I recently got back from Tokyo and I am in love. It is an amazing place. I have so much to share with you! TOKYO let’s do this!
There is so much to see and do in Tokyo. I am going to break it down by places we had fun seeing and eating at, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. You do you when it comes time to hit up Tokyo.
Getting around: First off you are going to need to get around the city – we used the subway and JR lines exclusively (and our trusty feet). Things can be a little spread out so it is a great way to see a lot of things in a short amount of time. At first the system can be intimidating, especially if you don’t speak or read Japanese. But don’t worry after a couple trips you will have it nailed. Google maps is indispensable here, you plug in where you want to go and it will give you the route along with the total ¥ cost for the trip. Most of the machines have an english option and you can select how many tickets you want by a handy little person selector on the left hand side. We came across a couple extra tricky machines that didn’t have an English option or number amounts on it…the trick on those ones is just to put your money in first and it will let you select the fare you want. Easy.
Pro Tip: Since you are going to be using Google maps to get everywhere having a portable wifi device is absolutely necessary. We rented one right at the airport for a daily fee. It is easily returned at the end of your trip by just dropping it in a postbox conveniently located right at the airport. Honestly I don’t know how we have ever traveled anywhere without one of these, it was amazing having internet anywhere and everywhere. Do it.
Ok time for some fun stuff.
What to see:
The Ghibli Museum is a must for any studio Ghibli fan. Tickets have to be purchased in advance outside of Japan so be sure to do that if you want to check this place out. Worth it for the history of movement room alone.
The Robot Restaurant admittedly very touristy but fun none the less – where else are you going to see something like this? Nowhere.
Itoya is an incredible 8 story stationery shop. Nuff said.
Taito Arcade there are several of these around Tokyo and it is worth spending a few hours playing the impossible to win claw machines or watching the amazing skillz of teenagers playing the rhythm games.
Kiddy Land was a ton of fun and you can find some unique things there. This is where my obsession with the toy vending machines started (much to the dismay of my cat).
Tokyo Midtown Illumination we happened to be in Tokyo over the holidays and this was a cool seasonal thing to check out, just be prepared for some crazy loooooonnng lines.
Also as a bonus check out some cat cafes. I don’t think you even need to like cats to enjoy picking up and cuddling some kittens. They are super clean establishments and a fun Japanese experience.
Time to get our snack on – food!
I can’t even begin to describe my level of love for Lawson. I could probably eat every meal from one of these stores for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy. Truth. These stores will always have a special spot in my heart and seriously someone please open one (or a thousand) in America.
Yakitori in Yakitori Alley is amazing, we ate at Teppei. The chef had been making yakitori for something like 20 years. A true master at work.
Hands down if you are going to eat at one place in Tokyo it should be – Tonki. Everything here is perfection. Little tip if you don’t speak Japanese, order right when you come in from the attentive host. He has the most amazing memory and will strategically seat people based on when they came in, it’s amazing to watch. Almost as amazing as the food…not true.
Tsukiji Fish Market gets a lot of hype and I won’t lie the sushi was incredible. However if you are not into the crowds then avoid this place, you can find tons of great sushi all over Tokyo – if you want to get it here just be prepared to battle it out with everyone else.
Pro tip: The bottom of most department stores have an amazing selection of foods, drinks, and pastries. It is overwhelming the first time you encounter one, but you can find so much good stuff! They don’t really have places to sit and eat so be prepared to take your treats and go.
Where to find KitKats!! Japanese KitKats are something special and somewhat elusive. They have some fancy KitKat stores in Department stores but those are more for expensive gifts. If you are looking for some small samples to take home head to the nearest Don Quijote. You will be rewarded with all the mini KitKats you can carry and some interesting flavors. Oh you can also find them at the airport if all else fails.
*Cool fact KitKats are popular in Japan because “Kit Kat” approximates to “kitto katsu” – a Japanese expression meaning good luck. (Literally: “surely win.”)
Where to stay: This is up to you. We stayed at Park Hotel which had a wonderful view of the Tokyo Tower and at Hotel Coco which had a great view of Shinobazu Pond. We really liked both neighborhoods, but I would say Ueno is a little bit more walkable if you are looking for that.
Stay tuned for the Kyoto and Osaka guides!