My family visited Tokyo for seven days a few years ago. We had been to Japan before but we had not spent much time in Tokyo. It would also be our first time to go without a tour guide so we were kind of nervous and excited at the same time.
Contrary to what most people around the world believe, Japan is not that expensive. It is indeed more expensive in Tokyo than in anywhere else in Japan, but it is still possible to stretch your limited budget. Do your research before flying to Japan. Walk to your destination when possible or get a local volunteer tour guide for free if you're worried about getting lost.
If you're visiting the capital for the first time, I hope this article will give you a pretty good idea about where to go and how much to bring. This page will cover the first four days of our trip.
Upon arrival, we took the Narita Express which is the fastest way to get to the city center. Tickets are sold at the airport. Tourists are offered half the price so you will have to present your passport upon purchase.
I advise you to check the train schedule in advance. It is better if your arrival time is several minutes before the last train. There are many free apps where you can find train schedules and routes. I personally like Japan Trains. The travel time to Tokyo station takes about an hour.
The view from our hotel window.
Odaiba is a man-made island that is connected to Tokyo by the Rainbow Bridge and the Yurikamome line. It attracts a lot of tourists because of the many attractions in the area. It has shopping malls, museums, food theme parks, and what not. The main attractions are accessible by the Yurikamome line but you can also get around the island by its free shuttle service. It usually takes about a day to explore Odaiba.
We took the train to Fune no Kagakuken and proceeded to Mirakain Museum. It's the place where you can see the ever so famous black-and-white robot Asimo. Apart from that, you can also see life-like female robots like the Otonaroid and the Komodonoid. Some may find them creepy but I think they're pretty cool.
The line to the ticket booth was surprisingly long. Unfortunately, we missed Asimo's first show at 11am. We had to wait until 2pm for his next show. In the meantime, we walked around the museum which had several interactive exhibits. We had lunch at Miraikan Cafe.
When the show started, Asimo showed us a few of his tricks that were too complicated for an ordinary robot to perform. He was quite charismatic so it's not hard to see why he got so many fans from around the world. His show lasted for about ten minutes.
To be honest, I did not find the museum very interesting. But seeing Asimo alone was enough to make up for the entrance fee!
Our next stop was DiverCity. This shopping mall's main attraction is the giant Gundam in front of it. I haven't watched Gundam but I really love it how detailed the figure looks! The mall itself is not big but it has some interesting souvenir shops. It also has a food court on the first floor.
If you like takoyaki, drop by the Decks Tokyo Beach. It's a mall that houses a Takoyaki Museum. In Japan, food museums are not what us foreigners think they are. They are actually food courts that sell one type of food. Tokayaki is a popular Japanese snack that is round in shape and contains a small piece of octopus. It is topped with sauce and is usually served in boat-shaped container. I had a takoyaki in Guangzhou before but didn't really like it. I was happy to have an authentic takoyaki in Japan. I liked the texture and it was absolutely delicious! Freshly cooked takoyaki is very hot, so be careful when you eat it.
The last stop was AquaCity. We had dinner at Ramen Museum, which was packed with people. It has a wide variety of ramens to choose from. If you're a ramen fan, be sure to check this place out.
The Rainbow Bridge viewed from Odaiba.
Nikko is two hours away from Tokyo. It's nearer from Tokyo so we decided to go there instead of Kyoto. We took the Tobu-Nikko line from Asakusa Station. The train does not have reserved seating so some passengers would have to stand for two long hours. It was a bit difficult to fully relax when the train gets crowded; nevertheless, it was fun to look at the view from the window. It was fascinating to see buildings turn into trees and mountains as we got nearer to Nikko.
Once we got there, we took a bus to Toshogu Shrine. The bus terminal is just across the train station. The shrine is registered as UNESCO's World Heritage Site. This is where Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Japan's most prominent historical figures, is enshrined.
There is an entrance fee of 1,300 yen to the shrine. Near the entrance, people were lining up at a food stall that sold gyoza dog and pork bun. The gyoza dog, which is actually a bun that is shaped like a hot dog, seems quite popular. Each costs 500 yen and the regular pork bun costs 300 yen. Perhaps food is not allowed inside the complex since I did not see any eateries there. If you haven't eaten yet, you might as well consider buying a gyoza dog before getting in as it might take a while to roam around the complex.
