By Magalí Zaslabsky
A couple of years ago, when I was preparing my first trip to Tokyo, I decided to make a list, one that included the funnest things one should do while in Tokyo!
1.Try Pepsi Sakura
This is a seasonal thing to do, so if you visit Japan during the spring, you’ll see sakura or cherry blossom everywhere, and a cherry blossom drink is a must! It tastes a little bit like cherry and something I can’t quite define. But it’s worth trying one if you can!
2. Try mochi
The second thing you must try is mochi! Mochi is a rice cake originally from Japan, so Japan is the perfect place to try one. Personally, I find plain mochi a little boring so I prefer the fried mochi or the strawberry ones. In the Asakusa temple area there are many choices of mochi to try.
3. Purikura at Akihabara (photo booth)
You probably have heard of Akihabara, the trendy technological neighbourhood in Tokyo. There are many things you can do there, and one of them is purikura. It is basically a photo booth with cool effects. It can be lots of fun!
4. Conveyor belt sushi (kaitenzushi)
This list item could easily have been just, eat sushi. But to make it even more fun, why don’t you try conveyor belt sushi. There are many different options here, too. What we did was go to a mall while in Odaiba (I highly recommend you go to Odaiba if you can), and found this kaitenzushi place that was a kick. It wasn’t the best sushi that you can find (probably that would be an early morning sushi next to restaurants by the fish market), but it was worth trying it. You can find options for people, like me, that don’t even like raw fish!
5. Visit a temple
If you go all the way to Japan, you probably already know that you have to visit a temple. Personally, I think that Asakusa is a great option because you get to see the temple and also experience all the shops around it. It is a wonderful place to buy souvenirs and try some treats (like mochi!). It is algo good to keep in mind that it is very touristy and full of people all year long. So, you may want to find another temple if you’d like a more “traditional” experience.
6. Eat ramen noodles at Tokyo Ramen Street
If you like Japanese food, you already know that ramen is a must. But even if you don’t, I highly recommend you give it a try. You can get ramen everywhere, but if you are looking for a more fun experience, Tokyo Ramen Street at Tokyo Station is a great option to find some of the best ramen in the city. It is full of men in suits, lining up outside tiny restaurants. It’s worth the wait!
This should have probably been at the top of my list. Having lived in South Korea, I had experienced noraebang (the Korean version of karaoke), so when I was writing the list I probably wasn’t as excited about this one. But I love karaoke! And it is a lot of fun. Even more so if you are traveling with company. The place we went was in Akihabara (it is full of options there), but you can find them all over the city. In our case, we didn’t pay for the time, like one usually does in South Korea, but instead we ordered drinks and the time for karaoke came with the drinks purchased.
8. Every day try a different drink from a machine
Talking about drinks… this one was a personal must for me. I love to try drinks when I visit different countries, and in Japan, this was particularly important. You’ll find drink machines everywhere. Literally, everywhere. From poorly lit alleys to metro stations, buildings and malls, the Japanese like to get drinks. This one in the photo below was an electronic machine that I found in a metro station. My goal was to try at least one drink every day, and I succeeded!
9. Buy one thing from a gashapon (gacha-gacha machine)
Before going to Japan I didn’t know the name of these machines, but I knew I wanted to get something from them. There are many different things you can get. From sushi keychains to your favourite manga character, the gacha-gacha machines are a very important thing to experience in Japan. You’ll see them everywhere, but Akihabara has an incredible number of gashapon, so if you decide to go there, it’s a great place to find one that you’ll like.
10. Visit a manga shop
One of the things that characterizes Japan is manga. Most of us have grown up liking or knowing some manga or anime. In my case, I am a very big fan of Sakura Card Captor. And when you are in Japan, even if you don’t want to, you are going to see many manga shops and merchandising in your path. This particular shop is in Akihabara.
11. Find the eye of Shinjuku
As you’ve probably heard before, Shinjuku is known as the world’s busiest transport hub in the world! And one of its most distinctive features is the famous ‘Eye of Shinjuku.’ This photo I took at the station isn’t actually the Eye of Shinjuku. The actual eye is pretty hard to find if you aren’t looking for it. It is located next to the JR location in the basement of the Subaru building (and if you want to find it, it’s better to follow directions).
12. Cocktail at Tokyo Park Hyatt
This gorgeous hotel is actually where the movie Lost in Translation was shot. The New York Bar has live jazz music many nights a week and most importantly, it has one of the best views in town. Their cocktails are very tasty and they also have one of the largest Japanese whisky selections in the city. If you can make it to this wonderful bar at night, you won’t regret it.
And as a bonus, I would like to add to the list a visit to Odaiba and the Fuji TV building. The views of the city are amazing from there and it is a great excuse to visit the island. Even the train that took us there was very cool. And the views at sunset are beautiful, it is a whole different way to see the city.