Things to do near Tokyo in late January
December 10, 2018 10:27 AM   Subscribe

I will have 2.5 free days during the end of January in Tokyo after a snowboarding trip in Hokkaido (Niseko) and I'm looking for recommendations on any new and interesting things in the Tokyo area. Also seeking advice on a day trip like Kamakura during the winter time.

I've been to Tokyo several times, so I've done all the typical touristy things (Tokyo Tower, Harajuku, Kaminarimon, Robot restaurant, golden gai, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building etc etc). I do know about teamLab Borderless, so I'm wondering if there's anything new and interesting like that to check out? Art galleries and interesting creative stores other than typical Loft, Tokyu Hands, etc recommendations welcome.

I really liked Tsukiji when it was still around. I heard there was a rough transition into Toyosu, but is it even worth it as a visit? Is Sushi Dai still open in Tsukiji or can anyone recommend a sushi omakase experience similar to that I should check out?

I'm also thinking of a day trip that would be nice during the winter time, and I'm learning towards Kamakura/Enoshima. Any suggestions on an amazing restaurant in the area (solo and English friendly helpful, but I also know basic Japanese)? I might be onsen'd out but any recs still welcome.
posted by xtine to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Day trip-wise, I went to the ice festival near Kawaguchiko a few years ago and got amazing photos of ice sculptures and ice-covered buildings and trees. Kawaguchiko itself is nearly empty in winter time, has fantastic views of Mount Fuji and several strange and lovely museums - Kubota Itchiku's kimono-art (housed in a building and garden that's a work of art itself), the music forest museum, and the Muse Museum (dolls by a local artist - completely dreamlike), more than enough to fill a day. For tourist-cred, Aokigahara forest is just next door to the ice festival, and you can finish the day in an onsen.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:09 AM on December 10, 2018

I was in Tokyo this October, just a week after Toyosu opened. It was hands down the worst part of my whole trip. Utterly disappointing, stifling, lifeless, depressing... Don't waste your time.

On the other hand, the outer market area of Tsukiji is still there and Sushi Dai is still doing its thing. I had sushi omakase at a different, smaller, chiller, place in the outer market at the recommendation of my companion and now I can't remember the name but it was excellent. If you're curious I can dig the name up for you.

The thing I did that I'm really happy I got to on my visit was I attended a kabuki show at Kabukiza in Ginza. Obviously this is pretty niche and it's not new but it's definitely interesting! They have little subtitle devices you can rent for the show that display English, Japanese, or Chinese subtitles along with the performances - perfectly timed, I might add. My companion is a professional translator and we pretty quickly determined that the translation was really excellent and appropriate in tone. The feel of the event wasn't as formal as western opera but it was more formal than, say, a Shakespearean comedy. Not something you have to pack the really fancy clothes for but something to be tidy and nicely groomed for, as a form of respect. The granny in the seat across the aisle from me ate what looked like pb&j sandwiches during intermission. The performances were beautiful and funny and exuberant and cheesy and fun and precise. Would kabuki again.
posted by Mizu at 11:22 AM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Perhaps a left field suggestion, but for people who like theme parks, Tokyo DisneySea is considered among the best in the world.
posted by mmascolino at 11:24 AM on December 10, 2018

The Yayoi Kusama museum is pretty new and worth checking out if you're into modern art. It looks like tickets are no longer selling out immediately, but you'd still want to jump on that now if you're going in January.
posted by Gortuk at 1:20 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're going to Enoshima, then Enoshima-tei is a fun restaurant to stop at. It's perched on the side of a cliff, so there's a great view, and they entertain customers by throwing fish over the veranda, at which point a hawk will swoop down and catch the fish in mid-air. (Hawks will also try to steal your sandwich when you're on the beach in the summer, BTW.)

