Archives for May 2020

Osaka Travel Guide

Osaka, the biggest city in Kansai and one of the most visited places in Japan. 

Although it loses to it’s Kanto counterpart, Tokyo, in terms of size and popularity, Osaka has the upper hand when it comes to food and friendly people. Osaka has the urban environment with local vibes in each district. Osaka is also surrounded by amazing day trip destinations such as Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, and Kobe, which makes Kansai one of the most recommended places to visit when traveling to Japan

This travel guide answers common questions people may have when traveling to Osaka. We show you how to prepare for your trip, where to stay, and what to expect in this amazing city. There’s a lot of information here so don’t forget to pin it for later!

Best Time to go

There is no particular “best” time for visiting Osaka and it may depend on your preference. In terms of temperature, spring and fall are most ideal (April, May, October, November). However, winter and summer temperatures aren’t as extreme as other parts of Japan like Tokyo. 

There are many perks to visiting Osaka during each season and and we highly recommend visiting during a different season for your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th trip. In the spring, you can witness the sakura trees come into full bloom and enjoy a pink landscape. During the summer, you can enjoy going to the beach and the summer firework festivals. In the fall, the landscape changes again as fall foliage starts and the trees prepare for winter. Finally, in the winter, you can enjoy various winter sports as Japan is famous for having many ski resorts in the country. 

Osaka or Tokyo?

Many people are often conflicted between traveling to Osaka or Tokyo. Just looking at the facts, Tokyo is a much bigger city, with 3x the population of Osaka, and has more attractions and things to do. However, Osaka also has similar attractions, just at a smaller scale. 

If you’re a foodie, Osaka is definitely the choice. Osaka is known for having great food and lots of famous dishes. If you love shopping, Tokyo has a bigger selection by far. In terms of the locals, people in Osaka tend to be friendlier, due to the huge comedy culture that exists there. 

Osaka and Tokyo are quite different and many people want to explore both. A recommended option is to fly into one city and fly out of another. There is no part city that we recommend flying into first, but this may require some planning since you may have to buy two separate tickets.

How Many Days to Spend in Osaka?

We recommend staying at least 2-3 days in Osaka, but a week might be a good amount of time to fully enjoy the city. With a week, you can spend more time exploring deeper into the city and trying all the food that Osaka has to offer. There are lots of unique destinations nearby Osaka as well, so with more time here, you’d be able to make short trips out to places like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe. 

How to get to Osaka

Osaka has two airports: Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport. Most people will be flying into Kansai International Airport, which is the main airport for international flights, located in the Osaka bay. The quickest way to get to Osaka from Kansai International Airport is by taking the JR Haruka Airport Express train, which will take roughly 35 minutes. . 

Get the JR Haruka Airport Express tickets here

If you’re coming to Osaka from Tokyo, you can take the Shinkansen which will roughly take 2.5 hours. If you plan on traveling to various places in Japan, buying a Japan Rail Pass instead of the individual ticket can save you money on the long run, since it allows you to take unlimited Shinkansen rides during the duration. 

Get the Shinkansen ticket here

Get the Japan Rail Pass here

Where to Stay?

The best place to stay in Osaka is near Umeda or Namba station. These are two of the biggest transportation hubs of Osaka that offer convenient access to many parts of the city. Not only that, there are tons of shops, restaurant, and entertainment around these areas. 

Hotels in Umeda

Hostel

Budget

Mid-Range

Luxury

Hotels in Namba

Hostel

Budget

Mid-Range

Luxury

What to do in Osaka

Osaka is a big city with lots of different things to do. 

If you want to visit some cultural spots, then we recommend visiting Osaka Castle and the Mozu Tombs, one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. There are also many viewpoints throughout the city where you can take amazing photos and overlook the city.

Universal Studios Japan is located in the Osaka bay area and it’s famous for being themed after both American movies and Japanese anime. In terms of food, we recommend checking out the Dotonbori and the Kuromon Market next to it. 

For a whole list and guide, check our Things to do in Osaka page.

What to eat?

