Tokyo, one of Asia’s most bustling cities, will be hosting the Summer Olympics in 2020. Last year, it attracted more than 13.1 million foreign visitors, including myself (I visited in May 2016) and now that I look back, I’ve actually visited Tokyo three times in three years!
Despite my frequent visits, Japan still remains as one of my top travel destination in Asia! There are many things to love about – delicious food, beautiful shrines and temples (like Meiji Jingu)! In this post, I will be sharing with my top picks in Tokyo!
1. Staying in a Capsule Hotel
Nihonbashi Bay Hotel – Capsule Interior
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of a staying in a capsule hotel, a concept that started back in the 1980s, which provides affordable but tiny (size of a single bed) accommodation. Unlike staying in a hostel, Capsule Hotels usually provide amenities such as pyjamas, room slippers and clean towels. The rest area is relatively quiet and you will have your own private space, behind the blinds of the capsule. Prior to my first night in the capsule, I thought that the capsule may be somewhat claustrophobic, but the space turns out to be pretty decent! I had a comfortable sleep and the air ventilation was not an issue at all! The following morning, I could even sit upright and do my makeup in the comfort of my own capsule. It was nice to experience a night of solitude and I’ll definitely give this another try in my next solo trip to Tokyo!
Capsule Hotel I stayed in (May 2016):
Nihonbashi Bay Hotel (female-only floor),
3-8- 13 Nihonbashi Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan 103-0027
Note: A brand new female-only capsule hotel by the same chain (Bay Hotel) has opened in Akihabara back in June 2016.
The reviews have been quite decent and you can find out more here.
2. Feast on ‘Kawaii-looking’ food
Japanese people place a lot of emphasis on aesthetics and this can be seen in their food as well! A lot of effort is spent on packaging and plating the dishes, which makes every single thing look so Instagram-worthy!
Totoro Cream Puff
Totoro Cream Puff at Shirohige Cream Puff Shop
If you are a fan of Miyazaki’s movie “My Neighbour Totoro”, you got to visit “Shirohige Cream Puff Shop”, a place which sells super kawaii Totoro-shaped cream puffs! It is located at Shimokitazawa area, a hipster neighbourhood popular with youths. Depending on the season, you can try seasonal flavours like Strawberry, Matcha and Chestnut or you can go with the original custard or chocolate flavour.
5-3- 1, Daita, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
3 minutes on foot from the Odakyu Line “Setagaya Daeda Station”
Amazing Artwork on your Latte
Paddingteon Bear Latte art at Reissue Café, Harajuku
‘Reissue café’ at Harajuku is possibly the café with the best latte artist in Tokyo! The barista is very well-known for replicating images on to your latte – in both 2D and 3D forms. From their Instagram (Link to: https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/669030/) I’ve seen countless realistic images of cartoon characters (like mine above), pets, anime characters and even faces of pop star idols!
Tanji Building 2F, 3-25- 7, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Pop-up character cafes
Kiki & Lala, My Melody 20th Anniversary Cafe @ The Guest Café (June 2015)
When in Japan, don’t forget to check the schedule of the various Pop-up character cafes which may be happening during your trip! It usually happens at The Guest Café @ Shibuya Parco (Website: http://the-guest.com/| Facebook Page) or Tower Records Café in Shibuya (Website: http://tower.jp/restaurants/cafe/shibuya ). If you are in luck, you will be feasting on kawaii themed food which will probably make your friends jealous!
Donuts from “Kiki & Lala, My Melody” The Guest Café & Diner (June 2015)
Alternatively, you can visit the fixed-character theme café like Pomopompurin Café in Harajuku, Café de Miki with Hello Kitty at Odaiba!
Note: From 1st July to 29 August 2017, The Guest Café & Diner is featuring the minions character from the Despicable Me 3 movie!
The Guest Café&Diner
Ikebukuro Parco Main building 7F
1-28- 2 Minami,Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Odaiba, a manmade island within Tokyo Bay, is a popular attraction for both locals and tourists. To get to Odaiba, the easiest way is to take the driverless Yurikamome Monorail (not valid with JR Pass) which will bring you across the beautiful Rainbow Bridge.
Front Row view from monorail
Opt for the front row seat and be rewarded with a spectacular view. If you’re feeling adventurous and that the weather is not too windy, you can also choose to take a 30-45 minute walk across the Rainbow Bridge.
What I like about this island is that it feels and looks different from the usual Tokyo. The buildings here are somewhat futuristic looking (Fuji TV Headquarters, Tokyo Big Sight) and it is also home to a wide variety of entertainment and shopping options!
