Japan is a mystical place where the lines between pop culture and historic culture are seriously blurred. This is especially true for Tokyo where you’ll find a robot restaurant round one corner and a zen garden round the next. Here’s the 5 essential experiences to have on your next trip to Tokyo, whether it’s your first or fifth visit.
1. Shop and sing your heart out in Shibuya
There’s more than one unique Tokyo activity to be had in the bustling suburb of Shibuya. The Shibuya crossing is one of the only pedestrian walkways that doubles as a tourist destination. Right outside the station is a statue commemorating Hachikō, the world’s most loyal dog. Lining the streets are towering shopping malls and hiding around many a corner is a karaoke bar where you can sing until the wee hours. Start your trip off right with a dose of retail therapy followed by a restaurant meal on the top floor of any shopping centre. There’s typically a whole level dedicated to restaurants and dining with budget and fancy meals on offer. Next, wander down to the closest karaoke bar where you can indulge in a bit of liquid courage before belting out all the wrong words to Bohemian Rhapsody in your own private karaoke booth.
2. Embrace your youth in Harajuku
The home of kawaii, Harajuku is a perfect embodiment of Tokyo’s modern and cultural groundings. It’s also the best area for teens and the young at heart to explore Japanese youth subcultures. Take a stroll down the popular Takeshita Dori strip for fashion boutiques and fast food outlets. Visit Mocha Cat Cafe – great place to spend time with kids. Witness cultures colliding with American chains such as Luke’s Lobster making a home within the winding streets. They’re a top pick for an indulgent lunch while you’re exploring too.
3. Make a wish at a shrine
There are over 2,000 shrines in Tokyo alone so you’re spoilt for choice. One of the largest and most culturally significant is just a hop, skip and jump away from Harajuku. A peaceful walk through the gardens near Harajuku station leads you all the way to the front gates of the Meiji Shrine. Opened in 1920, it is named after the first Emperor of modern Japan. Many locals and tourists alike enjoy leaving their wishes at the shrines on wooden plates, known as ema. The most common wishes include health and happiness, passing entrance exams, success in business and finding love.
4. Taste the delights of Japanese cuisine
The food is one of the best parts of a trip to Japan. From street snacks to local cuisines, every dish is a delight. But there’s three top picks you should make sure to fit in to your meals – sushi, ramen and takoyaki.
Take a break from sightseeing at Tsujiki GINDACO in Roppongi. Many takoyaki stores are takeaway only but this one has high bar tables for you to stop and enjoy a fried snack with a cold drink.
If you’ve never been a ramen fan you just haven’t had the right ramen. Ordering via vending machine is common in ramen shops so don’t be surprised if they point you in that direction. Once you’ve picked up your coupon hand it over and await the soupy, noodly goodness. For an interesting experience try Ichiran ramen where you dine in a private cubicle and are served through tiny slots in the wall.
How about food that serves itself? At Genki Sushi in Shibuya you order through a tablet and a conveyor belt delivers your food. Simply hand over your plates at the end of the meal so they can calculate the cost. It’s a budget friendly, fun way to enjoy one of Japan’s most recognised dishes.
5. Ride on a bullet train
You could spend almost forever exploring Tokyo alone but a day trip is an excuse to soak up another fun Japanese experience. The bullet trains, AKA Shinkansen, will speed you to your destination at hundreds of kilometres an hour. An amazing day trip destination is Hakone; just 36 minutes from Tokyo and the perfect place to visit picturesque Mt Fuji. Or take a dip in a novelty spa at the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun featuring a coffee, wine and even sake spa.
No matter where your next trip takes you bringing the best luggage and travel accessories is a must. Find all your travel needs at great prices here.
Julia Hammond is a Melbourne-based lifestyle blogger with a love for travel. She currently publishes weekly content over on the MyDeal.com.au blog and can often be found sipping coffees and planning her next exciting trip in her spare time.