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Tokyo tips

Postby bngi » May 14th, 2013, 1:17 am

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Heading to tokyo next week. Does anyone have some good tips for things to see, cultural, stores, spots. Places to eat with my colleagues would also be appreciated!

Trying to find areas where people work out, preferebly running or cycling.

All help is appreciated, thanks!
Björn Bengtsson
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Re: Tokyo tips

Postby engio » May 14th, 2013, 2:18 am


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I was there last October, there is a short thread if you search for it.

I highly recommend the book "A geek in Japan". It covers a lot of places to visit, as well as cultural phenomena.
http://www.kirainet.com/english/a-geek- ... -the-book/

I would visit these neighborhoods: Start with Shibuya. Here you have the infamous Shibuya crossing, small stores with lots of youth hanging out, and a giant mall. Harajuku for "kawaii related stuff" and youth culture, Akhihabara for electronics and video game and manga related stuff, and Asakusa for traditional Japanese stuff. In Asakusa there is a street called "kitchen town" (google it) that sells only kitchen equipment - from knifes to Sampuru (the fake food you will see in all restaurants). This is no tourist trap, real restaurant owners come here for quipment. Strangely enough, there are almost no places to eat there. OH! In Akhihabara you can eat at the extremely awkward Maiden Cafes.

You can skip Ginza and Roppongi Hills, it's the expensive part of town with Prada and Gucci stores etc. Nothing you haven't already seen in London or NYC or any other metropol. Don't quite remember Shinjuku..

Go to Tsukiji fish market. You need to be there early, like 5AM for the tuna+bandsaw action. By 10 I think everything is shut down (that's when we got there). You can get sushi there, quite expensive but well worth it. Near Tsukiji there is an Advertising and Marketing museum which was worth the visit. In the same building (skyscraper) you have fancy restaurants on the top floor. It's close to the hotel that is featured in "Lost in translation" I think.

For shopping I liked Muji and Loft. Muji stores carry way more stuff than the stuff we have here in Sweden at Åhlens. It might be tempting to go to Muji concept store in Shibuya, but I would skip it - it's tiny, like 20 sq m - and only has some napkins and crap. I think the biggest one is in Ginza. Tokyu Hands is a store with various fun stuff, kinda like a Japanese version of the Swedish "Clas Olsson". The one in Harajuku has a Cat cafe on the top floor (a room full of cats that you can pet). I don't usually care for shopping, but the highlight of my trip was actually looking at things in stores that is not electronics. From bento boxes to brooms, everything is different. The stores are basically a design museum.

We were about to stay 1 night in a Pod/capsule hotel in Shibuya I think, but apparently you aren't allowed in there if you have tattoos so we had to cancel. Also aren't allowed to be a female. http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetail ... okyo/33844

Watch the Tokyo episode of "an idiot abroad". I can look at my archive of guide maps and stuff I saved if you're interested. Definitely going there again. Kinda overdid it last time - wanted to see everything and spent too much time on the subway going back and forth.

Re: Tokyo tips

Postby bngi » May 14th, 2013, 10:07 am

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Thanks a million for the thorough info engio! I'll look up your other thread as well.

We will be staying in Shinjuku, which seems to be more of a bar/neon area.
Did you go to any of the Sumo events? Seems like there is some kind of tournament going on, and we are discussing about heading out there. It started quite early in the morning, so could be a fun way to start it off.

I work in-house at a sport brand, so I want to catch people exercise. Imperial Gardens was rumored to have quite a few active people running around..
Björn Bengtsson
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"the unicorns do not look realistic enough"

Re: Tokyo tips

Postby engio » May 14th, 2013, 11:07 am


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bngi wrote:Thanks a million for the thorough info engio! I'll look up your other thread as well.

We will be staying in Shinjuku, which seems to be more of a bar/neon area.
Did you go to any of the Sumo events? Seems like there is some kind of tournament going on, and we are discussing about heading out there. It started quite early in the morning, so could be a fun way to start it off.

I work in-house at a sport brand, so I want to catch people exercise. Imperial Gardens was rumored to have quite a few active people running around..