The nearby Enoshima Aquarium is also one of the best in Japan. And after Enoshima you can take the very charming Enoden tram that runs along the ocean all the way to Kamakura.
posted by Umami Dearest at 6:09 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, the outer market area of Tsukiji is still there and Sushi Dai is still doing its thing.

I will second the recommendation for Tsukiji Outer Market, it's still bustling, and there are plenty of good restaurants there. (But just in case anyone goes looking for it, Sushi Dai has moved to Toyosu, as it was previously located in Tsukiji's Inner Market.)
posted by Umami Dearest at 6:14 PM on December 10, 2018

As for specific Tsukiji recommendations, Uogashi Senryo does a very nice seafood donburi with the catch of the day served over a bowl of rice for around Y2500. Sushi Sei is quite reliable for their standard sushi lunch, around Y3500.
posted by Umami Dearest at 6:26 PM on December 10, 2018

time out has an English language tokyo edition and app
posted by brujita at 7:01 PM on December 10, 2018

Avoid the teamlab borderless exhibit on weekends. It was unpleasantly crowded, and for an exhibit that controls their ticket sales, allowing so many people in that you end up with hour long lines in dark, crowded hallways that aren’t even part of the exhibition (nothing to look at, nothing to do). Given the adds for it are all about a small handful of people in quiet contemplation, on the weekends, you’ve got a couple hundred people in each space. I’ve heard good things about weekdays.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:06 PM on December 10, 2018

We took the Shinkansen to Nagano to see Snow Monkey Park. It's a daytrip from Tokyo rather than in there itself, but I'd highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy photography.
posted by mippy at 4:50 AM on December 11, 2018

I've been to Enoshima in February and in December, and can recommend it as a winter day trip. There's a garden at the top of the island, the Samuel Cocking Garden (or Enoshima Tropical Plants Garden), which not only looks good even in winter, but also has an observation tower you can climb up for better views. Views of what? Well, on a clear day, excellent views of Fuji; on a cloudy day, beautiful, atmospheric sea views. Also, startling numbers of black kites, which don't care that it's cold and wheel about energetically.

There are a couple of ways to get there from Tokyo, but I wish to stress that the *right* way is to get to Ofuna (it's on the Tokaido, Shonan-Shinjuku, Negishi and Yokosuka lines) and then take the Shonan Monorail, travelling in the first carriage, as close as you can get to the front. As Umami Dearest says, the Enoden is a lovely way to get back again afterwards.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:40 AM on January 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I got back from my trip a few weeks ago and I'd thought to update this. I ended up just spending one whole day at Enoshima and skipping Kamakura, and it was worth it!! I took the train to Ofuna like ManyLeggedCreature mentioned to ride the monorail, and it was AMAZING. It really does feel a bit like a mild rollercoaster if you stand in front, so cool. I missed enoden but I'm sure I'll be back at some point to do that later.

The Enoshima area itself was quite nice and there weren't too many people because it was cold and windy. I made sure to have a shirasu-don (delicious), and also a fresh tako senbei which seemed popular with tourists. Unfortunately it was so windy a part of mine broke off, but I did buy several packaged tako (and also shirasu) senbei as gifts and they also taste pretty good.

Went up the Sea Candle at Samuel Cocking Garden and got a clear view of Fuji-san!! The overall view even if Fuji-san is overcast is worth it. I opted to pay for the lazy escalator up, but I didn't realize that it wasn't actually that many steps up. I would not pay for it next time, and there is no escalator down anyways.

Visited Enoshima aquarium and was blown away, so good. Also for those that watch Terrace House this is the one they tried to visit, lol. But uhhh they also have capybaras, which I guess many aquariums in Japan randomly have, which are one of my favorite animals. YOU CAN FEED THEM FOR 300Y!!! Also during feeding time you have ample chance to pet and hold. Amazing.

Oh and I also did have sushi at a random joint in Tsukiji outer market. Like others mentioned, it's still totally worth to go see and there are many fish/seafood stalls and restaurants around.
posted by xtine at 2:54 PM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

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