I will readily admit that I am void of firsthand travel info on Tokyo so with the skills of a Ninja warrior, I scoped out an expert to create a special City Guide to Tokyo. Guest writer Olivia Sumner went in search of the best and tastiest of Japan’s capital city.
Top 3 Attractions
- Tokyo Skytree – See the city with a bird’s eye view from the top of this TV broadcast tower, soaring 634 meters high. There are two observatories located at 350m and 450m. The highest observatory has a glass floor section that goes out about 5 meters so visitors can see for miles and all the way down. Admission will set you back ¥2,000 (approx. $19.50) for the first observatory or ¥3,000 (approx. $29.00) for both.
- Yoyogi Park (2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya) – One of Tokyo’s largest parks is an oasis in the city. It’s filled with tranquil ponds and bike paths. Go on Sunday and catch a gathering of wannabe Elvis impersonators dancing to 1950s music.
- Meiji Shrine (1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya) – Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine is surrounded by a forest of over 170,000 trees. Upon entering, stop by the large water bucket to purify your hands prior to prayer. Walk up to the offering box, toss in some yen, bow twice, clap twice, and bow once more for your prayer. Japanese culture adheres to ancient rites and traditions.
- Fucha Ryori Bon (1-2-11 Ryusen Taito-ku) – Dine as Buddhist monks have dined for 300 years. This vegetarian restaurant is located in Asakusa and you’ll feel as if you’re entering someone’s cozy home. Each dish will entice your senses in a way no vegetable has. The delightful meal is a set course and will take 2 hours to complete. Depending on your choice of courses, the price range is ¥5,000 yen to 10,000 (approx. $48 – 97). Reservations are required and it’s located about a 10 minute walk from exit No.3 of Iriya Station on the Hibiya subway line
- Ten Ichi (6-6-5 Ginza) – Many agree that this restaurant in the Ginza is the best tempura in all of Tokyo. With 80 years of experience and a delicious menu, I couldn’t agree more. Diners are seated around the chef’s station to watch and learn…and eventually taste tempura perfection. It’s on the pricey side at ¥8,400-12,600 (approx. $82 – 122) just for lunch, with dinner slightly higher.
- Afuri Ramen (1-1-7 Ebisu, Shibuya) – One of the best ramen shops in all of Tokyo uses the special waters of Mt. Afuri to cook the noodles. This ramen is lighter than most with the special ingredient being yuzu, a citrus fruit. The flavor is subtle with just the right amount of essence. It will cost about ¥850 (approx.$8.25) and leave you wanting more.
Tokyo’s nightlife offers everything you could imagine. Discos, karaoke, gay, goth, theme bars, watering holes that seat three people, western and Japanese style bars. Tokyo’s nightlife is what dreams are made of. One memorable and weird bar is Polka Dots (Umemoto Building B1, 3-29-3 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku) in the Ikebukuro district. Run by “Tokyo Bob,” this is a shrine to Bob Dylan and “Tokyo Bob” offers up his best impersonation.
For a girls’ getaway in Tokyo, you might want to stop by Butler’s Cafe (Udagawa KK Building 5F, 11-6 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku) where foreign-trained, many English speaking, “butlers” wait on female visitors hand and foot. Makes for an interesting night!
Tokyo is the mecca of shopping, from trendy upscale fashion to multi-level stores full of electronics. Try not to spend all of your yen in one place.
In Harajuku you will find tree-lined streets full of trendy, wacky, and very fashion forward clothing boutiques. This area is most popular amongst high school kids who are searching for the latest and greatest and people-watching is the best.
Shimokitazawa has a small town, laid back feel and is very bohemian. The streets are less crowded and cater more towards young adults. Strolling around this neighborhood you will find vintage stores, used clothing, retro furniture, and cozy cafes.
Shibuya is what you would expect of Tokyo. The busiest pedestrian crossing in the world is located here. Shibuya is full of bright neon lights, shopping, exciting attractions, and lots of people. You can find many great hotels in Tokyo for under $150 a night here.
Asakusa has a traditional old Japan feel. There are more buildings here from the 1950’s and 1960’s than any other area of Tokyo. This area offers more budget-friendly accommodations well under $100 a night. If you’re feeling daring and not claustrophobic, try a capsule hotel. It’s basically a fiberglass capsule large enough to sleep and that’s it. With communal washrooms and luggage lockers, $20-$30 a night doesn’t seem so bad.
Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world. Of course there is always some crime. Be aware of your surroundings and your possessions. One important thing to be aware of is pickpocketing on crowded trains.
Learning some basic conversational Japanese is highly recommended. Take a photo of your hotel address and your destination in Japanese so if you are in need of directions, this will help. The subway is the most efficient and cost effective way to get around Tokyo.
Olivia Sumner is a travel blogger at OlivNtheCity, photographer, freelance writer, foreign film buff, coffee lover, and adventure seeker. When she’s not off exploring faraway lands, she lives the urban life in San Francisco.