Nope didn't go to any sumo matches..
We didn't get into the Imperial Gardens for some reason, I think a big portion of it is closed off from tourists. I think Ueno Park may be a good spot for spotting runners and various yoga/meditation activity. Perhaps Yoyogi park as well.

Yeah I remember Shinjuku now, we were there during the evening, pretty cool place. Walked through Kabukicho which is a red light district, known as the world's safest. We didn't go into any clubs although a lot of big black males tried to convince us to do so. Just keep walking and ignore them. The barkers (swedish: inkastare) will walk with you but it's illegal for them to even touch you. When you walk far enough you'll cross into some other guy's turf and the first one has to step off so you only have to endure them for 20 seconds :)

There is also an area called Golden Gai in Shinjuku that is supposed to have lots of cool small pubs and bars.

This site has some cool articles that aren't your typical tourist guide fodder:
http://matadornetwork.com/destinations/ ... nt-popular

Re: Tokyo tips

Postby slippyfish » May 14th, 2013, 2:45 pm

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We stayed in Shinjuku on our honeymoon, in a tall building with 'Microsoft' on the side, in front of a Dunkin Donuts, Eddie Bauer, and Starbucks. Thought we flew 12 hours and landed back in Seattle.

Across the train tracks was the Tokyu Hands. My favorite display had about nine hundred kinds of nail clippers, in prices up to $200.
Shibuya is well-known for youth and energy. May I also recommend getting off the train at the Harajuku stop (before Shibuya on the...um...Blue line?), and walking down "Street of Hell" or Takeshita-Dori, which is ground zero for the Gothic Lolita look. From there you can wander around Harajuku and then back to Omotesando. Omotesando is a wide pretty boulevard with high end retail for blocks and blocks. The Tadao Ando designed Omotesando Hills shopping mall is there, ride the escalators and look at the cool light show, and on the top floor is a very fancy ramen place, usually with a line, but very very good.

Then you can cross Omotesando and onto Cat Street. Cat St is a narrow, might only be pedestrian, collection of retail, sport (Nike is there, awesome concept store/building, also Patagonia, and cool Japanese-only sport lifestyle brands). Cat St will take all your money and then deposit you near the 'scrum' in Shibuya.

So so so many amazing things to see, everywhere, all day in Tokyo.
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Re: Tokyo tips

Postby slippyfish » May 14th, 2013, 2:48 pm

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RE: Imperial Gardens, its neat because its a huge, pristine, zoned-off area of green space and stone walls and castles in the center of a jam packed city. The grounds all around are wide, flat, and gravel/rock and I can see how they would be good for jogging or pedaling around. We visited there after going to Tsukiji, it didn't seem like too far of a walk but we were super jetlagged.
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Re: Tokyo tips

Postby holtag » May 14th, 2013, 9:49 pm

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Danny Choo's also has a veritable treasure trove on all things Japan, though you might have to dig a bit: http://www.dannychoo.com/

And don't forget to go see the lifesize Gundam!

Re: Tokyo tips

Postby bngi » May 15th, 2013, 3:46 am

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Lots of great info here, thanks a lot everyone! Trying to go through all the links at the moment.

holtag: YES! I'd forgot about that one, thanks! Only looked up the Ghibli museum so far.

Read somewhere that Taxis are a big no-no, due to crazy prices. True?
I'd love to pedal around tokyo, but the thought of bicycling in that kind of a city does raise some concerns. I'll add my own info when I get back. :)
Björn Bengtsson
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"the unicorns do not look realistic enough"

Re: Tokyo tips

Postby engio » May 15th, 2013, 6:18 am


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Don't think the taxi rate is absurdly high, but the distances between different places in Tokyo can be vast. If you taking a taxi, beware that they may not be able to read English letters, or even a map. If you can find a Japanese address to the place you're going to it's much easier. We prepared by pre-opening a wiki-site for the place with the hotel wifi, and zooming in on the Japanese name to show the driver :) However this was in Kyoto, things might be different in Tokyo.

Subway is actually very good. You can get a PASMO card which is a prepayed card that works on all subway and commuter trains. You can get it in a machine at the station (English available). I prepayed 5000 yen that was enough for 2 weeks. And if you have a lot left when you leave you can return it and have most of the cash back. There were quite a few subway map apps, don't remember the best one. Just try them all :)
The Tokyo Tripadvisor app is pretty good as well.

