So apparently it’s not a great idea to travel during Golden Week in Japan but don’t let it put you off, I did and I had a great time!
Golden week is made up of four national holidays which take place during one week at the end of April to the beginning of May every year. Most Japanese people have the entire week off from work so tourist destinations and transport hubs can get busy!
I actually spent 8-9 days in Tokyo, as it was a very last minute booking, I had to get my Japan Rail Pass delivered to my hotel, and it being Golden Week Fed-Ex couldn’t deliver it any earlier – by which time my flights were already booked, so I was going. I saw a lot of Tokyo during my 9 days but you could easily condense it down to 7, which I think is the golden number!
I’m going to give you a rundown of what I did during my 9 days, but you can pick and choose what suits you for your week trip. For example, I spent 3 days exploring the museums and galleries in the Taito area, but you can get a feel for the place in just a day.
- Visa – As a British National I was exempt from requiring a visa to visit Japan for less than 90 days, however, some nationalities will require a visa. For the most up to date information visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
- Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
- Safety – Just like London , Tokyo is a very safe place to visit. You should use usual common sense, around protecting valuables to avoid pick-pocketers, and staying safe at night, but Japan is arguably one of the safest countries in the world.
- Currency – Japanese Yen
- Language – Japanese
Tokyo has several different areas with different vibes and things to see, much like London’s different boroughs Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Southwark, you’ll get a different feel in each place. There are 23 different ‘special wards’ in Tokyo and I visited just 8 during my week stay in Tokyo including:
- Taito – Asakusa and Ueno
- Shibuya – Shibuya, Ebisu, Harajuku
- Shinjuku – Shinjuku
- Chiyoda – Akihabara and Kokyo
- Chuo – Ginza
- Meguro – Meguro
- Minato – Odaiba and Roppongi
- Sumida – Ryogoku
I managed to find a steal of a flight through trusty Sky Scanner, which was unbelievably cheap, of course, it was not a comfortable direct flight. It involved flying via Rome and enduring a short stopover, so the whole journey took the best part of a day, but to save those pennies it was totally worth it! I recommend always checking out Skyscanner to find the best deals.
To get from the airport to my hostel, I decided to pre-book the Limousine Bus service from Narita airport, as the bus service near enough dropped me off just a stone’s throw from my accommodation and it was a similar price to using the subway. I also wasn’t prepared with my Japan Rail Pass and begrudged paying for a train ticket knowing I had already forked out £420 for the pass. However there was only a couple of pick up options for the bus either 10:30am (when my flight landed) or 2:45pm, so obviously I had to choose the later time.
Which meant after spending the best part of a day flying I then had to hang around some more. If I had more time and was more organised I definitely would have ordered my Japan Rail Pass to be delivered at home, and then use the trains to get into Tokyo. Having said that the limousine Bus was a very comfortable ride, so much so I kept nodding off throughout the entire journey into Tokyo. The subway or the limousine bus are both great options, but I would advise booking ahead or organising what you are doing so as soon as you land you can head to your accommodation, dump your luggage and go explore!
Prior to my last minute decision to visit Japan, I did a quick search of ‘best areas to stay in Tokyo for tourists’ the general consensus was either Shinjuku or Asakusa. As it was Golden Week and I was booking just a few days before my arrival to say that my options were limited was an understatement. I managed to find a lovely Capsule Hostel though in the Asakusa area – Nine hours Asakusa. Nine Hours is a chain of Capsule Hostels all across Japan and I’m contemplating staying with them again when I’m in Osaka, as I’ve had a pretty good experience!
I had a great stay in Nine Hours Asakusa, they provided free Pyjamas to wear every night, and the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in the bathrooms were an added minty scented bonus! It’s also just a short walk from Asakusa Station which has links to the Ginza and Asakusa Lines for travelling around the city via the subway.
As well as being within walking distance of Senso-Ji and the Ueno Park area. I can see why Asakusa came recommended as a good base to explore the city. If you’re looking at accommodation options I would definitely recommend Asakusa.
