Exploring within Tokyo

[updated:27 Feb 2015]

Tokyo is not just any run-off-the-mill city.

It’s TOKYO, the capital of Japan, the capital of anything-can-happen-so-don’t-be-surprised! (For a full listing of Tokyo’s awesomeness, check Wikipedia.)

Yes, there's always something strange, happening somewhere in Tokyo...
Yes, there’s always something strange happening somewhere in Tokyo…

It’s so huge it’s not just ONE city, but 23 wards and 26 cities, all combined in one region! So if you think your short trip covering Asakusa and the famous Sensoji Temple, the imposing Sky Tree, Akihabara and the maid cafes, Shinjuku, Shibuya’s shopping and ever-crowded scramble crossing is suffice, think again! There’s so much to explore!

Here are some of our ideas to explore Tokyo:

1. Transit from Traditional Asakusa to Futuristic Odaiba

10375077_10154297280900111_5572070745361902401_n Visit both the futuristic man-made island of Odaiba and the traditional town of Asakusa! And the best way to do this? Ride the Hotaluna, a new spaceship-like water bus designed by famous sci-fi manga author, Reiji Matsumoto. Well, they did say, TRAVEL IN STYLE!

2. Search for Tokyo’s local specialty Monjayaki in Tsukishima
Step back in time in Tsukishima, a small man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Some areas have not been developed yet and you can explore the charming small lanes and neighbourhood. Tsukishima is also home to Monjayaki, a kind of doughy-liquidy pancake that is Tokyo’s local specialty.

3. Explore the hipster town of Shimokitazawa

10486213_10154297285380111_567355491584771879_nEveryone knows Harajuku and Shibuya, the shopping mecca for Japan fashion. But not many people know of Shimokitazawa, a small hipster town on the west side of Tokyo. Let’s explore this area and its many small cafes, indie shops and secondhand vintage shops!

4. Explore Tokyo’s Neighborhoods on Yamanote Line
Read our trip report here!

A vast difference from Nippori, this area is bustling with activity! The maze of shops should be able to keep the shopper in you entertained for an hour or two!
Everyone knows about anime town Akihabara, shopping district Shibuya & Ikebukuro, and the big stations such as Tokyo and Shinagawa… but among the 29 stations on the loop line, each station has its own unique characteristic, representing a different neighbourhood of Tokyo city. Do you notice the difference between each stop – the width of the streets, the height of the buildings, the architecture, the crowd and even the shops and prices?

5. Backstreets, Indie Labels, Vintage Shops & Cafes in Omotesando

10300164_10154297246350111_3696999754012111167_n It may be a mere 1km walk between Omotesando and Harajuku stations, but there’s so many things to look at – the artistic fashion buildings and the shopping galleries of the big labels on the main street; Step into the backstreets and explore the quirky vintage boutiques, indie labels, book stores, salons and cafes. This is where the real treasure began – the exclusive boutiques and small cafes that is hidden from the tourists’ eyes. And not to forget Cat Street, the true home to Tokyo street fashion as compared to the overwhelming cuteness of Takeshita-dori on Harajuku. Here you can find vintage Japanese and foreign designer labels. Keep your eyes peeled, you may find something you like in the shops!

6. One of Tokyo’s most under-rated towns, Shibamata

photo 2 This quiet neighbourhood on the suburbs is probably one of the most under-rated destinations in Tokyo! This town is the set for about 50 films made between 1968 and 1996. Step out of the station and you can understand why. With all the Showa Era (1920s-1980s) buildings, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. Walking down Taishakuten Sando, a shopping street, you can enjoy the nostalgic charm of the old buildings, traditional sweets and toys! Don’t forget to try some local specialty Dango from the street vendors! Then, visit Taishakuten Temple known for its beautiful wood work and beautiful Japanese garden.

7. Kimono Rental  at Asakusa

Untitled3As tacky as it sounds, one of the best way to experience the Japanese culture is to don the beautiful kimono! At Asakusa, there are many kimono rental shops (but read here to find out a great English-speaking store with great prices). After that you can walk around Asakusa and the famous sensoji temple. Great area for photography!

8. Cat Lovers Trip – Cat Temple + Cat Cafe
Gotokuji is a unique temple dedicated to the Fortune Cat (Maneki-Neko) and is quite unlike any other temples! Here you’ll find lots and lots of Fortune Cat Charm all over the temple grounds! Definitely suitable for the cat-lover, or just the curious traveller! Following that, pay a visit and spend some time with the cuties at a Cat Cafe in hippy area, Shimokitazawa! Even if you are not an avid cat-lover, you will be amused by these furry friends!

9. Hiking at Takaozan
Just around ¥647 one way from Shinjuku station, Takao San offers a getaway from the city life. Take one of the 8 different hiking courses and enjoy breath taking views of the city.  Though Takao San is it’s most beautiful in the spring and autumn, winter skies also offer a clearer view of the city. There are also attractions such as the Yakuoin temple, a monkey park, and waterfall. Enjoy yummy treats such as dango and oden near the top!

10. Ota Market – Japan’s largest Vegetable & Fruits Market
You know there’s Tuna Auction at Tsukiji Fish Market.. but do you know there’s Vegetable & Flower Auction at the Ota Market, Tokyo??? And this wholesale market is waaaay bigger than the Tsukiji market. It also has a visitor’s course that overlooks the market so we can watch the whole auction! There is a Fruits & Vegetable section, a Fish section, and a Flowers section. We heard that it’s so huge that we may get lost inside! There is also a warehouse section (only looking) and retail section (for your shopping needs).

11. Todoroki Valley & Little Venice
If you are looking for a peaceful place to relax from the noisy and busy city, check out Todoroki Valley. There is a pleasant walking trail next to the river, leading you to some small shrines in the valley. When you are done, visit Jiyugaoka and its trove of tiny zakka shops (handmade and knick-knack goods), sweets and bakeries. Not to forget, the area of Little Venice with its beautiful and charming surroundings. Definitely a good place to refresh your mind!

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