The Coolest Coffee Stand Around, W/O Stand Shimokitazawa

If you are exploring the many side streets of Shimokitazawa (the thrifting district I love to rave about) you will definitely want to take a pit stop at this quaint yet trendy coffee stand. Although it is a little out of the way if you are in the the main shopping area, it is for sure worth the search.

The W/O Stand has grown in popularity throughout the last year, with many branches being opened across the whole of Japan. You can even find two in Tokyo: the Shimokitazawa branch and the Harajuku branch. The artsy coffee shop, which originated in Kobe, not only serves your typical caffe lattes and coffees but creates original drinks according to the different seasons.

W/O Shimokitazawa

What makes the W/O Stand ‘stand-out’ for me is not only the unique combinations of flavours found in their drinks but the fact that every different branch across Japan has a different logo. It is quite hard to distinguish what the common motif is among the logos but each one seems to be inspired by American hip-hop artists. What is also cool is that each store sells merchandise, decorated with the store’s individual logo, such as stickers, purses and more.
When you first approach the stand you are faced with the perfect setting for an aesthetic Instagram post. There is a bench outside with the shop’s sign above it: a great place to take a snapshot with your artistic drink.

The inside is small with minimal seating but there is such a welcoming vibe and the staff are super friendly and super cool (they definitely shop in Shimo). The interior is simple but effective. If you are a lover of art then this is the perfect coffee shop for you as on the counter you’ll find three of the Kaws models on display.

The perfect spot for an aesthetic photo 

There is a great selection of drinks as well. You are more than welcome to have something simple such as a regular coffee but if you are feeling a little more adventurous (and wanting to upload a cool photo of an aesthetic drink against the neon light in the shop) then you should opt for one of their colourful concoctions. Although these are a little more on the pricey side, with one of these drinks costing around ¥500-600 (£3.48-£4.18), they are really delicious. I went for the Galaxy Soda which was a gorgeous vibrant blue sweet soda topped with fresh fruits. My friend Becky went for an Espresso one which she ended up getting again because she liked it so much.

My Galaxy Soda

So if you are looking for somewhere to relax, appreciate art and enjoy a good drink, get down to W/O Stand.

 

Address: 2-26-10 Kitazawa Seatagaya-ku, Tokyo (東京都 世田谷区 北沢 2-26-10 マサキビル 1F )

Opening Times:

Mon-Sun: 10:00am-9:00pm

Contact: wostand2017@yahoo.ne.jp

Instagram: @with_out_stand_shimokitazawa

 

 

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Tokyo Advertising Museum (アド・ミュージアム東京)

I have always found advertising a very interesting thing. What makes it so interesting is the fact that an advert can tell us a lot about a society in an unique and creative way. If you are a lover of history or are engrossed in power of the media and society as a whole, then you definitely need to put this museum on your list of places to visit.

This museum offers a ‘window into society and people’ through its vast collection and archive of adverts. It was originally opened by the Yoshida Hideo Memorial Foundation to commemorate Yoshida Hideo, the fourth President of Dentsu Inc. The layout of the museum itself although minimal, is spacious, thus making it easy for visitors to navigate their way around.

There are two exhibitions, a permanent and a temporary one. The permanent exhibition starts with the Edo period where the history of advertising begins in Japan. Great detail is given about why advertising became so prominent in this period, with an array of historical documents and records also on display. Visitors are then shown the dramatic change between advertising styles and techniques from the Edo period to the Meiji period. It is interesting to observe the Western influence on not only the adverts themselves but Japanese society as a whole.

Inside Tokyo’s Advertising Museum (Permanent Exhibition) 

Currently, the museum is holding a temporary exhibition called the ‘Tokyo Copywriters Club’. It showcases some of the Japanese adverts which have won various awards throughout the years. My personal favourite advert in the museum was in this exhibition. If you get the chance to, watch the Cup Noodle adverts. The Cup Noodle adverts displayed in this exhibition were animated adverts and looked like something you would see out of an anime. My personal favourite was one that they showed teenage versions of the characters from the Studio Ghibli film Kiki’s Delivery Service. Personally, it felt very nostalgic for me. What I learned from visiting this museum is how much of an emotional attachment you can have to an advert. They represent for many a certain time, place and show societal values.

