Spending 10 days in Tokyo
October 27, 2012 4:10 PM   Subscribe

What are some good things to do in Tokyo next week? I'll be staying in Shinjuku, and would appreciate a bit of guidance as far as stuff to do.

I'm a 28 year old LA native, looking to get a good sense of what the city has to offer, esp. interested in art. I'll be traveling alone, so it'd be good to know about social meeting places in Tokyo.
posted by sp160n to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Which 10 days? November 3rd is Culture Day, which is freaking excellent. Harajuku might be good on Halloween.
posted by rhizome at 4:48 PM on October 27, 2012

You might like the Tokyo National Museum. Having some knowledge of Japanese art would probably help, but I enjoyed it without knowing anything about Japanese art (and while absurdly tired). It's in Ueno Park.
posted by hoyland at 6:55 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ah, I'll be there starting on the 29th, I forgot to say. So, that means Culture day can definitely make it. Looks excellent! Thanks for the tip.

I'll have to make the national museum as well.

Thanks rhizome and hoyland!
posted by sp160n at 7:35 PM on October 27, 2012

Ueno park, with its museums and zoo is just wonderful. The Tokyo Edo museum is also blast.

Definitely ask your guidebook for a traditional izakaya near your hotel.

If you've got a day to get away from the city, head up to Nikko for temples and architecture.
posted by colin_l at 8:01 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shinjuku's a good base camp for exploration. There are a lot of quirky dive bars and smallish cafes there, as well as more live music than you'll ever be able to find... I've met many strangers at such events, some of whom still put up with me to this day.

If you're at all of the geeky persuasion, spend a full day in Akihibara talking with the world's widest assortment of nerds, who speak a common language. And if you're attracted to All Things Strange, it's hard to beat Sunday in Harajuku. Half hipster Japanese, half googly-eyed foreigners. All weirdos, god bless 'em.
posted by rokusan at 8:26 PM on October 27, 2012

Response by poster: I'm totally of the geeky persuasion being an software developer. Any specific recommendations wrt Akihibara rokusan?

Thanks for the Nikko recommendation colin, sounds delightful.
posted by sp160n at 11:03 PM on October 27, 2012

A couple of not-so-famous but great museums are:
Museum of Photography http://www.syabi.com/e/contents/index.html
Hara Museum (in a cool art-deco bldg): http://www.haramuseum.or.jp/generalTop.html
21_21 Design Sight http://www.2121designsight.jp/en/

The whole triangular area in and around Shibuya, Harajuku and Omotesando Stations – you could spend 10 full days just here (for architecture, art and design, temples, cafes, interesting people, some posh areas, be sure to wander into the back alleyways)

Meeting places:
Shinjuku Golden Gai (tiny bars, great atmosphere)
Shinjuku I-cho-me (go out Exit D3 of ShinjukuNishiGuchi station, open restaurants and bars)
Advocates - a straight-friendly gay bar in Shinjuku, many English-speaking Japanese http://advocates-cafe.com/

Check out this website for events: http://metropolis.co.jp/

Have fun!
posted by ameca at 2:00 AM on October 28, 2012

Just one recommendation - we had trouble finding funky bars in Shinjuku but we ended up having a couple of crazy nights at the Bar Clover. We also got turned away for 'private parties' on a couple of nights, but I'd rate it worth a shot if you're looking to meet local folks or gain a wierd story.
posted by ftm at 8:22 AM on October 28, 2012

Your timing is quite lucky, as you can buy tickets for the Ghibli Museum for November. Tickets go on sale on the first of every month for that month (and the next 2 months). They generally sell out quickly. Get up early on Thursday the 1st and find a Lawson convenience store. Ask the person there to help you book a Ghibli ticket.

It's a nice time to visit Hakkone too, since you can see the classic Fuji-san with snow on top.
posted by nevan at 9:24 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice guys, much appreciated!
posted by sp160n at 8:47 PM on October 28, 2012

I'm more of a fan of Kamakura than Nikko for a day trip. For one, it's not quite so far, and another, Nikko is up north in the mountains. It's significantly colder than the Tokyo area. Kamakura will be roughly the same as Tokyo. Other than that, it's easy to get to, and cheap, at least for the trains.

If you like cooking, this might well be the 50th time I've recommended Kappabashi-dori, between Tawaramachi and Ueno. It's near Asakusa, and you could easily spend a morning in Asakusa, walk to Ueno with a pit-stop in Kappabashi, then make it to Ueno with plenty of time to check out the park or Ameyoko, which is basically an insanely crowded market selling all kinds of knockoffs you don't need. On the other hand, coming from Asakusa, and passing in front of Ueno Station, go under the train tracks and turn left. Go south on the road, and keep to the left where it splits at the Ameyoko Center Building. Maybe the next 'intersection' there will be a meat shop and a stall across from it (both on the left) selling Yakishoronpo, or grilled dumplings filled with soup. Usually, they are steamed, but a recent thing has been to grill them on a hot pan like gyoza. They are amazing, and also horribly dangerous. The soup inside is roughly 250,000 degress, and will cause your mouth to resemble a burn unit. Let them sit. Nibble a small hole into the top, let the steam escape. Even better, order two skewers of spicy lamb to eat while you wait. Later, after the dumplings have cooled, pick one up with chopsticks, gently so as not to spill the soup. Gently set it in the spoon, and set to it. You can catch the soup with the spoon to drink after you've eaten the awesomeness.

If you keep walking south, in about ten to fifteen minutes, you're in Akihabara. The deep dark secret of Tokyo is just how small it is. You can do a crazy amount of sightseeing without ever boarding a train. Harajuku blends into Omotesando on one side, into Shibuya on the other. Tokyo blends into Yurakucho, which blends into Ginza. With any decent smartphone, or access to google maps, it's impossible to get lost. If you do get lost, you can almost always just keep walking forward, and sooner or later, you will see a sign for the subway, or for a JR line. Once you've found one of those, you're no longer lost.

Other little things I like:

Sengaku-ji, the temple of the 47 Ronin. It's not just a fairy tale, it was real, and there's a temple that holds the graves of all of the people involved.

The izakayas under the train tracks in Yurakucho are awesome, and kind of a side of Japan that's not so easy to find these days. It's essentially where all the salarymen go after work to drink and munch on yakitori and such. Even if you're only there for people watching, it's great. I've never been, but I've heard good things about Shin Hinomoto, which is an izakaya run by a foreigner. The website says reservations are best, but it might be worth a try.

A little fun yakitori primer: try to eat some of the weird stuff. Buta-tan (pig tongue), kashira (...uh... pig face meat...), harami (diaphragm) and buta-bara (pork belly) are all awesome, but sometimes not standard. At the end of the meal, check to see if they've got any chicken soup (tori supu), because it's pretty hard to find better chicken soup than at a place where they break down dozens of chicken carcasses a day.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:06 AM on October 29, 2012

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