Sometimes you just have a few days off, and a little break away is the best idea. For me that little break took me to Tokyo, where I spent 5 days seeing and eating as much as I could. I would highly recommend putting it on your travel to do list. And if it’s already there then here are a few tips on what to see and do.
ACCOMMODATION and travel
This was the first time I’d given AirBnb a go and it was pretty rewarding. It can be far cheaper than a hotel, and I was right in the middle of Tokyo in Shinjuku.
The great thing about Tokyo is that you can stay anywhere, as the underground trains go all over the city, making it the best way to get around.
The underground system can be quite complicated however, as there are different companies that run different lines and getting the right ticket can be confusing. The best way to avoid all of that is just to get a Pasmo card and keep it topped up. The card itself costs 500Yen but you get that back when you hand the card back in. You will also save a lot of time by just going straight through the barriers.
I’d also advise getting a map from any of the stations, to make it easier to figure out which stations you need to transfer at. If you have any problems though, the staff are super friendly and can help you with anything at the station.
Food and drink
Japanese food is my absolute favourite and I was not disappointed. Sushi will never taste the same way again!
The ramen in Japan is amazing, it’s almost too much to eat and tastes so good! Most places have a machine outside like a vending machine that gives you a ticket to give to someone inside. And then you get ramen, such a good system.
I went to two different types of sushi restaurant. One where you fill in a paper order with numbers from a menu, and the other was the sushi train. The sushi train was far more fun and involves picking small plates off a conveyor belt until you can’t possible eat any more. The different coloured plates are different prices and you just pay at the end.
When it comes to drinking and bars, there are many spots to go to. One of the more touristy spots is Golden Gai. It can be difficult to find, as it’s a few narrow streets, hidden behind lots of shops and buildings in Shinjuku. Each street is packed with the smallest bars I have ever seen, literally hundreds of them. A few are slightly larger in the upper floors, but still very small. Most of the bars have cover charges, but there are a few that don’t that are just as cool, and the alcohol is the same price so search for those places.
There are temples all over Tokyo. Some famous must-see ones, and others that will appear out of nowhere on a busy shopping street. All of them are incredibly intriguing and beautiful.
Senso-ji was my favourite temple to visit, and I just happened to get fantastic weather. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo and if you only visit one temple, this is the one to visit! The entrance is a large archway to Nakamise Street, lined with shops from the Edo era, which leads to the temple. Here you can buy souvenirs, get some food, and just take in the atmosphere.
At Senso-ji you can also tell your fortune for 100Yen. To the right of the temple there are rows and rows of drawers with symbols on them, and a hexagonal metal box full of sticks. After paying 100Yen, you gently shake the box until a stick comes out with a symbol on it. Put the stick back and then match the symbol to a drawer and take out a a sheet of paper. If the fortune is good keep it, if it’s bad tie it to a post next to the drawers.
I managed to squeeze in a visit on one of the days to the Imperial Gardens and Edo Castle. The gardens are lovely and the view of the castle is worth the visit, even if you don’t have a lot of time.
Things to do and see
5 days just wasn’t enough time to scratch the surface in Tokyo, there is just so much going on in the city.
I was lucky enough to meet up with some other airbnb travellers, who were all very interesting people and gave me lots of useful travel tips. Being a solo traveller the thought of doing karaoke hadn’t crossed my mind, but what better a way to do it than with a group of strangers! It was so much fun and if you do meet a group of travels I recommend it.
If you are looking for other experiences, there is a website called GoVoyagin that can help you out. There are many options, like taking a sushi class, go karting through the streets, fish market tours, and even a place to drop off your luggage. The list is extensive and you definitely need it to plan your trip.
I didn’t have much time, so I chose to learn how to play Pachinko. It’s a pinball like game that is very loud and crazy. You play to win little pieces of gold, which you then exchange in a building next door, as gambling for money is illegal in Japan. If the colourful machines look like fun I would recommend it, but get a lesson first. It’s only an hour, the tour guide was fantastic and it only cost 1000Yen.
Themed cafes are all over Tokyo and you should definitely visit at least one. I found a cat cafe on Takeshita street and it was ridiculously cute. You are given slippers, and cat ears to wear in the cafe. You can pay just to see the cats, or you can also get unlimited drinks. Around the city you’ll find robot cafes, owl cafes and many other themes.
Tsukiji fish market s a great place to look at, even if it’s the outer market for an hour and some lunch. There are vendors cooking outside shops, fish stalls everywhere and so many places to eat and Asian products to see. I got some nice pottery for some sushi there.
Once you’ve seen all the temples and parks that appeal to you, shopping is a must. Even if you don’t want to buy anything the atmosphere is great. The 3 shopping streets I visited were Nakamise Street near Senso-ji, Ameyoko by Ueno-okachimachi Station and Takeshita Street near Harajuku Station. Nakamise is a great place for buying souvenirs.
Ameyoko is a market that is very easy to get lost in and fascinating to walk around. It’s full of restaurants, pachinko parlous and shops that sell things from clothes to seafood and everything in between. I spent most of my time there deciding where to eat! I also stumbled upon another temple here, Marishiten Temple, and made a wish on a wooden plate.
Takeshita Street is a much more modern shopping area and seems more for the tourists, but you can find some great things here. It’s filled with quirky shops and crazy food places that I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Tokyo.
Something that I found surprising is that you will have to look after your own trash. There are vending machines everywhere, but very few trash bins, so have a spare bag with you.
Most shops and restaurants take cash, so make sure you get cash before you visit, or you can take money out at ATM’s at 7-Eleven and places like that.
I also forgot to pack a travel adaptor and really struggled to find one in many stores so make sure to bring one with you.
If you are planning a trip to Tokyo I hope this helped and that you have a great time! Enjoy!