The only travel guide to Tokyo you’ll probably ever need. Move over, Anthony Bourdain. But full disclosure, you may become a Harajuku girl after reading this.
My motto when traveling is simple; just blend. Sometimes it’s easier said than done if you have bright blonde hair and you’re in Asia, but I really like to immerse myself as much as possible in a foreign country and be pushed outside of my comfort zone. I know it sounds a little cliché but it’s true. Fortunately, one of our best friends has been living in Tokyo for the last five years so not only did we check out the obligatory tourist spots, but we were also lucky enough to experience Japan from a local’s perspective. Basically, I’ve got you covered with this guide no matter what you’re into.
MAJOR SEES + DOS:
Meiji Shrine. Just a few steps into Yoyogi Park and you’ll be getting so many Central Park feels. Pack a little picnic and spend the afternoon people watching.
Karaoke. Anywhere + everywhere. We went to a spot in Shinjuku Ni-chōme and skipped out on the traditional private rooms and instead took over an entire bar with our Beyonce renditions of Drunk in Love (and maybe some OG Ludacris…and Miley…and Frank Sinatra may have snuck in there as well). I highly recommend doing this. Other bar patrons might disagree.
Nikko. Taking a day trip to Nikko with my best friends was, well, the best experience. Just a few hours north of Tokyo (by train), we spent the day exploring the lush wall-to-wall greenery of the small mountain city. We visited the Tosho-gu Shrine, which is the origin of the Three Wise Monkeys; together they embody ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’. From there, we partook in a little monkey business aka we all got naked at an onsen (a Japanese hot spring). Things got real. Really real.
The New York Bar at the Park Hyatt. You may remember this bar from Lost in Translation. Spend a night pretending to be ScarJo while sipping a little champagne, listening to live jazz, from the 54th floor overlooking the entire city.
Shibuya Crossing. Think Times Square times ten but no one is pushing and shoving you. It’s really a beautiful thing. I may or may not have crossed several times because I may or may not have been having the best time ever.
Kamakura. One of the oldest towns in Japan that also happens to be incredibly hipster. The coolest shops line the white-brick roads of Kamakura and lead you to the city’s Daibatsu; a big Buddha as seen in my last post here.
Shinjuku Gyoen. Surrounded by traditional teahouses, quiet ponds and over 20,000 trees with giant skyscrapers peeking from the skyline, Shinjuku Garden is a perfect, peaceful escape from the bustling city even if just for an hour.
Purikura. YOU GUYS. It’s a photo-booth that makes your eyes super big, can give you fierce lipstick and lashes, and you can sticker it up with so many amazing designs. Do I need cat ears? Obviously. Whiskers? You bet. Text with my new life motto, No Cute No Life? Times a million. The options are endless and so is my love for purikura.
Ichiran Ramen. Like most restaurants in Japan, you order at a machine with a push of a button. At Ichiran, you choose your ramen type and can custom make every single element of your bowl, down to the amount of oil. I’ve had my fair share of ramen (but if we’re being honest I’ve had more than what’s considered fair) and this is hands down, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had.
Any + all sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market. This may come as a shock, but I’m not like, the president of the free world or anything so unfortunately no reservations at Jiro were made for us. But the sushi from the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market was so fresh it was literally still moving on the plate. I haven’t even been to Sugarfish since being back. That’s saying something.
Omotesando Koffee. Aside from being a ramen expert, I’m also a coffee expert…I know, crazy right? But seriously, our one stop at Omotesando turned into two in one day…And then every other day thereafter. I never knew coffee could taste so good (sorry Starbucks). As you can see here and in the above, I needed to double fist it every single day. Aside from it being downright amazing, the owner, Miki is the sweetest coffee scientist and the shop itself couldn’t be any cooler.
7-Eleven. I’m 100% serious. Get the rice balls. Especially the salmon. This is not a drill.
Omotesando. Get your coffee then head down the block and check out all of the best shops. Repeat after me, ‘I will not spend all my money at Isabel Marant…because I will spend all my money at a purikura booth instead’.
Harajuku + the surrounding neighborhoods.
How I didn’t actually turn Japanese by the end of our trip is beyond me. Stay tuned later this week for my third + final post on Tokyo, including a kawaii video from the trip!