Category: Japan Travel


Tokyo Tops!

Going back to Tokyo this June, WOOOOOOOOOOOO, so to celebrate, here’s a collection of top places to visit in Tokyo, by myself and friends. Some, you will have heard of, some (hopefully) you will have not….any suggestions, please comment!!


Ameyoko, Ueno

1. Ueno

Although best known for it’s fabulous park, Ueno is quite the lively place. It’s nice to get away from the typical sky scraper, crazy lifestyle Tokyo is so famous for, and personally, Ueno always feels like I’m actually living in the city.

Pictured left is Ameyoko, a FANTASTIC little area that I recommend to everyone. It’s one of the few true markets left in Tokyo, where you can find anything and everything.

There’s also a zoo, a motocyle district and my personal fav, Tokyo National Museum.

The building is MAGNIFICENT. Anyway. Visit. Pls. 🙂

Nakano Broadway

2. Nakano Broadway and the Ghibli Museum

OK, I kinda cheated and put these two together. Mainly because everyone I know, does them in the same day. They’re both really close to each other, and anime related!!

If you’re taking Children to Tokyo (good luck 🙂 ) Ghibli Museum is a definite, also if you love the wonderful films they produce, or even if you’re just interested in seeing a different side to the Tokyo Anime scene. Ghibli Museum -it’s suprisingly cheap but you do need to buy well in advance. Do check it out.
Nakano Broadway is a slightly underrated anime or just shopping destination! But all my friends love it. It’s got several Mandarake shops, and stocks cosplay items and some fantastic (and rare) retro goods. Check it out here.


Akihabara Main street

3. Akihabara (The obvious choice!)

The mecca of all things anime/electronic/cosplay/manga/crazy stuff. If you haven’t heard of it…well OK you might not be into Anime. Anyways. Constantly evolving, there’s now a new J-list shop and finally a proper Mandarake. If you come out of the Akiba (short for Akihabara), Electric Town exit off the metro, you’ll bump straight into the wonderful Kotobukiya shop. Don’t forget to visit that Samurai Maid Café.

There’s also the hundreds of electrical goods shops, from cameras to computers to speakers shaped like Lego bricks. With plenty of duty free shops-just take your passport!

Myself and friends at-Kaminarimon Gate

4. Asakusa

This June I’m lucky enough to be staying in a lovely Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) near the beautiful Asakusa. Considered a must see destination by pretty much all tourists, this is a fantastic introduction to an “old Japan” that is still very much important to the every-day Japanese.
Google Images for all you lazy people out there. The Buddhist temple is fantastic, with a walkway of trees and lovely little (if slightly overpriced) stalls that are perfect for souvenirs. Oh, and a great Totoro shop on the corner 🙂 A lot of people don’t realise that there’s a whole other area to the temple too, (search for asakusa maps, or get one at the temple), with koi ponds and then it leads onto an old-style theme park and fantastic side roads.

I’ve been EVERY time I go, that’s how much I love it.

Takeshita Dori

5. Harajuku

A definite. I refuse to believe you have seen Tokyo if you don’t go here. Go. Infact, go now. Now. WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE!?!?!

The area best known for it’s fashion, and if you visit on a Sunday afternoon (definitely the best time, though not the only), you’ll be treated to a crazy amount of people in even crazier clothes. See this book for some brilliant photos of Harajuku fashion. It’s a truly vibrant, mad place. With everything from vintage to Lolita to punk to trendy, there will definitely be a shop for your tastes. OH and I found an awesome school uniform shop off on one of the side roads 🙂

Make sure you continue all the way down the main road, and out onto where H&M is. There’s a brilliant caramel café that’s well known –Hanabatake Bokujo Cafe where the Caramel milk is divine, as well as suprisingly cheap second hand shops. Though obviously, beware of how small Japanese sizes are.

ALSO-nearby is Meiji Jingu shrine (awesomely beautiful and a lovely chance to get away from the hustle and bussle).

Hamarikyu tea

6.  Hamarikyu Gardens

For more detail, see the Tokyo Parks site , but this has become my favourite place in Tokyo. If travelling from Asakusa to Odaiba, or you want to get to Odaiba, the boats stop at Hamarikyu and use this as a great way to hop from place to place. Although I could easily spend a day in this beautiful, edo style garden, a few hours could easily do you. There is an admission charge, but it wasn’t expensive.

Most people hate the tea and sweets you get from the tea ceremony, and so avoid it, but the tea house at the centre of these gardens serve a lovely (not too bitter) tea with wagashi (trad. sweets) along with an ENGLISH explanation of what to do. Also, there’s a nice lil pier-type-area to look over the ponds. It’s only 500 yen, DO IT!

Shibuya Crossing

7. Shibuya

A complete contrast to Hamarikyu, Shibuya is another obvious stop-off on everyone’s Tokyo Travel list! Or atleast, it should be.

The crossing is very famous, and is unbelievable during early evenings, where just thousands of people can cross in the space of SECONDS (well maybe not seconds)……..and there’s a good view point higher up in Shibuya Station.

There’s also the well-known Hachiko statue where people meet up, read the story behind it here . I think it’s now a Hollywood-Richard Gere film!

Urrrm oh, brilliant 900000 storey (or summat) building with CDs, DVDs, Manga, and at the very top is my favourite magazine store. Check it oouutt.

Yoyogi Park


8. Yoyogi Park

Although close to Harajuku and the Meiji shrine, this large park certainly deserves it’s own mention. Especially on Sundays, Yoyogi is a fantastic, eccentric and wonderful place to visit, with people busking, dancing, singing and just generally doing whatever they want to. Friends tell me the live performances have dried up recently-since Japan introduced licensing-but it’s still got the atmosphere.

