The Unwritten Guides: Tokyo’s best neighborhoods

This is the Tokyo you always hear about. The technicolor, tech kaleidoscope of anime, manga, video games and bright lights. The crowds of people you have to navigate through, and without a little patience, can leave you feeling flustered and overwhelmed. The bursts of noise escaping from the pachinko game centers as you pass by, the constant flurry of things demanding your attention. 10x more electric than New York, yet just a few subway stops away you will find a street lined quietly with yellowed books practically inviting you to peruse for awhile. The existence of these different realities make the city all the more dynamic, like an intriguing stranger you are always one question away from figuring out. 

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Before arriving to Tokyo with my boyfriend last September, I had many ideas of what it would be like. I expected bright lights and huge buildings. I expected bustling streets and a teched-out population. I expected the stereotypes you hear about, and I also expected nothing at all. I was aware of how little I actually knew about the city and the culture, and I was ready to just go and see it for myself, absorbing however much of it I could. Turns out, some of my ideas about Tokyo were correct, and there was much more that I could never have expected at all (as it usually goes with travel..). I encountered bustling crowds and tall buildings, the flashing lights of billboards and the blaring sounds bursting out of the city’s famous gaming centers. But I also saw many other sides of the city. Areas with endless stretches of impressive concrete and massive skyscrapers extending upwards all around that were as quiet as a miniature Dutch suburb. There were the cutesy areas with boutiques and traditional eateries. There was the student neighborhood with yellowed books lining the sidewalks, and I know what I saw was just the tip of it.

These many faces of Tokyo are what I want to explore today in this basic, straight-to-the-point guide to some of Tokyo’s most interesting neighborhoods. I will share my favorite finds and general impressions of the neighborhood as well as some general tips and things not to miss in Tokyo overall. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I don’t claim to be any sort of expert, but I hope it can serve as a good starting point if you’re planning a trip to this dynamic city, or a little dip into the waters if you just want to know what it’s like.

*Fun tip:

Wherever possible, I made my links Google maps links so that you can save/star the places on your maps for easy reference when you’re out and about exploring. If you want, you can do what we do when we travel and color code your saves to make things easier. Google gives each label their own color (i.e. Pink = Favorites, Green = Want to go and Yellow/Starred = Starred Places) but we like to co-opt their labels, giving them our own meaning when we travel (i.e. Pink = hotel,  Green = food, Yellow/Starred = coffee spots, or something like that). This may already be a no-brainer for you, but hey, it’s the little tips that can make all the difference when you’re traveling sometimes!

Without further ado, your guide to some of Tokyo’s best neighborhoods..

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Kikukawa

This was the area we stayed in. Situated within the larger Sumida district, Kikukawa is a quiet, largely residential (or so it seemed) area of the city with long blocks and nondescript buildings. There wasn’t much going on here but it was a relatively cheap and central place to stay in the city with good metro access and connections.

Worth putting on your list:

Nothing stands out here in particular for me to be honest, but there’s plenty to check out in the Sumida district, so read on..

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Sumida

Sumida is a large district in the north-eastern section of the city famous for sumo and a more traditional, old-Tokyo vibe. Amidst the more traditional feels are new skyscrapers going up left and right. Here is where you’ll find the Skytree tower — the tallest building in Japan (a great, if expensive, place to get a 360-degree view of the city) — as well as old bathhouses and the Edo Tokyo Museum.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Tokyo Skytree Tower: We went inside but decided we didn’t want to pay the 15 euros to go all the way to the top, but if you have the time and the budget, I think this could be a great way to get a sense of the scale of the city.

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

  • Bathhouses: Sumida is full of old – and new – bathhouses or onsen if you feel like a traditional Japanese experience or maybe if your hostel has a shared bathroom you’d rather not use. Mikokuyu is supposed to be a good one as well as Daikoku-yu.
  • Sumo: Head to Ryōgoku within the Sumida district for all things sumo. Ryōgoku is home to Ryōgoku Kokugikan, the famous sumo arena where huge 15-day events are held in January, May and September each year. Apparently, tickets go on sale a month before and, for being a popular event, aren’t that hard to get if you plan on being there during those times. Otherwise, a visit to the sumo museum (housed inside the Ryōgoku Kokugikan) could be an interesting way to spend an afternoon!
  • Edo-Tokyo MuseumIf (when!) we ever make it back to Tokyo, visiting this museum will be high on my list of things to do. The Edo-Tokyo Museum offers visitors a look into Tokyo’s past, showcasing what life was like during the Edo period (1603 to 1868) through replicas, model towns, old vehicles and items and more. (Fun fact: Tokyo was called Edo until 1869).
  • Wandering the small alleyways: The Sumida district is a mix of old, traditional Japanese houses and new-age, modern buildings. Take some time to wander around the neighborhood and embrace the contrasts.
  • From Afar: This stylish coffee bar is supposed to be another example of old meets new. Housed in a former timber warehouse, the space looks charming and cozy, and I hear it is a great place to stop for a coffee and scone as well as some beautiful looking traditional ceramics and tableware.
  • Ramen Marutama: A supposedly wonderful ramen place known for their chicken broth ramen.
  • Infinity Books Japan: A good second-hand English bookshop if you need some reading material for your flight.