Osaka is known to be the food capital of Japan and its specialty lies in street food. Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki are two extremely popular dishes in Osaka. The Takoyaki in Osaka are known to be bigger than usual and the Okonomiyaki is known to have originated in Osaka. Another dish worth eating is kushikatsu, deep fried skewers. This dish is the specialty in the Shinsekai district and highly recommended here. 

If you’re a fan of Japanese food in general, don’t forget to try other Japanese foods in Osaka as well, such as yakiniku, ramen, Kobe beef (in Kobe), soba, and matcha (in Kyoto). 

Day Trips

One of the best things to do when traveling to Osaka is take a step out. Osaka is surrounded by awesome cities that are special in their own way. Many people know of the famous Kyoto, but there are other destinations as well. Here are a couple day trips that you can make from Osaka. 

Kyoto

One of the most popular destinations and the former capital of Japan. It’s known for the traditional style architecture and having lots of Japanese temples and shrines throughout the city. 

Nara

The city directly to the east of Osaka. Nara is famous for deers that roam freely throughout Nara koen park and bow to people in exchange for food. 

Kobe

Kobe is the city next to Osaka that borders the Osaka bay. It’s famous for the Kobe beef and the iconic skyline from the harbor. 

Wakayama

180428 Umikongo Kushimoto Wakayama pref Japan01bs

Wakayama, the hidden gem of Kansai, tucked away directly south of Osaka. Wakayama is a famous tourist spot for Japanese people due to its beautiful nature. 

Okinawa Travel Guide

If you’re looking for a tropical paradise in Japan, Okinawa is the answer. 

Often called the Hawaii of Japan, Okinawa is the group of islands located south of the main islands. The biggest island of Okinawa, Honto, is the most visited island since it’s the most populated while also having incredibly beautiful beaches and landscapes. It’s also home to Japan’s most famous aquarium as well as many American-influenced shops and cuisines. This guide will show you everything you need to know for traveling to Okinawa.

Don’t forget to pin it for later!

About Okinawa

Okinawa consists of over 160 islands, 49 of which are inhabited. Okinawa was part of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which extended from Kyushu all the way to Taiwan and then became a part of Japan in the 19th century. After World War 2, Okinawa was occupied by America for roughly 30 years before returning to be a part of Japan again. As a result of its past, you can see evidences of Ryukyu, American, and Japanese culture in this small island. 

The Weather

Okinawa’s weather is as one expects of a tropical island. In the summer, it gets hot and humid while in the winter, it stays relatively warm, but still too cold to go swimming. Just like most tropical islands, there are also lots of typhoons that pass by Okinawa, usually in the summer. It’s important to check the weather often when traveling to Okinawa in case the typhoon may affect flights, ferries, and activities. 

Best Time to Go

We think that the best time to visit Okinawa is any time except the middle of summer. In the summer, Okinawa is blazingly hot and humid while getting a lot of rainfall. May and June are considered rainy seasons while July and August are typhoon season. Ironically, summer is also peak tourist season since Japan’s major holidays tend to be around this time as well. 

March, April, and October are probably the best months since you escape the heat and crowd while also enjoying the waters. January is also a great time to go if you want to experience the cherry blossoms in Okinawa, much earlier than other parts of Japan.

Winter is also a good time to go if you’re coming from a colder climate (like from anywhere else in Japan) and want to escape the cold. However, the waters lose their warmth so swimming may not be an option for everyone. 

How to Get There

The only way to get to Okinawa is by either airplane or ferry. 

Naha Airport connects to every major airport in Japan, and a few from other countries nearby. The best way to get to Okinawa from far away would be to fly into a big city, like Tokyo or Osaka, and transfer to Naha Airport from there. It may also be a good way to see a part of main Japan before enjoying the island life in Okinawa.

You can check below for ways to get to Okinawa from your country!

Transportation

In Okinawa, there is a monorail that runs from the airport to Naha city and various buses that connect Naha to the other parts of the island. To ride the public transportation in Okinawa, you can either buy individual tickets or get the OKICA transportation card, which you can charge up and easily ride the monorail or bus. If you’re coming from mainland Japan, the PASMO or SUICA card does not work in Okinawa and you would have to purchase the OKICA card. 

