Must-see and must-do in Tokyo!
May 1, 2006 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Must-see and must-do in and around Tokyo?

My wife and I have an idea about the basics... like Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Harajuku, Ueno, Odaiba, and Ginza. We also want to plan some nature-ful day trips to break up the intensity of the city: Kamakura, Hakone, and Nikko. Also we're staying at a little ryokan in Asakusa.

We've been to Kyoto before, and we speak passable Japanese. We're going to be in Japan for 7 days, and we want to make them COUNT, but still be relaxed and have fun, so...

From all these areas (or any others you can think of) what are the MUST see and do for gaikokujin visiting the Tokyo area for the first time?

Also - all guidebook and website recommendations are greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance. :)
posted by blahtsk to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Travel to Japan has been widely discussed on AskMe, so you should click that Tokyo tag up at the top.

You might want to check out TokyoQ for things to do. My fave guidebook is Kodansha's Gateway to Japan (I think there's a Gateway to Tokyo, too).

I wouldn't try to cram too many day-trips in. Nikko and Hakone (see the sculpture museum, try to stay at 箱根太陽山荘 (Hakone Taiyo Senso) if you make it an overnighter) would be pushing it. Especially if you're trying to be relaxed.

If there's a shrine flea-market while you're there, check it out. Visit the Ota Museum in Harajuku, and then go next door to La Foret for maximum old/new contrast.

As much of a technophile as I am, I think Akihabara is kind of boring. I'd rather visit Kappabashi (near where you're staying) and gawk at the plastic food and incredible array of highly specific commercial-kitchen suppliers.
posted by adamrice at 2:58 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

As I live in Tokyo, it's hard to say what you Must! See! in just a week here, but I will second adamrice's low assessment of Akihabara. It's more anime stores and maid cafes than cool electronics stores by this point, and I suspect you will be disappointed if you go out of your way to visit there. However, if you really are looking to take it easy, you can get off the train in Akihabara and walk either to Ueno or west along the river to the Tokyo Dome area, both of which I find to be enjoyable strolls.
posted by donkeymon at 3:22 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the suggestions - adamrice, I did check previous posts, none of them were as specific as what I am looking for.
posted by blahtsk at 4:11 PM on May 1, 2006

I'm off to Tokyo and places beyond myself in a few days, so I'll be eagerly watching this thread myself - even though I've already gone over the archives here for some great ideas.

These are some sites I've used extensively in pre-trip planning:
for food reviews for even more food reviews forums for general discussion
Tokyo Art Beat for arts events for maps of the 'cool' districts
The Tokyo Underground Guidebook for tips on gangster rap barber shops and cat-petting shops,, and Japan Live to bring the rock
Metropolis Visitor's Guide for general info
And Seldom Asked Questions for answers to questions I never would have thought to ask

Also, you don't say when you're going, but I arranged my trip around the weekend of May 20-21, as there is both one of Japan's largest festivals (Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa) and Design Festa, which appears to be the most insanely huge art event ever.
posted by Gortuk at 4:26 PM on May 1, 2006 [4 favorites]

Eat ramen.

You seem to have Tokyo covered. Apart from those stops, I guess if you have the time you could either hop on the Keio Inokashira Line and head north from Shibuya or the JR Chuo Line and head west from Shinjuku to Kichijoji, which is an area with a homey feel that I love that's got tons of places where you can shop and eat, and there's also a big park with boats. And even a little zoo in the park.
If you take the Inokashira Line, you can also stop by Shimokitazawa, which is also an interesting area with lots of small clubs (as in where indie bands play nightly), and zakka stores.

Not Tokyo, but Yokohama is also a lot of fun if you have the time. I don't know where you're from, but it's got a huge Chinatown that's worth a visit. Also not Tokyo, but if you're really bored after all these areas, you could go to Disneyland in Maihama, Chiba. If you enter after 6:30 pm (or thereabouts) it's a lot cheaper than the regular day passes, and you can stick around until about 10 pm (I think).
posted by misozaki at 5:04 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

The Tokyo Fish Market is very cool.
posted by webtom at 5:31 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have been to Tokyo many, many times and usually my favorite thing to do in that city is shop. Shibuya has the best little shops and stationary stores. It is also the best place to go if you like singing karaoke with random Japanese college students (they will crash your booth if you let them).

