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Shibuya has evolved into one of my favorite places in Japan. It has everything. If you want lights and sounds, it has that. If you want a mass of Japanese humanity, it has that too. It has Hachiko. And the video screen from “Lost in Translation.” And the Starbucks where you can people watch. Karaoke. Bars. Western food. Everything. It’s a great place to meet someone if you want to go out for the night.
Harajuku is one of my favorite places to visit, and it’s good for seeing during the day. I actually ended up live streaming my walk through, so I don’t have as many pictures as I’d like but you can find a large number of them on Google Images.
Harajuku is a fun place to visit with lots of quirky Japanese people mixed in with tourists, including Japanese. Nearby Yoyogi park is famous for people watching as the cosplayers, the goths, the rockabillies, and pretty much everything else is put on display. There is shopping, places to eat, and fun activities like The Kawaii Monster Cafe.
The Imperial Palace was one of the first places I visited in Japan, more than a decade ago. All I really remember was that it was a cool place to be but nothing that I’d really describe as “beautiful,” with the exception of the massive, carved stone walls. It’s worth visiting because of the historical value, and it’s close to Tokyo Tower so you can double up.
Don’t get me wrong, Yokohama isn’t bad, but…
There’s just really no reason to spend time there when Tokyo is 30 minutes away. If you find yourself there for business or to meet someone you’ll enjoy the city. It has some great sightseeing areas, shopping, a Chinatown that has what seems like a million Chinese restaurants, a baseball team, and reasonably-priced hotels.
It’s interesting because it has more of a modern feel than most of the older parts of Tokyo. Some of the “older” buildings are Western style in design, showing the somewhat younger age of the city. That’s also it’s downfall since most of what you see will be newer buildings, shopping centers, and designated tourist areas. What you won’t get is that overwhelmingly dense, neon experience of the major parts of Tokyo.
I was lucky enough to catch a baseball game which was a great experience, and they were just about to begin a flower festival which looks like it was going to be amazing. Which was nice. I really don’t have many pictures of the city but here is the Google Images page for Yokohama if you want to see more.
I actually got a cool video of a near grand slam at a BayStars game.
The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, while at the same time giving you something different from the typical shrine/temple experience.
The area is an entire village with preserved and restored buildings from different periods in Japanese history, and they mix everything together to give you a unique cultural experience that spans across a very long timeline.
There is also a focus on nature around the buildings. The surrounding trees really isolate you from the outside world and take you back in time. The place is kept up very well with the buildings taking the center stage and lots of older items for you to check out. Not much in the way of tacky tourism which is a nice break.
It’s a straight train ride west from Shinjuku Station, but then the park itself is a bit of a hike to get to, so try to figure out the buses if you can. The museum entrance is on the south side of the complex so you have to walk around the entire village from the train station to get to the entrance, then you do it all over again when you leave.
Game shops, maid cafes, arcades….it’s all in Akihabara. You can do some duty free shopping, check out the latest Mario, pick up a cosplay wig, hit the anime shop, then have lunch with girls in French maid outfits (but not really if you’re foreign).
Back in the day this place dominated a lot of the electronics and video game sales before the internet and Yahoo Auctions took over. It’s transformed itself somewhat, bringing in a lot of fun places to eat and sight-see, and is still one of my favorite places to walk around.
You’ll find literally hundreds of shops packed in from the flagship Sega arcade to the small shop run by some guy who specializes in some kind of extremely niche electronics. Pick any building and start walking up the narrow staircases to each floor and find some hidden gems you had no idea existed, or marvel at the complete spectacle of their sensory overload arcades. You can get lost for hours. Or show up at night and walk the streets and absorb the lights and sounds.
It’s also a good place to pick up some presents for family and friends back home, especially if you’re buying for younger boys. They sell just about every electronic gadget known to man and probably have the greatest selection of electronic toys in one space in the world.
Sensoji Temple is a great little area in Tokyo that I really didn’t discover until my last trip there. It’s your typical Japanese temple that has a walk-up lined with trinket stalls and other souvenir shops. If you want to combine culture with some great places to pick up gifts for friends back at home, this would be it.
The area around the temple has a lot of smaller places to eat that had lines out the door, the kinds of places that look like they have a famous item that everyone gets. And it’s just a short jump away from Sky Tree if you want to get an amazing view of the city.
Oh, how I love Nakano. I stumbled upon it while going to Broadway Nakano, the large retro/cosplay/whatever shopping center that’s there. While walking around I discovered an incredibly quaint little neighborhood area that just oozes Japan.
Broadway Nakano is a shopping complex that’s a bit past it’s prime, feels a bit lonely, but still survives. You will see smaller “Mom and Pop” shops selling mostly retro and otaku items. When you buy something it’s usually directly from the store owner. You’ll find things from your childhood as they were marketed in Japan, things like a Count Chocula figurine from the 80s or a Buzz Lightyear toy from a Japanese Happy Meal. It’s a fun place to walk around and if you find the right shop you’ll have five “WOW” moments within the first minute.
