The 5 Best Tokyo Travel Ideas
A rich history, cutting-edge technology, a booming pop culture scene and more – Japan has much to offer the modern traveller. It’s no surprise, then, that visiting the land of the rising sun has earned a spot on everyone’s bucket list.
At the heart of it all lies Tokyo, which the uninitiated may mistake for just another metropolitan city. However, few big cities blend the charm and soul of the yesteryears with technological advances and energy that are straight out of a utopian future. With its bustling nightlife, unique experiences and warm locals, Tokyo is a treat to all your senses. If you still need convincing, here are five travel ideas to show you why Tokyo is one of the liveliest cities in the world:
5. Eat Your Way through Tokyo
In 2013, UNESCO recognised the dietary cultures of Japan as an intangible cultural heritage asset, and every foodie knows exactly why. With a whopping 160,000+ registered eateries, Tokyo has something to keep every foodie satiated. From Michelin Star restaurants to some of the most delectable street food in the world, this city has it all.
Restaurants like Kozue, Nodaiwa and Aronia de Takazawa, among many others, ensure a luxurious dining experience. However, this expensive city still caters to the budget-conscious traveller. A visit to Tokyo is incomplete without sampling the famous ice cream crepes in Harajuku, or feasting on a taiyaki – the fish-shaped cake that comes with a filling of your choice- chocolate, cheese, matcha or red beans.
If you’re looking for the ultimate sinful combination, head to Calbee+, where you can have freshly fried potato chips with toppings ranging from cream cheese to chocolate. You must also devour doubutsu doonatsu – animal-shaped donuts that are almost too adorable to eat, lavender ice cream, ichiran ramen, milk cheese biscuits, the unique Kit Kat flavours that are exclusive to Japan, and of course, a bowl of udon.
4. Stand between the Old and the New
When in Tokyo, it’s easy to feel that you’ve entered the future. The neon-lit streetscapes look like a set straight out of a sci-fi movie. Well, except the bad guys, of course, for Tokyo is a very safe city (voted safest city in the world in 2015 in fact!). However, this modern city is almost like a horizon where the old meets the new in the perfect melange.
In Tokyo, it’s perfectly normal to stumble upon ancient shrines that emanate tranquility, situated merely minutes away from skyscrapers that are filled with chaos and commotion. While it’s also commonplace to see people toting gadgets you didn’t know existed, many of the same people don traditional kimonos, almost seeming like works of art from an era gone by.
Though most big cities have both chaotic and quiet parts, few embrace both in all their glory like Tokyo does- something that is apparent as soon as one sets foot here.
3. Take a Crash Course in History & Culture
The Japanese take their culture seriously – a fact that is reflected in their way of life. In fact, the technologic advances and the thriving pop culture scene of Tokyo are rivalled only by the city’s old world charm.
Modern Tokyo is at the same time a city with a lot of deep-rooted history; anyone who spends even a couple of hours there will know that this is the case. Take, for instance, the celebrations. Each New Year is kickstarted with a visit to the shrine, a custom that is followed on most religious festivals (or as the locals say, matsuris).
From respectfully bowing to greet each other and taking off one’s shoes while entering someone’s home, Tokyo draws on the best of the past. This is just as obvious in the architecture – areas like the Golden Gai Bar District spring to mind – as it is in the arts and crafts –from ikebana (flower arranging) to bunraku (puppet theatre).
2. Shop Till You Drop
Shopping in Tokyo is an experience unlike any other. Here, you can get your hands on traditional handicrafts, cutting-edge gadgets and the quirkiest apparel, among much more.
Those who want to splurge on art, fashion and electronics will find a haven in Ginza, the district that boasts of high-end departmental stores and galleries that carry merchandise by leading Japanese and international retailers. Other hot spots are Palette Town, a Venice-themed mall located on a man-made island in the Tokyo Bay; and the Roppongi district, which is home to hundreds of upscale stores.
Those on a tighter budget can check out the boutiques around Shibuya Station, which have become forerunners in setting trends among the youth. Meanwhile, the indecisive can simply head to Harajuku, where high fashion meets counterculture in an epic blend.
However, Tokyo has a lot more to offer than just fashion, and its many specialised markets are proof of just that. The famous Tsukji Fish Market is one of the world’s biggest and busiest fish markets, whereas Ameyayokocho Market is the go-to for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Akasaka Antique Market offers a wide range of artefacts, and the health conscious can buy organic and locally-grown produce at the United Nations University Farmers’ Market, while the Oriental Bazaar sells a host of souvenirs – from kokeshi dolls to woodblock prints. Other renowned markets include Imperial Palace- the hub for all things literary, Ochanomizu which sells musical instruments and sports equipment, and Ikebukuro, the mecca for gadget lovers.
1. Take a Pop Culture Pilgrimage
Everyone knows that Japan is a pop culture hub, but few people know that this goes well beyond J-pop, cosplay and manga.
In Tokyo, you can channel your inner popstar at one of the many karaoke rooms that adorn the city. If you’re more of a bathroom singer, then there’s something for you too – places like Fioria Aria Blu give visitors a chance to enjoy a foot bath, while they sing their favourite songs! Meanwhile, no visit to Tokyo is complete without meeting giant robots at the popular theme park, Gundam Front Tokyo. Cinephiles can also visit locations where popular films like ‘Babel’, ‘Lost in Translation’ and ‘You Only Live Twice’ were filmed, or head to the Ghibli Museum, which celebrates one of Japan’s most prolific and renowned animation studios.
And that’s not all. Between the Pokemon Center, the Doraemon Museum, seeing the cosplayers in Harajuku, shopping for records at Disk Union and strolling through Akihabara – the hub of gaming, manga and anime – there’s never a shortage of things to do!