Tokyo had been on my wish list for ages and finally my dream came true: I packed my bags and left Belgium for a visit to Japan. Kyoto was amazing (read everything about it HERE) but I also fell in love with Tokyo. The most expensive thing is the airplane ticket, so make sure you check the Connections website before booking, as they have amazing offers at the moment. Paying for the flight will probably be the most expensive part of your trip as food and going out in Tokyo is quite cheap.
Oke, so here we go… this is my little travel guide full of tips and recommendations.. I hope you enjoy!
Hotel Okura is a really amazing place to stay but they are sadly going to close it in September. Alternatively, Park Hyatt offers great views over Tokyo.
To get around, the Yurikamome is a monorail type train that goes across the Tokyo Bay and underneath the Rainbow Bridge all the way to Odaiba. Buy the cheapest ticket, get first in line and hop on the first cart at Shimbashi Station then get off after the bridge, come back and get off at Shiodome Station and walk back to Shimbashi. I got this tip from a friend of mine that lives here and believe me, you can see lots of sights along the route. It’s also a great way to discover the city and take amazing pictures!
The Tokyo International Forum and Tokyo National Art Center are must-sees for architecture lovers, or if you prefer more natural sights, you can relax in the stunning Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Hamarikyu Garden or Ueno Park, which is famed for its cherry blossom. Hie Shrine, which has stunning vermilion torii gates, and Zojoji Temple, next to Toyko Tower, are good culture-fixes and really peaceful if you need to escape the city.
The best places to see the city from above are the observatories at the Toyko City View deck on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills or the 360-degree view from the top of World Trade Center in Hamamatsucho. If you’re scared of heights, you might want to give this a miss!
I loved hanging out in the Shinjuku district as there’s so much to look at and the colourful shop lights are really mesmerising at night. I also visited Shibuya for the famous crossing situated outside the station. All the traffic lights change colour at the same time so when the cars stop, hundreds of people cross in all directions. I would hate to be in this at rush hour! Other cool areas are Daikanyama/Nakameguro and Harajuku/ Omotesando which is an alternative shopping area with a lot of cosplayers such as gothic Lolita's and anime characters. Definitely try the crepes there, which are amazing. I tried one with strawberry and blueberry with fresh wipped cream… delicious!
La Foret shopping mall and Takeshita Street are really famous places to shop, or if you’re looking for designer brands then head to Ginza, which is an area of luxury boutiques. I loved going for coffee at the Hermès café as the chocolate comes in the shape of little Hermès Kelly bags. Real ‘arm candy’! If you want to buy vintage kimonos, you have to go to Gallery Kawano. I got this address from a local fashionista that I spotted on the streets in Tokyo. Here, you can find kimonos with endless prints and colors, and for reasonable prices! My boyfriend and I went crazy in this store!
Here are some other hotspot shops (less traditional and more modern):
- Super A Market: the store has a great selection of fashion ( think of Saint Laurent, The Row but also a lot of local Japanese brands), beauty and health goods. It also have a gallery space and even a bar.
- Sacai: Japanese designer Abe Chitose knows how to show her skills and expertises. She sells the finest knits and gorgeous shoes!
- The Contemporary Fix: this store focuses mainly on leading Japanese brands including Hyke, Phenomenon, Facetasm and Mr Gentleman.
- Bubbles: a vintage boutique with a selected offer of 1970’s and 80’s fashion. You can find really hidden gems here!
- Aquvii Shop: a little souvenir shop with vintage toys and a lot of different jewelry pieces.
As for food, you need to try Shabu Shabu at Kisoji Shinjuku. You can't go wrong with a plate of thinly sliced Kobe beef and a large bowl of soup with vegetables and fine rice noodles, in which you dip your meat for a few seconds to cook. For the most delicious sushi you can go the Tsukiji fish market, which comes with the added bonus of a fun, lively environment. It would be a sin to go to Japan without eating Ramen so you definitely have to try Afuri, a restaurant where they serve the best Ramen I’ve ever tried.
Although we did and saw so much, my personal highlights were the Yurikamome train journey, the Tokyo International Forum for stunning architecture, the beautiful gardens of Hama Rikyu and Shinjuku Gyoen, the peaceful Hie Shrine, and looking over Tokyo from the World Trade Center. I’m sure if I returned I would find many more things to do as you really get the feeling that the city never sleeps here.
Have you visited Tokyo before? What were your favorite places? XO Sofie