutest stationery and other house-hold items I probably didn’t need but wanted SO BAD.
6. Ebisu – Pregame at Ginza and head out to Ebisu for some cool clubs to dance the night away. Ebisu is a small area filled with bars and clubs, so club hopping is not hard at all as they’re all right next to each other. Half the places have a cover charge, so a little bit of research might help. You can also check to see if the DJ plays Japanese or English music. I opted for the English music DJs, and had a great time!
One small pointer though, the clubs open at like 9-10 PM, but the local crowd doesn’t get there till 1-1:30 AM. I would recommend heading out there past midnight so you don’t burn out all your energy waiting for the party to get pumping. Because the real party starts once the local crowd get there! Don’t worry though, the clubs are open till at least 4-5 AM.
Funny story, the last place I was at with my friends was a basement club. We got out at around 4:45 AM and it was past sunrise. The thing about Japan’s sunrise is that it is not a gradual increase in light; it’s pretty sudden, like someone switched on a tubelight in a dark room. So imagine our surprise when we got out of the club with the image of night in our minds. I think I just stood outside the club laughing for a few minutes, got some strange looks, but oh well!
7. Tsukiji Fish Market – Supposedly, one of the biggest seafood wholesale market, in the world! The market supplies fresh sea food to pretty much everywhere. There’s an inner market, which is highly restricted and is open very early in the morning. If you are willing to line up as early as 4AM, you might get a chance to watch the tuna auction. For everyone else, the outer market is open until early afternoon (~1-2 PM) to walk around. There are some dingy and small restaurants inside that serve FRESH sushi, probably some of the best I’ve ever had. Sushi breakfast is a must-do! I’m actually craving Sushi as I’m writing this, guess my lunch is sorted for today….
Things I did not actually do, but still make it to my Top 10:
8. Sumo Wrestling – YES! I don’t think this even needs an explanation. If you’re in town during the championship season, try to catch a match. Tickets sell out almost as soon as they’re released, so pre-planning is very imp. If you are going during off-season, try to visit a stable and watch the wrestlers practice (this option is not available during championship season). Make sure you call ahead and ask though. Most stables only allow a limited number of visitors at certain times of the day and appreciate the heads up.
9. Shibuya Crossing – I don’t have the words to really explain this without making it sound lame – “Hundreds of people are crossing this insanely huge intersection, all the time, and you can go people watch”. See? But it’s supposed to be really cool, from what I’ve heard!
10. Cafes –These are not your regular Starbucks or Costa coffee. First of all, all the mocha’s and caramel lattes in the world failed in front of my iced matcha latte (yum). To add to that, Tokyo has some animal themed cafes – the two I’ve heard of were Owls and Rabbits (I’m sure there are others). You can drink your coffee as you chill with these cool animals. Sounds fun! It’s on my bucket list for when I go back.