Japan has been on my travel bucket list for a long time, and in October 2014 I finally went.
I’ve wanted to go to Japan for ages because of all the crazy stories I’ve heard. Like vending machines that stock everything from drinks to underpants, crazy products like fans on hats, and even something I’d heard about rats on sticks for street food… Let’s just say I didn’t see that – thankfully.
After our tour of Kyoto we visited Tokyo.
Tokyo is Japan’s capital, has a population of 13.3 million, and is filled to the brim with shops, food, parks, and different areas to explore.
Here’s the low down on our Tokyo visit:
There’s a massive variety of food in Tokyo. Here’s just a few of the restaurants we tried.
Baru and Gohan – Italian
Located in Akihabara, this restaurant has some really moorish dried spaghetti crisps that you eat whilst waiting for your meal.
I had salad and lamb chops. The salad was served on ice, and the lamb chops were forgotten about so I had to order them twice. However, it was worth the wait as everything was delicious. They also had an automatic beer pouring machine here, which was really cool.
El Caliente – Mexican
Located in Shinagawa Station, this Mexican restaurant has tasty food, and the staff yell Hola as you enter. If you’re looking for Mexican that tastes exactly as it does when you cook it at home, and you also want an entertaining experience, then definitely come here.
There are plenty of other restaurants surrounding this one, so if you discover that you’re not in the mood for Mexican after all then you can easily go somewhere else.
Tiger Dumpling Hall – Asian
Located near Sensoji Temple, this restaurant was Nick’s and my favourite.
The service was quick, the food was delicious, and the options were huge.
There were dumplings, gyoza, ramen, chicken, pork, beef, rice and heaps more. I highly, highly recommend this restaurant.
Akihabara is an electronic fanatic’s dream location. Filled with electronic stores, electric billboards, Sega stores, and hobby stores, it’s an interesting place to check out.
It’s really cool, and even if you’re not into electronics at all like me, it’s still fun to take a look around and soak up the atmosphere.
Ginza is Japan’s most famous upmarket shopping area. It’s saturated with department stores, high end retailers, and art galleries. On the weekends many of the roads are closed off to cater for the large crowds. If you’re serious about your shopping, then this is the place to be.
This is the only place in Japan where I saw seats for people to sit in
Harajuku is where Japan’s teenagers dress all crazy. However, I was disappointed as the main street of Harajuku – Takeshita Dori and the surrounding Omotesando were not as crazy as I expected.
In fact, I only saw one guy dressed up as a bandaged warrior, and a few girls dressed in weird dresses and colourful wigs (I was told this is the normal way for the girls to dress on the weekends).
Despite not seeing many dressed up teenagers, it’s still worth checking out as there’s heaps of shops with all sorts of crazy items from hair accessories, fancy dresses, yummy crepes, one of a kind souvenirs, and tiny dog clothes.
Shibuya is home to the scramble crossing – the crossing you see on TV, and the attraction that I identified Tokyo with. This crossing, whilst impressive, was not as large, or as busy as I thought it would be.
Apart from the scramble crossing, Shibuya is a mecca of shopping, entertainment, and food options, and is frequented mostly by Japan’s teenagers. It has a lot of mainstream brands including Uniqlo, H&M, and Zara.
I recommend you do some research before coming here to make sure it has what you’re looking for. There were so many times I thought I was in a shopping centre, but it just turned out that I was in a section of the train station.
Shinjuku is another massive shopping, entertainment, and business district easily accessible from Shinjuku Station, which is the world’s busiest train station handling over two million passengers a day.
Here you’ll find anything that you need from knick knacks, clothing, shoes, and everything in between. Allow yourself at least half a day to attack this area.
Meiji Jingu Shrine
Although this is one of Japan’s most popular shrines, I found it to be the quickest to get around. It has one main building and is surrounding by a large forest. If you’re looking for some quiet time definitely visit. However, if you’re short for time and still want to see a temple then I suggest you visit Sensoji Temple instead, which is covered below.
I feel like going to Japan and not seeing Mt Fuji is like having sushi without soy sauce. It just shouldn’t happen.
Mt Fuji is Japan’s national monument, it’s their sacred mountain, and when translated loosely means wealthy warrior.
When driving towards Mt Fuji there’s a portion of road called Melody Road. There are grooves in the road which when driven over at a speed of 50km+ produce the melody of Mt Fuji’s theme song, which everyone learns in school.
Nick and I were extremely fortunate that the weather was perfect the day we visited. We had clear views as far as the eye could see.
When visiting make sure you stop at the Fuji Visitor Centre, as here you’ll get some incredible views looking up the mountain.
After the Visitor Centre go to the 5th station where you can visit some fantastic souvenir shops, get some food, and of course enjoy the views of Mt Fuji 2,300 meters above sea level.
Robot Evening Cabaret Show
Located in Shinjuku is this over the top, glitzy, you have to see it to believe it, robot show. Here robots and dancing girls come together in a series of scenes covering horses, cows vs. dragons, wrestling robots, and dance acts.
It’s hilarious, and one of the reasons I visited Japan was to see these crazy things. I don’t recommend that you eat here though as the food is very average.
Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple)
This Buddhist temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple and was one of my favourites.
It has a main gate, main hall, five story pagoda, shrine, and 200 metre shopping street called Nakamise, which has over 88 licensed traders selling bags, souvenirs, traditional clothing, and food.
If you only see one temple in Tokyo I recommend this one.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is situated amongst Shinjuku’s shopping district. It costs $2 to enter and you can view its English, French and Japanese gardens.
The English garden has gorgeous picnic areas. The French garden has sycamore trees and roses, whilst the Japanese garden has bridges, streams, a tea house, and pavilion.
Make sure you also check out the green house.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds of Shinjuku and Shibuya then Yokohama is the perfect place to visit. It has a very spacious, river side feel to it.
There are also a lot of high rise apartments, wide roads, and eateries in the area as well as Cosmo Park which has games, rides, and what was stated as the world’s largest Ferris wheel. There is also one of the world’s largest Chinatowns here.
There is so much to do in Tokyo, but I hope this post provides you with a good starting point.
If you’d like to see my other Japan posts, here’s the links:
Please also feel free to visit my Japan Pinterest board.
(This blog’s previous name was The Creative Canvass, hence why the images in this post are labelled www.thecreativecanvass.com)