Tokyo is one of those cities that you just have to experience for yourself in order to grasp what a fascinating city it truly is. It’s a melting pot of ultra modern and traditional, with bizarre yet cool things to see and do. We had 4 full days in Tokyo and definitely didn’t see everything, but we made a really good effort and saw a lot! It’s important to map out what you want to see each day and try to group things by district so that you’re not spending majority of your time commuting on the trains from place to place.
On our first evening we chose to visit Shinjuku, it’s well known for its large entertainment, business, and shopping area around Shinjuku Station. We took the JR train there which was really easy, but we were in for a surprise when we got out. I had read that Shinjuku was the busiest rail station in the world but I had no idea how crazy busy it actually was. Shinjuku station is like an underground city and it’s literally packed with people coming and going, it handles around 2 million passengers a day. Once we got our bearings we made our way to a small area of half a dozen alleyways called Golden Gai. These small rows of buildings used to be pleasure houses and they have since been converted into small and interesting bars. Most places are super tiny and can only seat a few people. Some of the bars openly welcome foreign guests with signs and menus set outside and some bars do not want any foreigners at all.
From Golden Gai we walked over to Kabukicho, Japan’s largest red light district. It was an interesting walk through the area and I marvelled at all the neon. There were lots of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, pachinko parlours, love hotels, and a variety of red light establishments. It was really busy with a number of walking tours and also with people just out for food and drinks (it was fine to walk around and have a look).
You can go to the Metropolitan Government building and visit their observation deck at no charge. Tokyo is massive!
The next day, Gordon had planned out a full day visiting sights in Central Tokyo. We started at the Imperial Palace located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park surrounded by moats and massive stone walls. It’s the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family.
Also worth a visit are the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. The garden was really beautiful.
The Nijubashi Bridge connects the front plaza and the Imperial Palace over a deep moat. The bridge is pretty and it’s one of the most photographed bridges in Japan.
After the Imperial Palace we walked to Ginza, Tokyo’s most famous upmarket shopping and entertainment district. This Uniqlo branch has twelve floors and apparently offers the most diverse range of Uniqlo products anywhere in the world. I only heard of and shopped at this store while living in Thailand, it’s extremely popular there.
We thought about eating lunch here but quickly changed our minds – wow what a line to get in!
Godzilla lives in Ginza – go go godzilla (for some of you that remember that song).
Right next to Ginza is Yurakucho. The restaurants are built up under the brick arches beneath the elevated train tracks of the JR Yamanote line. This must be the thing to do because in the area we stayed there were restaurants under the brick arches of the rail line too.
The next ‘Gordon Walking Tour’ took us through the sights in Western Tokyo. Our day started at Sengakuji, a small temple that’s famous for its graveyard where the ‘47 Ronin’ are buried.
This is the well where they washed Kira’s decapitated head and then laid it in front of their lord’s grave and announced their success.
We continued on our walk to Meiji Shrine, the torii gates here were really impressive and it was a nice stroll through Yoyogi Park.
Close to Meiji Shrine is the famous shopping area of Harajuku and Takeshita Dori, this is where all the young people hang out. I was most excited about this area because I planned on visiting a Hedgehog Cafe!
Even though by this time we were feeling a little worn out from all the walking, we had one more stop to make for the evening – Shibuya. It’s Tokyo’s most colourful and busy district. There’s lots of shopping, restaurants, and of course the famous Shibuya Crossing – the world’s busiest intersection!
This is memorial statue for the Akita dog ‘Hachiko’. He waited for his owner every day at Shibuya Station, even after his owner died the dog would still wait for him every single day for 10 more years until he died. There is a movie ‘Hachiko’ that tells the story of the incredible loyalty of this dog.
If you have never visited the store called ‘Mega Donk’ – you must go. This is the craziest store I have ever been in, it made me smile and laugh the whole time I was inside. They sell every single weird flavour of kit kat chocolate bars, we had to try a few of them.
The next day we were up early to catch the Sumo Wrestlers practice, which for me was not that exciting but hey we’re in Japan, we should see it and it’s part of our Northern Tokyo sightseeing circuit. Surprisingly there were quite a few people there to watch this.
After a quick glance at the Sumo wrestlers, we walked to Sensoji temple. It’s a Buddhist temple located in the Asakusa District and it’s Tokyo’s oldest temple, built in 645. We happened to see some children releasing balloons, it was priceless to see the looks on their little faces as they watched their balloons float high up in the sky.
Gordon got to see Sumo Wrestling and I got to see the Wisteria blooming, maybe not fully blooming, but I saw them. We went to the Kameido Tenjin Shrine, they hold a Wisteria festival every spring.
We continued to our last stop of the day – Akihabara. It’s famous for all the electronic shops and it’s also a popular area for anime and manga (comics). I will just say that in most of the comic shops, there are a lot of naughty comics. Most of the shops also sell costumes for cos play.
We decided to check out a ‘Maid Cafe’, we had to do a little off the wall something while in Tokyo. Maid cafes were originally created to fulfill the fantasies of fans of maid-themed manga and anime. They made the best homemade ice cream!
We stayed in an area called Kanda. It was absolutely the perfect neighbourhood to stay in with regards to being in a nice quiet area with easy access to everything Tokyo has to offer. It was more of a business area versus tourist area which meant awesome restaurants with normal prices. This area did make us chuckle though, every evening at around 6pm all we would see were businessmen in black suits carrying briefcases, it was like being in a movie.
We loved Tokyo and if we have the opportunity to visit again we certainly will. There’s so much to see and do in this vibrant city!
Where we stayed: Unizo Inn Tokyo Kandaeki West 👍
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel