14 things you have to try in Tokyo
Big cities can be tricky to navigate at the best of times, but when you’ve only got a couple of days up your sleeve it can be even harder. Tokyo is full of unique, exciting neighbourhoods, and if you’ve only got a short window of time to explore, you’ve got to be organised. McKean Studio recently took a quick trip to Japan, to spend some time in Tokyo. If you’re planning a trip for yourself, here’s a list of what to do with just two days in Tokyo!
Wherever you’re staying in Tokyo, it’s likely that the subway will be your best friend while you’re in town. It’s easy to use (there’s a convenient app you can pre-download to make navigation even simpler) and well serviced – buy a full day pass and you won’t need to worry about replacement tickets during the day. You’re already on a time limit, you don’t want to waste precious moments fumbling through the ticket machine each time you want to catch a train!
The famed intersection in front of Shibuya Station is a great place to start your first day (and it’s right at the station, so you’re delivered straight into the action).
One of the biggest and busiest crossings in the world, the five way crossing surges with people in every direction as soon as the traffic lights turn red, giving it good reason for the moniker ‘The Scramble’. You can watch the action from some of the walkways throughout Shibuya Station, or for a different vantage point you can try and nab a second-story window seat at the Starbucks that directly overlooks the crossing.
Labelled a “Creative Life Store”, there’s really no better way to describe Tokyu Hands. Spanning eight floors in the Shibuya store, it has everything you could want to look for (and all of the things you’d never think to look for as well). DIY projects, stationery, books, crafts, outdoor goods… the list could go on!
Similar to Tokyu Hands, Loft has a huge assortment of products (but a little less of the craft-based DIY projects). Watches, accessories, homewares and a very fun display on the first floor for ‘seasonal’ displays are just a few reasons to stop by. Whatever the holiday next on the calendar is (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Christmas…), this is where you’ll find every festive item you could need to celebrate.
If you like your sushi with a side of novelty, then Genki Sushi is for you. Stop in for lunch that is fast, fresh, cheap and fun – ordered on iPad and delivered to you on a conveyor belt! This is a fun stop, with menus available in a variety of languages on the iPads. Some dishes even have a bonus ‘roulette’ game when ordering, which might result in a discount on your next meal, or a token to the toy vending machine at the front of the store – we’re now the proud owners of a sushi stamp after winning a spin!
Metropolitan Government Building
After lunch, it’s time to take in some views! There’s definitely no shortage of sightseeing locations around the city (Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree…) but when you’re short on time the last thing you probably want to be doing is queue. The Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku is a great option when you’re on a time limit and is also free. You’ll be whisked all the way to the 45th floor via elevator to access the observatory that gives views across the whole city, 202 metres up in the sky. If it’s a clear day you might be lucky enough to spot Mt Fuji, but even amongst the clouds it’s a great view.
From Shinjuku, nip along to Ueno and into Ueno Park. Home to an assortment of museums (Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, National Museum for Western Art, Tokyo National Museum etc) and the Ueno Zoo, the park is also extremely popular during cherry blossom season. A huge lily pad pond will give you the chance to spot fish and turtles in the water, and behind the pond is a small lake where you can hire Swan Boats to spend the rest of your afternoon pedalling around enjoying the scenery.
Takeshita Street is always busy, but always fun. A train to Harajuku will pop you out at the top of the street so you can get straight to the shopping. Shoes, accessories, and plenty of outfit inspiration from the ‘Harajuku Girls’ you might spot around the area are waiting. Be sure to grab a fresh crepe from one of the many crepe stands dotted along the street – my theory is the brighter the stand, the better the crepe.
Tucked away up a small staircase, Totti Candy is an Instagram dream. From the mirrors, baubles and buckets of candy to the amazing fairy floss (cotton candy), this place is all about bright pops of colour. The fairy floss is made on the spot, so you get to pick from plenty of different colour combinations and designs. Who knew fairy floss was so creative! A word to the wise if you’re travelling during the warmer months; humidity is a very cruel mistress to fairy floss – you might be left holding a sticky mess before you can enjoy your colourful treat.
A stroll down Cats Alley in Omotesando, and into Opening Ceremony to see the staircase to end all staircases is a must for any design-minded travellers. Several floors of geometric painted stairs await and it needs to be seen to be believed. For the serious shopper, brands like Kenzo, Rodarte, DKNY and Adidas can all be found at Opening Ceremony.
A new outpost from NYC’s most celebrated pastry chef (and inventor of the pastry perfection we now know as the Cronut), Dominique Ansel Bakery is a good stop if you still haven’t hit your sugar limit for the day. Cronuts, Cookie Shots and other pastry treats are on display, in a beautifully outfitted space just off the main street.
For the last stop of the day, catch a train to Ginza for some high-end shopping. On the weekends, the streets of Ginza are closed to cars, making it perfect for people watching and getting into some serious shopping.
The Japanese retailer that’s famed for it’s classic shapes and colour variations may have locations around the world, but visiting it in it’s largest home is a must. There are a massive 12 floors of clothing so brace yourself!
Dover Street Market
Right next door to Uniqlo, and accessible across a walkway on several levels, is the inimitable Dover Street Market. The brain child of Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawabuko the store features more than 150 brands carefully curated under one roof. Shop Gucci, Prada, Maison Margiela, Miu Miu, and of course, the whole Comme Des Garçons range in one spot!
Nine levels of stationery heaven. Need I say more? I’ve long pondered the deep, philosophical thought experiment of “if you go to Japan and don’t buy stationery, did you really go to Japan at all?” and Itoya is the perfect place to give that some more consideration. And to buy some stationery, obviously.
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