Tokyo is a gigantic city connected with efficient and clean rail systems, polite and welcoming people, and the world’s most unique entertainment options. Have you ever wanted to pet a hedgehog? Are you fascinated by magic? Are you interested in electronics? Visit Tokyo and I’m sure you’ll find that this city has something special that interests you!
Visit Tokyo – Must Do’s
See the shrine at Meiji Jingu
Take a long walk through the tranquil gardens of Meiji Jingu shrine and pay respect by rinsing your hands in a ceremony before you enter the shrine.
Sip Tea at the Rakuu-tei Tea House
Enjoy a serene walk through the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and stop for tea and cakes in the traditional Japanese teahouse.
Watch the crazy crosswalk of Shibuya and Sample Sushi at Uobei Shibuya Dogenzaka
Take the metro to Shibuya station and exit into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Pop into the second floor Starbucks on the main intersection and watch the crosswalk fill with pedestrians flocking in all directions. After taking in the chaos, head to Uobei for some conveyor-belt sushi at its finest. You’ll order from the large menu on the iPad at your seat. Wait just minutes and your food will fly down the conveyor belt to meet you at your seat. They have everything from sushi to hamburgers and even dessert. The prices are very reasonable so you can go nuts and try something new!
Explore the Tsukiji Fish Market
“Hashtag Hangman”While I don’t think standing in line hours before sunrise is worth it to see the fish auction, I do think it is worth a morning stroll to see the unique offerings at the Tsukiji Fish Market. You’ll see fresh fish, octopus, crustaceans, and more as you wander through the hectic market aisles. Try the custard filled mochi balls at one of the bakery stalls or grab a breakfast Ramen at my favorite Chuka Soba Inoue. The sign looks like a hashtag symbol and a hangman post, so I refer to it fondly as Hashtag Hangman. It is a challenge to try and gulp down a bowl of ramen as fast as the locals. It seems like they can down an entire bowl in just one continuous slurp!
Update: As of October 2018 the Tsukiji Fish Market has officially closed. Live Tuna Auctions have been relocated to the Toyosu Fish Market in Eastern Tokyo.
Experience Magic at Ninja Akasaka or Akasaka Usagiya
The Japanese have a unique fascination with magic, and I can’t say I blame them. Having dinner at Ninja Akasaka is very entertaining as the food presentations are unique and magic ninjas stop by your table during the evening to perform tricks for you. Want something a little more sophisticated, book seats with a group at Akasaka Usagiva for a VIP magic experience. Here, magicians perform private shows for you while you enjoy food and drink in an intimate table-service setting.
What about the Robot Restaurant?
The infamous Robot Restaurant show… what can I say about this?
Was it awesome? No.
Was it bizarre? Yes.
Did I love it? No.
Did my friends love it? Yes. Some of them loved it.
If watching people ride around on giant remote-controlled robots with fog machines, pyrotechnics, and singing sounds interesting to you, then you should definitely give the Robot Restaurant a try. If it sounds odd and perplexing to you, then like me, you may not find it all that great. These aren’t cool modern robots, they’re giant pieces of scrap bonded together like parade floats. It may just be one of those things you need to see for yourself. When you visit Tokyo, it might be a good motto to try strange things!
Wander the shopping and entertainment district on the man-made island of Odaiba
Go for a spin with a test drive or a go-kart race at Toyota’s Mega Web Car Theme Park. Visit the observation deck of the Fuji TV building. Shop the Decks or Aquacity malls featuring a Legoland, wax museum, and a trick art museum. There is plenty to do in this entertainment mecca.
Visit Tokyo – Where to stay
Ginza is a nice place to stay for its central location near the fish market.
Shinjuku is a hip young area with a lot of what makes Japanese culture unique. Think pretty boy bands, cat cafes, and robot shows.
The Conrad Tokyo is my favorite hotel in Tokyo.
The hotel is in a great location close to Ginza. It is close to two metro lines making the entire city accessible. The rooms are beautiful, clean, and amenities top notch. The service is friendly and helpful and the Executive lounge is a nice place to unwind.
Hilton Honors Diamond Benefits include room upgrades, welcome gifts, a full breakfast, and executive lounge access.
The Conrad is my favorite place to stay when I visit Tokyo.
The Ritz Carlton is one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in.
It is an amazing property. The staff is beyond outgoing and helpful. The room, views, and spa are stunning. You feel special from the moment you arrive. As with most Ritz Carlton properties, there are little to no benefits for Marriott status.
Park Hyatt is a beautiful hotel away from the action but close to the parks.
You can walk to Shinjuku, Meiji Jingu, or the National garden. With so many gardens nearby this is a great area to see the Cherry Blossoms in springtime. Hyatt status will gain you access to an evening happy hour each evening in the lobby bar.
Visit Tokyo – Tips
• Make reservations in advance for fancy dinners because the hot spots tend to book up quickly.
• Fight jet-lag with an early morning visit to the fish market. If you’re up super early you can try and score tickets to the tuna auction. The line for this forms prior to 3 AM. Otherwise, the market starts rolling at around 6 AM.
• Liking American sushi is not an indication that you will like Japanese sushi because sushi is different in Japan. The focus here is on the fish, not the cream cheese, avocado, and spicy mayo that smother American sushi rolls.
• Caution: Fresh seafood is different in Japan. Fish is typically served whole rather than filleted. Shrimp is served with the head and tail on, and often cooked alive and on display. In the USA we like to pretend our fish and meat were never living creatures, conversely in Japan, they showcase the animal.
• There are two major airports in Tokyo. Haneda (HND) and Narita (NRT). Haneda is closer and easier to access from the city. Narita is further from the city and has an 11 PM flight curfew. This can spell trouble if your flight gets delayed for any reason because they do not allow flights to take off after 11 pm. (While this usually isn’t a problem, it kept me overnight on a recent trip, so I figured it was worth mentioning!)
• Sometimes toilets are not toilets and sometimes they’re better than toilets.