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This article was written by Ed
Ah Tokyo. One of the greatest cities in the world. Truly the heart of Asia and one of the main powerhouse cities in the world. Now you may be wondering why we have a Tokyo guide on our Kansai travel website. Well, we wouldn't be one of the best online guides to Japan without a cheeky local itinerary/guide on what to do in Tokyo without it! So here is our recommendation on what to do in Tokyo.
Asakusa means ‘short grass’.
Asakusa area is a great place to explore for a few hours. It was once one of the main entertainment districts of Tokyo during the Edo period, this was partly due to it neighbouring the Kuramae district which was a rice storing and trading district.
Today, it’s a fun tourist spot, with lots of fun shops and local wares, it's a good place to wander around with a camera. You’ve also got Sensō-ji, which is Tokyo’s oldest and most significant temple. In Fact, it is THE most visited spiritual site in the world with around 30 million annual visitors. It is very impressive, and worth a cheeky visit while you’re in Asakusa.
Nakamise-dōri is an old street near Sensō-ji that has many shops selling traditional goods. Definitely worth an explore.
►The nearest station is Asakusa. Once you get to the station just follow the crowds.
Akihabara is the buzzing, bustling and colourful electronics district of Tokyo. The area is famous for its electronics stores ranging from small little second hand stores, to massive department type stores dedicated entirely to electronics. If you’re into your cameras, electronics and indeed second-hand electronics, you should definitely explore Akihabara. Also, the area is famous for its manga and anime and maid culture.
►The nearest train station is Akihabara
Harajuku is one of my favourite areas of Tokyo. Famous for its street and pop fashion, cult and modern art and crazy cosplay, it is definitely a must-visit place when you're in Tokyo. Harajuku is a great shopping district as you have the quirky and edgy street fashion shops and outlets on Takeshita Dori, and the more upmarket designer brands in the glitzy glamour Omotesando dori(street), just around the corner.
►The nearest station is Harajuku, which looks right down Takeshita Dori.
Takeshita Dori is possibly the most popular street fashion area in Asia. People come from all over the world to experience and shop. Countless quirky and alternative street fashion shops rub shoulders with a crazy crepe (pancake) and sweets stores. If you’re into fashion, you need to come here. Takeshita Dori is also famous for its cosplay culture, you’ll see a lot of this here.
Omotesando Dori is one of the high fashion/Designer Fashion areas. It is fun to walk along here as it’s very beautiful, and you can do your shopping here. There are a lot of nice little restaurants in the back and side streets.
►The nearest station is Omotesando
Right next to Harajuku is Yoyogi Park, one of the main and biggest parks in Tokyo. It is a beautiful and historical park. At one end of Yoyogi park is the Meiji Jingu shrine, which is a beautiful shrine that is dedicated to the spirit of Emperor Meiji, even though his body isn’t buried there. It is buried in Kyoto.
I highly recommend taking a stroll around Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine.
Shibuya is one of the main attractions of Tokyo, and indeed probably the main ‘hub’ of Tokyo.
Shibuya station, along with Shinjuku Station, is the busiest station in the world. You’ve probably seen photos and time-lapse videos of Shibuya crossing, also known as Shibuya Scramble. It is the world's busiest intersection, and when the lights turn green for the pedestrians, it is like nothing you’ve seen before. Thousands of people cross at once at a time at peak hours.
Shibuya is one of the main nightlife and ‘fun’ districts. There are LOADS of fun Izakaya (drinking and eating pubs), restaurants, shops, karaoke, game centres. It really is the most fun area, especially at night. Go there and have fun!
You should meet at the Hachiko statue. Shibuya station was the station which was the scene for one of the cutest true stories of a dog named Hachiko, who waited for his owner every day at the station. One day the owner died, yet Hachiko waited for 9 years. There have been many film adaptations including one with Richard Gere.
►Nearest station is Shibuya
Shinjuku is another district very similar to Shibuya and is actually right next to Shibuya. Equally as fun, but perhaps a bit more dark, gangsterish and local. Definitely worth checking out as it has great izakaya places and restaurants.
Shinjuku station is the busiest station in the world, along with Shibuya station. In Fact, the top 5 busiest stations in the world, are all in Japan!
►Nearest station is Shinjuku
Roppongi, along with Shibuya, is one of the main night time entertainment districts of Tokyo. It's loads of fun with great late-night bars, clubs and Izakayas. Again, it's quite a gangster-ish area with the Yakuza owning many of the establishments. But it's still safe and great fun to visit.
Stroll around, pop into the bars, clubs and Izakaya around Roppongi. Just have your wits about you!
►The nearest station is Roppongi
Here are a few personal recommendations on what to do in Tokyo. Being inundated with what to do in Toyko is understandable and we always encourage travellers to go out of their comfort zone and explore. But here are a few secret and unmissable things to do!
Tucked away in a random back alley of the glitzy Ginza area is a very unassuming building with about 8 floors of random Japanese bars. The area is quite seedy and gangsterish. Like countless other backstreets of major cities, you can often find great bars and restaurants on the various floors of these what look like mini-apartment buildings. Pretty hard to find but on the 4th floor is the Joker bar. It was my first time (Ed, Creator of Kansailocal.com) but my father has been coming to the joker bar with clients for 20 years, and we finally had the chance to come and check it out. It’s a very small bar with the main counter. The ‘sensei’ (master) is an older gentleman is an absolute wizard. It’s basically a bar with a magic show done by a few disciples, then the sensei comes on and does his magic show. Honestly one of the best magic shows we have seen. Highly recommend checking this place out if you have a date or someone you want to impress, or just fancy a fun evening.
►Cover charge is quite expensive - 6000 yen per person, and drinks on top of that. But it’s well worth it. To book Joker bar, its best to ask your hotel/hostel front desk to book it for you.
►Phone number: +81 3-3571-4054
On an unassuming back street of the Akasaka neighbourhood is a marvellous Kaiseki restaurant. Kaiseki is a style of Japanese course menu food in which the chef will bring out a course of dishes over time. You don’t pick yourself. Shirosaka combines exquisite Japanese food with some fusions of other styles, including French and Italian. On the pricey side, be ready to pay around 15000-18000 yen per person.
►To book, ask your hotel concierge to reserve you a place.
The Park Hyatt restaurant floor has a fantastic western-style and Japanese fusion buffet with epic views over Tokyo. Pick a nice clear day and try to either turn up early for lunch or book via your hotel concerning / front desk. You won't be able to beat these views while eating food!
Probably, in fact, one of the best places to get insane 360degree of Tokyo. 270 meters up, the sky deck is an open-air area where you can, on a clear day, see Mount Fuji, and just breathtaking views over Tokyo. It’s here you can really appreciate the awe and size of Tokyo. It seems to just stretch on forever. There is an indoor observatory and then above it is the Sky deck.
►You have to get tickets at the entrance.
►Indoor observatory: 1500 yen
►Rooftop Sky deck: 2000 yen
One of the oldest, if not the oldest luxury hotel in Tokyo, located in the smart Toranomon neighbourhood next to the famous Roppongi neighbourhood. Toranomon is where many of the big embassies are located, including the US Embassy. The original Okura (which is called The Okura Tokyo South Wing) is a pretty and modern style 5-star luxury hotel with much of the same design and features it had in the ‘bubble’ days in the 80’s when everyone in Japan was literally walking around with wads of cash in their pockets. There is also the newer Okura Prestige Tower which was opened more recently and is a stunning high rise hotel. Very glitzy and Glamorous and is a 3-minute walk from the Okura South Wing. If you fancy splashing a bit of cash, we highly recommend staying in either of these two.