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Chūō

Making up the East side of Tokyo’s heart, Chūō is a central district with the famous shopping neighborhood of Ginza at the bottom extending up to the Kanda river at the top. Since this was next door to where we were staying, we wound up in this neighborhood a lot looking for food and wandering around.  There were some good shopping centers and places to eat as well as a more business/office type vibe.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Unison Tailor: A lovely third wave coffee shop with great milk texture and some tasty filter coffees as well.
  • 鮒忠 人形町店 ( A local Izakaya Restaurant): This is a really local lunch spot where businessmen and women go on their lunch break for a quick and tasty bite. We discovered it by chance walking around and ended up going back a couple times. This place is budget-friendly and you get a lot of bang for your buck. Think rice, chicken or fish, soup, free tea and a cabbage salad side. Simple, good and filling. They don’t speak English so we just pointed to which lunch set we wanted on the board outside.
  • Ginza (?): I’m up in the air on this one. Although Ginza is a really famous shopping district in Tokyo that’s listed on all of the blogs as an area to check out, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about unless you’re into high-end brands and have some money to drop..(but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!)

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

  • Tsukiji market: If you’re into markets and want to witness one of the most famous fish auctions in the world, then put Tsukiji market on your list. Warning: it will take some planning and you’ll need to get up extra early. Here’s a handy guide to visiting the market if you’re interested.
  • Hamarikyu gardens: Originally tidal duck hunting grounds and a branch castle for the Tokugawa shogunate, the Hamarikyu gardens are a historic green space where you can relax within a traditional Edo style oasis in the heart of the city.
  • Cafe de l’Ambre: If you want a traditional Japanese kissaten (coffeehouse) experience, then head to Cafe de l’Ambre in the Ginza neighborhood. Here you will find hand-dripped, in-house roasted coffee prepared with the finest attention and served in beautiful ceramic cups. We went to a similar type of cafe in Kyoto and it was one of the highlights for me as a coffee lover, so I would highly recommend stopping by a kissaten before leaving Japan if coffee and/or cozy cafes are your thing. Check out this blog post to get a taste of the cafe and to hear from the 100+ (!) year-old owner about why he started the cafe and his coffee aging techniques – super interesting! This is top on my list of my places to visit when we return.

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Akihabara

If you are like me and have a techy Tokyo pictured in your mind, then Akihabara will satisfy all those fantasies. Here’s where you’ll encounter crazy tourists dressed up as Yoshi and Luigi scooting around in real-life Mario Karts (Yep, you heard that right. Just look at this.). Here’s where the towering signs and billboards will fight for your attention, where you can enter buildings filled with level after level of obscure anime, manga, video games and collector’s figurines, and where you will probably come across some otakus as well as many maid cafes (it’s a thing).This is a must-see neighborhood, even if, like me, your knowledge of gaming stopped right around the Mario Kart / N-64 period.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Mandarake Complex: This is a huge multi-level building filled with anime, manga, DVDs, video games, fan merchandise and so much more. We wandered the many levels and browsed the manga and anime to get a feel for this fascinating and (for us) foreign world.
  • Super Potato: Super Potato is another gamers paradise with a few levels full of old Japanese video games (think flashbacks to Atari, Sega, N-64 days), toys and collectibles. On the top floor, there’s a small arcade you can play in for awhile.
  • Honestly, just wander around: the whole area around the station and metro line (Chuo Dori street) to get a feel for the electricity of this neighborhood. That’s the best part!