Unfortunately, the Yomeimon Gate was under renovation at the time of our visit. It would take a few more years to finish. The elaborately decorated gate is the most famous attraction in Toshogu Shrine.
The complex has several structures. The gold and black structure, which I believe is the main shrine, is just gorgeous. Its golden roof glows beautifully when the sun is at the right angle. There are a couple of sections where visitors are required to remove their shoes. If you're lazy at removing your footwear, it will be a good idea to wear something that are easier to take off.
Warning: Be prepared to climb several flight of stairs. I'm not sure if this is usually the case, but during our visit, there was a long line of visitors to Ieyasu's mausoleum.
We took a bus to Shinkyo (Sacred) Bridge before going back to Tokyo. It was just a bus stop away from Toshogu Shrine.
There are shops near the Nikko Station. We bought several omiyage (souvenir) such as yuba (tofu skin) and mochi.
The shrine is gorgeous.
The Shinkyo Bridge. It's just one stop from Toshogu Shrine.
Tokyo Station/Marunouchi Station Building
On our way back to hotel, we went to Beer Hall at Tokyo Station for dinner. There were so many shops and restaurants at the station. The station itself is an excellent place to visit. While we were there, we checked out the facade of the 100-year-old Station Building. To get there, just follow the signs that say "Marunouchi Exit." The red brick building is very prominent and easy to spot.
The Tokyo Station has stood the test of time. Watch this video to learn how the building was restored to its former glory.
Harajuku is a well-known destination around the world. The Takeshita Dori, a popular shopping street, is lined with shops and boutiques that cater to young people. There, you can find fashionable clothes, bags, shoes, and accessories. The place is always crowded with both locals and tourists, which I love because of the somewhat cheerful atmosphere. I find it fascinating that there are stores just for men because I don't see many shops like that in my country. It makes shopping for men so much easier. My dad was able to buy something there. If you're looking for cheap items, you can check out the three to four-storey Daiso also along Takeshita Street. Everything there is just 108 yen. Most of the items are made in China but you can also find some stuff made in Japan.
Another reason not to miss this place are the crepes, which Harajuku is famous for! There are a few crepes stores in Takeshita Street. Even in December, people still line up to these stores just to taste these delicious desserts. They are kind of pricey, ranging from 400 to 500 yen each, but they are worth it! They taste so heavenly!
We walked for about ten minutes to Kiddyland. The store is easy to find but of course, having a map will be handy. Kiddyland sells a wide variety of toys - Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Totoro, Doraemon - you name it, they have it. Well, almost. It's a fun place not just for kids but even to adults. I really love Doraemon so I had been planning to buy either a figurine or a stuffed toy. I ended up with a figurine. I also bought a Hello Kitty doll wearing a yukata and some smaller random stuff.
We had lunch at Heiroku Sushi. It's a conveyor belt sushi restaurant but unlike its cheaper counterpart, you'll see chefs preparing sushis right in front of you. There were four adjoining long counters that form into a rectangular shape, with the conveyor belt rotating at the inside perimeter. At the center were the standing chefs who serve the sushis. There were a couple of separate tables at the far end so people sitting there had more "privacy". At first, I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of having to sit side by side with other customers, but it was not that bad. In such restaurants, you can either tell the chef what you want or you can simply take the plates from the conveyor belt. You can also order from the waitstaff. You can find the condiments and the matcha powder in front of you. There is also a faucet with hot water so you can make your own matcha. It was a uniquely Japanese experience and so far, it was the best lunch we had in Tokyo.
My delicious crepe!
Shibuya is another famous destination in Tokyo. If you haven’t visited Shibuya, you haven’t been to Tokyo.[insert link] The place is even more crowded than Harajuku. We visited Hachiko's monument near the Shibuya Station exit. Then' we crossed the famous Scramble Crossing.
We went to Tokyu Hands. I found it pretty disappointing. They sell crafts, kitchen tools, gardening tools, hardware tools, household items, toys, and even pets. Some of the toys they have are also available at Kiddyland.
We had dinner at Sukiya. It is similar to the more internationally-known Yoshinoya. It was the cheapest meal that we had and it wasn't bad at all! Then, we checked out the place called Loft. It was so much better than Tokyu Hands. The store had a cozy atmosphere and had a lot of interesting stuff. There were also a few benches near the escalator where tired shoppers could sit on.
The famous Scramble Crossing.
The toys at Kiddyland.
Read the second part here.
© Rainy Kua 2016