Japan’s capital. The planet’s most densely packed metropolis. The unrivalled culinary destination, with more Michelin stars than anywhere else. Vending machines that sell toilet paper, clothes, and ready-to-eat burgers. Tokyo is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing cities you can visit.
We’re not going to go through the standard must-dos that Tokyo has to offer, such as the Sensoji Temple or Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. We’re going to assume that your copy of the Lonely Planet will cover that part. No, in this guide we’re going quirky, unique, and the type of things most people don’t really know about.
Watch Sumo Wrestling
According to some, the quintessential Japanese experience: watching a sumo tournament. The country’s national sport is full of tradition, drama, and a taste of unique experiences such as foot stomping, chanting, singing, and, of course, physical exploits you’ll be shocked can be performed by such large men!
Stay Somewhere Interesting
When it comes to holidays, we’re big fans of finding quirky or interesting places to stay. Tokyo offers a ridiculous amount of choice, with over 1,500 hotels on offer. Here are some of our top picks:
- Asakusa Hotel & Capsule. Pure weird, pure fun, and everything in between. Stay in tiny private pods, basically. It’s more fun than it sounds!
- Tokyo Station Hotel. This one is a little more luxurious, with 150 suites available in a building that looks just like an old-world European railway station.
Go to DisneySea
Most people will skip going to DisneySea, arguing that you don’t go to Japan to visit a theme park; Orlando and Anaheim have that covered. Wrong. DisneySea is perhaps the coolest Disney theme park, with seven ports modelling real places in history. It’s also a little more adult-oriented, with Broadway shows, a 1920s lounge with interesting cocktails, and a cruise liner for fine dining.
You are not allowed to leave Tokyo without experiencing one of the many quirky themed restaurants on offer. These offer some of the most unforgettable experiences:
- The Lockup. This place tries to create a creepy prison environment and includes dark hallways, blaring alarms, as well as fully-costumed prison guards. Drinks come in test tubes and the staff always stay in character.
- 8-bit Cafe. Japan is a paradise for those of us who are defined by the ‘gamer’ tag. 8-bit Cafe offers retro games such as Tetris and Mario on old consoles like the Super Nintendo.
Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane)
Also known as its less savoury name Piss Alley, Memory Lane is a time machine that takes you back to post-1940s Japan. Narrow alleyways, small counter restaurants, and loads of interesting nooks and crannies for you to explore.
We said we wouldn’t go traditional and this museum is anything but. Once you meet Asimo, one of the world’s most advanced androids, you’ll suddenly think that Terminator and Ex Machina are a little more likely to happen. This museum has much more on offer than just robots; it also features the world’s latest innovations in both science and tech. Well worth a visit.
Maricar (Real Mario Kart)
Dress up as your favourite Mario character? Check. Drive around in oversized go-karts? Check. An experience of a lifetime? Double plus check. Maricar has to be one of the most memorable experiences on offer in Tokyo. The crazy thing is that you can drive these amongst real traffic. The locals are so used to it that they don’t bat an eyelid and will wave as you drive along Tokyo’s busy streets.
This place gets extremely crowded during the weekends, but even if all you’ve got is a Saturday afternoon we still recommend you hit this trendy neighbourhood. This is where you see the latest in Japanese fashion, cosplay kids, and not to mention the incredible crepe stands. We still dream of that gorgeous banoffee pie crepe… yum.
Shop ‘Til You Drop at Daiso
Tokyo isn’t exactly known as a shopping paradise (unless you’re filthy rich, that is!), but there are deals to be had. Daiso is Japan’s answer to the Dollar store, and most products are better quality, kinda quirky, and offer the opportunity to buy interesting souvenirs for friends and family without breaking the bank.
VR Theme Parks
Tokyo is one of the hottest places on the planet to experience the latest in virtual reality technology. The past few years have seen a real surge in the accessibility and quality of VR products, which means plenty of theme parks dotted around Tokyo for you to enjoy. You won’t be able to go back to run-of-the-mill Dragon Ball after experiencing it in VR.