I actually first heard about it for it’s large homeless camps, but they are quiet and you don’t tend to find any problems.

The people here are really friendly, and friends say they always end up having a chat with someone random. Oh, I also remember there being dog runs, which is rare in Tokyo, dogs are usually not allowed off the leash.

Eeerm, OK not much to say about the park, but do give it a visit if you want a slow walk for a few hours, absorbing the lively feeling.

Odaiba

9. Odaiba

Everyone I know says they love Odaiba, and it has become quite a popular tourist destination. I would recommend getting the boat there, because you get to see the wonderful Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay, although there are other ways to get there!

Museums, theme parks, entertainment and shopping-this place literally has everything! The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is wroth a visit if you enjoy all things modern, and you can find the famous robot ‘Asimo’. Don’t forgot Oedo Onsen Monogatari, I’ve never managed to visit but it has great reviews, especially if it’s your first time in a hot spring.

FOR MORE- check out JapanGuide for better detail than I can give here.

The lights of Ikebukuro

10. Ikebukuro

This June will be my first visit, hence it not being very high on the list-I’m going on information from everyone else! This mini article is a good describition of the area- CLICKIE . Sunshine 60 is one of the best places to get a view of Tokyo (I always found the Tokyo Tower uninspiring for it’s price) and it has an aquarium, the department stores are varied and very different to our own, it has a massive car showroom of funky mobiles,  oh and a musical instruments museum!!

My friends all say Ikebukuro was one of their favourite places, it’s not as horridly busy as Shibuya, but it has a more friendly, medium-city-like feel. If you’ve seen Durarara, you’ll get what I mean. There’s always something mad to find here, just go and explore.

EDIT: I completely forgot about the Animate here! It’s a massive 9 story building with some great merch and the usual manga/anime collection. I recently heard Ikebukuro described as the female Akihabara, so have a look around 🙂

Other places of note: Roppongi, Kamakura (short day trip from Tokyo), Omotesando Hills, Ochanomizu (for guitars!!) Jinbocho (used books), Tokyo Metropolitan Building, Tokyo Tower.

Hope this helps, any questions on places to visit within these places, just comment. I’m certainly not the law on all things Tokyo, but I enjoy the city and hope to help in any way!

Top Tips for Japan!

So, you wanna go to the Mecca of all things anime…eh?? Well I’d certainly recommend a visit 🙂 And along with said recommendation, here’s a small list of things I think you should keep in mind….courtesy of someone who’s been a fair few times 😀

    Tokyo Tower

  1. If visiting a city with a subway/metro, print off some maps BEFORE you go. Myself and several friends have found that grabbing them while there…is not easy.
  2. Don’t expect people to speak English!! Most Japanese probably can, but it’s very rare they don’t leg it at the first sight of an approaching foreigner…(This tip was reinforced by my Mother!)
  3. On the above note, do try to learn some phrases before you going. Not only do they appreciate it, but it will help you. Anything from simple words like “Water”, to “Where do you keep the eroge?”.
  4. Why not make a fairly detailed itinerary? I mean, don’t be anal about it, but having an idea of what you wanna do will make things a lil easier, give some structure and you’re more likely to get to do everything you wanna do.
  5. Always overestimate how many money to take. Not by much, but by adding £50 to my food allowance I managed not to starve on the last 2 days >_>; It’s better to be prepared!
  6. On the subject of money, DO NOT rely on Traveller’s Cheques, ATMs or Cards. Pretty much everyone will tell you this…banks and ATMs are few and far between, and credit cards tend to only be excepted at major international restaurants or hotels. Japan is very much a cash society.
  7. Think carefully about clothing…which season are you going in?
  8. TRY all the food! Even if it looks…well…proper gross. I still have nightmares about the “Swirl of Doom” and “Sweaty Muffin”.

    Meal in Kyoto

  9. Before you go, see if you can walk to different places, don’t just rely on public transport. I was surprised how close many destinations are in Tokyo, saves you that 200円 that’ll buy you an extra manga…
  10. Chuo Dori, Akihabara and Takeshita Dori, Harajuku are prime examples of why you should take the side roads. Check them out certainly, but you’ll find similar shops at much cheaper prices with a lil wanderin’.
  11. Don’t be too surprised if you get stared at…especially by babies…or if you’re tall!
  12. You CAN eat cheaply!! Try the local Ramen bar, or even the hot food from the convenience stores. Eating doesn’t have to cost a bomb…and most places will have pictures/plastic models of the food, so no worries if there isn’t any English.
  13. Why not try an Onsen? Or Sento (public bath houses). It’s a little scary at first. My mate’s first time, involved walking in on a naked little Japanese guy doing squats. This Onsen in Odaiba, Tokyo is a nice intro. for foreigners.
  14. Why not explore, get a bit lost? Loads of travel blogs advise just sitting on the Yamanote Line train in Tokyo, for 160円, will take through temples, grave yards, high-rise buildings and neon lights. The metro in Tokyo is certainly never far away, and walking down that road might take you somewhere maagiicaall 😀
  15. My most important point. Try and make friends before you go!! Try the forums on Japan Guide, where you can ‘advertise’ for travel buddies, or someone willing you show you around their part of Japan. Obviously, be careful, but you will have a truly unique trip.

Some lovely gals I met in Kyoto

This is by no means a complete list of tips, but it will get you started! Also, most of these apply to all travel! This June will see my 4th trip over there, but if you have any more, let me know!