Things to do in Tokyo
One of many things that make Tokyo a completely unique city and experience is that it actually is the city with most citizens in the world. New York and Berlin got nothing on Tokyo if you ask me. Really polite people and somewhat crazy.
(★ = top picks. Everything is a top pick in Tokyo, really.)
Contrary to what we thought (2014) almost everything was cheap-ish in Tokyo, except going places by cab. That being said, if you’re not in a hurry and not on a (tight) budget, taxi is still a pretty solid option if you’re going places nearby. If you have the chance when booking the flight, go to Haneda Airport, it’s really close (like inside) the city.
From the airport: Take the train. Comfortable and inexpensive.
To the airport: Airport limousine (bus) is a very nice option if you live in Shibuya.
Subway: Structured, accessible and impressive. That’s the Tokyo subway system for you. If you can’t read Japanese, try to remember the symbol for your home station, because there are a lot of them.
Taxi: Somewhat expensive compared to taking the super-efficient subway.
Needless to say, the city is probably too large to visit just once. Even if you stay a while. So whether you try to experience as many areas as you can or try to deep focus on a some, here are few good/famous ones.
Shibuya — where the epic crossing, trampled by millions each day, lies. Actually millions might be an overstatement but at least it feels that way. ★
Shinjuku — area with lots of food/bars. “Golden Gai” is a really cool part of Shinjuku, basically takes you a couple of hundred years back in time to the bars and sushi joints in small treehouses with room for about 4 people. ★
Akihabara — “Electric town” on Yamanote line, lot of electronics stores and a cool place. ★
Ginza — upmarket shopping, dining and entertainment district. Go here on weekend afternoons when there’s no traffic.
Roppongi — night clubs, bars and dining. Some say it’s sleazy and dangerous. Go here to party.
Food / Drinks
The fish does not get any fresher than this. If you’re looking for “western/european” breakfast outside the hotel, you might be looking for a while. General recommendation: Try something weird, just go to a restaurant with no english menu.
Viron — about the only place to get a french, regular breakfast.
By the Sea — amazing Tuna ribs ans sashimi here and a great atmosphere. In Shibuya. ★
Eggs n’ Things — they serve mostly eggs and other things. In Harajuku.
Ichiran — amazing ramen in a classic Japanese setting (maybe not what you think). There will be a pretty advanced ordering system, but you’ll figure it out. In Shibuya. ★
Genki Sushi—you’ve never been served sushi this way, it’s the future. Order from an “iPad” and minutes later your sushi arrives at your seat by magic. Take your pieces, push the button and the plate travels right back to where it came from. Chain in Shibuya and other places.
MOS Burger — like McDonalds but does not make you throw up.
Star Club “Muteki Mario” — 10 seat Bar in Shinjuku with 8-bit gaming interior decor and a very cool owner who usually plays Led Zeppelin on a comfortable level while you play Ice Climber or whatever is your favourite 8-bit game and having a cocktail. ★
Park Hyatt — famous view from Lost in Translation. Go to the piano bar, have a cigarette indoors and listen to live jazz while sipping on your favourite drink. In Shinjuku.
Gonpachi / Legato — piano bar and restaurant with a phat view.
Activities / Places
Takashimaya — extremely big and fancy shopping mall.
Loft — mall with lots of fun stuff, perfect for gifts to bring home.
Tokyu Hands — DIY craft store for the creatives mixed with regular cute/cool/nifty stuff.
Asakusa Market — traditional Japanese market 30 min from Shibuya on the Ginza line. ★
Cat Cafés — have a latté and feed/cuddle with the cats! (Available for other animals as well, I think.)
Photo Booth (Purikura) — make yourself look like a manga character. ★
Pachinko Halls — place where Tokians go to relax after work. The volume is so loud it’s like staring at the sun with your ears.
Karaoke — there are booths for two and you can smoke and order drinks and food, pretty trashy and a memory for life. And if you think it is anything like Karaoke you have been to, think again. These people are pros.
Super Potato — video game shopping, lots of 8bit merchandise. In Akihabara.
Tokyo Zoo — fine zoo and you can get really close to the animals. In Ueno.
Yoyogi Park — beautiful park and home of a lot of creatives, hippies, rockabillies and dancers, practicing everything from Tai Chi and the latest theater to just hanging out. In Shibuya.
Tsukiji Fish Market — everyone goes here, some to look at a live Tuna auction. You have to wake up really early if you want to catch that though.
It’s really worth it if you can arrive and/or depart from Haneda Airport, it’s close to Shibuya.
Taxi is pretty expensive and hard to explain where you are going, even if you have a map, so bring a symbol if you can and don’t be too specific about arriving at the exact address, instead find your way to the right area and go from there. People will help you.
Memorise the symbol for your “home” station on the subway map if you don’t know Japanese.
(Remember iOS Passbook for boarding passes.)
Things that still puzzle me…
What are/do the songs on the subway stations mean? For deaf people?
How do the Japanese not get Tinnitus from the Pachinko halls? Or do they?
How can there be no garbage bins? Don’t people ever need to throw stuff away on the go?