how to be a tourist in tokyo

Of course, this isn’t en exhaustive list but these are some of the things we got to do in the five days we spent in Tokyo.

  1. Admire the cherry blossoms. Of course, this depends on the time of year you go, and it’s not limited to only Tokyo. They typically bloom around late March in Tokyo. I used the Japan Guide site for the forecast, which can be pretty useful if you are trying to plan your entire Japan trip around optimal cherry blossom-viewing. But unless you live in Japan, catching them is all about luck. Unfortunately, we went during the third week of March and it was still a bit too early. Only a few pink trees were found. Prime viewing spots in Tokyo include Ueno Park and the Meguro River. This just means I’ll need a return trip to Japan. Hopefully the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom next time.
    Ueno Park 2
    One of the few cherry blossom trees we saw during the time we went

    Ueno Park 3
    This was Ueno park. When Cherry blossoms are in full peak, this path is suppose to be filled wit cherry blossoms
  2. Eat your way through Tsukiji Market. The tuna auction closed in October 2018 and has moved locations since then (to Toyosu Fish Market). If you’re really hardcore, you can go watch the tuna auction at 3 am. So it’ll either be a late night for you, or a super early morning. It wasn’t in the stars for me this time (because I knew I wouldn’t be able to wake up, even with jetlag) but maybe next time. However, the Tsukiji outer markets were still open during the time I went (March 2019), and I can tell you that there was no shortage of great things to eat. We opted out of waiting 3 hours for Sushi Dai because I would never wait that long for food, especially not when I’m on vacation and my time is limited. Plus, there are thousands of sushi restaurants all over Tokyo, so I’m sure at least one has to be just as good.
    Tsukiji Market 5
    Tsukiji Outer Markets
    Tsukiji Market 11
    Fluffy, fluffy egg
    Tsukiji Market 33
    Beautiful uni
    Tsukiji Market 67
    Fresh wasabi

    Tsukiji Market 70

  3. Explore Senso-ji Temple. You’re in Japan. Embrace the culture. If that’s really not your thing, then walk around Asakusa – the neighborhood the temple is located in. There are lots of little shops and food spots – definitely geared for tourists, but I’m a tourist, so…Senso-ji Temple 53

    Senso-ji Temple 13
    Ben getting a fortune for himself. He got a good one, and I got bad one so I guess we balance each other out!
  4. Watch the show at the Robot Restaurant. I heard about this show through the late, great Anthony Bourdain and he said, “I’m confused! What does it all mean?!” And I think that pretty much sums it all up. There are robots, parade floats, lots of lights, dancing, and just a lot going on. There isn’t really a storyline but it’s an experience in itself. Just skip the food (I read reviews that it was terrible, and it also looked terrible – like airplane food), and skip the drinks (you can only get up to use the bathroom during intermission).Robot Restaurant 1Robot Restaurant 4Robot Restaurant 15Robot Restaurant 21Robot Restaurant 27
  5. See Totoro at the Ghibli Museum. My Neighbor Totoro was one of my favorite, if not my favorite movie as a kid. You have to book tickets WAY in advance, so if you are a Studio Ghibli Fan, make sure you do this.Ghibli Museum 19
    Ghibli Museum 24
    Snuck this photo since there are no pictures allowed inside the museum

    Ghibli Museum 30

  6. Play some games in Akihabara. Whether it’s video games you’re into, or crane games, this is the spot to be. It seems that this is the spot that a lot of young men go to after work to blow off some steam.Akihabara 14.JPG
  7. Spend all your money on Gachapon. These are vending machines that dispense little capsule toys. You might think you don’t need any of it, but you do. Some of them are so cute, you just can’t resist buying one (or ten).Yodobashi Camera 3.JPG
  8. Shop at the big camera stores. They don’t just sell electronics, but they sell almost everything! Makeup, snacks, toys, just to name a few. You’ll also find a lot of the gachapon machines here. We went to Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera.Yodobashi Camera 1
  9. Do some more shopping at Daiso. Its kind of like a Japanese version of the 99 cents store except the quality is much better. Everything is ¥100 (roughly 1 USD) and will add up super quick. You can get household items, snacks, beauty items – seriously, you won’t want to leave. One of our luggages was just full or random stuff from Daiso. They’ve opened a few locations in the U.S. but it’s just not the same quality, and not everything is $1. 
  10. Get a snack or drink from the vending machines. You’ll find these all over Tokyo and it’s relatively inexpensive.Senso-ji Temple 3
  11. Catch some Pokemon at the Pokemon Center. This is really for diehard Pokemon fans. I am not one but Ben and his family are. They wanted to check out the cafe, which has pokemon-themed food. The food is pretty terrible. Probably the worst thing I ate in Japan. But the photos are very Instagram-worthy.
  12. Check out Harajuku. I’ll be completely honest. The first time I heard of Harajuku was when Gwen Stefani released her Love. Angel. Music. Baby. album back in 2004 and had the ‘Harajuku Girls’. But it’s actually a very eccentric and colorful neighborhood with cool little shops and interesting-looking food spots.Harajuku 2.JPG

    Harajuku 7
    Colorful crepes
  13. Cross Shibuya Crossing and then go to a building to watch people crossing it. It is one of the busiest intersections in the world. It’s approximated that 2,500 people cross it at a time, or 2.4 million people per day!
  14. See if you can spot Godzilla in Shinjuku. Then just walk around the neighborhood. I would say this is the “city centre” of Tokyo and probably the more popular area to stay in.
    Shinjuku:Omoide Yokocho:Mos Burger 38

    Shinjuku:Omoide Yokocho:Mos Burger 72
    Found Godzilla!
  15. Walk through Omoide Yokocho. This is an alley way full of izakayas, or as Anthony Bourdain calls it – “piss alley”. I say walk through and not eat at, because it definitely is a tourist trap. These places charge an izakaya seating fee, and the food isn’t even that great (and yes, I fell into the trap).
  16. Get a *FREE* view of Tokyo at the Tokyo Government Building. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji in the backdrop. Tokyo Government Building 1Tokyo Government Building 5
  17. If you want more Tokyo views (not free), check out Tokyo Skytree. We skipped this since we were already doing the Tokyo Government Building. Plus, we had this view of the tower from our hotel room at Tobu Levant, and it was pretty spectacular. Tobu Levant Hotel 11Tobu Levant Hotel 9

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