If you are studying media, marketing or advertising, it is also worth visiting as there is a library on the first floor of the museum. It is not only rammed packed with an array of books in English and Japanese about creative thinking and the history of advertising but has workspaces available so it is a perfect place to study.
What also makes this museum really good is that it is free. Therefore, it is a great for students or travellers who are on a budget. You can easily spend an hour or even longer just looking through all the adverts. On top of this museum offers an interactive experience to its visitors. Visitors can sit and scroll through and watch the 100s of historical adverts on the digital tables or take a more traditional approach and turn the pages of the books on the analog tables.

Remember, if you are visiting the Ad Museum to get your hands on the exclusive stamp they have to offer. All you have to do is go to the front desk and pick up a plain postcard and collect the different parts to the stamp throughout the museum. It is a really nice and unique souvenir and the best part is, it is free as well.

The entrance to Caretta Shiodome 

Access

The nearest train station to the Tokyo Advertising Museum is Shimbashi Station, the museum itself is located inside Caretta Shiodome.

Address: 〒105-0021 Tokyo, 港区Higashishinbashi, 1−8-2 カレッタ汐留

Contact: http://www.admt.jp/en/

Opening Hours:

Mon-Sat: 11am-6pm

Sun: Closed

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Tokyo Visits: This or That? Tourist Hotspots vs. The Local Hidden Gems

When travelling to a new country we often feel compelled to visit all of the well-known and popular places, but isn’t it sometimes nice to go somewhere less crowded and more unique? Today’s article will feature the ultimate showdown between Tokyo’s most popular tourist attractions and their lesser-known alternatives.

I have been to every place mentioned here and enjoyed all of my visits. However, this articles is to let you all know what is worth seeing and what may be worth a miss if you are only in Tokyo for a short time.

I have listed all of the pros and cons for each place and at the end I’ll give my overall judgement on which one I would personally recommend visiting.
So, without further ado, let the showdown commence!

 

1. FASHION= Harajuku vs. Shimokitazawa

Wanting to revamp the wardrobe and buy some cute pieces for an affordable price? Well, you’re in the right place. From well-known international brands such as Bershka and Topshop to Japanese brands such as Wego, Spinns and more, Tokyo facilitates for all kinds of looks and styles.

Harajuku

If you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time it’s likely that many people will recommend visiting Harajuku and who can blame them? Harajuku is a district in Shibuya and ‘Harajuku’ fashion itself is popular around the world. It’s an area that many fashion bloggers and vloggers hit up when they visit Tokyo – but is it worth the hype?

Pros:
⁃ A large array of clothes shops (such as Stylenanda, Wego, Spinns and more).
⁃ Cute jewellery shops and great make-up shops.
⁃ If you search far enough you will also find some really cool thrift stores.
⁃ A wide selection of character goods and even character cafes.
⁃ Known for its delicious crepes; you will find a crepe stall on every corner.
⁃ It is also possible to try the famous ‘rainbow candyfloss’ here.

Cons:
⁃ Overly packed. If you are aiming to go anytime past 12 then good luck – you will get stuck in the massive swarm of people going down Takeshita Dori street.
⁃ Slightly overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I love Harajuku, but it has turned into a bit of a tourist fad and some of the shops now reflect this.
⁃ Mostly aimed at women; not many clothes shops for men.

One of the best crepe shops in Harajuku 

Shimokitazawa

Hop on a train from Shinjuku and in a few stops you will arrive at Shimokitazawa: a district in Setagaya. Shimokitazawa is a thrifter’s paradise, filled with a variety of unique and independent vintage clothing shops. Shimo is the perfect place for those who are looking to stretch their money further. I am not going to go into too much detail about this place as I have already written an article about it (click here if you would like to know more about Shimokitazawa).

Pros:
⁃ Definitely a more artsy and unique area which has independent and original stores. The massive and famous garage/warehouse stocks homemade jewellery by independent artists that you won’t find anywhere else.
⁃ Some branded shops such as Wego can also be found here.
⁃ It’s generally more fun to wander around. The fact that you have to walk down several different side roads to find shops makes the experience seem a bit like a mini adventure. Every time I would revisit Shimo I would find a new street with new shops and cafes.
⁃ Less crowded and busy – just a really chill and relaxing atmosphere .
⁃ Plenty of shops for both guys and gals.
⁃ The cafes are amazing and totally insta-worthy. Some of my favourite meals were in Shimokitazawa.
⁃ Shimokitazawa is home to one of the best pancake shops in Tokyo
⁃ Better for those who are on a budget. You can find great items for cheap prices. For example, I got a Comme des Garcons t-shirt for around ¥3000 (£20)!

Cons:
⁃ Shimo is mainly filled with thrift stores so if thrifting is not your thing then this may not be the place for you.
⁃ Mostly clothes shops (not the best place to find make-up and things like that).
⁃ Shop staff here are less likely to speak English.

The famous garage in Shimokitazawa

Final Judgement: For me, it has to be Shimokitazawa. The fact that I went there nearly every week when I was living in Japan just shows how much I loved it. No doubt, Harajuku is a fun and vibrant place which gives you a taste of contemporary Japanese culture but there is something about Shimokitazawa which is unique and wonderful. I got some amazing pieces for brilliant prices and it is honestly the best place that I have ever been thrifting.
Even though I would still recommend going to Harajuku because it shows first-hand modern Japanese fashion, if you want to fulfil your shopping desires whilst making every last bit of your holiday budget count I think a visit to Shimo is more worthwhile.

 

2. GAMING & MANGA= Akihabara vs. Nakano Broadway

Japan is home to some of the most-loved games and characters around the world. If you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time then it’s pretty fun to see popular gaming and manga culture come to life; what better way to celebrate a love for all things games, anime and manga than visiting either Akihabara or Nakano Broadway?

Akihabara

Akihabara is everything you imagine modern Tokyo to be. It’s filled with massive billboards plastered with different anime characters and feels excitingly vibrant and alive. Known worldwide for representing the Otaku (a fan of anime/manga) culture, Akihabara certainly lives up to the hype.

Pros:
⁃ A cool and vibrant energy.
⁃ Great place to shop for games, anime and manga goods.
⁃ You can also try out a games centre or visit a maid café.
⁃ Filled with masses of electrical stores and department stores. If you’re looking for a games console or any other electrical item for a good price then Akihabara is the best place to visit.

Cons:
⁃ If you don’t love anime or manga then there really isn’t a lot for you here.
⁃ Once again, slightly overrated. It is good for shopping and the atmosphere but apart from that there is not much to do.
⁃ Gets busy quickly.

The vibrant district of Akihabara

Nakano Broadway 

Nakano Broadway is a shopping complex located a few stops away from Shinjuku station. Like Akihabara, it is home to many anime, manga and gaming shops and is a haven for those who love to collect character figures. What is special about Nakano Broadway is that is has a lot of vintage goods as well so you are bound to find something rare here. The ground floor of the complex is also a food market – so there is plenty to see and do!

Pros:
⁃ You can get some great vintage collectibles here (some even very rare and unique).
⁃ It’s less busy than Akihabara and feels a lot more local.
⁃ There is a better variety of shops; it’s a great place to look for modern as well as traditional souvenirs.

Cons:
⁃ Quite small in comparison to Akihabara. Nakano Broadway is just a shopping mall whereas Akihabara is a whole district.
⁃ You don’t get the ‘feel’ for contemporary Japanese pop culture as much as you do in Akihabara.

Inside one of the cool vintage style shops in Nakano Broadway

Final Judgement: For me the winner has to be Akihabara. Although I personally prefer the shops in Nakano Broadway the atmosphere of Akihabara is just too incredible to miss if you are visiting Tokyo for the first time. You can easily spend a whole day there.

 

3. FOOD (SUSHI) = Genki Sushi vs. Shionzushi

Genki Sushi

Tourists gravitate to this restaurant located in Shibuya. Surrounded by an array of shops, it is a great place for families and tourists. Chairman Takashi Hoshito states that GenkiSushi’s mission is to ‘impress with each plate’ and wants to bring ‘sushi to the masses.’

Pros:
⁃ A fun and immersive experience – you have the chance to win prizes whilst you eat.
⁃ Affordable – great for those on a budget.
⁃ Unique – its conveyor system is somewhat different as food comes out on a little train just for you.
⁃ A lot of choice and a lot of interesting and unusual combinations: hamburger sushi anyone?

