The Everygirl’s Travel Guide to Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan. It’s weird, it’s wonderful; it’s like being in the future and going back in time. It’s like New York City on steroids but also not quite as futuristic as you might think. It’s hard to pack the sights and tastes of Tokyo into one post, but here’s our best effort.

Here’s how we’ve broken it down for you…

 

WHERE TO STAY:
Budget Hotels (less than $150/night)
Mid-range Hotels ($150-300/night)
Luxe Hotels ($300-500/night)
Authentic Ryokan

WHAT TO DO:
Shrines, Temples, & Parks
Exploring Tokyo’s Many Neighborhoods
Only in Tokyo

WHERE TO EAT:
To Start Your Day
Ramen, Tsukemen, Tonkatsu
Yakitori
Drinks Only

 

Source: Freddie Marriage

 

Where to Stay

 

Budget Hotels (less than $150/night)

 

Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu

With views of Shibuya Crossing, said to be the busiest intersection in the world, Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu is worth the stay for location alone. It’s within walking distance to explore Shibuya by foot and connected to Shibuya Station for venturing to other areas within and beyond Tokyo.

 

Mid-range Hotels ($150-300 night)

 

Park Hotel Tokyo

Park Hotel Tokyo’s compact, but chic, rooms can be found after entering the lobby, located way up on the 26th floor of the Shiodome Media Tower, a staggering high-rise located in the businessy neighborhood of the same name. The hotel is within walking distance of the famous Tsukiji Fish Market as well as Ginza, known for its renowned (and oldest) Japanese department stores Mitsukoshi and Matsuya, and features views of Tokyo Tower.

 

Treat Yo’self Hotels ($300-500 night)

 

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Otherwise known as “the hotel from Lost in Translation,” the Park Hyatt Tokyo lives up to indie movie legend. The iconic New York Bar is on the top floor and boasts one of the largest selections of Japanese whiskey in all of Tokyo. The spa also features views spanning the entire city (you can see Mount Fuji on a clear day). While most hotel rooms in Tokyo are teeny tiny, the rooms at the Park Hyatt are downright spacious.

 

Authentic Ryokan

 

A Japanese-style inn, also known as a ryokan, is one of the best ways to experience Japanese culture and food, as breakfast and Kaiseki, a traditional, 6-15 course dinner, are typically included. We found it easier to find them outside of Tokyo and stayed at one in Kyoto and one in Takayama. Momiji-ya is located about 30 minutes outside of Kyoto and has been open for more than 100 years, while Hidatei Hanaougi in Takayama had one of the best onsens we experienced in Japan. Some quick ryokan etiquette: remove your shoes (sandals will be provided); know that most of the staff will be friendly but will not speak English, so you’ll have to get by with hand gestures and a few key phrases.

 

Source: @polinabrz

 

What to Do

 

Shrines, Temples, & Parks

 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

If you can visit Tokyo during Cherry Blossom season, late March and Early April, be sure to go to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Even if you visit during a different time of year, it’s worth going to see the major gardens: English Landscape, French Formal, and Japanese Traditional. Explore the nearby Tokyu Hands, a fascinating department store that’s too hard to describe — you have to see if for yourself.

 

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu is the main shrine in Tokyo, and you get there by taking a beautiful stroll through Yoyogi Park. Be sure to stop by the wishing tree within Meiji Jingu, a sacred Camphor tree surrounded by a wishing wall. Write a prayer or wish on a wooden tablet and hang it on the wall — the Shinto priests will pray for all of the wishes left there. Yoyogi Park is close to Harajuku, the shopping area where you’re likely to see Harajuku girls and can visit a cat cafe. We stopped for gyozas here.

 

Fushimi Inari-taish Shrine

Thousands of orange torii line the paths up and around the mountain for Fushimi Inari-taish Shrine. It’s a great way to get some exercise, and the crowds thin out towards the top! 

 

Kinkaku-ji Temple

Kinkaku-ji is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sights. The “Golden Pavilion” is set on a lake, and if you go in the winter, you can even catch it dusted in snow.

 

Source: Bon Traveler

Source: @melissackoh

 

Exploring Tokyo’s Many Neighborhoods

 

Nakameguro

Nakameguro is a tiny town in the middle of Tokyo with a canal running through it, and reminded us of LA’s Venice. There are tons of boutiques and places to eat but few tourists.

 

Asakusa

Asakusa, meanwhile, is a popular spot for tourists — and for good reason. An old part of Tokyo, Asakusa has a beautiful temple and a festive night market. Walk around and stop in any spot with a line for dinner (we warmed up with ramen here).

 

Source: Peeking Duck

 

Golden Gai

Golden Gai, also known as Piss Alley, is a crazy, beautiful alley of bars in the midst of Shinjuku’s skyscrapers. Come at night, pop into a few of the bars, and have some Yakitori. Warning: some bars are locals-only; if the locals cross their fingers that means “no tourists,” so just move on and try another spot.

 

Omotesando

Omotesando is a tree-lined avenue located alongside Harajuku that is known as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees. While it’s a major luxury shopping destination, Omotesando is also the heart of modern architecture in Tokyo.