I did a fair bit of walking around, and found that I enjoyed this the most, as you could come across quaint little alleyways and beautiful lantern-lined streets, when you got off the beaten track. Especially when I was hunting down a vegan restaurant I found on my Happy Cow App. I could easily walk and explore the Taito area by foot, but to get to the other areas further afield like Shibuya and Shinjuku I used the Tokyo Subway.
So there are two different main lines which make up the Tokyo Subway, the Metro and the Toei. You can also get different passes depending on what you need and where you’re planning to go. Just like the Japan Rail Pass there are also special tickets for tourists for using the Tokyo Subway. I chose to purchase the 72 hour pass which covered the Metro and Toei lines, and then also the 24 hour pass just for the Metro on a few of the other days.
Prices vary, but I did find that by using the passes I did save money by the end of the day, and it was also so nice not having to worry about purchasing single tickets and knowing the pass has you covered. Don’t do what I did though and lose your 72 hour pass on day 2, midday, that was a sad time, especially being on such a tight budget, but my poor legs picked up the slack somewhat. Definitely download the Tokyo Subway App and Hyperdia App to help you navigate your travels, I found it so useful!
Day 1 – Taito
As my accommodation was situated just a short walk from Senso-Ji in the Asakusa area, and I arrived early afternoon, I set out to explore my local surroundings, hoping to get some kind of bearings and also try to stop myself falling straight to sleep and sending my body clock even more out of whack!
Decorative shop Shutters
As with most shops across the world, Asakusa is no different in employing metal shutters to secure them when they are closed. They are however, beautifully decorated with great Japanese scenes and paintings, so if you can, head to Asakusa early in the morning before the shops open and take a stroll down the shopping streets taking in the beautiful artistry on the shop fronts before the hustle and bustle of trade starts for the day.
Just by Asakusa train station, you’ll find the Azuma-Bashi Bridge, connecting Asakusa with the Tokyo Skytree area. As well as accessing the Tokyo Metro or Toei line, you can also pick up a boat and cruise along the river to various destinations in Tokyo. Or simply take in the skyline, where you’ll be able to clearly see the Tokyo Skytree and the unusual building of the Asahi Beer Headquarters (to the right).
Senso Ji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, is one of Tokyo’s most popular and colourful Buddhist temples, and it is also the oldest temple in Tokyo, built in 645. The Temples Main hall and pagoda were unfortunately destroyed during the war, so the buildings are relatively new reconstructions.
Surrounding the Shrine, Main Hall and Pagoda you will also find beautiful gardens, a Koi carp pond, and statues of Buddha.
Nakisme Shopping Street
The streets branching off from the Senso-Ji area are also chock full of shops and street vendors. Nakisme Shopping street, which is centuries years old, in particular, is very popular and can get extremely busy in the early afternoons. Although as soon as the night starts to draw in many of the shops and street vendors close for the day, with only the restaurants staying open past dark.
Along Nakisme Shopping Street you can buy traditional Japanese masks, Japanese sandals, souvenirs, sweets and ice-cream. Try the soya bean ice cream for a vegan friendly option, it may not be chocolate fudge but it was refreshingly cool in the middle of a hot day.
Shin-Nakamise Shopping Street
This is a little covered in tunnel of a shopping street branching off from the main Nakisme Shopping street. You’ll find several shops as well as a handful of restaurants along this stretch. I bought a delicious Taiyaki – a Japanese fish-shaped cake full of sweet red beans on the corner of this shopping street.
This short shopping street linked my accommodation at Nine Hours Asakusa, with the Senso-ji Temple area, and has lots of small vendors selling souvenirs or snacks.
This store is a real treasure trove of goodies. If you’re in need of anything at all really – head to a Don Quijote in Japan, they have everything! I managed to pick up some vegan snacks and drinks in here before I headed out for the day.
Kaminarimon Gate Senso-ji
Situated at the end of the Nakisme shopping Street and taking you close to the Asakusa Station is the Kaminarimon Gate. If you want to get a photo with the gate then get here early before all of the other visitors and tourists arrive for the day as it gets extremely busy, or stop by at night when the area is almost deserted to catch a glimpse.