Cons:
⁃ Although the sushi tastes good it is not ‘authentic’ Japanese sushi; the quality of the fish is not as fresh.
⁃ It is always busy – you may have to queue a while.

Address: 24-8 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan

Contact: +81 3-3461-1281

Opening Hours: 

Mon-Fri: 11am-12am

Sat-Sun: 10:30am-12am

The interactive and immersive experience of GenkiSushi 

Shionzushi

Me and my Auntie stumbled across this quaint sushi restaurant in the heart of Shinjuku one day and I now consider it one of Shinjuku’s best-kept secrets. The atmosphere is at times quiet but Shionzushi is one of the nicest and cheapest sushi restaurants I have ever been to.

Pros:
⁃ Super cheap with most plates costing around ¥100 (68p) and super great quality.
⁃ You can try an array of different types of fish such as your traditional salmon and tuna to octopus
⁃ Authentic Japanese sushi.
⁃ A hidden gem tucked away in the heart of Shinjuku.

Cons:
⁃ Staff only speak Japanese so it is often hard to ask what is in the sushi or request a precise type.
⁃ The restaurant itself is quite small and the atmosphere is relatively calm and quiet meaning it might not be the place for those seeking a lively atmosphere.

Address: Japan, 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku, 3 Chome−34−13 三経25

Contact: +81 3-3356-1319

Opening Hours:

Mon-Sun: 11:00am-11:00pm

Inside Shionzushi 

Final Judgment: Despite GenkiSushi being a really fun experience, going into Shionzushi makes you feel like a true local and you get to taste real and great sushi for a low price. The atmosphere has the potential to be quite intimidating because it is often very quiet in the restaurant itself, but it is just somewhere you can’t miss.

 

4. CHARACTER CAFES= Kawaii Monster Café vs. Alice in Dancingland

Character cafes are pretty exclusive to Japan. They’re generally more expensive than regular cafes but it’s worth splashing out at least once for the experience. Tokyo is brimming with character cafes and, if you do your research, you can regularly find pop-ups or new arrivals. I’ll be writing a separate post on my favourite character cafes in Tokyo in the near future so keep an eye out for that.

Kawaii Monster Cafe

Located in Harajuku, Kawaii Monster Café is super popular with people who love all things kawaii as well as first-time visitors in Tokyo. Filled with bright lights and colours and almost having a psychedelic feel to it, the Kawaii Monster Café is a pretty cool visual experience. With all staff members dressed up as Kawaii Monsters and a massive rotating merry-go-round in the middle of the restaurant, there is plenty to see whilst you enjoy a similarly interesting looking plate of food.

Pros:
⁃ I mean, it’s great for the Instagram.
⁃ It’s a really cool experience; I have seen nothing like it before.
⁃ The ordering system is meant to be quite cool: you get iPads and can order from an array of colourful drinks and foods.

Cons:
⁃ I personally had a bad experience in this café. We were not given iPads but instead were given a much more limited menu without much choice.
⁃ There are a couple of rules that you must follow. For example, each diner has to at least buy one drink and something to eat. There is also a ¥500 (£3.42) fee to enter the cafe. We got caught out and ended up paying a lot more than we bargained for so remember to read through the rules before you enter.
⁃ Expensive (not really for those who are on a budget).

Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae, 4 Chome−31−10 YMスクエア 4F

Contact: +81 3-5413-6142

Opening Hours: 

Mon-Fri: 11:30am-4:30pm, 6:00pm-10:30pm

Sat: 11:30am-4:30pm, 6:00pm-10:30pm

Sun: 11:00am-8:00pm

The visually pleasing Kawaii Monster Cafe

Alice in Dancingland

For all of those Disney lovers out there, this is the place for you. Tucked away on one of the many side roads in Shibuya is one of the 6 Alice in Dancingland Cafe’s in Japan. I ended up visiting this particular branch two times; it was such a thematic and immersive experience that both times I truly loved it. I honestly felt like I was a part of the story and magic itself.

Pros:
⁃ Ultimate cuteness – you can get some stunning photos for the Instagram here.
⁃ It is such a magical experience. The music and seating arrangements (you sit in a carousel wearing bunny ears) make you feel like you’ve actually stepped into the film.
⁃ The menu has a great selection and the cocktails here are some of the best I have ever tried.
⁃ You are greeted by the mad hatter and Alice tosses your salad – everything is made to make you feel as if you are part of the story.

