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Figured I’d switch things up with a Japan-related prompt every so often.
Although this question certainly isn’t any easier!
It’s hard to just pick one place, but there is one clear choice here.
You’re probably going to end up here anyways if you visit Japan, as most flights lead to Tokyo. And honestly, Tokyo is amazing. It’s got (almost) everything one could possibly hope for, all within distance of public transit. Parks, zoos, aquariums, restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, malls, et cetera. I could easily spend an entire trip to Japan in Tokyo and have no regrets.
In total, I’ve spent maybe a month and a half there, and I can’t wait to go back. This year will actually be the first year in three years that I won’t be in Tokyo during the cherry blossom season, which is a shame, but that brings me to some sub-recommendations as Tokyo is obviously a very big place to visit! (In no particular order).
A short walk from Omote-sando station, which is in Shibuya, you can find Tonkatsu Maisen Aoyama. This restaurant has the best, melt in your mouth tonkatsu I ever had in Japan. I’ve had both the tonkatsu teishoku and the tonkatsudon and both are excellent. I will always visit here at least once when I’m in Tokyo. Great tonkatsu.
Also, as an aside, if you enjoy coffee, there are a lot of small specialty cafes in the area. I don’t drink coffee, but my friends did, and they loved this area for that.
This one is a little broad, but Kiba has some nice aethetics and places to check out. Kiba Park is a fairly big park that’s nice to walk through, and it’s very beautiful during cherry blossom season. It’s just north of Kiba station. The main road the station is located on has a lot of shops and restaurants as well. And there’s an Ito Yokado mall nearby that you can check out. As you walk south of the station you’ll be able to walk along the many waterways, as that part of Kiba is made up of a bunch of artificial islands.
Personally I just love the area in general since I stayed there for several weeks. If you just want to walk around it’s a nice area, and it won’t be as crowded as areas like Shibuya. Not far from Kiba is also Odaiba, which has several large malls, the giant Gundam statue, a mini statue of liberty, and a nice view of the Rainbow Bridge.
Speaking of parks, here’s another great one. Yoyogi park is really neat because you go from the busy city to this quaint park. It’s great to walk through, is several degrees cooler than the city in the hot summer, and there’s also a beautiful shrine, Meiji Jingu, there. Worth a visit.
I’ve never been to the Tokyo Tower, but I have been to Shibuya SKY, which is the rooftop of a very tall building located right next to Shibuya station. You can see the entire city from here, and once you’re up there, you can stay as long as you want until closing. Best time to go is in the late afternoon – you want to time your visit so that you can first see the city at daytime, watch the sunset, and then also see the city once it gets dark. It’s very beautiful and probably much more worth it than Tokyo Tower, as it’s taller and offers a much better view. On a clear day you can even just barely see Mt. Fuji in the far distance.
While you’re in Shibuya, a short walk from the station, past the famous Shibuya crossing, is Ichiran, a ramen restaurant that I think is a chain, but this is the only one I’ve been to. It’s the kind of place where you actually pay and make your order at a ticket machine, sit down, and then give your ticket to the chef. Great ramen, maybe not the best I’ve had as there were a few places outside of Tokyo that were also great, but really, you can’t go wrong with this.
The last time I was in Tokyo, I stayed in Asakusa for ten days, right around the corner from Senso-ji. There are some great places to visit in the area. First is the aforementioned Senso-ji temple. Second is the Tokyo Skytree, which, even if you don’t go up the tower, there is an entire mall and an aquarium located beneath the Skytree itself, and both are nice. There’s also a river between the Skytree and Asakusa station, so in nice weather I’d recommend walking from Asakusa station to Skytree, and walking along the river as there’s a park area there.
If you visit Asakusa, you may as well visit Ueno which is only two stops west of Asakusa station. Here there’s Ueno park, which is very beautiful and famous for it’s cherry blossom trees, and Ueno Zoo (be warned you have to book in advance and cannot buy tickets at the gate, or at least I couldn’t a year ago) which is attached to the park. Just south of Ueno station there’s also Ameyoko Shopping Street, which is a really neat street market area with plenty of shops.
Anyways, I could go on and on. These are just some of the places that I have fond memories of. And if you’re a planner, feel free to use these suggestions. However, if you prefer a more relaxed and less regimented trip, honestly you can’t go wrong with just going to Tokyo, opening Google Maps in the morning and searching for parks, zoos, malls, restuarants, et cetera and just picking some places to check out. Even just choosing a station, going there and walking around can lead to some neat little finds, like small shrines tucked away or interesting shops / restaurants.
I know many people plan like these two week trips to Japan, where one week is in Tokyo, and another is somewhere else like Kyoto or Osaka, but honestly I think you could easily spend an entire two weeks to even a month in Tokyo. Certainly one week is not enough, especially if you’ve never been there before.
My two cents is that if you’ve only got two weeks to spend in Japan and have never been to Tokyo, you’d be better off just enjoying Tokyo and all it has to offer than having to haul luggage around and take the (expensive) bullet train around to different areas. If you leave too soon you may end up feeling like you didn’t spend enough time there, and missed out on a lot that Tokyo has to offer. And you’ll have to go back to Tokyo for your flight out of Japan anyways.
I may have to revisit this prompt, except for answer it for Nagano, where I lived for two years. Because this was a nice trip down memory lane, and makes me look forward to my next trip to Tokyo. Not sure when it’ll be, but one of my friends there will likely be getting married late 2023 / early 2024, so we’ll see.
Finally, I’ll pass it off to you: have you ever been to Japan?
And if so, what place would you recommend? If not, would you like to visit?
Until next time,
Thanks for reading.