While public transportation is available, the best way to see the beauty of Okinawa is by renting a car. With a rental car, you have access to remote beaches and parts of the island and get to places much faster. In addition to that, rental cars in Okinawa tend to be much cheaper than the rest of Japan, so it’s good to take advantage of that!

Where to Stay

Hotel Deal - Okinawa Marriott Resort & Spa just $84 (using Marriott LNF)

Naha (South Okinawa)

Hostel

3 Star Hotel

4&5 Star Hotel

  • Loisir Spa Tower Naha – Upscale beach resort with relaxing spa, luxurious dining, and rooms overlooking the sea. 

Nakagami (Central Okinawa)

Hostel

3 Star Hotel

4&5 Star Hotel

Nago (North Okinawa)

Hostel

3 Star Hotel

  • Hotel Resonex Nago – Beachfront hotel with onsen, gym, and an open patio next to the beach. 
  • Kanehide Kise Beach Palace

4&5 Star Hotel

What to Pack

Clothes

The weather is hot and humid from April to November, so you’d want to wear as light as possible. During the winter months, you might want to wear long sleeves and pants, but also keep some shirts as well. 

Whether it’s rainy season or not, Okinawa has random rainfalls, so it may also be a good idea to bring a waterproof jacket

For a more detailed clothing guide, you can check the official Okinawa Travel Guide

Cash

You need cash, not just in the natural parts of Okinawa, but also in cities like Naha as well. Many chain restaurants, supermarkets, and big establishments accept credit card, but cash is the only acceptable payment everywhere else. If you need cash while there, you can withdraw from any convenience store or a Japan Post ATM. 

Beach Essentials

Going to a tropical island means that you’ll be going to the beach as often as possible. Instead of figuring it out when you get there, it can be more cost effective to prepare everything beforehand. Here is a general packing checklist of beach essentials. 

Compact Umbrella

As mentioned before, Okinawa has random rainfalls, whether it’s rainy season or not. Having a compact umbrella around can be useful in these situations. 

Buy a compact umbrella here

International Drivers Permit

If you are renting a car you need either a Japanese drivers license or an International Drivers Permit. In the USA, an IDP application may take around 10-15 business days, so make sure to plan ahead!

Universal Adapter

Japanese outlets have the same shape as the ones in the US. If you’re coming from the US, you won’t be able to connect your three-prong outlets. If you’re coming from outside of the US, you may need to bring an electrical adapter. It’s also recommended to bring a power cord as well so you can have multiple sockets. 

Buy a universal adapter here

Wifi

It’s hard to travel without wifi these days. When traveling to Okinawa, you need a wifi provider that has coverage in the smaller islands as well, 

Get pocket wifi here

Power Bank

The more you use your phone, the more battery it uses. 

You may need a power bank when traveling to countryside, when you’re not quite sure when the next time you can find an electric socket. 

Get electric power bank here

Attractions

Churaumi Aquarium

Japan’s most famous aquarium.

The Churaumi Aquarium is located on the north western tip of the main island, in Ocean Expo Park. It has one of the biggest tanks in the world that can hold 7.5 million liters and houses two whale sharks, manta rays, and hundreds of marine life. 

How to get there

The fastest way to get there is by car, by taking the Okinawa Expressway. There are also several local and express buses which you can take from Naha, Nago, and other parts of the island. You can see all the bus information and timetable on this website.

Tickets available here.

Hours: 8:30am – 7:00pm

Address: 424 Azaishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0206

Phone Number: 0980-48-3748

Orion Happy Park

If you have an interest in beer, Orion Happy Park is a great place to learn about the entire process. Orion is one of Japan’s most famous beer companies and they are based in Okinawa and at Orion Happy Park, they have tours that guide you through the entire process from raw materials, all the way to the bottle.

Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm

Address: 2 Chome-2-1 Agarie, Nago, Okinawa 905-0021

Phone Number: 0980-54-4103

Nago Pineapple Park

Nago Pineapple Park (32183097142)

If you’re at a tropical island, it only makes sense to eat pineapples (and maybe go to a theme park about it). 