Cons:
⁃ Once again the menu is quite expensive. You’re probably paying for experience over food quality.

Address:  Japan, 〒171-0022 Tokyo, Toshima, Minamiikebukuro, 2 Chome−47−6 16-8 パレス南池袋

Contact: +81 3-3770-2750

Opening Hours: 

Mon-Sun: 11:00am-4:00pm, 5:00pm-11:30pm

The beautiful interior in the Alice in Dancingland Café in Shibuya 

Final Judgement: If you’re planning to splash out on one meal at a character café then go for Alice in Dancingland. As much as the Kawaii Monster Café is visually awesome there is something special about the Alice in Dancingland café; it’s a wonderful little experience.

 

5. THE VIEW= Tokyo Tower vs. Shinjuku Government Building

As I’ve mentioned before, I genuinely believe that Tokyo has one of the most beautiful skylines in the world. However, there are so many viewing platforms around Tokyo that it is often hard to decide which one is the best. Currently, Tokyo Skytree is the most popular but also the most expensive. Unfortunately I haven’t yet been able to visit Skytree so today the competition is between Tokyo Tower and the Shinjuku Government Building.

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower is the second tallest structure in Tokyo today standing at around 333 metres high. It is a significant landmark that is often featured in films and on TV. It currently serves as a broadcast antenna for media outlets such as the NHK. The bottom of the tower is also now home to the ‘One Piece Tower’: an indoor amusement park themed around one of Japan’s most loved animes.

Pros:
⁃ The view is absolutely breath-taking (it made me quite emotional).
⁃ It’s a pretty cool thing to say that you went up Tokyo Tower; it’s one of the original viewing platforms in Tokyo and is a prominent landmark of the city.
⁃ It’s a nice experience. There are gift shops and restaurants and you can even pay a couple of ¥100 to get your own customised Tokyo Tower coin
⁃ There is a lot to do and see.

Cons:
⁃ It costs ¥900 (£6.16) for the lower viewing platform which I personally think is not that bad but if you are on a strict budget then the Shinjuku Government Building might be a better choice.
⁃ It is likely that there will be a bit of a wait. Even though when I went I didn’t have to wait that long it was a weekday and I would imagine that it is a lot busier on weekends.

Address: 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011, Japan

Contact: https://www.tokyotower.co.jp/en.html

Opening Hours: 

Mon-Sun: 9:00am-11:00pm

Walking towards Tokyo Tower

Shinjuku Metropolitan Government Building

 Standing tall at 202 metres, the Shinjuku Metropolitan Government Building houses the Tokyo Metropolitan Government with its 45th floor now acting as an observation deck. It has not gained as much of a reputation as the Skytree or Tokyo Tower but it is famous in its own right after featuring in a number of animes and films such as the 1991 Godzilla.

Pros:
⁃ Free entry.
⁃ You still get an amazing view.
⁃ Less crowded – it’s not as likely that you will get stuck in a long queue.
⁃ There are a couple of gift shops on the floor where the viewing platform is so you can purchase some traditional Japanese souvenirs.

Cons:
⁃ It is not as easy to find. Even I got lost a couple of times trying to find the entrance to the government building which is located in the heart of Shinjuku.

Address: 2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan

Contact: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3011_tocho.html

Opening Hours:

Mon-Sun: 8:00am-6:45pm

The view from the Shinjuku Government Building 

Final judgement: I’m going to choose Tokyo Tower this round. Although the Shinjuku Government Building is free and you still get a pretty amazing view my experience at Tokyo Tower was just so memorable that it has to be the firm winner. If you do decide to go to Tokyo Tower I would recommend going on a weekday at around 5-6pm. This timing will not only give you a less crowded experience but will also allow you to see Tokyo change in the light of a gorgeous sunset.

FINAL VERDICT

In today’s showdown I think it’s fair to say that Tokyo’s ‘hidden gems’ won. I always say to people when they are thinking about visiting Tokyo that it is best to see a mixture of more touristy things and more local things. If you are ever in Tokyo I highly recommend that you try these places out – they will make your experience just that bit more memorable.

