Since spending three months in Japan last year, a few people have asked me what to do when in Tokyo for the first time.
Forget the “must sees” and tourist shit. Follow this guide to experience the Japanese way of life.
- Never use a cab. Catch the train everywhere, or ride, or walk
- Forget about seeing things, just experience the Japanese way of life.
- Konbini (convenience stores) are your best friend
- Use bidet toilets wherever you have the opportunity. These will change your life.
Eat food/meal from a konbini. Seriously forget everything you think you know about convenience stores, they are the centre of Japanese life. Family Mart is better than 7 Eleven, which is better than Lawsons. Finito.
Pro tip: onigiri 🍙 is a perfect snack when travelling around to keep you going until your next meal.
Browse around in a Japanese grocery store. It’s a whole other world in there; explore to your hearts content.
- Pick up dinner/lunch while you’re here from the pre-packaged food section.
- Buy a few single cans of jap beer to go with your food.
Wander around a park 🌳 Japense live in small apartments with no backyards. These extremely well maintained parks are their “shared backyards”.
- the north part of Chiyoda Park is lovely
- or if you want something out of the way, check out Koraku Park
- else Yoyoji Park is nice and you can check out overrated Takeshita street
Pro tip: Mosquito repellant is a must when you visit any parks.
Go to the top of Tokyo Metropolitan Building. Or any other tall lookout builing in tokyo.
- You really get a sense of the vastness of Tokyo from up here.
Eat ramen at a ramen bar 🍜 As opposed to a “sit down at a table” restaurant. All the good places are bars.
- which one? That requires a whole other post.
Pro tip: this is an in-and-out kind of thing. No lingering around after you eat. Order. Slurp. Free up the seat.
Go to Asakusa 🙏 It’s a suburb north-east of central Tokyo with a famous temple, great food, and an all round good vibe.
- nice popular temple Senso-ji
- the stalls leading up to it are nice
- explore the streets and undercover arcades nearby
Pro tip: If you’re into food/cooking, or just a decent human being, check out Kapabashi kitchen street (two blocks down). It is known as Kitchen Town with every single thing you would ever need in your kitchen/restaurant.
Go to Shinjuku and/or Shibuya. These are the two “major” entertainment hubs of Tokyo.
- get lost in the surrounding streets
- eat some good food
- embrace the chaos
If it’s raining , buy a clear umbrella from a konbini.
- These will change your life.
- You can see everything while you walk, plus the rain looks and sounds awesome on them.
Go thrift shopping in Shimokitazawa. Just a cool hipster neighbourhood to explore.
- grab some good coffee while you’re in the area
- and probably some more ramen too 🍜
Go to the typical Japanese shops. These are just a couple of “stereotypical” japanese stores that will overload your senses (eyes and ears).
- Uniqlo – it’s the H&M of Japan with all the best basics you’ll ever need
- Daiso – 100 yen (1 dollar) store with a whole bunch of useful/useless shit
- Muji – fancy/minimalist homeware store
- BIC Camera – electronics store, just to experience the madness
- Don Quijote – tourist store filled with junk.
Get on a peak hour train. Unless you are claustrophobic.
- time your trip home one day to coincide with peak hour and experience the madness.