Okinawa is famous for its pineapples and at Nago Pineapple Park, you can ride through fields of them and learn about the various different kinds. There’s also a cafe that offers various pineapple dishes and a shop where you can take home some pineapple sweets, cider, alcohol, cosmetics, and other souvenirs!

Tickets available here.

Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm

Address: 1195 Biimata, Nago, Okinawa 905-0005

Phone Number: 0980-53-3659

Ryukyu Mura

Ryukyu Mura is another theme park that’s more centered around the Ryukyu Kingdom culture. Here, all the houses are traditional Okinawa style and you can engage in various activities, purchase unique souvenirs, and eat traditional Okinawa dishes. 

Tickets available here

Hours: 9:00am – 5:30pm

Address: 1130 Yamada, Onna, Kunigami District, Okinawa 904-0416

Phone Number: 098-965-1234

Okinawa World

Gyokusendo Nanjo Okinawa Japan03s3104

Okinawa World is a theme park based on the Okinawan culture with lots of attractions. Inside is the 5km long Gyokusendo Cave, the second longest cave in all of Japan. There’s also a village with Ryukyu-style houses with hands-on workshops inside for glass blowing, sugar cane processing, pottery making, and much more. The park also features a snake park, brewery, and a huge orchard where they grow various island fruits. 

Tickets available here

Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm

Address: Maekawa-1336 Tamagusuku, Nanjo, Okinawa 901-0616

Phone Number: 098-949-7421

Culture and Landmarks

Shuri Castle

If you want to witness the symbol of Okinawa, you need to check out the Shuri Castle. Shuri Castle is located on top of a hill overlooking Naha and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Inside is a small traditional Japanese style cafe where you can sit down and have some tea with light snack. Occasionally, there are festivals held at the castle grounds during certain times of the year. 

Note: The castle had been destroyed due to a fire in 2019 and is currently under re-construction. Constructions won’t be complete until roughly 2022, but you can still visit the castle park area during the re-construction. 

Hours: 8:00am – 7:30pm

Address: 1 Chome-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa 903-0815

Phone Number: 098-886-2020

Nakijin & Nakagusuku Castle Ruins

The Nakijin and Nakagusuku Castle Ruins are another UNESCO World Heritage site that’s part of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Here, you won’t find a full castle-like structure, but rather a field of remainders of the castle walls, thus being called the castle ruins. 

The Nakijin Castle Ruins are located in the north close to the Churaumi Aquarium, while Nakagusuku Castle Ruins are located in central Okinawa, near Ginowan city.

Nakajin Castle Ruins

Hours: 8:00am – 6:00pm

Address: 5101 Imadomari, Nakijin, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0428

Phone Number: 0980-56-4400

Nakagusuku Castle Ruins

Hours: 8:30am – 5:00pm

Address: 503 Ogusuku, Kitanakagusuku, Nakagami District, Okinawa 901-2314

Phone Number: 098-935-5719

Nature and Beaches

Naminoue Beach

When you arrive to Naha, Naminoue beach may be the first beach you might visit. In fact, Naminoue Beach is the only beach in Naha city and also the only one with a highway running over it. It’s not exactly the type of beach that comes to mind at a tropical island, but the waters are very clear and it’s the most accessible beach from Naha. 

Address: 1 Chome-25-9 Wakasa, Naha, Okinawa 900-0031

Ginowan Seaside Park

If Naminoue Beach doesn’t satisfy your tropical cravings, then perhaps Ginowan Beach will. Located only 20 minutes away from Naha, Ginowan Seaside Park is a huge national park with an endless beach on the other end. Here, you can not only enjoy the tropical beach settings, but also enjoy a nice barbecue, participate in sports, and use clean beach facilities such as showers and bathroom. 

Hours: 9:00am – 9:30pm

Address: 4 Chome-2-2番1号 Mashiki, Ginowan, Okinawa 901-2224

Phone Number: 098-897-2751

Cape Manzamo

Onna Okinawa Japan Cape-Manzamo-01

Halfway up north is Cape Manzamo, the perfect place to find stunning views overlooking the ocean. The cape is famous for the elephant trunk shaped roots and is a popular spot for scuba diving as well since it’s surrounded by corals. The cape is also visible from the ANA Intercontinental Resort Hotel, on the opposite side of the water. 