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First Time In Tokyo: The 10 Things You Need To Do

It is often intimidating visiting a new country. There is so much to think about that often we leave planning things to do and places to go to the last minute. It is often overwhelming scrolling through the masses of information online, so today I have created a concise list of 10 things you need to do during your first trip to Tokyo. This list contains not only places where you can appreciate Japan’s modern and contemporary culture but also places where you can explore Japan’s traditional culture and history. All of my recommendations of places to go and see vary in price (with some even being free) so there is something for everyone from the student on a tight budget to the ones who are willing to spend a bit more.


Go to Shibuya and see the Shibuya Crossing

 Before last year I had never visited Shibuya. However, it quickly became a place that I frequently returned to when I was living in Tokyo. This is because Shibuya has such a vibrant energy to it. You will see many tourists visiting Shibuya because of the famous ‘Scramble Crossing’ which is according to Lonely Planet is believed to be the ‘busiest intersection in the world’. It is really an amazing sight to see, especially seeing it from the top of Shibuya train station. It’s an absolutely perfect photograph opportunity. In addition to this, Shibuya is filled with a variety of department stores and individual shops so there is something for everyone. I would recommend visiting Shibuya109, a massive department store which stocks a variety of trendy Japanese clothing brands such as Wego and make up shops such as Etude House. Shibuya is also filled with tons of restaurants and bars, therefore making it the perfect destination during the day and during the night. Remember to go and take a photo with the Hachiko statue (the dog who waited for his master everyday at the train station) which is located right next to the exit of Shibuya train station. Personally, I feel visiting Shibuya should be one of the top things on your list as it really does encapsulate everything you imagine Tokyo to be. It is modern, busy and full of life. A place with so much to do and see. Perfect for getting some shopping done, eating some excellent Japanese food and seeing the hustle and bustle of Tokyo first hand.

The Hachiko statue

Visit different Shrines & Temples

Japan undoubtedly has an fascinating modern/pop culture but it is also important to explore and respect the historical and more traditional side. What I love about Japan and Tokyo is the fact there are so many shrines and temples to visit. On my trip last year, I realised how important it is to respect and visit these shrines and temples. Visiting a shrine or temple in Japan is such an unique and insightful experience. Do make an effort to visit the local ones as well as the bigger and more famous shrines. I will probably dedicate another more detailed post to my favourite shrines in Tokyo. You can even make a day out of going to see the different temples and shrines. For example, Senso-ji in Asakusa (the oldest temple in Tokyo) has an array of shops and restaurants surrounding its entrance. There is so much to see in the temple itself and outside making it a great destination and place to visit. Meiji-Jingu (shrine) in Harajuku is another place I recommend seeing. It is located in a forest making the experience feel even more beautiful. One of my personal favourites is the Hanazono Jinja shrine located in Shinjuku. This shrine was right next to the language school which I attended. It was a stunning shrine and in the cherry blossom season, it looked even more magnificent. If you are interested about learning about more local shrines and temples in Tokyo, keep your eyes out for my upcoming post about them.

Senso-ji in Asakusa
Outside Meiji Jingu (located near Harajuku). One of the biggest and most popular shrines to visit in Tokyo.
Hanazono Jinja Shrine located in Shinjuku

See Tokyo from the heights 

I believe that Japan has one of the most beautiful and breath-taking skylines I have ever seen. Tokyo has many viewing platforms such as the popular Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower and the Shinjuku Metropolitan Government Building. Personally, I have not yet been to Tokyo Skytree but it is the highest viewing platform in Tokyo. Around the tower itself, there is a massive shopping complex so Tokyo Skytree (though more expensive then the other two options) is a great option if you want to do some shopping as well as see Tokyo from the heights. When I last went to Japan, I went to Tokyo Tower. We paid ¥900 and were able to go the second highest viewing platform (as the top one was under refurbishment) . On the bottom floor of Tokyo Tower, there are a few gifts shops as well if you are looking to buy some gifts for friends or family. The best time to go is around just before 6pm because this is when the sun sets and you can take some beautiful photos of the gorgeous pink tone sky and as a bonus, you even get to see the breath-taking night view of Tokyo with its amount of neon lights. It was actual quite emotional standing there looking at the night view and taking it all in. If you are on a tight budget another recommendation I have is the Shinjuku Government Building. It is free to enter and it is less busy than Skytree and Tokyo Tower. This means you can take in the sights better and have a better chance of getting that perfect photo. When I visited, I went around 10am and the line was so short, I only waited around 10 minutes. It is really worth going not only because it is free but because it is also has various gift shops which sells traditional and local Japanese treats and food which would make a perfect gift.