Rainbow Bridge. Photo Credit: © Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB)
There are many things you can do at Odaiba. You can stroll along the Odaiba Beach Park and take a photo with the Statue of Liberty Replica, visit Joyapolis (an indoor amusement park by Sega) for some exciting and high technology rides or even shop to your heart’s content at Venus Fort – a European-themed mall which is home to Tokyo’s only outlet shopping. Do allocate at least one full day for Odaiba as there are simply too much to do on this island!
Tokyo Bay Great Fireworks Festival. Photo Credit: © Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB)
Also, if you do intend to visit Odaiba in December, do check out the fireworks which usually happen every Saturday night. For more details, you can refer to their website: http://www.tokyo-odaiba.net/en/.
Illuminated Rainbow Bridge at night.
4. Non-stop shopping in Tokyo
To me, Tokyo is a shopping paradise and I always arrive with a half empty luggage, leaving with a full load of cosmetics, skincare, electronics, kawaii stationery and food. Here are some of the places that I love to shop at!
Entrance of Yodobashi, Akiba branch
Although it is more popularly known as an electronics store, this shop sells a lot more than electronics! Most of my drugstore cosmetics/skincare and even whisky were bought from this shop as it closes late (at 10PM, depending on each stores). There were English-speaking staff available and tax rebates (up to 8%) can be done at the cashier seamlessly!
Yodobashi, Akiba outlet
１−1, Kanda Hanaokacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo , Japan
Yodabashi Official Website: http://www.yodobashi.com
Wide selection of cups and teapots in Tokyu Hands
In all my visits to Japan, I’ve always catered time to visit a Tokyu hands outlet. They sell all sorts of products, many of which are useful household items (I remember being very impressed with their mini rice cooker for 1) and my favourite section is always the stationery section! From my experience, it is almost impossible to walk out of the shop empty handed!
Tokyu Hands, Shinjuku Outlet
Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tokyu Hands, Shibuya Outlet
12-18 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tokyu Hands Official Website: https://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/en/index.html
Wide selection of skincare and cosmetics are available
This is the place to be if you’re game enough for some midnight shopping! It is open 24-hours (Shinjuku, Asakusa, Ginza, Roppongi outlet) and they sell everything from snacks, souvenirs, cosmetics and even cosplay costumes! It is advisable to visit this place on your last night as you can stock up on the souvenirs that you have forgotten to buy or fill your remaining luggage space with tasty Japanese snacks!
Don Quijote, Shibuya Outlet
28-6 Udagawa-cho Shibuya-ku Tokyo, JAPAN, 150-0042
Don Quijote, Akihabara Outlet
4-3-3 Sotokanda Chiyoda-ku Tokyo, JAPAN, 101-0021
Don Quijote Official Website: http://www.donki.com/en/
5. Museum in the Air @ Roppongi
One of the art pieces for Simple Forms: Contemplating Beauty exhibition (June 2015)
If you’re into the arts scene, Roppongi is a definitely a place that you should not miss out! My favourite museum would be the Mori Art Museum. It is situated on the 53rd and 54th floor of Mori Tower and it is possibly the highest museum in the world, or at least in Japan. Unlike other museums, Mori Art Museum does not have a permanent collection. Instead, it showcases a wide diversity of exhibitions, each lasting between 2 to 6 months. With its ever-changing exhibits, this museum is highly popular with the locals, especially on weekends!
Tokyo City View Observation Deck, 52nd Floor
Even if you are not keen in viewing the on-going exhibition, you shouldn’t give this place a miss as the Tokyo City View Observation Deck, located at the 52nd floor, gives you a magnificent view of Tokyo City! On a clear day, you should be able to spot Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree too.
Roppongi is also home to the National Art Center and Suntory Museum of Art. Do check out the exhibition schedules and plan your visit accordingly as sometimes the museums are closed for preparatory work.
Mori Art Museum
53F, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10- 1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-6108 Japan
Official Website: http://www.mori.art.museum/en/index.html
The National Art Center
7-22- 2 Roppongi Minato-ku Tokyo 106-8558, Japan
Official Website: http://www.nact.jp/english/
Suntory Museum of Art
9-7- 4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8643, Japan
Official Website: http://www.suntory.com/sma/
Want to find out more about Tokyo?
Visit the ‘Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau (TCVB)’ booth (Booth No. D36) this weekend (4 to 6 Aug 2017) at Travel Revolution!
You will be able to collect travel brochures, unique souvenirs and get more information about Tokyo from the friendly staff!
Admission is FREE!