Quick Facts:

LANGUAGE: Japanese

CURRENCY: Japanese Yen

ETIQUETTE:  Do your homework on proper etiquette.  The Japanese are very respectful and disciplined people.  Do not eat while walking down the street.  Remain quiet on public transportation.  Take your shoes off when entering someone’s home.

POINTS OF INTEREST: Senso-ji Temple, Nakamise Street, outer markets of Tsukiji Fish Market, Robot Restaurant, Golden Gai, Meiji Shrine, Takeshita street, Shibuya crossing

CITY LAYOUT: Tokyo is a huge city comprised of 23 different districts.  To maximize your time in the city, it is important to lay out your day based on location.  Public transportation is easy-ish to navigate and will help you get quickly around the city.

ACCOMMODATIONS: We would recommend basing your hotel or accommodations in the Shinjuku or Shibuya districts.

Recommended Itinerary

DAY ONE:

Begin your first full day at Senso-ji Temple, tucked away in the northeastern district of Asakusa. One of the most popular shrines in Tokyo, Sensoji is a post-war reconstruction of Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple complex. Expect Sensoji to be crowded but do not let that keep you from visiting. The shrine is popular for a reason! Test your luck with omikuji paper fortunes or seek healing with the wave of incense smoke.

Exit the temple complex by walking down Nakamise Street which connects the main gate (Kaminarimon Gate) with the main hall of the temple complex.  Browse the many souvenir shops or try a local snack from a food vendor. We sampled matcha ice cream and Taiyaki (fish shaped pastry filled with sweetened red bean paste).

Next, head to the outer markets of the original Tsukiji Fish Market. Although the original fish market, Tsukiji, has closed and moved to a new location (Toyosu Fish Market), the outer markets are still open and active.

Originally Tsukiji Market was a wholesale market for professionals where restaurant owners would gather to buy fresh fish and produce as well as any other culinary needs. The doors have since been opened to the public. Wander the alleys, take in the organized chaos and enjoy a delicious sushi lunch at one of the many alley way restaurants.

To end your first day in the city, buy tickets to the Robot Restaurant located in the Shinjuku district. The futuristic show is hands down the weirdest most entertaining experience you will have in Tokyo! Expect a nonstop, sensory overload, lights show full of robots, dancing, drums and fake battles. Arrive early to enjoy a drink in the lounge before the show begins.

*Even if you buy tickets online, you will still have to stand in line to redeem them so give yourself extra time to account for this. The ceilings are low and the “stage” is very narrow. Robots were almost touching those sitting on the front row during the performance. Best seats in my opinion are second row in the middle of the floor.

After your futuristic show, walk to the Golden Gai for a nightcap. Composed of 6 narrow alleys with over 200 tiny bars and eateries, the Golden Gai gives a nod to times past in Japan and are still frequented by locals. Bars welcoming tourists normally have signs displayed prominently in English outside the door.

*Expect to pay a cover at these bars. Again, these bars are very small and can only accommodate a few patrons at a time. Not recommended for large parties. Highly recommend Albatross bar if visiting for the first time.

DAY TWO:

Start your day at Meiji Shrine located in the Shibuya district. Dedicated to the Emperor Meiji’s wife, Empress Shoken, the shrine is a quiet and peaceful oasis in the middle of bustling Tokyo. Walk along the winding pathways through the 170 acres of evergreen forest and get lost in the sounds of nature.

The main complex of shrine buildings is a ten minute walk from either entrance, Harajuku Station or Yoyogi Station.  The grounds are free to explore unless you would like access to the Inner Garden which requires an entrance fee.  The gardens are popular in June when the irises are in full bloom.  Don’t miss the barrels of sake donated to the shrine creating a towering art exhibit along the paved walkway.

Located within the Shibuya district is the Harajuku neighborhood and the pedistrian street of Takeshita. Harajuku is the pop culture center of Tokyo and in the neighborhood, you will find trendy shops, boutiques, and cafes centering about teenage culture and fashion.

If you are hungry for lunch while walking around Harajuku look for a Lawson’s Pharmacy and try an egg salad sandwich.  You can thank the late Anthony Bourdain for this unique culinary find!

While in the Shibuya district, check out the famous Shibuya Crossing. Rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world, this five point crossing is surrounded by tall shopping centers, neon lights and large television displays. Anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people can be crossing this intersection at one time giving the intersection the nickname “the scramble” crossing. Check out the view from above at the Starbucks or on top of one of the surrounding shopping centers for a great aerial view.

For dinner, sign up for a walking street food tour  to find hidden food gems in the Shibuya and Shinjuku districts.  Make sure your guide points out the best sake to sample.  No trip to Japan is complete without trying the local beverage. 

Hitting many of the city’s main attractions, this quick guide is a great start to getting to know Tokyo.  If you have more time in the city, other noteworthy city sights include Toyko Tower and observation deck, Tokyo Palace and grounds, Yogi Park and a Mario Cart race around the Shibuya district (definielty something we will do on our next trip to the city!)

Welcome to Mullen it Over!

Hi, we’re Amanda & Kai!

An every day couple trying to see the world and cross off our ever expanding bucket list.

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