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Shibuya

Shibuya is another must-visit neighborhood. Home to the infamous Shibuya Crossing, it’s here where you’ll witness hundreds of people crisscrossing the street at the same time in a dizzying – and shockingly – organized spectacle. The area around the crossing is another section of the city filled with tall buildings, bright lights and lots of shopping. After you make your way through the crossing, I recommend getting yourself a bubble tea and walking around. Oh, and it’s okay, let yourself be a tourist here. Stand with the other onlookers on the sidewalk taking photos, because you’ll definitely want to get this one for the gram. ;) Shibuya is also home to some good coffee shops, a huge park, art museums and boutique shopping. So, if you have time, you can catch that while you’re here too.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Shibuya crossing: As mentioned above, it is an impressive display of Japanese organized chaos. You have to go. Check out a preview below.

 

 

  • CoCo Tapioca: So it may be super basic, but stand in line with the locals to get yourself a tasty bubble milk tea. (For the uninitiated, the bubbles are little chewy balls of tapioca.). CoCo is a huge brand you’ll find all over Asia, and though I’m not yet a bubble tea connoisseur, I have to say I’m a fan. For first-timers, give the classic black or green bubble milk tea a try.

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

  • A stroll through Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu: Though we didn’t have time for it, if you have a morning afternoon to spare, a stroll through Yoyogi park and the Meiji Jingu (a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken) looks like a serene and green way to get into the day with a little bit of culture.
  • Freeman Cafe: Supposedly a great place to grab some lunch and coffee.
  • BUBBLES: If you want a taste of quirky, Japanese fashion,  this is a popular vintage shop run by a famous Japanese blogger. Think 80s and 90s kitsch and cutesy-ness.
  • Usagi: A good ramen shop.
  • Kaikaya by the Sea: A seafood restaurant with great reviews.
  • Streamer Coffee Company: A good place for a coffee or matcha break.
  • Little Nap Coffee Stand: Another good coffee place.
  • Yamatane Museum of Art: A contemporary art museum with a good collection of Japanese Nihonga artwork.
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Photo via nickgraywfu

Harajuku

Origin of the now world-famous Harajuku girl aesthetic, Harajuku is a bustling shopping neighborhood known for being a hotspot for the fashionable and boundary-pushing Japanese youth. While its reputation carries on, this neighborhood has changed quite a bit.  There are still some interesting and quirky shops, but not as much interesting style as there once was. I read a lot about this neighborhood and the “death of the Harajuku girl” before visiting. People say that you can still catch some unique Harajuku fashion in the district, but save some vestiges in the form of a few alternative stores clinging on, we didn’t encounter much intriguing personal style, which was fine in fact, because the idea of going to a neighborhood specifically to gawk at people didn’t sit right with me anyhow. If you’re interested in learning more about it though, I recommend reading this article on the Harajuku neighborhood of the 90s and its decline. The Harajuku girl scene aside, Harajuku is still worth visiting for its lively shopping street and funky cafes.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Cat Street: Unfortunately you won’t find any cats on this street, but you will find an abundance of trendy boutiques, vintage shops, upscale stores and international brands. As there is limited car traffic on this street, it’s especially good for a wander.
  • Takeshita Dori: This is the street that will greet you as soon as you exit the metro station. It’s full of bright lights and more exuberant shopping. It kind of reminded us of Seoul’s shopping centers, and indeed, you’ll find a handful of Korean beauty brands stationed here.
  • Omotesandō: Omotesandō is often referred to as the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo. It’s a long tree-lined street full of high-end brands and cafes. It stretches from Meiji Shrine to Aoyama-dori. Even if you’re not into high-end shopping, it’s a nice area to walk around. The street follows the Metro Chiyoda Line, when you’re looking for it on the map.

