If you’ve already read my post about getting to Tokyo, you’ll already know that Typhoon Lan shortened my days out in Tokyo from three to two. I didn’t have a set itinerary for my visit to the city, but I did have a list of places to see. After making a quick plan in the morning, we were ready to head out!
And while it would be impossible to see all of Tokyo in such a short time, our plan worked perfectly for the time we had. I just couldn’t wait to go and explore the city, which I’d heard has the busiest streets and the most complicated metro lines.
Day One: Electric Town, Temples and Tokyo Tower
Shopping at Akihabara
On the first day we could explore, which was actually our third day in Japan, we started our day with a walk from our hotel to Electric Town. It took an hour and, just like when I ventured out in the typhoon, I regretted it! We didn’t see anything great on our way until we got to Akihabara. This is a district full of computer shops, games, vending machines and some shops that have several floors full of electronics. We went to a department shop called Yodobashi Akiba, which is apparently the largest electronics store in the world! It turns out nine floors of machines and toys could be quite interesting – we certainly spent longer there than we expected!
Eating out in Tokyo
After we left Akihabara, some girls invited us to Maids Café. I had mixed feelings about it, but I knew it wasn’t a red light district style attraction so we decided to give it a try. The girl who started walking with us told us she was a three-year-old cat. She was pretty serious about it! Then she took us to a sketchy looking elevator and my doubts returned. Little did I know we were about to walk into a colourful room full of tourists!
Our waitress was a super cute Japanese girl who didn’t really speak English. After asking us to repeat strange-sounding words, she took our order. We decided not to have a meal there and just chose desserts because it was expensive. I had a feeling that this cafe would be more about the experience and less about the menu. You can pay extra to have the staff perform a show, but we skipped that.
A visit to Senso-ji temple
Powered on by our cake, we walked to another attraction, Senso-ji. This is the oldest and most visited temple in Tokyo! As you approach it, you go through the great Thunder Gate and you find yourself walking along Nakamise-dori. Filled with shops, stalls and other sightseers, take your time browsing the Japanese-style paper souvenirs, hand-painted fans, traditional kimonos and many other Japanese crafts, as well as the street food.
The temple itself is very impressive in red and gold, with red lanterns too. We had a lot planned for the day, so we didn’t look around inside. Instead, we decided it was time for our first experience of the Tokyo Metro!
Getting around on the Tokyo Metro
Wifi became very helpful once again for the Tokyo Metro because I could use the app, Citymapper to get directions. Unfortunately, I can’t promise to be a brilliant travel guide around Tokyo if you’re looking for the most cost effective options – I probably overpaid for the rides! The machines were pretty easy to use though. All you have to do is choose the name of your station and it will print a ticket. Finding the train was also straight forward and soon after we arrived at our next destination…
Highs and lows of Tokyo Tower
To get a little bit closer to Tokyo Tower after leaving the Metro, we had to walk through a very dark park. No one was around and we were starting to worry that Tokyo Tower wouldn’t be open. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed when we finally reached it – it was just like so many other towers. To me, it seemed like a small version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but maybe the view from a different side, or even from a high point in the city, would have been more impressive.
Sightseeing at Shibuya
Despite being very tired, our first 24 hours in Tokyo weren’t quite finished! We took another train to the famous street crossing, Shibuya. It’s been on my bucket list forever and I could not leave Tokyo without seeing this crazy place! It’s one of the busiest intersections in the world, with crossings in almost every possible direction. The local people find it normal, but for me it was very exciting to see. While we were there, we also checked out the statue of Hachiko dog, from a touching story.
Eating dinner in Tokyo
It was getting late and we were hungry, so our last stop for the day was at Kawaii Monster Café. I thought it would just be a regular coffee shop, but after checking some reviews I found out they also serve food. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but even so I was still surprised by our experience!
After you a ride on the elevator, the massive doors open straight into the restaurant where the host welcomes you. You can choose which room you want to sit in – we chose the mushroom room but there were three others too. You have to see the interior decor to believe it! We felt like we were in a Japanese nightclub, not a cafe! The music was pretty loud and they had some girls dancing in the middle on a carousel. My favourite thing at Kawaii Monster Café was the super colourful bathroom.
Unfortunately, the food wasn’t amazing so if you visit, go for the experience first and foremost, although you do need to order something to be there. I recommend the rainbow pasta – it wasn’t too bad. After dinner we took a taxi back to our hotel to relax. It was Saturday, so we planned to check out some Tokyo bars… but we fell asleep!
Day Two: Sightseeing in Shinjuku
Views from the Gouvenat Building
The next day we tried to sleep in as we had an overnight flight to Singapore at midnight. We didn’t manage though, so after checking out of the hotel, we left our luggage and walked to Gouvenat Building. It’s located near Shinjuku station in the business district, and from it you can see a panoramic view of the city for free!
The typhoon may have passed, but the weather still wasn’t great, so we weren’t able to see Mount Fuji but the view was still very pretty. Our walk next led us to Takeshita Street, which is a small shopping street with fashion boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
Starbucks at Shibuya
After those activities were ticked off, we had some spare time left, so we returned to Shibuya to see the crossing from a different angle. Nab a seat at Starbucks on the corner and you’ll have a prime view. Shibuya is also well known for shopping, with stores like Zara, Bershka, H&M and Forever 21. When our stomachs started to rumble, we chose some restaurants, which again was a bit hit and miss. The miss was the first two restaurants – one was closed and the second was… good question, because we couldn’t find it!
Ramen restaurant in Tokyo
In the end, we visited ramen restaurant, Ichiran Shibuya. You pay for your food in the vending machine and after you sit down, you choose what topping you want. Each table is separate and connected to the kitchen from the front, so it’s not the best place for a date. The food was amazing though, so that was definitely a hit!
Final hours in Shinjuku
The last couple of hours we spent exploring Shinjuku. Its an area full of bars, great nightlife, crazy restaurants with shows, like a robot cafe, a red light district and endless neon lights. It was a shame that we only got to Shinjuku on our final day – there was so much more to see! But for us, Hadena airport beckoned. This was much closer than Narita airport, so it was an easier journey.
I know I haven’t spent a lot of time in Japan, but my first impression from our flying visit was great. Tokyo was very unique in comparison to the other Asian cities I’ve visited. Sometimes I’d walk along the street thinking I was in Europe, while at other times I felt like I was on another planet! It’s a clean and modern city with a unique fashion sense, interesting themed cafes and vending machines everywhere.
Next stop: Singapore!
My biggest regret? Not eating authentic sushi and not seeing Mount Fuji. I’d better add those to my travel bucket list and head back one day! Especially when I take into account these four reasons to visit the mountains in Japan…
If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo or Japan, check out this guide on what to eat during your holiday to sample the delicacies, experience the culture and avoid disappointment.