A lot of these things are sold on the internet today (Yahoo Auctions Japan) so there aren’t as many stores there as before and it’s not quite as relevant. But back in the day someone could walk in there and find their Mecca, similar to Akihabara.
When you are done with Broadway Nakano, start your walked back to the station down the left hand side. You’ll find an incredible amount of quaint and picturesque restaurants serving everything Japan has to offer. It’s one of my favorite places to stroll in all of Japan.
Finally, this is the home to the gallery of Takashi Murakami. He is the one who did the crazy pictures you see on the tops of the main pages of this website. He recently opened up a coffee shop in Nakano Broadway and you can buy prints and other merchandise there.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Deck is a great place to default to when you want a view of the city lights, plus it puts you in Shinjuku which is a pretty fun part of town. We went here, then we had some Peking Duck at a Chinese restaurant on the other side of the station. It’s a good start to a good night.
There are some disappointments, though. The glass was thick with lots of light, so it was almost impossible to get a clear picture with my mobile phone camera, which is what I prefer to use. There were often blurry results or you can see the light reflection on the glass. A lot. Like as in most pictures you take.
It’s hard to find the entrance. We finally asked someone walking by. We walked from Shinjuku Station and the building looked dark and closed since it was around 8 PM. We walked to the center part of the complex and found the sign leading to the observatory, but not without feeling like we were in the wrong area. And my gosh was it hot upstairs. Like sweating hot.
In the end I got some good pictures, and like I said it puts you into a nice part of town. Someone mentioned that the Marriott hotel close by had a higher observation deck with a better view and it’s free, so keep that in mind.
The Gonpachi Kill Bill restaurant is famous because it was in Kill Bill, the scene where Beatrix meets Gogo Yabari and the Crazy 88. You might remember it for the violence. Here is it again, in case you’d forgotten.
As with most movie locations it seems smaller in real life, but you will definitely recognize the overall look of the place from the movie. It’s very old and beautiful, worth seeing even if it weren’t part of Hollywood. The taiko drum performance is a nice touch. The food is standard izakaya items and the crowd is mostly foreign, but everyone seems to love seeing the pictures when I mention Kill Bill. The outside of the building and the courtyard in front are especially beautiful.
One quick note: The location is near Roppongi, a famous bar hot spot in Japan. You might be temped to finish dinner and walk over, but I’d only recommend it if you’re a young guy looking for a good time. It’s not a place to bring your wife, girlfriend, or family. It’s the preferred spot for military guys from around the world on short leaves and foreign scammers so things can get pretty wild on a moment’s notice.
Alcatraz E.R was a great place for me, probably because I like horror movies. The food is standard izakaya fare, but with a twist like drinks served in test tubes and menu items with drinks described with blood types. What it lacks in taste it makes up for fun.
About every 45 minutes they have a “jailbreak” where lights and sirens go off and people dressed like villains run around with fake knives. In the chaos I put my camera through the bars and took a picture in the darkness with my flash and when I looked at the screen I could see a clown with a knife heading up the stairs to our area. I realized he was coming to scare us and when I looked to the side he was already standing next to me, just staring close to my face…heh.
Not too expensive and not a set menu, so you don’t have to order a lot. But it’s fun, so, why not? We didn’t have reservations, just showed up on a weeknight and we were seated pretty quickly.
At one point Ginza had the most expensive real estate per square foot in the world (or so they claim). It’s a place where corporate Japan puts on it’s best show with flagship buildings and stores that has the feel of a Japanese Beverly Hills. At night you can get some beautiful pictures of unique buildings.
It’s not the most user friendly place in the world with pricey restaurants and bars, but you can hunt and find some reasonable places to hang out for a couple of drinks. The main area is only a couple of blocks so you can walk it pretty easily, and the location is close to Tokyo Station.
Ginza is also where you will find the Kabuki playhouse, a beautiful Japanese cultural experience that’s not to be missed. You don’t have to stay for the full show if it’s 6+ hours, most people don’t. Catch the show then after the sun sets walk the streets.
Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
Kawaii Monster Cafe is one of those unique, bombastic experiences in Japan that’s good for a photo op for your friends back home. It’s an explosion of color and cosplay with a limited food selection and mini shows that happen every 45 minutes or so.
The food itself is average, mostly cheaper offerings like pasta, salad, and beef strips. The total cost was about 4,000 yen each. The cake dessert is excellent, and I say that because most desserts in Japan are bland.
It’s a short walk from Harajuku station. You can start the day people watching then head over to Kawaii for some eats.
You can make reservations on their website. Maybe it’s for the evening, or maybe all day. We arrived without a reservation and waited about 30 minutes for a table.
Food, Fun, Shopping, Sightseeing
Food, Fun, Shopping, Sightseeing
Fun, Shopping, Sightseeing
Fun, Shopping, Sightseeing
Food, Fun, Sightseeing