Day 2 – Taito
After familiarising myself with my immediate area of Asakusa and experiencing the beautiful Senso-Ji I headed over to Ueno Park, which is brimming with life and full of museums! It reminded me a little of museum mile nestled against the edge of Central Park in New York , except the museums are inside the Park.
Tokyo National Museum
I was lucky enough to gain free entry to the Tokyo National Museum during my visit in celebration of the ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne of the new Emperor Naruhito, replacing his father, Akihito. I did however still purchase the audio guide for 500 Yen. The Tokyo National Museum is actually made up of 4 main buildings, and I spent an entire morning here, as there is so much to see and do. For the most up to date information regarding opening times and admissions, visit the official website here.
I couldn’t believe my luck, there was a Vegan Festival at Ueno Park! I didn’t realise at first and just thought I was extremely lucky to find so many vegan options until someone handed me a leaflet about animal cruelty, the penny dropped! There were lots of different stalls with noodles, rice dishes, as well as westernised dishes like falafel, burgers and wraps. I opted for a humble vegan doughnut, before heading off to the Tokyo Museum of Nature and Science.
Tokyo Museum of Nature and Science
By the afternoon, the museum area was full of visitors taking advantage of Golden Week, to visit museums and galleries. The Nature and Science Museum obviously appeals to families with children and it was extremely busy. There was an entry fee to the museum so I didn’t opt for an audio guide as well, in contrast to the Tokyo National Museum there wasn’t as many captions or explanations with exhibits in English although there were interactive computers, I found that often when I pressed English it still spoke in Japanese. For the most up to date information on opening times and admissions, visit the official website here.
Day 3 – Taito
Heading back to Ueno Park the following day, I wanted to visit a couple of the galleries and spend some more time in this huge park, especially as the weather was so nice.
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Museum was quite busy when I visited during Golden Week, and I think especially so as there were hoards of people queuing to see the Gustav Klimt Exhibition. I felt quite torn, and did want to see it, as I am a huge fan of Klimt, but I couldn’t justify the additional fee on my teeny tiny budget! There was an array of other exhibits I could visit though for free. Some of the exhibitions had quite a homely feel to them, and didn’t resemble the high-end art gallery, of something like the Tate Modern which I must admit I was expecting. For a free exhibition though it was worthwhile stopping by and seeing the latest exhibitions on offer… another time Klimt. For the latest information on opening times and missions, visit the official website here.
National Museum of Western Art
The National Museum of Western Art building was designed by renowned French architect Le Corbusier. The building was completed in March 1959 as a symbol of the resumption of diplomatic ties between Japan and France after World War II.
Inside the building, Le Corbusier designed the interior in order to fill the space with light, and create viewing points throughout the building. Within the building, there is a small courtyard garden, which can be viewed from different points in the building also. Outside to the front of the building, are several sculptures and statues, one in particular – ‘The Thinker’ by Auguste Rodin. The ticket price to enter the entire Le Corbusier designed building was quite hefty, but I studied Le Corbusier in college so wanted to take a look inside. For the most up to date information on opening times and admissions, visit the official website here.
Ueno Tōshō-gū Shrine
Situated in Ueno Park next to the Peony garden (Botan-en), you’ll find the magnificent gold Tōshō-gū Shrine. The shrine was built and dedicated in 1627 to the memory of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542 – 1616), the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Tokugawa is one of the most famous warriors in Japan, as he successfully united all of the feudal domains of Japan and brought about thee do period which lasted over 265 years.
As you can see this shrine is very popular, not only for its history but also its beauty, covered in gold leaf and intricate carvings. Visitors cannot enter inside the main hall of the shrine itself, however, it is common for people to visit the shrine to pray for good fortune, luck or the health of their loved ones. You can also write an Ema (wish) and tie it to the Sukibei Wall if you like. For up to date information regarding opening times and admission, visit the official website here.
Hanazono Inari Shrine
Also situated in Ueno Park not far from the picturesque lake you will also find the Hanazano Inari Shrine. You’ll find a small parade of tori gates leading you to the main shrine, as well as sautés fo foxes. It’s said that a fox was displaced by the building of the shrine, so there is an everlasting dedication to the animal here.
