All right, it has been a while! The travels I did before the pandemic, writing about them went on back-burner, due to various reasons. Back now with first in series “48 Hours in Tokyo“
Since I had limited time in Tokyo, I planned all my actives beforehand. Here is my top list of activities to do while in Tokyo.
Decide where you want to stay!
This is probably one of the most time-consuming items when we plan a visit to Tokyo, especially when the time in Tokyo is limited. Although the subway system is one of the world’s best, and have connections to last mile in the city, I didn’t like the idea of spending my time commuting all the time in subway system.
The major hubs of Tokyo are around Shinjuku, Shibuya and Tokyo Central, I decided to stay in Shinjuku. Shinjuku offers various options to travelers within the area and most of the excursions do start from Shinjuku. Shinjuku is connected with both Tokyo airports with a fast train service, so getting in and out of the airport is convenient.
When it comes search of hotels/motels/B&B’s in Shinjuku, the choices are vast. From fancy 5 star hotels to budget capsule hotels, you are spoiled for choices. I ended up booking Shinjuku Prince Hotel which is in the entertainment district. I personally wanted to experience the capsule hotel, and I had a flight leaving Tokyo after midnight, I booked my last night stay at one of the capsule hotels right outside Shinjuku Station.
Things to do
Kabukicho: Kabukicho is Japan’s largest night entertainment district featuring countless restaurants, bars, nightclubs, pachinko parlours, love hotels and a wide variety of red light establishments for all sexes and sexual preferences. Plan your walk, understand the streets you want to walk, and follow one rule, “don’t go inside any establishment where someone is outside trying to get you inside. Such establishments target tourists to charge them 3 times on anything along with hidden cover charges.
Golden Gai: Golden Gai is one of the most popular areas equally for locals and tourists to grab a drink. The area around Golden Gai has developed to match Tokyo’s modern outlook, however the Golden Gai still retains the post-war charm. Due to this reason Golden Gai has grown in popularity as visitors seek that elusive unpolished side of Tokyo life. Most places are very small, seating only a few customers. You’ll know which establishments are catering to foreign guests by them displaying the menu in English outside the restaurant.
Omoide Yokocho aka Piss Alley: Omoide Yokocho is also known for its colorful nick name Piss Alley, is a small network of alleyways along the Shinjuku Station. The narrow lanes are filled with dozens of tiny eateries serving local delicacies such as raman, soba, sushi, takitori and kushiyaki. Many restaurants consist of just one counter with some chairs, while others have a couple of tables.
Samurai Museum: One of the family-friendly option for the area, the Samurai Museum has an impressive display of costumes, swords, and all things for samurai history enthusiasts to enjoy. The museum is small but gives a glimpse of 800 years of history of Samurai life in Japan. They have guided tours every hour by trained professionals, and you can try on different costumes during the visit.
Robot Restaurant: Utter madness, 1.5 hours of flashing colourful neon lights, loud music, dance and performance – so much goes on during the show that by the end you will ask yourself a question, “What was that”? I highly recommend booking the seats in advance as this place is not to be missed while in Tokyo. Oh… it is not a restaurant by the way!
Shinjuku Station: This will sound crazy, but my love of railways and trains I found lots of facts and things to do at Shimjku station. Shinjuku station is the world’s busiest railway station, handling more than 2.5 million passengers every day. There is total 53 platforms at Shinjuku and the entire above/underground complex have well over 200 exits. Isn’t amazing? There are department store, cafes, and eateries withing the station complex.
You need a detailed map to explore the station and its facilities. The detailed station map and other info can be accessed at https://www.shinjukustation.com/shinjuku-station-map-finding-your-way/
Senso-Ji Temple: 15-minute ride to Asakusa via MRT from Shinjuku, Sansoji temple is located about 1 minute walk from MRT exit. Senso-ji is the oldest and most visited temples in Tokyo with visitors coming from both Japan and abroad. The path to the temple is lined with stalls, small shops and vendors selling traditional wares and snacks and is an area popular among tourists looking to dress up in kimono. The stroll to his temple is amazing, probably one place to buy souvenirs for your loved ones back home.
Yoyogi Park& Meji Shrine” Lush green, clean lakes and array of cherry blossom trees the Yoyogi park is one of the very popular parks to visit when in Tokyo. The nearest MRT station is Harajuku. The pragmatic appeal of the grounds makes the park a gathering place for people from all walks of life.
Meji Shrine is surrounded by lush forest, greenery, calmness, and serenity, once you step into this area, you will forget that you are in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city. The shrine does not have any grave(s), but it is dedicated to the exalted spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
Shibuya Crossing: Just outside Shibuya station you will see Shibuya Crossing, one of the most crowded and popular scramble crossing of Tokyo. With people are constantly pouring across the street from all directions going to even other directions, it is an unquestioned must-visit for any trip to Tokyo.
Tokyo Skytree: An observation and broadcasting tower is located in Tokyo Skytree town a short MRT ride from Asakusa. From the observation deck, you can see almost whole Tokyo on the clear day. The tower lights up in the evening, adding a colourful feature to the Tokyo Skyline. Do book the tickets in advance to ensure reduced waiting times.
Day Trip to Mount Fuji: A visit to Japan, or Tokyo is worthless if a trip to Mount Fuji is not included in your itinerary. Mount Fuji is about 100km from Tokyo, is covered in snow for most of the months and used as an icon of Japan. The full day tour Mount Fuji also includes various other activities in the area such as a visit to Hakone for Hakone Ropeway, cruise at Lake Ashi, Hakone Shrine and Shinkansen (Bullet Train) ride back to Tokyo. The day starts early, but what you get to experience is not compared to anything.
Bottom line is no matter what you do while in Tokyo, it will surprise you in all ways. Enjoy the buzz of it.