Hours: 24 hours

Address: Onna, Kunigami District, Okinawa 904-0411

Phone Number: 098-966-1280

Kouri Island & Kouri Bridge

If you can make it to the north of the island, you can find the most beautiful beaches in Okinawa. Kouri Island is a small island in the Nakijin area. You can access Kouri island through a 2 km bridge with an amazing view. 

Address: Kouri, Nakijin, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0406

Water Activities

Into the water

Snorkeling in Kerama Islands – Dip in the water with various marine life in the archipelago next to the main islands.

Blue Cave Snorkeling and Scuba Diving – Snorkel or scuba dive into an underwater cave by Onna Village. 

Onna Village Marine Walk – Walk on the ocean floor with a special dive helmet and witness marine life up close. 

Semi-Submersible Boat Ride – Descend to the ocean in a semi-submarine and witness marine life through windows from the boat. 

Over the water

Parasailing Experience – Safe and fun parasail ride up to 50 meters above the ocean and a nice boat ride over the tropical ocean. 

High Speed Jet Boat Ride – Soar through the Okinawan waters inside an exhilaratingly fast jet boat. 

Surfing Experience – Learn to surf from a licensed instructor in the beautiful beaches of Okinawa.

Marine Sports Package – Package including 4 marine activities: jet ski, parasailing, and 2 variations of banana boat ride. 

Shopping & Entertainment

International Street

If you want to find the “city side” of Naha, look no further. International Street (Kokusai Dori) is the central street of Okinawa and has everything from shopping to restaurants and various kinds of entertainment. Personally, we love to visit here after sunset, when the neon signs light up the streets. This is also a great place to shop for souvenirs as many shops sell the Okinawa classics such as Shisa merchandise and snake sake. 

Hours: 9:30am – 10:00pm

Address: 3 Chome-2-10 Makishi, Naha, Okinawa 900-0013

Phone Number: 098-863-2755

American Village

American Village is a huge, flashy entertainment complex located in the city of Mihama. It was once used to be an American base that’s now been turned into a popular entertainment district. There are more than 100 American influenced shops and restaurants that sell various American and Japanese goods. 

It’s a nice unique place to go for sightseeing, shopping, and trying out various Okinawan foods (plus it’s right next to the beach). American Village is quite huge so you may want to refer to this interactive map for information on individual shops. 

How to get there:

There are various buses that connect American village to both the Naha side and Nago side. You can find the bus information here

Hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Address: 904-0115 Okinawa, Nakagami District, Chatan, Mihama, 9−1

Phone Number: 098-926-4455

Other Islands

There are many islands in Okinawa and Honto is only half the experience. Each island has its own culture and hidden nature. Some are reachable by ferry from Naha while others require plane transportation. Here are some islands that are worth visiting among the Okinawa Islands! 

  • Ishigaki
  • Miyakojima
  • Amami
  • Yonaguni
  • Iriomote
  • Taketomi

What are you looking forward to the most in Okinawa?

Things to do in Tokyo

Tokyo, the urban capital of Japan and a very popular tourist destination. In fact, it’s one of the most populated metropolitan area in the world, with more than 38 million people. Being a city so popular, Tokyo definitely has a lot to offer.  

We’ve gathered some of the best things to do in Tokyo and organized it into easy to understand groups. Every district in Tokyo has its own features, so we’ve also included some insight into these different districts. If it’s going to be your first time Tokyo, we highly recommend checking out the full guide to Tokyo for tips on how to prepare a trip to Tokyo. 

Classic Spots

Shibuya Crossing, the Busiest Crossing in the World

Just like visiting the Times Square in New York, the Shibuya Crossing will make you realize that you are finally in Tokyo. At the crossing, up to over 3,000 people cross the intersection per light, from all directions. Once you’ve experienced the crossing first hand, step away and watch from a distance to really feel the magic!