Me & Becky in Tokyo Tower
View from the Shinjuku Metropolitan Building

Visit the Ghibli Museum

Arguably, the Ghibli Museum has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tokyo. See the world of Ghibli and the imagination of Hayao Miyazaki come to life right in front of your eyes. This museum is perfect for those of all ages. Although it is a little bit of a trek to get there, it is completely worth it. I went to this museum in 2009, so a lot may have changed since then. However, the most memorable part was being invited to the cinema inside the museum where you were able to see an exclusive short film made by Studio Ghibli. I remember I was lucky enough to see a short film about the Catbus from my Neighbour Totoro but I know that they change the film shown every so often. This is the perfect place to get all your Ghibli goods as well. There is a massive gift shop which even sells some exclusive products. The price for this museum is ¥1,000 for those 19 years and older. It is important to remember that this museum is very popular. Therefore, if you would like to go, I would recommend booking at least a couple months in advance. Go on the website to see what is available and what is the best method to purchase these tickets.

The bus stop to the Studio Ghibli Museum

Visit Disneysea

Japan appreciates the Disney franchise. Almost everywhere in Japan you will find stores selling some type of Disney goods whether it is a collaboration or Disney’s own products. Most Disney products sold in Japan are so different to what is sold in other countries. Tokyo has two Disney parks: one being the Disneyland itself and the other being Disneysea. If you can only afford one or only have the time for one, I would recommend going to Disneysea over Disneyland as no other country in the world has a Disneysea. It has such a different feel to Disneyland itself. Disneysea is home to the famous Tower of Terror, the Toy Story Ride and other rides such as the Indiana Jones ride. Made up of an array of different lands, Disneysea has something to offer everyone. I must admit the rides at Disneysea are not that ‘thrilling’. I went on the two biggest rollercoasters they had there and they were pretty tame so don’t expect a massive adrenaline rush from the rides there. Nevertheless, it is completely worth going as there is so much to do there. You can see different Disney parades on water, go and visit the characters, go and buy your Disney ears and most importantly try the cute and tasty food they have to offer. A day ticket is around ¥5000 (£35) and you can purchase these in most Disney shops located across Tokyo.

Outside Mermaid Lagoon at Disneysea
The Minnie Mouse ice lolly, perfect for the Instagram

Go to Ikebukuro

Like Shibuya, the first time I visited Ikebukuro was last year. Ikebukuro is a fantastic place for shopping. It is home to a huge shopping complex known as ‘Sunshine City’ which has a wide selection of shops and a whole floor dedicated to different restaurants. If you are interested in Pokémon or Hello Kitty, Ikebukuro is home to one of the biggest Pokémon centres and a massive Hello Kitty store (seen in the photo below). If you are searching for electronic goods, Ikebukuro is also home to a Bic Camera (a famous electronic store). In Sunshine City, there is also an aquarium so there is plenty to see and do in Ikebukuro. Although it is not as famous as Harajuku and Akihabara, it is totally worth a visit.

Heading towards Sunshine City

Go to a Games Centre 

Japan is famous for all its revolutionary technology. Being such a leader in the world of gaming, it is defiently worth going to a Games centre/arcade. There are many located across Tokyo including Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Shibuya. Honestly, you could spend hours in these places. There are many types of games found in these arcades. Many have the claw grabbing machines with some amazing prizes in them (apparently they are actually quite easy to win). Take some purikura as well. If you don’t know what purikura is, they are a type of photo booth which are cheap and popular among young people where you can take ‘kawaii’ style photos and edit them. They are really fun to try out with friends and at the end of it, you get a really good memory as you each get a copy of the photos taken. Another thing you must try out is the Taiko: Drum Master, it is one of the most popular games in Japan. Me and my friends honestly played a good 4/5 times, we got slightly addicted to it and also it is quite a competitive game.

