19, 02, 2014
Before the tsunami hit Japan in 2011, I was able to see Tokyo at it’s finest. Even though I only had 2 weeks and bit there, I was able to experience what a lot of people may not even get to experience in their lifetime. Lucky enough I had friend’s to guide me through the busy yet electrifying streets of Tokyo. And like they say, the best way to get to know a city is from the people that live there. But not everyone knows locals to show them around, but here are 10 musts for anyone visiting Tokyo.
Spiritual time at a Shrine
Tokyo tends to be a crowded and hectic city, but if you are looking for a bit of peace then look no further into visiting a Shrine. Formally known as “Edo”, Tokyo is futuristic and a lot more advances than anywhere else in the world. However they keep tradition in check with everything else that is new and growing. Being that shrines have been around for decades – it is a good taste of traditional Japan to see for yourself. If you are lucky to be around for New Years this is the place to be.
Tea time at a Maid Cafe
A whole part of the fun – though not as showcased as it is in North America is seeing the “hentai” culture in action. Not many “foreigners” (especially the girls) go off to explore this part of Japan’s sub-culture, but really the point of traveling to another country is to live in the culture. This is defiantly something that should be checked out by anyone looking for some kooky entertainment. I admit, at times it can be a bit uncomfortable when seeing men close to your dad’s age receiving their drinks along with a few kawaii dance moves from a young looking girl in a maid costume. But if it’s all for the fun it can be quite the experience.
A girly fix of Shopping
It’s hard to not become a shopaholic in Japan. So if you already have a spending problem then you better beware! It is common for people to bring an empty suitcase on their travels to Asia in general since there are so many goodies to be purchased there. If you are a total fashionista or a makeup girl, Tokyo is your paradise. The amount of beauty is endless and drugstore makeup is at it’s finest quality. Clothes tend to run small if you are any bigger than a medium, however it only occurs in small boutique shops. If you check out major retailers like Uniqlo, Forever 21, or Zara, you will have better luck. I know you’re thinking – why buy clothes from brand names that I already have back home? Well every country is different. They will not always have the same items in the US than they do in Japan, Australia, Italy, etc because every country has different seasons and temperatures so retailers will cater to what the people need at that time. So don’t hesitate to buy from brands you may already have back home. You will find some good pieces that may never be sold back home.
Scope out the Nightlife
Like anywhere else in the world, the young and vibrate like to check out the nightlife anywhere they travel. If you are North American or European you may find the Japanese clubs not close to your liking (the DJ and the dancing tend to be a bit weak, and the crowds are more conservative). If you ever feel a bit home sick or want to hit something that is closer to home (better yet a place that is more international and great for meeting and making new acquaintances from anywhere in the world), then you better make it a night in Roppongi Hills. Japanese say it themselves, “this is not Japan”, and you will see why if you go there yourself. Roppongi was also more to my taste and I had a blast at F-Bar. Great music, sophisticated atmosphere, and good-looking people. A true must if you’re into nightlife adventures.
Get beautified at a Hair Salon
Japan in general is flooded with hair salons. And since there are so many, they all have competitive prices. I had a full set of hair extensions done for less than $120 CND. That is pretty insane if you ask me. And for those who have been to a Japanese salon before know how much they focus on customer service. Along with that price I received a relaxing shampoo plus a 30 minute head massage, I was offered tea and some yummy Japanese treats, and the entire time they were quit gentle and not yanking at my hair. Even as a pleased customer – the sad part is tipping doesn’t exist in Japan. I knew tipping wasn’t apart of the culture from the start, and to be honest I thought it was awesome I could save a little extra. But after experiencing the amazing customer service in Tokyo I started to feel bad that I couldn’t show my appreciation for their hard work (and trust me they work HARD). But back to the topic! If you’re scared to go too dramatically especially with the language barrier in the way, then opt out for a wash (but not just any wash, get the head spa massage) and blow. You will not be sorry!
Dine at a Themed Restaurant
With so many choices – you can choose to live an Alice and Wonderland dream or if you’re not into that pixie dust jazz then a Hospital or Ninja themed restaurant may be more to your liking. The food may not be the greatest, however the atmosphere will surely keep you entertained. Everything from the design of the food to the servers in costume – they keep the theme real and alive for you to enjoy.
Drink & eat the night away at an Izakaya
If you have friends living there or you are traveling with a friend or two, then defiantly head over to an izakaya (a Japanese bar). Izakaya’s have become very mainstream now that they can be found in a lot of places around North America. But in Tokyo, izakaya’s are both social and business gatherings. It is normal for companies to go out after work on a weekday and get drunk with their boss until the early morning. I do believe if you go to an izakaya for pure social reasons it can be enjoyed well. And boy oh boy can the Japanese drink!
Be a tourist in Odaiba
You have to have that touristy day at least once in your trip. If you’re seeking a few bizarre things to see in Japan might as well see them them here. I’ve never been to Las Vegas but this is what I imagine it close to. You can check out Japan’s major television production here, while having lunch at the Takoyaki Museum (the smell there is deadly in a good way, and it’s easy to burn your tongue because you couldn’t just waiy for those few minutes until the takayaki’s cooled off). The streets are filled with entertainment trying to wow the crowds with their cheap tricks. But for myself, the best part of going to Odaiba were the Elvis/Rock-N-Roll dancers. Again a total odd ball thing for me to watch but it was crazy enough for me to enjoy.
Spend more of that 100 Yen at Donki Hote
This is the ultimate dollar store. Anything and everything can be found here. My favourite part being the 100 yen false eyelashes in sets of sometimes more than 12 pairs. If you are a makeup artist or just like to collect lashes for yourself, then this is the place to stock up on for certain beauty supplies. Even if you don’t need a school girl cos-play costume, or some random talking hamster, this is still a great place to get a good laugh or to grab unique souvenirs to bring back home.
Put On A Kimono and Go For Kaiten Sushi
If you’re lucky enough to be in Tokyo around New Years and are able to borrow a friend’s kimono (renting one can be costly) then this is a true must. It is such a beautiful piece yet it is quite the process to put on. There is a lot of tucking and tightening of things that at first can make you feel quite cluster phobic. You may even feel like a drinking bird because you are so restrained from moving normally. I won’t even get into how weird it is when you have to go to the washroom (you may need a tutorial from your Japanese friends). But after getting over the anxiety of the kimono, you must head on out for some delicious kaiten sushi (yup, the sushi that goes around on the conveyor belts!). If you are a sushi addict like me you might always tend to go overboard with the eating. But let me tell you, the kimono will hold you back. But you better believe I went back for more kaiten sushi another time when I wasn’t wearing a kimono and was quite satisfied! So head out on the streets of Shibuya (or Asakusa if it’s New Years) in the most traditional way possible. And when the night is almost done don’t forget to take some purikura (sticker pictures).
Hope you enjoyed my list! Do you have a list or think I missed out on a must in Tokyo? Would love to hear them 🙂