Sensoji Temple, the Oldest Temple in Japan

Built in the mid 7th century, Sensoji temple is one of the oldest temples in Japan. It was built to honor the god of mercy, Kannon. The temple is located in Asakusa, where there are lots of shops and traditional Japanese buildings still remaining. Once you pass the iconic Kaminarimon gates, there is a long row of food stands and souvenir shops before reaching the temple itself.

Tokyo Skytree, the Tallest Building in Tokyo

Located right across the Sumida river from Sensoji Temple is Tokyo Skytree, the tallest building in Japan. Standing at 634m tall, you can get the highest view of Tokyo from the observation deck. There’s also a shopping mall on the bottom floors full of various restaurants and shops.

Tokyo Tower, the Tallest Steel Structure in the World

Despite being shorter than the Skytree, Tokyo Tower is actually the tallest standing steel structure in the world. Both have an observation deck and are radio towers, but they’re quite different in many ways. 

Tokyo Tower is located on the opposite side of Tokyo, in the Hamamatsu-cho area. Near the tower is the Hamarikyu gardens and the entertainment district, Roppongi. 

Tokyo Metropolitan Building, the Cheapest Viewpoint of Tokyo

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building - Tokyo, Japan

Most viewpoints in Tokyo require money to access the observation deck, but there’s a free one near Shinjuku Station. On a good day, you can see all of Tokyo’s famous landmarks, as well as Mt. Fuji in the distance. The observation deck itself is free to access and there are souvenir shops at the top, to help finance the deck. 

Ueno Zoo, the Oldest Zoo in Japan

Entrance to Ueno Zoo (9409818400)

If you love animals, you should check out Ueno Zoo, the oldest zoo in Japan. This zoo is home to over 400 different species and even has a monorail to connect the two parts. The zoo is most famous for its pandas, which is the reason for the panda statues all over Ueno station. 

Attractions

Tokyo Disneyland Theme Park

Whether you’re a Disney fan or not, the Disneyland Theme Park is worth a visit! There are two parks: Tokyo Disney and Disney Sea. While Tokyo Disney is also great, Disney Sea is a unique experience and we highly recommend checking it out first if you’re short on time. 

Buy Tokyo Disney 1-Day Passport here

Ghibli Museum

If you love classic Ghibli films such as Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro, you’d definitely want to check out the Ghibli museum in Mitaka. There are various exhibitions centered around each classic movie and you can tell that each part of the interior design has been carefully thought out, just like the films. Photography is not allowed inside and tickets are quite hard to come by so make sure to secure them months before your visit!

Buy Ghibli Museum tickets here.

teamLab Borderless Exhibition

MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM EPSON teamLab Borderless

The teamLab Borderless exhibition in Odaiba is one of the most popular art exhibitions in Japan. The teamLab group of artists are known for creating visually aesthetic artwork that seem to extend beyond the walls and defy any concept of space. This exhibition is highly recommended for anyone visiting Tokyo.

Buy teamlab Borderless tickets here

Sunshine Sky Circus

The top floor of Sunshine City started off as an observation deck, but has evolved into so much more. There is now a VR theme park, planetarium, and various other interactive displays. There are also restaurants, smaller amusement parks, and many anime themed shops on the bottom floors of Sunshine City and this place is highly recommended for families and anime-lovers!

Buy Sunshine Sky Circus and Observatory tickets here.

Tokyo Dome City

LaQua(Tokyo Dome City )

Tokyo Dome City is a city within a city. Not just an amusement park, the area also has a hotel, sports stadium, restaurants, shopping mall, spa, and an event hall. Start your day off at the amusement park, explore the shopping mall area throughout the day, and finish it off by relaxing at the spa. 

Buy Tokyo Dome City Attractions and Space Museum tickets here

Unique Experiences

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji is home to one of the world’s most famous fish auctions and is one of the most distinct experiences in Tokyo. Here, you can try fresh seafood, experience the fish market culture, and buy authentic Japanese ingredients for souvenirs. To get the full experience, take a tour with a local guide that’s familiar with the Tsukiji culture and history.

Reserve a Tsukiji Fish Market Food Tour here.