 

 

Only in Tokyo

 

Robot Restaurant

Made famous by Anthony Bourdain, the Robot Restaurant is one of the most touristy things you can do while in Tokyo, but worth checking out since it’s something you’ll only find in Tokyo. Robots battle warrior princesses, there’s a light show, and it’s all set to pop music. Need I say more?

The Yomiuri Giants Baseball Game

Catch a baseball game in the Tokyo Dome. The Yomiuri Giants are the oldest professional baseball team in Japan, and pre-season games even draw large crowds.

 

 

Where to Eat

 

To Start Your Day

 

Starbucks is everywhere in Tokyo, but an American breakfast is harder to find. If you’re open to it, have sushi or soba for breakfast and embrace it.

 

Daiwa Sushi

Daiwa Sushi is located within famous Tsukiji Fish Market. Prepare for a wait (we waited just under an hour at 9:30am) and be adventurous — this is an Omakase (Chef’s tasting) menu-only spot. They’re friendly but like to turn seats — there are only ten, after all — and don’t even think about asking for soy sauce.

 

Tsukiji Fish Market

As for visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market, you can arrive at 3am to see the famous Tuna Auction. Or you can just arrive at your leisure to explore the two main parts of the market: walk the narrow halls of the inner market and browse stalls selling everything from sea urchin to Tamago (a delicate and delicious Japanese omelet) and browse the outer market for chain stores and small shops (we purchased the prettiest bowls that we now use daily).

 

Hakone Akatsukian Ginza Mitsukoshi

This spot within the Mitsukoshi Department Store didn’t disappoint. We’ve been trying to find soba as good in the States ever since.

 

Good Town Doughnuts

If you want something sweet for breakfast, try Good Town Doughnuts near Ometasando, which feels like a mini Brooklyn within Tokyo. And for French pastries that rival what you’ll find in Paris, visit Le Petit Mec (there’s also one in Kyoto).

 

Koffee Mameya

The Japanese take their coffee seriously. Try Koffee Mameya, located in the same spot as Omotesando Koffee, the now-closed cult favorite; Café de l’Ambre, which has been run by Ichiro Sekiguchi since 1948; or Little Nap Coffee Stand, located across the street from Yoyogi Park.

 

Source: @vince_uy

 

Ramen, Tsukemen, Tonkatsu Oh My

 

Ichiran

One of the best bowls of ramen can be found here at Ichiran. The line will be long and the ordering process confusing, but it’s worth it.

 

Fuunji

Tsukemen is kind of like ramen, but with pork. People line up before noon at Fuunji.

 

Katsukura Shinjuku Takashimaya

Tonkatsu is fried pork. Need we say more? Try it at Katsukura Shinjuku Takashimaya, with two Tokyo locations.

 

Yakitori

 

Bird Land Ginza

With one Michelin Star, Bird Land Ginza serves up the kind of yakitori (a Japanese type of skewered chicken) you won’t find at your average izakaya (a Japanese gastropub). Bird Land is located underground in Ginza station nearby Sukiyabashi Jiro, the famed sushi restaurant of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame, and features a reasonably priced Chef’s Omakase (tasting menu).

 

Drinks Only

 

Bar High Five

Don’t ask for a menu at Bar High Five. There isn’t one. Tell the bartender what you like and you won’t be disappointed with what you get. Hidetsugu Ueno’s cocktails aren’t cheap, but it’s worth it to enjoy an intimate drink at this beautiful bar.

 

New York Bar

If you’re not staying at the Park Hyatt, be sure to grab a drink and listen to some live jazz at the New York Bar.

 

Source: @bontraveler

Source: @yurikeyap

 

Know Before You Go

 

When you arrive at the airport, purchase a wireless hotspot. It will be invaluable for navigating through the city. Another tip: a taxi from the airport into Tokyo will be very expensive, so take the train!

Speaking of train stations, they’re tricky to navigate, so prepare for an adventure. They arrive and depart like clockwork, and for the shinkansen, the famed bullet trains, everyone lines up. Most people don’t talk on the phones on the train, but they do eat (be sure to try food from the vending machines!).

It’s easy to take the train everywhere, but if you do take a taxi, be warned that the doors are automatic! Walk on the left (most of the time).

Tip is included but a lot of places don’t take credit cards, so carry cash. Also, don’t hand anyone cash directly — there will usually be a small tray to place it on. Your ATM card will work at 7-Eleven and they are everywhere (plus they have delicious snacks).

English isn’t really spoken, but there are plenty of English signs and most spots will have an English menu. Hand gestures are very different; don’t point at people or things, as it’s considered very rude.

Tokyo is very clean and orderly and we felt very safe. You won’t see many trash cans because people don’t walk while eating or drinking. That also means there’s very little trash even in the busiest areas.

An onsen is a great place to relax. They aren’t mixed gender because most people enjoy them in the nude. And if you have a tattoo,, you may need to cover it up.

 

What are your favorite spots in Tokyo? Is Tokyo on your bucket list?

Show Comments +