We fell totally in love with Tokyo and it was a real wrench to leave it behind. Everything just works and it’s totally fabulous: the architecture, the style, the shops, the food, the atmosphere. It’s like they’ve taken the best elements of all the coolest cities in the world and put them in once place, but it’s all gorgeous and clean (those weird and wonderful loo controls and heated seats are just the start), without being remotely clinical.
So, here are my top 5 things to do in Tokyo. You’ll notice I haven’t included any bars – this is because I was travelling with Harriet, who is too young to drink alcohol in Japan. But honestly, there is so much to do and see it really didn’t matter.
1. Visit the Meiji Shrine. Built in 1920, this is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, and it’s the most beautiful, peaceful place. It’s located in a fabulous forest which gives it an ethereal feel and it’s perfect for strolling around in the morning sunshine, before it gets too hot.
If you time it just right, say at about 11am, you’ll also be treated to the sight of wedding parties in traditional dress, like this couple with their priest and guests.
Write a little prayer on one of the scrolls for whatever you like and walk around enjoying the lake and trees.
And then if you’re in the need for some retail therapy afterwards the Meiji Shrine is close to Harajuku, with its cool boutiques, home to the Harajuku-girls.
2. Go to Shibuya Crossing. OK, Shibuya is one of the most touristy places in Tokyo – a bit like Piccadilly Circus – but it’s also utterly fascinating and a great spot for people-watching. You’ll probably remember it from Lost in Translation. And when the sky darkens, it really is like something out of Blade Runner. All those neon signs – insane.
Shibuya is also where you’l find the statue dedicated to Hachiko, most devoted dog in the world, immortalised in the movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. Bless him.
Close by you’ll find the fabulous Shibuya 109 shopping mall, where they sell crazy shoes like this…
and this (actually, I could quite easily have bought these)…
…and conveyor belt restaurants, where you pay for what you eat.
Including of course yummy sushi and sashimi. So cheap, and delicious. And good for you.
3. Ride the Tokyo subway. At first it can appear incredibly confusing, particularly as you’re trying to get your head round the place names, and buying tickets can be a bit of a challenge. But it’s actually very simple; we mastered it after our first few trips, and if you get lost everyone will try to help you. Plus, it’s a great place to people-watch (we particularly enjoyed seeing Harajuku-girls putting on their false eyelashes without even glancing in a mirror); and the really fabulous thing about the Tokyo subway is all the underground shops and restaurants.
4. Go to Asakusa. Again, it’s touristy, but my goodness you’ll see some amazing stuff here. (I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this pram, have you ever seen anything more OTT in your life?)…
…including the Senso-ji temple.
And at the end you reach the Asakusa Shrine, where everyone is rushing to wash in the holy water and light incense and pray. It’s total chaos.
5. Shop ’till you drop. I’ve shopped all over the world but my goodness the Japanese know how to do it in style. Everything is just SO divine and beautifully packaged. Our favourite places included Kitte (which is a great place to pick up the fluffiest pork buns in the world) and the Marunouchi mall; also Ginza, with its upmarket stores, although all we could really do there was window-shop.
And then of course after all that shopping you have to eat. In our case as many gyoza as we could stuff in our faces at one sitting.
And there you have them, my top 5 things to do in Tokyo. And a few more besides. Wish we were there.
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Brilliant. Travelling there in January for the first time (with kids). Scouring all your Japan posts for great suggestions. Thank you!!!!