Oedo Onsen

Oedo Onsen Monogatari

For a complete onsen (hot spring) experience, head over to Tokyo’s most famous Oedo Onsen Monogatari. Located in Odaiba, Oedo Onsen has various types of baths including open air, steam, and foot. After washing up, you can change into a Yugata and enter the mix-gender amusement area, decorated as a mini Edo town, where you can eat, relax, and participate in various Japanese activities. 

Buy Oedo Onsen Monogatari tickets here

Watch the Sumo Morning Practice

Sumo tournaments are hard to come by and can be really expensive. A better way to experience the 2000 year old Japanese sport is to watch their practice in the morning. In Tokyo, there are several sumo practice spots where sumo wrestlers practice in the morning. Once you’re at the sumo dojo, they have several rules in place so it doesn’t disturb the athletes’ training. 

Watching the sumo practice itself is free, but if you’d like re-arrangements for practice schedule changes or would like assistance with the language barrier, there are several tours available that can arrange everything for you.

Book a Sumo Practice tour now

Drink at an Izakaya

One of the best ways to experience the local culture in Tokyo is to step inside an izakaya. It’s the gathering spot for many people from college kids to full-time salarymen. An izakaya is the halfway point between a restaurant and a bar where drinks are served with small dishes meant to complement the alcohol. There are many different izakaya ranging from chains like Torikizoku and Kuranokuniya to hidden local spots, some even without a name! 

Purchase a Local Bar Hopping tour here

Robot Restaurant

The Robot Restaurant can either feel like a unique experience or a tourist trap. Inside, there are stadium-style seats in a dark room. Once the show starts, robot floats and exotic costumes parade through the stadium with neon lights and dances. The show lasts about 90 minutes and whether you walk away satisfied or weirded out, you’re definitely in for a surprise!

Buy Robot Restaurant tickets here

Maid Cafe

If you’re open to new experiences, check out a maid cafe. These are themed cafes where the “maid” staff treat the customers as if they are princes and princesses. You can order cute menu items and there are traditions set for when you call for the maid. The maids also perform shows and you’re given a souvenir to take back home. 

Purchase the Maid Cafe Experience here

Kawaii Monster Cafe

The Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku is another unique cafe experience. The whole interior is decorated with colorful yet spooky creatures and the staff are dressed up in exotic costumes. There are different zones of seating and the food also comes in a colorful yet spooky theme.

Michelin Star Restaurants

For the foodie travelers who want to taste the best, check out some of the Michelin Star restaurants in Tokyo. Tokyo has a full list of Michelin Star restaurants and they range anywhere from a small ramen shop to high-end luxury restaurants.

Gardens & Nature

Shinjuku Gyoen Park

Shinjuku Gyoen Park is one of the biggest parks in Tokyo. The park is divided into three different types of garden and also has a greenhouse. This is also one of the most popular spots to see the cherry blossom and you can see many locals and travelers gather around to take pictures and enjoy a picnic.

Ueno Park

Ueno Park is another popular park in Tokyo, located right next to Ueno station. Ueno is one of the first Western style parks in Tokyo and was built in 1873. The park has a pond, where you can ride boats, and there are various art museums within the park as well. 

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is one of the biggest shrines in Tokyo. What’s cool about this shrine is that there are Japanese weddings held often and you can watch the traditional ceremonies happen from a distance. Despite being in the urban area of Harajuku, the entrance to Meiji Shrine is surrounded by tall trees, and can be a nice, calm place to take a breather from your busy travels.  

Mt. Takao

If you really want to immerse yourself in nature while in Tokyo, Mt. Takao is the perfect place. Mt. Takao is located at the western end of the Chuo line and is a relatively small mountain. It takes about 1-2 hours to hike to the top but there’s also a cable car that you can take halfway. At the foot of the mountain, there’s a nice, relaxing onsen which we recommend stepping into after your hike. 

Hamarikyu Garden

Jardines Hama Rikyu

The Hamarikyu Garden is a great place to catch a breather in the middle of the day. Hamarikyu Garden is located in the Tokyo bay and is surrounded by a seawater moat. The garden was designed in a traditional Japanese style and you can see that every small detail has been thought out, as it used to be a private garden for the shogunate. The scenery of a peaceful garden with skyscrapers in the background makes this garden quite unique.

