Ahhhh! It’s finally here! Okay, so after flying from Sydney to Tokyo, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the latter. And it’s pretty safe to say: the city has definitely exceeded my expectations.
In terms of food, culture, and basically being the kind of ‘busy’ but not too much type. This entire trip reminded me a lot of my childhood in New York but not as much as making me feel unsafe about it either.
That’s one thing I’m telling you now, even though Tokyo is a crazy big city and it’s more prone to be dangerous than other areas in Japan, it really isn’t.
Since the Japanese care for their (and your) dignity, they don’t want to steal from you. In such a way that when another tourist left their lens cover at the Starbucks in Shibuya, the lady who was about to take their seat, took after them just to return the cap.
Nonetheless, here’s my bucket list guide to Tokyo including what to see outside of it, food to try, and everything in between!
My personal recommendation? We stayed here for 9 days and it still wasn’t enough to get through everything we wanted to see. So be sure to either stay longer or narrow down your choices. Honest!
Most of these are recommended by locals as my Mom’s Japanese friends toured us around most of the time.
#1. Try the special sakura-flavoured drinks, cake, and mochi
In photo: Sakura cake, Sakura Tea Cappuccino, Sakura Matcha Latte
This may not have been the best picture for it, but when you’ve been craving for these treats a few days into your trip, taking a photo isn’t high on the priority list honestly.
Either way, if you’re lucky to be in Japan during Spring, they have speciality coffee, tea, and cakes all dedicated to the season which are incredibly good and unique as well!
#2. Have a go at their strawberry and coffee sundaes at Omori Station
We stayed at the area near Omori and had an amazing time going through the department store’s basement food section for the wide selection of cakes, coffee, and ice cream!
#3. Coffee + Sakura Cream Latte at Starbucks!
Even though I sometimes find Starbucks yuck to try when abroad, even I can’t deny their special cherry blossom spring coffee edition is amazing.
#4. Eat cold Udon with sweet potato tempura at any hole in the wall
Specifically, have a go at trying cold udon with sweet potato tempura that’s going to be amazing. Since we don’t have that type of tempura in the Philippines, I tried it and many others save for shrimp.
#5. Line up in the rain and cold for the best homemade ramen
Probably one of the best and worst experience in this trip was lining up in 5 degree weather with pretty strong winds and rain for ramen. I mean, hey, if the locals were willing to do it – why not try, right?!
#6. Pick out grilled salmon, eel, or any other type of sushi from the conveyor belt
When in Japan, the conveyor belt sushi is a must-try experience! There will be small plates of sushi distributed through the belt and you literally just take out whichever you want to eat.
#7. Feast on Tuna, Tamago (Eggs), and white strawberries at the Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji is one of the popular markets in Tokyo and rightly so. Unfortunately, you can’t watch the bidding going on but you can try fresh sushi right off when you’re there.
#8. At least have a shot of Sake in the markets
Sake is a Japanese-made alcoholic beverage made of rice in water. Although the bottle is tiny compared to what you see in Western culture, the punch is strong. Really. It’s meant to be taken per shot too.
#9. Stroll through shops from Tsukiji all the way to Ginza
Although it’s difficult to really walk a lot in Tokyo the way you could in, say, Barcelona. Going from the markets all the way to Ginza would give you the opportunity to explore bridges, parks, and the famous Donki (Don Quiote is a small department store)!
#10. Have a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
My mom’s friend took us here during our first day because of the cherry blossoms. Turns out, tons of people go here to set up a picnic mat + basket and have brunch here.
#11. Take 100+ photos featuring cherry blossoms
Since we went to Japan specifically for the cherry blossoms, it would be a waste not to take tons of photos here, right? 😉
#12. See the Imperial Palace (+ the cherry blossom bridge near it)
Also known as the Imperial Palace East Garden, you can hop down near the main entrance and make your way over to the gardens for that perfect Instagram photo.
#13. Walk at Shibuya Crossing
As the busiest crossing in the world, it would be a waste not to walk through Shibuya and even take photos.
#14. Take a photo with Hachiko
Hachiko is Japan’s famous dog that waited for his owner at the Shibuya train station every day at the same time. Even when his master passed away, Hachiko remained waiting until dying breath.
Today, there’s a small monument dedicated to him where he would usually wait.
#15. Take a photo of people crossing Shibuya from the Starbucks above it
I’ll be the first to admit at how much I don’t like crowds. Which is why I preferred waiting at the Starbucks above the crossing for a photo opportunity instead (not including the photo I just posted above).
#16. Go to one of the biggest Disney stores in the entire city
Also in the Shibuya area, it’s no secret the Japanese love Disney. Pretty much so in fact that when we were there, everything (beyond the store) was decorated in Disney!
#17. Have fun watching Robots dance at the Cafe
Probably one of the most…erm, unique cafes in the world could be found in Japan. My mom’s friend advises not to go here at night unless you have a car because the area isn’t very safe for tourists.
#18. See a life-sized Godzilla standing behind tall buildings
Please check the photo above!
#19. Take a day trip to Mt. Fuji and its surrounding areas
One of my fondest memories was being able to go to the surrounding areas despite not being able to see Mt. Fuji. This is because it kept raining and there was a heavy fog surrounding the mountain – good thing our guide compensated by tourist us around small towns and villages instead.
#20. See different temples up in the mountains instead of the city
The thing is, even though temples in the city are beautiful, there’s just that certain appeal which comes when you explore temples in the mountains.
Aside from the fact there are less people, of course.
#21. Try the express train all the way to Yokohama
Ride the train for a good 45 minutes and find yourself in a different city! Even better? Yokohama reminds me of a small city in Europe (somewhere in Holland, maybe)
#22. Learn how to make your own cup noodles at the Cup Noodle Museum
You can either learn how to make your own cup from scratch or ask help from a machine and see the rigorous process that comes with the cup noodles.
It’s such a fun thing to do especially since you’ll get to draw your own cup and everything!
#23. Visit Disney Sea instead of Disney Land
Disney Land over here isn’t as impressive as its Sea version. However, I would strongly advise against riding the rollercoasters whilst its cold.
#24. Bathe at Onsen (Hot Springs) when given the opportunity
This is a popular activity for the Japanese and its highly treasured as a great past time too. If you happen to be here in Winter, this is when the hot springs are really great and when its the most popular as well. Obviously.
Over to you:
What’s the next Asian destination on your bucket list?