Spring time during Tokyo’s “Cherry Blossom Season” is truly a sight to see as the national flower, the sakura blossom drowns parks and streets with its bright pink petals. Even when not visiting during these months, there is so much to see and do in this capital of Japan. Tokyo is a city unlike any other, and when I visited I wanted to make sure I had the most epic-kawaii-Tokyo experience ever. Here are my 15 must-dos and Tokyo’s top points of interest for getting the most out of this crazy city.
- Visit the Robot Restaurant. This popular and INSANE tourist attraction is a perfect introduction to Tokyo and best visited on one of your first nights there. More of a show than an eatery, you will be both amazed and amused by giant robotics, colorful lights, and costumed Japanese girls singing J-Pop.
- After the Robot Restaurant explore the streets and night life district of Shinjuku. Wander into the many bars and clubs find yourself a place to do Karaoke. Fun fact: bars and clubs need a special permit to allow dancing as public dancing is technically against the law! You’ll find that many clubs have tables where the dance floor would normally be so patrons will gather to drink and watch the DJ instead of dance. If you are caught dancing, the security may ask you to stop, or leave.
- Stay up all night or wake up early to go to the tuna auction at Tsukiji fish market at 5:00AM (Many start lining up as early as 4:00AM.) Have sushi for breakfast by waiting in the (sometimes very long) line for some of the best and freshest sushi Tokyo has to offer. For the absolute best, go to Sushi Dai, or for a (slightly) shorter wait, Daiwa-sushi where Sushi Dai’s son is the chef.
- Visit the The Tokyo Sky Tree and observation tower for stunning 360 views of Tokyo. This is Tokyo’s largest structure and the second highest in the world! Bonus: For more amazing views, have dinner or drinks at the Park Hyatt hotel and feel like you are in the movie Lost in Translation.
- Ride the bullet train. Use it for a day trip to the nearby culture-rich city of Kyoto, or to see the auspicious Mt. Fuji.
- Walk through Shibuya Crossing/Shibuya scramble, known as the busiest intersection in the world. Tip: The second floor of the Starbucks on the corner has the best view for watching the madness.
- Spend a night exploring the tiny stacked bars of Shibuya, some of which can only seat 4 people at a time! Find the famous Piano Bar here where the room is so tiny it can only fit a piano and a few people at a time.
- Visit an Onsen, a natural hot spring/Japanese bathhouse. The one I visited was just outside the city of Tokyo and was called Fujiyoshi Onsen. It is one of the few onsens that are private and therefore co-ed bathing (a rarity) and tattooed people are allowed (People with tattoos are generally not allowed in many onsens in Japan.) There are multiple different baths and hot springs, each allowing for only you and whomever you are with to enjoy; as opposed to the many other onsens that are public and therefore crammed with many naked strangers. Fujiyoshi is also along the coast and therefore has beautiful views of the ocean, making the two-hour train ride a sight to cherish.
- Eat at the Kawaii Monster Café – much like the Robot Restaurant, the Kawaii Monster Café is as Tokyo as it gets! Kawaii is the word for cute, so be prepared for kawaii overload from the food and drinks, to the décor, to even the staff who are all dressed up in typical kawaii fashion.
- Go to a cat/bunny/hedge hog/owl café. Animal cafes are abound in Tokyo. Sip coffee or tea while playing with cute little animals.
- Go to a maid café. Are you starting to see a pattern? Themed cafes are all over Tokyo, each one offering something unique. Japanese girls dressed as French maids serve and entertain you with song and dance.
- Wander the anime district of Akiabara. Here you will find all things anime and electronics, and plenty of the aforementioned maid cafes.
- Spend a few hours or a night in a love hotel. Tokyo’s Dogenzaka district (nick-named “Love Hotel Hill”) is known for their dense population of love hotels. Each room in every hotel has a unique theme and offer fun novelties such as costumes, karaoke, and some even have hot tubs inside. While love hotels are traditionally used by young Japanese men and women who want some romantic private time due to the cultural norm of living with parents until marriage, you don’t need to have a lover to enjoy the ever-amusing love hotels –IF you can get passed the seediness of it. You can pay by the hour to check it out as a place to rest, or spend the night.
- Go shopping in Harajuku. Here you can often find the Harujuku kids (especially on the weekends) colorfully dressed up in cosplay as their favorite characters.
- Play real life Mario Kart! Dress up as Super Mario characters and literally race go-carts through the busy streets and traffic of Tokyo. You will need to apply for an international driver’s license for this one before-hand so make sure you do your research before going!BONUS! This one should go without saying but eat all the sushi, ramen, and sweets (green tea Kit-Kats, wasabi flavored Kit-Kats, cherry blossom flavored Red Bull…) you can!
With all of the craziness that Tokyo has to offer, the people are some of the kindest in the world. While many are shy or appear reserved, most locals are happy to help, chat, and answer questions. The streets are impeccably clean as there are strict rules around garbage disposal and recycling, and eating or drinking in public is often frowned upon. For all that is mentioned in this blog and more (um hello toilets that have warm seats, spray water to clean you, blow dry you, AND play music so people don’t have to hear you go…) Tokyo is definitely one of the most fascinating cities in the world.