There’s a huge pond in Ueno Park, and a real attraction for locals and tourists, to hop in a flamingo boat, pedal away and enjoy the surrounding waters. It was a beautiful day when I visited and the pond was brimming with families and couples enjoying the park.
Very Close to Ueno Park, you’ll find this shopping area, which hugs the huge train station that is Ueno, and is packed with a variety of different stalls, including a range of different foods. You will see food from all over the world here, I opted for some pineapple and melon on a stick! You’ll also be able to purchase, clothes, cosmetics, bags and other souvenirs too.
After a morning of museums and culture, followed by the shrines, boating and bustling Ameyoko shopping area, I sought out retreat in one of Tokyo’s smaller parks and had a snack and a beer in the sunshine, (from a trusty seven-eleven – they’re everywhere!). Also in Japan, it’s not illegal to drink outside and is very common for Japanese to take a picnic and some beers to the park to enjoy, so I of course, took full advantage of this custom.
Day 4 – Shibuya, Shinjuku and Chiyoda
This was quite packed day covering Shibuya crossing, Hachiko Statue, Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine. Then moving on to Shinjuku, visiting shrines, another park, and then in the evening Akihabara.
I arrived early in the morning, and the crossing was just warming up for the day, a little busy, but not at all as packed as it can be. As time went on though you could see the area getting busier and busier. I managed to steal some of these shots from the Starbucks just opposite the main crossing. It’s quite funny when you’re on the crossing itself all you can see are rows of people with cameras in Starbucks, and then you become one of them!
CDs in building where Starbucks is
There are a few floors to the building opposite Shibuya crossing, and in search of the ladies, I stumbled across a music store, with hoards of CD’s! Apparently, CD’s are still very much alive – in Tokyo at least.
This is another popular attraction just opposite the Shibuya Crossing as you come out of the station. It was pretty busy, but there was a nice orderly queue which most people were joining to get a picture with the famous Hachiko Statue. Although some people darted in, there was a kind elderly gentleman taking photos for free who would then randomly shout out now and then, ‘GET IN LINE!’ He didn’t even ask for any yen to take the photos and just seemed to enjoy providing the service to people.
So what is the Hachiko statue all about exactly? Well apparently as the story goes, it’s about a little faithful Akita dog named Hachiko, which sadly after his owner was taken ill and later died, went back to the same spot where he would normally greet him from work every day for around 10 years! Sadly his owner died whilst working at Tokyo’s Imperial University, and never got to say goodbye to his furry friend. Hachiko’s body was cremated and later buried and reunited with his beloved owner.
This was my favourite park in Tokyo, it’s pretty massive, but has something for everyone. Take a stroll through the park and appreciate all of the natural beauty. Also, stop by the small gated dog park area to watch all of the pampered pooches having fun. If you have more time, stop by a seven-eleven and stock up on drinks and snacks and enjoy a picnic!
The Meiji Shrine is located within Yoyogi Park. Don’t do what I did and think you can mosey around Yoyogi Park and then cut across to the Meiji Shrine, because you simply can’t, as there are tonnes of trees and fences in the way, so you have to walk back pretty much to outside the park to go back in again to join the walking trail to the Meiji Shrine.
After about 10-15 minutes of walking, you’ll be welcomed by ‘kazaridaru’, which are decorative sake barrels, (they are not however full of rice wine sake). In Japan, sake and shrines have had a long-standing relationship, often at Shrine festivals the Japanese will be given sake to drink to be closer to the gods, usually, the sake barrels are donated by breweries for the larger shrines, and some smaller shrines even brew their own sake.
At the Meiji Shrine, as well as barrels of sake on display, there are also barrels of wine on display too. Japan and France have an established relationship, (which surprised me as I was quite unaware but the relationship can be seen in various sites across Japan). Such as the Meiji Shrine, in which Emperor Meiji embraced westernised culture greatly, and was very fond of the wine from Burgundy in particular.
It is quite common to have fortune teller areas at shrines, which are called Omikuzi. I decided to find out my fortune at Meiji, and was greeted with one from Empress Shoken, which reads:
“Until a rough gem is polished, it remains as dull as a tile or a wayside pebble. Man’s heart and mind, too, must be polished too, if their qualities are to stand forth.”
