My dad watched a video once where the individual recommended doing five things right when you get to a new destination – go to the water, drink coffee (morning), a park, eat at a bakery (afternoon), and get up high so that you’ve got a view. My dad has since amended the criteria to be watr, park, view, food, and fun, but the concept holds true nevertheless.
When the two of us went to Tokyo, Japan in June of 2019, we tried to implement this model as best as we could. This turned into me chronologically journalling to keep as many memories as possible, which I figured could be helpful for me to share.
Most of these recommendations came from hours of me stalking Pinterest and reading blog posts (like this one!) to decide where to go, what to see, and what to eat. Below are a few of my favorite things, but it isn’t an all-inclusive list.
ALLISON’S TOP THINGS TO DO AND SEE
Walk through Ueno Park. We visited the National Museum that featured both an Asian history/art gallery and an amazing architecture exhibit. There’s also a zoo and a Central Park vibe.
Walk around East Shinjuku. We stayed in West Shinjuku which is known for being safe and more residential, the East is what you’re picturing when you imagine sparkly lights and bright signs.
Sensoji Temple. When you’re googling “What to do in Tokyo,” almost all posts will include this temple. I recommend walking into any temple you can find as they’re all elaborate works of art.
Meji Shrine & Park. This place is a sort of botanical garden filled with artists painting the lily ponds and flower gardens.
Imperial Palace’s East Gardens.
One thing to note is that many things are closed on Mondays.
ALLISON’S TOP THINGS TO EAT
When I was looking at what to eat in Tokyo, I kept seeing the same five types of food pop up – soba, sushi, ramen, udon, and gyoza. It’s a complete diservice to the culture to say that these are the only (or best) foods, but these were helpful categories for me to have as I was trying to plan our four days. If I could hit each of these once, I’d be content.
Soba. I had soba noodles at the restaurant in the National Museum in Ueno Park.
Sushi at Genki Sushi which is a conveyor belt restaurant. This place had some of the freshest sushi I’ve ever had, it’s just steps from Shibuya Crossing (one of the most crowded crosswalks in the world), and our meal cost approximately $10.00. Together.
Udon at Hanaman Udon which is in the basement of a hostel. You go down the line and choose what you want and they put it all together for you!
Ramen at Ichiban Ramen. This place is famous and deliciously good. While the fact that this restaurant (with multiple locations) is mostly known for the fact that their ramen is ordered in a vending machine and you’re served in individual pods, the food still holds up.
#5 – pork, egg, green onion, mushrooms, etc. – this was the most traditional version on the menu and came highly recommended by the internet.
Gyoza at Harajuku Gyoza Lou. I make a lot of the Trader Joe’s gyoza and having real authentic gyoza sort of ruined that for me.
I can honestly say that I didn’t have anything bad the entire time I was there. We didn’t do too much of the street food, but that’s mostly because I stuffed myself at meals and wasn’t too hungry in the meantime. A lot of the street food, especially in the more touristy spots, seemed super sugary and novelty.
ALLISON’S CITY MAP
I made a map for my dad and I to reference while in Tokyo saved in Google Drive. When we were getting hungry or wanted to stop in somewhere, I pulled out the map and tried to see how close we were to something good to do.
You can’t download an offline map, but even with data turned off you can usually see yourself “ping” on the map. I’d just head in the right direction and hope for the best! It was a great exercise in reading a map and trusting my research.
All of the places I mention above are linked below on the map..
Want to watch the video I referred to at the very beginning of this post? Here you go.
Did I miss something that you loved about Tokyo? Share in the comments below so that everyone else can see more tips and tricks!