I’m not a travel writer at all but in a Twitter conversation the other day, we were discussing Japan and somebody requested that I write about it. It’s been 10 years since I was last there but I’m sure most of the main places haven’t changed that much so I’m just going to show you some awesome places to check out and why I love them.
Tokyo is such an amazing place. We spent 2 weeks there on two separate occasions and still didn’t see near half of what we wanted.
I have also added links to the various places if you want to find out more detailed information.
First let’s talk getting around.
We used the subway system. You can buy a day pass for a very reasonable price and use it to go anywhere in the zones. The Tokyo subway is super efficient and always on time. The trains are clean and well maintained and there are priority seats for disabled, elderly and pregnant women. My main tip here would be to avoid using them during rush hour if possible. Maybe leave a little later for you trip and come back before or after as it can get very crowded – like shoving people onto the trains to pack as many as possible. There are stops within easy walking distance of most tourist places and the trains are very regular.
Tokyo and surrounding districts is a food lover’s paradise. You can find modern, western food chains here such as McDonald’s, Burger King etc but why would you want to? Every street is littered with hole-in-the-wall vendors selling delicious ice-creams, waffles, crepes and traditional Japanese snacks. There are restaurants galore offering all types of world cuisine but when in Japan, trying sushi, sashimi and other traditional dishes is a must. You’ve not eaten sushi until you’ve had it Japan. It’s so fresh and tasty.
Asakusa is one of my favourite places in Tokyo. It is the home of the huge sensoji shrine, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo (1373 years old). People visiting the shrine will often waft the incense smoke over themselves in order to cure ailments and encourage wellness.
The surrounding streets are filled with pretty market stalls selling handmade goods and souvenirs. Great to wonder around slowly for a few hours. Due to being bombed during the war, most of the buildings here are fairly modern however, unlike other areas of Tokyo, it is not as tall and over-shadowed by skyscrapers. There are may traditional eateries here too.
Harajuku is one of the funkiest districts in Tokyo. Home to the Harijuku girls, who dress in extravagant, manga style costumes and meet there, it’s a vibrant and funky place. There are blasts of colour everywhere and it’s an amazing place to go shopping for funky clothing or nik naks. You can also find the Kuwaii (cute) monster cafe here too for a whimsical food experience.
Odaiba is a man-made island linked to main Tokyo by The Rainbow Bridge (that looks not too dissimilar to the Golden Gate bridge) and has it’s very own miniature statue of liberty.
It’s a modern development housing shopping malls, business parks and museums. There’s a huge observation ferris wheel where you can see amazing views of Tokyo. There’s also a convention centre where regular concerts take place. (we missed the Foos last time ). Great for shopping and some sight-seeing too, filled with restaurants and lots of museums.
Ueno Park is by far my favourite place in Tokyo. As a park itself it’s beautiful If you can catch the cherry blossom around Easter time it’s colour is magnificent. You can walk for hours through the park, there are many shrines, temples and museums to visit during this time. That alone makes this an amazing attraction to visit but there’s the added bonus of it having the best zoo I have ever come across.
Ueno Zoo is an animals lover’s dream. It is so clean and well looked after and home to some amazing animals. The monkeys are really entertaining, you can watch the elephants meander around their paddocks, hear the big cats roar across the park and my personal favourite, relax with the otters twirling and swirling around their area.
Akihabara is also known as electric city. It is a paradise for shoppers of gadgets and electricals where there’s always a bargain to be found. It also houses endless shops selling manga, comics and anime. It’s also the go-to place for your more tacky and traditional souvenirs. It can be a sensory nightmare with a lot of lights and different sounds around every corner you turn.
I didn’t spend much time in these districts but in Shibuya you can visit the famous crossing that’s always shown on movies etc.
These are both business and shopping districts with Shinjunku known as the ‘skyscraper district’.
Tokyo is full of so many more places to visit that I didn’t get to. There’s Tokyo tower, and since I last visited there is now Sky Tree Tower. There are many castles, temples, themed cafes and museums too. It’s an amazing place with amazing people and if you get the chance to go – I’d highly recommend it.