Which was quite apt, as I think over the last couple of years I have tried to work on my heart and mind, and need to continue to do so.
As well as the Shibuya Crossing, Hachiko Statue, Yoyogi Park, and Meiji Shrine, Shibuya is also a Mecca for shopping, and gaming! Check out the equivalent of the pound shop at ‘Can-do-Yen’, look through beautiful stationary items in Muji, and head to some of the arcades to try your hand at winning a creepy… I mean adorable looking stuffed toy!
With the Torii gates nestled in between two modern tower blocks, we can see the old and the new Tokyo co-existing. Just behind the tori gates are the stairs up to the Hie Shrine. This is a recommenced shrine to visit if you’re unable to visit Kyoto and see the infamous Fushimi Inari Shrine. Smaller in scale, but it’s just as beautiful, although a little bit out the way.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Park
Another beautiful garden, found in the Shinjuku district – the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden park. I didn’t have time to completely explore the gardens as I arrived late in the day, but had just enough time to relax in the sun before moving on to the next sight. You could easily spend a good few hours in this park though. You will need to pay an admission fee to enter, but in return, you will be able to access the Japanese garden, a formal French garden and an English garden. There is also a beautiful greenhouse with many tropical and subtropical flowers. For the most up to date information on opening times and admission, visit the official website here.
Just a short walk from the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Park, you’ll find the Hanazano Shrine. I must admit I was a little ‘shrined out’ towards the end of the day. So don’t visit too many shrines in one day as you won’t appreciate them individually. At this point too I felt I was imposing a little, as the shrines are fully functioning religious sites where people come to pray, and I felt a little like a voyeur and out of place by this point.
Situated very close to the Hanazano Shrine is the Golden Gai, an area of alleyways home to several small and quaint little restaurants and bars. During the day it was completely empty but by the evening this place will be heaving with hungry Japanese workers finished for the day and other tourists alike. I knew I would struggle to get a vegan meal here though so decided to hunt down a nearby vegan restaurant on my Happy Cow app instead.
After finding something tasty for dinner I headed to Akihabara, which is the place to be if you are interested in gaming and technology. It just so happened that I lost the camera lens cover for my Sony A6000 and Akihabara did not disappoint. I was able to pick up a replacement for around £2! Wander around the brightly lit gaming mecca and head into an arcade or two.
Day 5 – Meguro and Minato
This was a lovely day filled with strolling along the Meguro Riverside, although not beautifully adorned with cherry blossoms, the area is still charming. It was easy to get to from Asakusa, by jumping on the Hibiya line and arriving at Naka Meguro I walked along the river until I reached the plaza, and then on to Ebisu Station to connect to Roppongi Hills. If you make this same journey, be warned it is a very uphill walk to Ebisu station!
Even though I may not have been blessed with cherry blossoms, there were still ample of pretty flowers close to the Meguro River to appreciate. I read, during the cherry blossom season, visitors would find the best spots to sit at all day to marvel at the cherry blossoms, and so I could imagine this little covered in bench area would be full with nature lovers wanting to get the best spot!
Described as a small city within a city, Roppongi Hills, reminded me a little of Canary Wharf in London. Here you’ll find apartments, shops, offices, restaurants, a hotel, art museum and observation deck.
Tokyo City View at Mori Tower
Ordinarily, the observation deck is an open space where visitors can gaze at the views over Tokyo. However when I visited they had a Pixar installation and gallery on display so it was packed full of families enjoying the interactive installations and posing for photographs with life-size ‘Buzz’ and other Pixar characters. Although it was an added bonus – I didn’t realise how much mathematics and problem solving went into every Pixar movie! I also left feeling nostalgic and wanting to watch ‘Wall-E’ or ‘Up’, but that would have to wait.
If you are visiting the Mori Tower anyway, then I would recommend paying the little extra and going up to the Sky Deck. You can get a great view from the top and it’s a lot less busy than on the observation deck. You’ll be expected to deposit any belongings aside from a camera and/or phone in a small locker just before you ascend to the rooftop. For the most up to date information on opening times and admission, visit the official website here.