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

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Delicious Tempura Soba from a stall on Omoide Yokocho.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is another must-see area of the city. Home to the busiest railway station in the world, this is a major commercial and transit hub. Full of huge skyscrapers with colorful big-screens and tons of side streets to get lost in, it’s a great place to venture to at night for a meal in one of the atmospheric and tiny yakitori stands on Omoide Yokocho or to get a glimpse of Kabukicho, the area’s famous red light district.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Omoide Yokocho (also known as piss alley and what I refer to as the tiny yakitori street): This is a tiny alleyway housing a ton of even tinier traditional eateries serving ramen, soba, yakitori and more. It’s pretty touristy so be prepared for a lot of other non-Japanese people herding themselves through the narrow thoroughfare with their cameras, but even so,  it’s definitely worth a visit. Do a run through first to check out all of the stalls and see which ones pique your interest, and then prepare to get cozy for a tasty, freshly prepared meal.
  • Kameya: This is a really popular spot for tempura soba (as pictured above). We had to wait for a few minutes until there were some open stools at the counter, but it was well worth the wait. Watching the chefs quickly and expertly prepare this dish before our eyes was reward enough, not to mention, the delicious taste. Definitely go! Oh, and it’s cheap. :)
  • Kabukicho (the red-light district): Full of pachinko parlors, sex shops, hostess clubs, robot restaurants, seedy night-clubs – you name it – Kabukicho is an overwhelming, and, I feel, must-see experience. We didn’t spend too long here, just wandered around to see what it was all about, but prepare yourself for plenty of touts and crowds.
  • Golden Gai: The deal: this is a super cool area with tons of tiny bars, each decorated in a distinctive and interesting style. I was excited by the prospect of spending some time in a few of these bars until we kept seeing the fees posted outside for foreigners. Almost all of the bars, save a few, charge non-Japanese people an entrance fee (usually between 800-1000 yen, if I’m remembering correctly), and some simply don’t allow foreigners at all. When you peek into many of the pubs, you do get the feeling that you are spying or intruding on a very local experience, and I’ve read online that the fees and foreigner-bans in some of the pubs are there simply to ensure there is space for the regulars so I guess I can’t really complain, but it does feel a bit off-putting and discouraged us from enjoying any of the bars in the area.

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

  • Hanazono Shrine: If you’re in the mood for some culture whilst in the Shinjuku area, I read that this is a great Edo-era shrine you can explore to get a little break from all the madness. I also read that there is a good food market inside.

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Jimbocho

If you’re tired of the masses of people and all that is modern and new, head to Jimbocho. This is Tokyo’s book district known for its plethora of bookstores and stacks of yellowed pages lining the sidewalks. Sources say the area boasts over 170 bookshops, publishing houses and literary societies (!). We went there for a quiet afternoon, and I had fun perusing all of the old academic books, many with titles way over my head. Go for a coffee, chill and take in a more quiet side to this crazy city.

Worth putting on your list:

  • All of these bookstores: Check out this guide and this guide to the best bookstores in Jimbocho. Those blogs did a better job than I ever could of describing the countless bookstores in the area. I recommend beginning your book journey at Jimbocho Station and branching out from there.

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

  • Sabouru Cafe: If you’re up for another traditional kissaten, head to this quaint and cozy one. Apparently, they also serve food if you need some sustenance.
  • Ramen Jiro: If you’re in the mood for some ramen, this is supposed to be a good option.

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Asakusa

Here is where you’ll find one of Tokyo’s most famous temples, Sensō-ji, the Historic temple to the goddess of mercy, according to Google. Asakusa is in the northern part of the city and used to be a famous entertainment district (read: geishas, gangsters, courtesans, writers, artists, etc., according to the Internet) but much of it was destroyed during WWII. We went there to see the temple and wander around for a bit.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Sensō-ji: This is Tokyo’s oldest temple, built in 645 (!). We went for a quick visit, and it was interesting for what it was, a beautiful Buddhist temple. Worth a look-through, especially if you’re in the area.
  • Nakamise arcade: This is the market that leads into the temple. A bit touristy, but still nice to check out.

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

  • Angelus: Another traditional kissaten with a wicked looking assortment of cakes and pastries. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood and in need of a sweet treat and some lovingly made coffee.

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Shimo-kitazawa

If you’re ready for some atmospheric wandering and window shopping on narrow and winding car-free streets, then Shimo-kitazawa is your place. With loads of vintage shops, third-wave coffee, bohemian music venues and local mom and pop cafes, it is the perfect place to while away a Sunday – or any day for that matter. On the day we went, the sun was shining and I had to fight the urge to enter almost every shop I saw. The quiet residential area around the shopping center is also a nice place to explore to get a taste of a calmer side of local Tokyo life.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Just wander: Strolling the shop, cafe, and venue packed streets is the best part – and main draw – of this neighborhood. All around the station, to the north and south (?), there are a lot of meandering avenues inviting your attention. Check out this guide for some great vintage shopping and food spots, but honestly, you will run into so many on your own that you don’t even really need a guide, self-discovery is more rewarding anyhow!
  • Shimokitazawa Cage: This is a temporary event space under the train tracks near the station where you can find markets, art events, or an open space with chairs and tables for chilling, depending on the day. When we were there, there was a little pop-up market with clothes and other goods.

