Travel Notes


5 Things to do in Tokyo

One of the first things most travellers think about while planning a Japan trip is managing the costs. Japan is a pricey destination in the minds of many and it is true to a great many extent. Transport and food, two most important things while travelling, do not always shake hands with your wallet in this North-East Asian paradise of cultures. A cheapest breakfast meal at a Seven Eleven store may cost you 5-6 USD whereas you can do it on 2-3 USD in most Asian countries. As for transport Japan has a world famous metro rail system, but without a careful planning of moving around in the city it might cost you extra bucks.

I am not trying to take you to places where you don’t need to pay entrance fees, places where you do not have to do anything but just exercise your visual organs. Even if you are an average traveller, countries like Japan will tempt you to draw a more comprehensive experience by consuming something there and by taking something back home. What I have to offer is a selected list of things/places which you can enjoy in this one of the most visited cities in the world without going pauper before your departure flight.

  1. Shibuya Crossing

You don’t want to miss this one, do you? So, head to the famous ‘Scramble’, the Shibuya Crossing where you will see as many as five zebra crossings within a radius of a few metres. This is where the world moves at once to different directions. Experiencing moving with the crowd is something you would enjoy only in this part of the world. There are at least four corners from where you take a look at the crossings before you decide which direction to head to. If you are walking to the crossings coming out of the Shibuya station, you will see a Starbucks store in front. You will see customers lined up behind the store’s glass windows taking pictures of you and the other crossers. Yes, you guessed it right, it is difficult to get a seat in this Starbucks. No worries. There’s an even better and cheaper place to have a great aerial view of the crossings. Climb up to the topmost floor of the Magnet by Shibuya 109 (right of Starbucks) building and enter the food court. On this floor you will see several cafes and an arrow mark pointing to the ‘Crossing Viewpoint’. Pay 500 yen and look down on the world as much as you like. Even get your photo taken by a fixed camera on the wall which focuses on you and the crossings below. So bring out your best freakish pose and histrionics. Don’t worry, there’s a high glass wall barrier so there’s no room for stupidity. And here’s the good thing. Exchange the ticket you receive at the payment of 500 yen for a snack or a drink at one of the cafes at Magnet 9. How does that sound, have the cake and eat it too?

From the ‘Crossing Viewpoint’, Magnet 109
At a cafe inside Magnet Shibuya 109
Relax while the world is busy crossing the streets down below.
People taking photos of the crossings from Starbucks Coffee.
  1. Ginza

This is going to be a courtyard of skyscrapers where high-end shopping is the norm. However, there are some popular shops where tourists have a busy time churning out the best bets. The popular Japanese brand, Uniqlo has the biggest of their stores in the world here. It is a 12-storey tall building where there is plenty to choose from for men, women and kids. The prices are cheaper compared to Uniqlo stores in your country. The same street has other fashion outlets like GU which will keep you at Ginza for at least half a day, if not till sunset. The restaurants and cafes can be very expensive in this part of Tokyo, but you might want to rest your legs and get refreshed. Walk two minutes to the left from Uniqlo toward the direction of Nissan Crossing and turn left from there and you will find Le cafe Doutor, an excellent place to grab some reasonably priced coffee/juice and some bites.

The biggest Uniqlo store in the world.
The biggest Uniqlo store is 12 storeys tall
Ginza’s streets are skyscraper-locked.
  1. Senso-Ji Temple and Nakamise Street

Asakusa is the old town Tokyo and remnants of the Edo period can be seen here. Senso-Ji Temple, or the Asakusa Kannon Temple (named after the Goddess, Kannon) is the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. This is one of the crowded attractions so get there early at about 9.30 in the morning. Spend some time in the temple compound, photographing the architecture of the temple, the temple gate and the adjacent pagoda. The Nakamise Street lies straight ahead of the temple, stretching for 200 metres with as many or more shops on both sides. This is probably the best place to buy souvenirs in Tokyo. Also, the best place to buy a kimono if you want to add a cultural bit to your Japan travel. Shops here sell it for 5000 yen. There are streets with overhead roof running horizontally on Nakamise where more shops and eateries can be found. Get into one of the restaurants for a hot and tasty Ramen or some affordable Sashimi.

The Senso-Ji temple compound.
The Senso-Ji Temple
The Nakamise Street at night.
The Nakamise Street during day time.
The Senso-Ji Temple at night.
  1. Skytree Tower

Skyscrapers are definitely one of the attractions of urban environments. We all love to pose for pictures with these giant modern architectural wonders in the background. And if a skyscraper happens to be exceptionally tall and shapely there is always a special interest. Not just to photograph it, but also to climb to the top and get those rare aerial views. The Skytree Tower and its surroundings are very interesting to watch, especially after dark. A lit tower standing just above you under the night sky is an imposing sight. There is an open air restaurant on the fourth floor next to the ticket counter. Get your tickets for 2060 yen per person and get into the lift which will take you to the Tembo Deck up 350 metres. The city below you looks like a huge necklace floating around. There is a restaurant, a cafe and some souvenir shops on this floor. If you still want to go higher up, pay another 1030 yen and get to the Tembo Galleria at 450 metres, however, the view may not be much different from the Tembo Deck and with smaller glass windows, taking photos may not be convenient. There is a cheaper way to see Tokyo from above by getting to the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, but it is not as tall as the Skytree Tower and the overall experience of getting on to a tower may not be fulfilled.

The view up from the fourth floor terrace.
View from above – Tembo Deck 350 m.
View from above – Tembo Deck 350 m.
  1. Tsukiji Fish Market

Now comes food, an integral part of travel. When in Japan get to the most authentic places where the locals usually go and enjoy their delicacies. Tsukiji Fish Market opens early morning for business. The outer market is ready for breakfast as early as 5.30 am and the narrow, winding streets here have an infinite variety of snacks and food to offer. Most items are priced cheap, but if you would like to dine in a comfortable place, there are small restaurants which serve sushi, ramen, soba noodle among others. The price range here is between 100 yen and 5000-6000 yen, depending on the place you buy food from. The inner market has a tuna auction hall which is open to public very early in the morning. The tuna auction is very famous here and you need to queue in very early in the morning to be one of the first 120 people of the day who will be admitted to watch it. I have heard that many enthusiasts start queueing in as early as 3 am. The authorities are now planning to shift the auction place and the inner market to Toyosu in october 2018 and it will be called Toyosu Fish Market. The outer market will still be in operation at Tsukiji.

Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market