When you think about Tokyo, the first things that come to mind may be manga, video games, the latest technologies, or even crazy fashion trends, but Tokyo is much more than that. Once you arrive in Tokyo, it is like arriving in a whole new world. You could start your day in Tokyo’s famous entertainment district, with neon lights around every corner, and end your day in a tranquil temple. It is the perfect mix of new technologies and old traditions. We spoke with Thomas, a Lokafyer from Tokyo to plan a full day’s worth of activities to best experience what Tokyo really has to offer.
Have a Picnic in the Park
Pack your favorite Japanese cuisine and a cozy blanket and head to Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo’s largest and most stunning parks. Just a short walk from Shinjuku Station, the park is home to more than 20,000 trees from all over the world, making it a true nature lover’s delight.
It is a vast park that blends three distinct garden styles together: Japanese Traditional, French Formal and English Landscape.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during late March/early April, you will get a chance to view the beauty of hundreds of cherry blossoms in full bloom. Shinjuku Gyoen is the ideal retreat for individuals, couples and families alike who want a taste of nature without having to leave Tokyo.
Shop Until you drop in Shibuya
Being one of the busiest intersections in the world, Shibuya is most famous for the “Shibuya Scramble Crossing”. When the intersection lights turn red, thousands of people can be seen flooding into the street, shuffling and weaving through each other trying to make it to the other side. The intersection is also a popular location for film and has appeared in the films “Lost in Translation” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” making it a must-see for movie lovers.
Not only is Shibuya famous for the scramble, but it is also notoriously famous for the popular shopping and entertainment that can be found near Shibuya Station. It is the epicenter of youth fashion, being the birthplace of many of Japan’s style and entertainment trends.
You can trail trendy teens into Shibuya 109, a 10-floor shopping mall loaded with ladies clothing boutiques and restaurants, perfect for the avid teenage trendsetter. However, Shibuya 109 is not for the faint-hearted. It is loud and energetic and you will lose track of time as you try to navigate through the neon labyrinth of this tube-shaped building. That being said, the Shibuya 109 building is considered something of a landmark to Tokyo and should not be missed.
Get Technical in Akihabara
Akihabara is a district in central Tokyo that is famous for its many electronic shops. They offer everything from the newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronics parts and home appliances to second-hand goods. Keep in mind that some of the electronics on sale are only intended for use in Japan due to voltage differences and lack of English manuals. However, several stores also feature a selection of international models intended for overseas use, and most even offer tax-free shopping.
In addition to an array of electronic shops, various other animation-related establishments have become quite popular in the area. Particularly maid cafes, where waitresses typically dress up as French maids or anime characters. In addition to serving food, the maids engage in conversation and games with the customers. Maid cafes are popular with both men and women, and some cafes, like the @Home Cafe, offer English speaking maids.
Get Lucky at the Sensoji Temple
Just a 15-minute train ride from Tokyo station, Sensoji Temple awaits. Founded in the year 628, Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo. The temple is dedicated to Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, and is the most widely visited spiritual site in the world with over 30 million visitors annually.
While at Sensoji Temple, try out your luck by getting your Omikuji fortune told. Each shrine has different ways of offering omikuji but at Sensoji, you place 100 yen into the money collection box. You are then to grab the metal omikuji box, shake it a few times for good luck and turn the metal box over and a stick with a number on it will fall out of the bottom of the box. The numbers will lead you to a specific drawer filled with omikuji, which you can then read and decipher.
After receiving your omikuji, if it is a good fortune and one that you wish to come true, you can take it home with you, as it symbolizes that you are bringing the good fortune back with you. If it is a bad fortune, and one that you do not want to come true, you may tie the omikuji onto one of the omikuji “trees” nearby, symbolizing the fact that you are leaving this fortune behind.
Finish off the night at an Izakaya
An Izakaya is a type of gastropub that serves small plates that are enjoyed best with alcohol. It is most common to visit an Izakaya in a large group and is a common after-work hotspot.
Most chain izakaya will have photos on the menu, so if you don’t read Japanese, just point and use simple English. Typical dishes include a selection of grilled meat skewers, fried chicken pieces, sushi-style omelet blocks, grilled fish, small meat dishes, tofu, and salads. The standard appetizer is, of course, edamame beans.
While most restaurants in Japan are great at splitting up the bill, this is simply not possible at an izakaya, where everybody has been sharing multiple rounds of dishes. You’ll just have to split the total evenly between the members of your group.
Tokyo is a city like no other. Make sure to take advantage of what the city has to offer by fully immersing yourself in the technologies, traditions and culture that make Tokyo such a diverse and unique city.