Ghibli museum I think you have to book in advance, we didn't go.

Re: Tokyo tips

Postby bngi » June 12th, 2013, 6:09 am

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So been back since two weeks and in the process of making a presentation for work, so I thought it would be nice to wrap up our experience here as well.

First of all, thanks for all the tips! They were most helpful.

Our hotel was right next to the central station in Shinjuku, so we mainly used the subway. Massive system that was pretty easy to use. Bought day passes for 750 Yen. Notably , the Currency rates were heavily in our favour during the entire trip.

We started of with a biketour of the western parts of tokyo. Shibuya, roppongi, harajuku, Nakameguro. 4 hours on a bike with a guy from the States that had been living there for 7 years. Saw the old olympic stadium, that was still in full effect. Baseball fields, business districts etc. Not quite what i expected, but then again, for me these tours are as much about navigation and the basics of the city, which is why we did it first. Crash-course of tokyo.

We focused a lot on the areas around Shibuja/Harajuku, where we found most of the brand stores. Could probably have spent the entire trip here, just going through all the small local, fashion, and street labels. Started by heading towards the large Brands, since they were the easiest to find. North Face was pretty impressive, with three stores on a 300 meter strip. Casual, outdoor and something in between. Nike was also a pleasure to see, with them having such a solid and nice looking interior.

It was pretty hard to navigate to smaller businesses that werent on the main streets, due to their address system. Y3, undercover etc, were all in smaller clusters deeper in to the blocks. So a lot of time was spent walking around, and figuring out where things could be situated on the map. (District, block, building right?)

Took our time to go to the imperial gardens just after we visited MOMA Tokyo, too see an exhibition about the 1964 Olympics graphic design work. Pretty small, but very very nice. Since Tokyo is among the last 3 candidates for the 2020 olympics, the city was plastered in campaign posters. They also had their permanent exhibition with art in Japan through the ages. See worthy if you're there, but dont go out of your way to get there so see it.

Like I asked in the beginning, we wanted to find a spot where there were a lot of runners/cyclists. The strip around the imperial gardens perfect.

Things i wish we would have time for:
Fish market, we were told to be there at 3-4 in the morning. Jet lagg made it way to difficult to arrange with the three of us. I fell asleep early and woke up early. The others had a hard time getting sleep at all.

Gundam statue: Hard time convincing the others. Electric district was enough for them of the whole anime culture.
All the cosplayers had allegedly moved from harajuku bridge, to the E-district, according to our bike guide. So if you go, your tourist books/guides may be outdated if they say otherwise.

Food was incredible, and due to the currency, a lot of bang for the buck.
We however, had a vegetarian in the group, making it reaaally hard to find places to eat. Doesn't seem to be a wide spread way of life in Tokyo. We had to go to Italian restaurant a couple of times, and they usually cost twice as much, for half the amount of food.

Cleanest city i've ever been to. Most notably was that the first day, we couldnt find any trashcans to throw away our garbage. They were usually situated at small convenience stores.
Green areas, trees, and small gardens everywhere. Balconys, rooftops, parks etc. Makes it feel a lot less claustrophobic.
Hardly any graffiti or street art either, which really opens your eyes to the decay that a lot of buildings go through.
Traffic was pretty neat. It has a lot lower noise pollution than other comparable cities. Lots of hybrids and bikes on the roads, and really considerate drivers, and no crazy speeders or revving engines. (made the bike tour a lot more enjoyable)

Japan has struggled with tourism since fukushima, but they expect that to change with the currency drop, so its a good time as ever to head over. (just read that Puma among others will adjust their prices)

Now I've started to plan a more extensive trip to Japan with my GF, to get a chance to the a larger chunk, with more outdoor and nature for a couple of weeks.
Björn Bengtsson
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"the unicorns do not look realistic enough"

Re: Tokyo tips

Postby holtag » June 12th, 2013, 11:36 pm

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Nice, thanks for the write-up Bjorn!

Re: Tokyo tips

Postby engio » June 13th, 2013, 1:20 am


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Sweet.
Yeah the lack of thrash cans surprised us as well - combined with the cleanness.


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