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

  • Coffea Exlibris: A nondescript, and, supposedly, no-nonsense coffee shop known for their single-origin coffees.
  • Bear Pond Espresso: This coffee place has really high rankings but I’ve also read a lot of critical reviews citing rude and snooty service and exorbitant prices. So maybe it’s worth taking a peek if you’re passing by and seeing if it strikes your fancy. The owner is famous for his attention to detail and his very specific pulling method; apparently he favors chocolatey, nutty-tasting espresso that he lets drip a little onto the side of the cup, a technique which he has dubbed the “angel stain”.
  • Mois Cafe: A cute cafe made out of a converted house with lots of dark wood paneling and charm. They have, coffee, tea, food and drinks.
  • For live music, especially rock and punk: I read Fever, Shelter and Garage are good spots to check out.
  • Suzunari: A converted theater housing lots of tiny bars. Sounds pretty cool.
  • Honda Theatre: According to Tokyo Cheapo, this area used to be known for its collection of small theaters built by former actor, Kazuo Honda. Honda Theatre is still one of the most famous where you can catch some local Japanese theatre.
  • Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory: I’m really sorry I missed this place. It’s just what it sounds like, a little cafe that specializes in cutely designed cream puff creations. What’s not to love? It’s also located in the more quieter residential streets of the area, so you can get a little taste of that on your way.

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Ueno

Situated underneath the metro tracks, Ueno is the place to go to experience one of the biggest markets in Tokyo. It’s also the neighborhood to visit if you’re in the mood for some sushi. Surprisingly, sushi wasn’t as ubiquitous in Japan as I imagined it would be, with it being more of a take-out kind of food rather than a sit-down eating experience as we treat it outside of Japan. But Ueno was the place where we could easily satisfy our sushi cravings. I recommend grabbing yourself some conveyer belt sushi and exploring all of the little shops and restaurants underneath the metro tracks, and if you have more time, this area is also famous for its museums and cultural institutions as well as the Ueno park.

Conveyor belt sushi:

Worth putting on your list:

  • Ameyoko Market: This is a bustling market with lots to offer, from food to clothes to shoes and more. Definitely worth checking out, but be aware that it closes at 8 pm, which isn’t particularly early, but we ended up arriving around that time for dinner and didn’t have much time to explore.
  • O o edo Okachimachi North: This was the conveyor belt sushi restaurant we had dinner at. It was good and fairly priced. Nothing mind-blowing, but a solid choice if you’re hungry and don’t feel like waiting for Magurobito Okachimachi (see below).

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

  • Museums: If you are a museum enthusiast, this is the neighborhood for you. The Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, and the National Museum of Nature and Science are all jam-packed in Ueno Park for easy visiting.
  • Ueno Park: A large park with a zoo, the museums ^ , a shrine, walking paths, boat rentals and plenty of places to chill.
  • Magurobito Okachimachi Branch: So this is the sushi place that we originally wanted to go to, but when we pulled back the curtain to the small establishment, it was clear there was no space. The place looked really legit though; standing space only and a chef who looked like he wasn’t messing around. Try it out if you’re in the area and let me know how it was!
  • Sushizanmai: Another sushi place that looked good and affordable – as well as bigger than Magurobito Okachimachi.
  • Confectionery of Niki Big Hall: I was really bummed this place was closed when we arrived because this is where you can buy all of the weird and wonderful Japanese snacks! From matcha Kit Kats to Pocky and more that I can’t even imagine.
  • Gourmet conveyor belt sushi Maguro-donya Miura Misaki-kou: Another conveyor belt sushi restaurant with reportedly good food at a decent price.
  • Galant: Another traditional Japanese kissaten. According to Savvy Tokyo, it’s a good representation of how cafés really looked back in the Showa era (meaning time stopped around 1979).
  • Usagiya: A famous traditional Japanese sweets shop known for their dorayaki (like a moist pancake stuffed with sweet azuki bean paste).

Chiyoda

Encompassing Jimbocho, Akihabara and more, Chiyoda makes up the heart of Tokyo and contains the expansive Imperial Palace complex and lovely Hibiya park. We didn’t have enough time to properly explore this area, but we did pay a visit to the park to check out a Japanese Oktoberfest for funsies. If we went back, I would definitely pay a visit to the palace and give the park a proper wander.

Worth putting on your list:

  • Hibiya park: With flower gardens, restaurants, a music hall, a library and more, this is a nice place to eat lunch and meander around for a while.

