Tokyo is a city whose reputation precedes it, and needs very little introduction.
It's colorful, and innovative, and crowded. It's exhausting and exhilarating. It is the capital of Japan, and reported to be the most populous metropolitan area in the world. Tokyo is an opportunity to experience the past and the future all at the same time, while you stuff yourself silly with delicious street food, of course.
You’ll be amazed by the food, sights, sounds and constantly wondering, “what is everyone standing in line for?" One thing is for sure, you can sleep when you’re… anywhere else but Tokyo (that’s how the saying goes right?).
I went with very few expectations (Tokyo guides are hard to find in English!), but found these few gems along the way... enjoy!
Tokyo by the Neighborhood:
Stroll the Ometesando area—
- Adjacent to Harajuku, this tree-lined neighborhood is the ‘NYC Soho’ of Tokyo and my favorite area of town. Enjoy design-forward clothing boutiques and gifts shopping.
- If you’re hungry, check out
- Heart Bread Antique - My favorite bakery in Tokyo (maybe anywhere?).
- Mr. Farmer - If you’re overwhelmed by rice and noodles, hit Mr. Farmer for a dose of vegetables and fresh sandwiches.
- Dominque Ansel - Not willing to stand in line in New York? I walked right in and snagged a ‘world famous’ cronut here in minutes.
Stay in Ginza —
- Ginza is Tokyo’s answer to Paris’s Champs-Elysees. Flagship stores and shiny department stores will provide all the shopping you need. It’s also a great central location to stay in for your time in Tokyo.
- Check out — the G.Itoya Design Store filled with beautiful stationary and paper products.
Experience Shinjuku —
- Shinjuku is NYC’s Times Square. Listed as the ‘world’s busiest rail station’, you won’t be disappointed by the flashing lights and constant action.
- Check out --
- Tokyu Hands - this multi-story department store epitomized Japan for me. It has everything from bike supplies, to french presses, to stationary and chopsticks. At the very least, you’ll get a work out walking the stairs!
Visit the Tsukiji market —
- If you’re a tuna fanatic, set your alarm for 2:00 AM and joining the crowds at the daily tuna auction. You must arrive by 3:00 AM, or you won’t get in.
- If that hour scares you, simply head over and stand in line at one of the market stalls for the best sushi of your life for breakfast (sushi for breakfast? Yes, you’re in Tokyo!). A great place to go when that jet lag has you up early! Check this out for a fantastic guide for in-depth tips.
Go people watching in Harajuku -
- Takeshita Street is the center of it all with teenagers in costume running from store to store.
- Check out --
- Totti candy factory - Grab an Instagram worthy cotton candy treat. You’ll wait in line with tons of kids, but it will be worth it.
- Kiddyland - fun for adults, life changing for the kids. Best place to grab a trinket for your little one at home.
- Meiji Shrine - Visit the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. Located in a beautiful garden area that will let you catch a break from Tokyo’s hustle and bustle.
Go join the crowds in Shibuya —
- Home to the world famous crossing known as the ‘busiest intersection in the world’. Grab a seat at the Starbucks upstairs for prime viewing.
Top Tips —
- Eat all the food. There are approximately 80,000 restaurants in Tokyo alone, so trying to give specific restaurant recommendations is daunting. My advice? Join a queue of locals waiting outside whatever type of restaurant you’re looking for… this was my strategy, and I was never disappointed!
Here are the types of foods to add your to ‘must eat’ list:
- Ramen - Take advantage of the ‘vending machine’ style restaurants located everywhere - they’re the best!
- Udon - Thick, chewy noodle in a light broth (similar to Ramen with more substantial noodles).
- Gyoza - Traditional pot stickers, but amazing.
- Yakitori - Meat (traditionally seafood) skewers grilled to perfection.
- Sushi - Be prepared, the best sushi is expensive in Japan. The high quality of their rolls will blow your supermarket sushi taste buds out of the water.
- If you’re interested in a specific food guide or novelty foods, check out Tour De Lust’s informative roundup.
- Taxis are insanely expensive. Familiarize yourself with the local transit system - it’s great!
- Be patient! You'll find time where you're surrounded by people and you're frustrated that you can't even begin to guess what that sign says. Just remember, there's no place in the world like Tokyo!