I like Akihabara, especially if I am looking for something specific like a game or an electronic dictionary. If that isn't your thing, a few blocks over is Jimbo-cho which is known for its many bookstores.

Asakusa is a tourist trap, but it has a few hidden treasures. If you look hard enough you will find shops representing traditional artisans. It also has an NHK shop where you can get all of your Domo-kun related gear.

Meiji Shrine is worth a visit. Its train stop is conveniently in Harajuku. If your timing is right you can check out the costume kids on your way over to the shrine. Several sumo stables are also in the immediate area and they might be worth a look if you are a fan.

You can skip most of Omotesando if you aren't interested in stores you could find in Kyoto. However, it also has a fantastic toy store called Kiddy Land. Yamashiroya in Ueno is another great toy store.

If you like studio Ghibli check out the museum in Mitaka. They might be selling tickets on site now, but you can buy them in advance from a ticket kiosk in any Lawson.

If you must take a side trip go and see Kamakura and Hase. You've probably seen plenty of temples in Kyoto, but the gardens and the ocean views are quite relaxing if you want a break from Tokyo. There is also the Daibutsu and the most depressing temple ever, Hase-dera.
posted by Alison at 6:20 PM on May 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

I second the Ghibli museum, but if your time is limited it may be a bit out of the way.

Akihabara (all the cool kids call it Akiba now) has gotten pretty ridiculous and touristy now, but there are still some great and weird shops if you wander past the main drag, and you can always go into the new giant Yodobashi Camera on the other side of the station if you want to have your soul crushed by salesmen shouting from megaphones while sitting on ladders, or if you want to check out their selection of 100 kinds of EVERY ELECTRONIC PRODUCT. The prices aren't so great if you don't have a point card though.

I second Shimo-kitazawa too, it's close to Shibuya, and its hard to find any place there that's NOT cool, but go on a Friday or Saturday nite for the best atmosphere.

Koenji on the JR Chuo line is similiar, but a little more spread out than Shimo is.

I think the current MUST-SEE in Tokyo is Tokyo City View in Roppongi Hills, during sunset, on a semi-clear day. You also get admission to the excellent Mori Art Museum, and arguably the best theatre in Tokyo is right there too if you wanna get off your feet and watch a movie that's already been released on DVD in the States.

If you want to find any of the places on any of the excellent sites GorTuk recommended, you need The Bilingual City Atlas too.
posted by ejoey at 7:45 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

What can I add to all that's been said...other than remember to use the Yamanote Line, which is Tokyo's big loop line. It'll get you to the main places--Shinjuku, Shibuya (from there you can go to Shimokitazawa and Yokohama), and Ueno (kinda boring, really, but has Sensoji Temple, which all tourists end up at eventually).

Roppongi Hills is a very upscale shopping area, with the Mori tower--mentioned previously--as its center.
posted by zardoz at 10:21 PM on May 1, 2006

I liked Kichijoji and Inokashira park. Daikon Yama. Shimokitazawa (at night/dusk). Kamakura is a great place to bike around and see the temples/shrines. Enoshima is a beach town near Kamakura. Odawara has a castle and is on the way to/from Hakone (by train). Kanagawa Prefecture has a lot of interesting stuff to see and do.
posted by shoepal at 11:47 PM on May 1, 2006

That's "Daikanyama" ne. "Daikon" janai-yo! : )
posted by misozaki at 12:13 AM on May 2, 2006

Sumimasen, I should have caught that. Domo arigato gozaimashita, misozaki.
posted by shoepal at 12:50 AM on May 2, 2006

Thanks for all the tips! You guys rock.
posted by blahtsk at 5:31 AM on May 2, 2006

Recommended: a great book by Rick Kennedy called Little Adventures in Tokyo. One of the best adventures is available online:">A Walk Through Old Tokyo.
posted by Rash at 8:58 AM on May 2, 2006

Dog-gone it, how did that happen? Here's the link: A Walk Through Old Tokyo.
posted by Rash at 9:00 AM on May 2, 2006

I second the walk through old Tokyo. I really enjoyed that area.
posted by shoepal at 3:31 PM on May 2, 2006

See also: Foot-loose in Tokyo
posted by shoepal at 3:32 PM on May 2, 2006

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