What we heard is good but didn’t have time for:

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General impressions, tips and things not to miss: 

  • Family mart for coffee, if you’re being cheap:

    Family Marts in Japan_Family Mart's High Quality in Japan_Family Mart Good Coffee in Japan_Tokyo Family MartSince we were doing Tokyo on a budget, we tried to cut corners wherever we could. One thing we discovered in taking this approach was the surprisingly high-quality of Japanese Family Marts. Seriously. We bought their basic, automated machine made iced coffees every morning and throughout the week we ended up looking out for the blue, white and green Family Mart sign whenever a coffee craving hit. Their pastries and snacks weren’t bad either. They certainly aren’t winning any awards, but hey, the quality for the price was impressive in my books. We ran across other tourists doing the same thing. But be warned: the Family Mart quality only held up in Japan. Once we got to Indonesia, we thought we’d try our luck again. Sadly, it just wasn’t the same.

  • Food quality: 

    As evidenced by the Family Mart anomaly, we found the food quality in Japan to be generally higher everywhere. We actually discovered this on our first night in Tokyo. We just arrived to our neighborhood after a long day of travel, almost nothing was open and we were starving. So when we came across a McDonald’s we thought ok, well, this is just gonna be it. We’ll order some cheeseburgers and call it a night. But after our first few bites, we both looked at each other in surprise. Wait a minute, this is actually.. not bad..what’s going on here? And it’s true, food quality everywhere in Japan just tends to be higher. After doing some quick Google searches, we discovered that this is probably due to higher food quality standards and the Japanese’s famous adherence to rules. While McDonald’s employees in America might brush aside many of the rules and regulations, apparently, in Japan, if the fries need to be tossed after 30 minutes, then they are tossed.

  • The toilets. I mean, can we talk about the toilets?:

    Japanese-Toilets_Toilets-in-Japan_Visiting-Japanese-ToiletsIf you haven’t heard by now, Japanese toilets are, for lack of a better phrase, where it’s at. From airports to movie theaters to restaurants, almost every public and private toilet we encountered came with its own full control panel offering various bidet options (front bidet, back bidet, different bidet angles!), sound options, HEATED SEATs, and driers that would pop out from within the toilet seat. I’m telling you, going to the bathroom in Japan is quite the experience and one I quickly became accustomed to. You’ll never feel so refreshed in your life, and you will inevitably start to wonder what’s wrong with the rest of the world. Why are we so behind in this undeniably important arena of life? Things to think about..

  • Politeness and reservedness of the people: 

    One of the Japanese stereotypes that turned out to be true is the politeness and also general shyness of the Japanese people. One place you notice this especially is in the metro stations. People line up quietly for the metro, and there is no pushing and shoving to catch a train, even at peak rush hour. People were also incredibly helpful on the streets. There were times when we were simply checking our route on Google maps and we had people stopping to ask if we needed assistance. A friend told us a story of a woman running across the street and nearly getting hit by a car simply to give them directions. Another thing we noticed is that while people are incredibly accommodating and helpful, they can also be quite shy and reserved. One reason I suspect this is the case is because of the language barrier, as most Japanese people don’t speak much English. Outside of Japan, we met a lot of outgoing, kooky and delightful Japanese people, but within Japan, we found it more difficult. While very kind, they kept to themselves.

  • Get all your weird Kit Kat and Pocky flavors while you can:

    Kit-Kat-Flavors-Tokyo_Japanese-Kit-Kat-Flavors_Japan-Kit-Kats-TokyoOne last little tidbit that you’ll want to keep your antennas up for while in Tokyo, is all of the strange Kit Kat and Pocky flavors available. From matcha to grape to adzuki bean Kit Kats, there’s much more to try than your standard chocolate and white chocolate varieties. Also, Pocky, for the unaware, are wonderful little snack sticks coated in different flavors. I recommend buying a few for the plane ride back. I particularly enjoyed the grape and matcha Kit Kats and Cookies & Cream pocky sticks.

  • Don’t forget to check out Japanese cosmetics and skincare:

    Oh, and last but not least, if you’re into makeup and skincare, then do yourself a favor and explore Japanese drug stores. Not only do they have some of the best sunscreens in the world (like this one), they have superior makeup for affordable prices. Here’s a starter’s guide to Japanese skincare and cosmetics so you can know which brands to look out for, especially since you won’t be able to read any of the packages. I personally picked up Canmake’s lip and cheek gel and am loving it.

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Have you been to Tokyo? What were your favorite parts of the city? Or, if you’re in the midst of planning a trip, let me know what you’re most excited or curious about in the comments!

> Check out more unwritten guides and travel vignettes.

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2 Comments

  1. Eric February 17, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Well done. Great review. You should do more of these…

    Reply
    1. esensky7@gmail.com February 17, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Thanks! That’s the plan!

      Reply

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