Tokyo, an exotic oriental oasis known for its modern skyline, ancient (literally) history and vibrant culture. When planning a trip to such a locale, it’s overwhelming to decide what to take in during your stay. It has enough restaurants, stores and attractions to keep you busy for weeks, but which should you take in?
Look no further than this list of a few of Tokyo’s must-see amenities.
When you think of Japanese food, you might assume it’s all variations on sushi and nothing more. You couldn’t be more wrong. Tokyo’s cuisine is unlike any other. In addition to having an acute attention to detail, the amount of options when it comes to food is nothing short of overwhelming. There’s something for everyone, whether you want to spend $10 or $100. Some of the best places are found in the large food courts found beneath shopping centers. These expansive dining rooms have seemingly endless options.
If you’re looking for something a little nicer, check out the restaurant that was made famous in the movie Kill Bill, Gonpachi Nishiazabu. In the movie, Uma Thurmond’s character killed several underground criminals in this restaurant. Unfortunately, Gonpachi Nishiazabu wasn’t actually in the movie, but after director Quentin Tarantino visited the restaurant, he made an exact replica of its dining room to film the scene in Hollywood.
Pop culture aside, the food at Gonpachi Nishiazabu is really quite good. It has many options for more adventurous eaters and the portions are surprisingly shareable.
Did you know that Tokyo has the world’s busiest subway system? Every day, more than six million people use this public transit system. The sheer volume of riders is intimidating, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing this innovative mode of transportation. Although very busy, the subway system is sprawling. It’s 14 lines cover 882 stations, all of which run quickly and with little error. Stations can be chaotic, but the trains are known for being clean, comfortable and, most importantly, timely.
If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, take the bullet (“shinkansen”) train to Kyoto for some fresh air. On your way, enjoy the stunning views of Mount Fuji. Please note that train etiquette is very important. Line up in an orderly fashion with the other riders and do not use your time on the train to talk on the phone, eat or hold loud conversations. When in doubt, do as the Japanese do.
This might surprise you, but the after-hours scene is Tokyo is nuts. There is so much to do and only so many hours of the night! Karaoke bars are one of the most popular places to visit, but there are dance clubs and cocktail bars, and a surprising amount of strip clubs.
If nightlife is your thing, check out the Roppongi district. Here, you will find the who’s who of models, foreigners, celebrities and young locals. They gather in Roppongi to drink, dance and date. It’s a busy place, but if you don’t mind the crowds and are willing to pay cover charges, then it’s worth a visit.
Consider a Tokyo hotel in Roppongi to make your walk home after a night of partying a little easier.
Really, fireworks? Yes, really. Granted, fireworks are detonated in nearly every other part of the world, but not like in Tokyo. You may not realize this, but fireworks are a major part of Japanese culture. They have been using fireworks to celebrate for centuries and, as a result, have hundreds of incredible firework shows throughout the year. These shows typically take place in summer, but that doesn’t keep them from creating elaborate displays to celebrate the new year and cherry blossoms.
Going to a Kabuki show is a true Japanese experience. These plays, which began in the 1600’s, are typically dramas performed by all men. They paint their faces bright white and apply colorful makeup. In some cases, they wear detailed masks.
During the play, the actors use dance, mime and music to tell their stories. This style of expression is truly unique to Japanese culture and was recently added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Cherry Blossoms (Sakura)
Every spring, millions of cherry blossoms bloom on thousands of trees that line Tokyo’s rivers, streets and parks. The unspeakable beauty of the cherry blossoms is fleeting—they’re usually in bloom the last week of March and the first week of April. If you want to see them, plan your trip well in advance.
Tokyo is a magical, surprising place. It is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, yet it’s modern amenities and entertainment are entrapping. This city has so much to offer, far beyond what was covered on this list, and is a must-visit for any curious traveler.
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