Main Districts of Tokyo

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is the world’s busiest station. There are over 12 train lines that are used by over 3.5 million people per day. You can also find all kinds of shopping malls from low to high end. Shinjuku is home to the famous Golden Gai, the Tokyo Metropolitan building, and the notorious Kabukicho district. 

Shibuya

Shibuya is the city that never sleeps. There are lots of entertainments here from karaoke to clubs and bars. It’s also the home to Japan’s Time Square, the Shibuya Crossing, and the famous Hachiko statue. Shibuya is continuously growing with more and more skyscrapers appearing in the skyline every year and will soon be the corporate hub of Tokyo.

Harajuku

Harajuku is the station just before Shibuya and it’s the fashion central of Tokyo. It’s most famous for Takeshita Street, filled with lots of colorful fashion and street food. The main street that runs parallel to Takeshita is Omotesando, where it’s lined up with all the high-end fashion. 

Akihabara

Akihabara is famously known as the electronics, anime, and manga town. You can find all of Japan’s biggest electronics retailers competing to give you the lowest price and there are also rare figurines and anime goods that you can only find in Akihabara. Other than shopping, you can find lots of arcades and themed cafes. 

Asakusa

Asakusa is the city of Tokyo’s past. You can see lots of older style buildings and restaurants serving Japanese style. In the streets, you can see people riding the Jinrikisha, a man powered cart used as a cheap form of transportation in the late 19th century. Asakusa is also home to the famous Sensoji Temple and the Tokyo Skytree. 

Odaiba

If Asakusa is the city of Tokyo’s past, Odaiba is the city of Tokyo’s future. Odaiba is a big shopping and entertainment district built on man-made land. It’s easily recognizable by the Gundam statue and the Statue of Liberty replica. It’s also home to the popular teamLab Borderless exhibition and the Oedo Onsen Monogatari.

Tokyo/Marunouchi

The Marunouchi area is bordered by three big stations: Tokyo station, Otemachi station, and Yurakucho station. This is known as the business area and it’s filled with skyscrapers. You can find lots of good quality restaurants and izakaya around the station. This area is also a main transportation hub with Otemachi station serving the metro lines and Tokyo station serving the JR lines, along with the Shinkansen

Ginza

Ginza is Tokyo’s luxury district. The area is packed with brand name shops and high end dining. There is also a thriving nightlife in Ginza and you can also find some of the most exquisite lounges and nightclubs. Regardless of whether you’re into the luxury life or not, window-shopping is always free!

Kagurazaka

Kagurazaka preserves the elegance of traditional Japan. The sloped street between Iidabashi and Kagurazaka station is lined up with lots of unique restaurants and izakaya and you don’t see too many chain restaurants here. The area used to be famous for being the geisha district during the Edo period and is now home to a considerable French community. If you branch off into the side streets, you can find traditional walkways and restaurants mixed in with some French restaurants as well. 

Trendy Areas

Daikanyama

Daikanyama is a small, decorative neighborhood near Shibuya. There are various high-end individual brand shops everywhere, each standing with their own unique architecture. In the heart of Daikanyama is the Daikanyama T-site, one of the most popular book stores in Japan. Daikanyama is also known to have some of the best brunch spots in Tokyo, as well has lots of hip cafes and craft beer breweries. 

Shimokitazawa

Shimokitazawa is one of the most popular places for the younger crowd. The streets are decorated with murals and the area is known for having lots of thrift and vintage shops. You can also find home decor stores, live houses, and trendy cafes in this area as well. 

Kichijoji

At Kichijoji, you can get the local experience of one of the most popular residential areas in Tokyo. Kichijoji was named the most desired place to live in Kanto for several consecutive years and it’s not hard to see why. Kichijoji is quite separated from central Tokyo, yet very well connected, having easy transportation to Shibuya and Shinjuku. Right next to the station is Inokashira Park, where you can fully experience nature in the middle of the city. There are also a considerable amount of stylish cafes, thrift shops, and local izakaya.