Me in the Games Centre from Jane Ayako on Vimeo 

An example of what purikura looks like

Visit the famous fashion and gaming districts 

If you are wanting to immerse yourself into the modern Japanese culture, then Harajuku and Akihabara are the places for you. If you are interested in fashion, Harajuku is the place to go. Harajuku is famous because of the fact there is a style known as ‘Harajuku street fashion’, a ‘kawaii’ and ‘cute’ style which many people enjoying wearing. Harajuku has an array of clothes shops, make up shops and much more. If you visit Harajuku, you must try one of the crepes. Harajuku is well known for its delicious crepes and you will find a crepe stand almost everywhere in Harajuku. If you enjoy thrifting or vintage shopping, there are plenty of thrift stores in Harajuku too. I would highly recommend going down Takeshita Dori street in the morning as after lunchtime it gets hectic and it is hard to walk down the street as it is so crowded. You could defiently spent a whole day in Harajuku shopping and eating. If you want to learn more about Japanese fashion and pop culture, you can’t miss this place out. If fashion is not really your thing and you are more into the world of gaming, manga or anime, don’t worry there is a place for you too. This place is known as Akihabara. Loaded with game centres, electric stores and maid cafes, Akihabara represents everything contemporary Japanese culture consists of. If you are into anime or manga, you need to visit Akihabara as they sell so many figures, games, manga books and even cosplaying outfits. It is a great place to walk around and have a shop. Even if you aren’t a gaming fan, Akihabara is well known for its array of electronic department stores, so if you are looking for any electrical goods, I would recommend going here.

The beginning of the world famous Takeshita Dori Street (Harajuku)
One of the famous Harajuku style crepes (they are so good)
The vibrant Akihabara

See nature at its finest 

Tokyo is home to an array of beautiful gardens and parks which are also worth visiting, especially during cherry blossom season in Spring. If you are looking for ‘cheap’ days out, I would recommend going to visit one of the many parks or gardens in Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen is a good place to visit, although there is a small entrance fee of ¥200, it is completely worth it as you can get some lovely photographs and see an authentic and beautiful Japanese garden. You could also go and visit Yoyogi or Ueno park. These are two very popular places to go and have a picnic during the cherry blossom season. Sometimes in Yoyogi park, there are some small Japanese food stalls which sell Japanese street food so it is worth having a walk around there and embracing all the gorgeous scenery. If you are looking for somewhere tranquil to relax or reflect, visiting one of these parks or gardens is a great option.

Walking through Yoyogi Park during the Cherry Blossom season

Learn more about Japan’s History and Culture 

Tokyo has such a rich and interesting History. Being once isolated for so long from the rest of the world and going through major Westernisation during the Meiji period has meant Japan has such a diverse culture. There are so many museums around Tokyo. If you would like to spend a day walking around the different museums, I would recommend going to Ueno. Ueno is home to many museums including the National Museum of Nature and Science and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The Tokyo National Museum is a great place to start and was honestly one of my favourite places I went too during my trip last year. The Tokyo National Museum holds an array of different artefacts and artwork ranging from different periods of Japan’s history. It is a great place to visit for foreigners, as there are English guides as well. The cost of the Museum is around ¥600, so it is relatively cheap as well. You could easily spend a day just in this museum as there is so much to see and read about. Honestly, I spent hours in the gift shop itself. The gift shop stocked so many English books on Japanese history and had an array of postcards of famous Japanese artwork and much more. The Tokyo National Museum is another must-see.

Outside Tokyo National Museum
Inside the Tokyo National Museum
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My New Favourite Place in Tokyo

If you know me personally, you will probably already know where my new favourite place in Tokyo is. I have raved about it a lot and recommended it to so many people already. During my trip to Japan, I visited this place a good 6 times and every time was just as enjoyable and fun. This place is a place called Shimokitazawa.

Shimokitazawa is a neighbourhood in Tokyo which full of independent shops, cafes, bars and live houses. Easily accessible from major train stations, a trip on the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station or a trip on the Keio-Inokashira Line from Shibuya Station will take you straight to Shimokitazawa Station. When I was preparing for my trip to Japan, I was researching on different and local places I wanted to visit. I watch many Japanese Youtubers and a couple of my favourite ones did videos on Shimokitazawa and it looked very appealing so even from the beginning it was one of the places I wanted to visit the most. I would have never heard of it unless I had watched these videos, so I want to tell you guys all about it.

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