Maman Spider Sculpture
*Warning to all arachnophobes…. deep breath, and scroll past the next few images*
Just outside the Roppongi Hills Tower in Roku Roku Plaza, you will be met by an enormous Spider Sculpture. The ten-metre bronze sculpture called Maman is the work of French artist Louise Bourgeois. If you stand below the creature you can look up to see a cluster of marble eggs held within an abdomen and thorax made of ribbed bronze. The spider is one of six castings of the original work made in 1999.
The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.
— Louise Bourgeois
Mori Art Museum
As well as the Tokyo City View and Sky Deck you’ll also find the Mori Art Museum. The collection focuses on modern art in a variety of genres, including fashion, architecture, design, photography, and video. Here are two hyper-realistic sculptures of Buddhist monks. Some of the other exhibits also include video footage of a robot, a giant pink cat sculpture, and a special exhibition dedicated to ‘Moomin: The art and the story’. For the most up to date information on admission and opening times, visit the official website here.
People watch outside Roppongi Hills ‘Metro Hat’
After a morning of sight-seeing and observatories I visited the Falafel Brothers just around the corner and picked up a full-size sandwich stuffed full of falafel and salad, I brought it back to Roppongi Hills and sat on one of the many benches in the area enjoying my lunch in the sunshine watching the world go by, which was especially fun, as there were quite a few tourists dressed up in Star Wars gear, as there is a cinema in the complex and it was May 4th!
Day 6 – Chiyoda and Chuo
The National Museum of Modern Art
The last of my tour of art galleries and art museums in Tokyo, ‘The National Museum of Modern Art’ situated just next to the Imperial Palace and Gardens. The museum focuses on Japanese art over the last century and has over 13,000 pieces set over several floors. There are also several special thematic exhibitions featuring Japanese and overseas art, which are held throughout the year. For the most up to date information on opening times and admission, visit the official website here.
Imperial Palace East Gardens
After visiting The National Museum of Modern Art, a short walk away is the Imperial Palace East Gardens. I spent a few hours here in the park reading a book and enjoying the sunshine. They are the former site of Edo Castle’s innermost circles of defence, the honmaru (“main circle”) and ninomaru. You can still see some of the original buildings, however, including the foundations of the former Edo Castle Tower, as well as the defence tower – Fujimi-Yagura.
Edo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Emperor Meiji also resided there from 1868 to 1888 before moving to the newly constructed Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, the inner grounds of the palace are generally not open to the public, but you may join guided tours of the palace grounds to get more of an insight. For more information visit the official website here.
Just next to the Imperial Palace Gardens you’ll also find another beautiful park – Hibiya Park. I didn’t spend very long here but walked along the park edge and headed towards Tokyo Midtown Hibiya. On the way, I stopped at a great restaurant – Hachinoya and had the best veggie Masaman Curry!
Hibiya Park Light Festival
I found out about this festival through Timeout, which was a great resource for checking what was on in the Tokyo area. I only saw the brief show of ‘Flora’ at Tokyo Midtown Hibiya, that the festival had other entertainment and shows on throughout the day.
I stumbled across this thankfully not life-size sculpture of Godzilla in the Tokyo Midtown area. Apparently, there are lots of other little statues, restaurants and stores dedicated to Godzilla, who shares a special relationship with Tokyo, Japan.
Day 7 – Shibuya and Shinjuku
Harajuku is situated in between Shibuya and Shinjuku, and there is a plethora of cute cafes, vintage stores, pancake shops, and fashion boutiques. I spent a leisurely morning here at Good Town Donuts and enjoyed the tastiest ‘mango smile’ doughnut I’ve ever had and an iced almond latte. Definitely, include Harajuku on your itinerary, you won’t be disappointed. Cat Street is the most popular pedestrianised street in the Harajuku area, so pop it into your google maps, head their first then explore the surrounding areas.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
This is the best place to visit for a free overview of Tokyo’s skyline, unlike the Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo Tower or Roppongi Hills Sky deck, there’s absolutely no fee for entering the observation deck at the Tokyo Metropolitan building. There are also two viewing platforms, so when one is closed there is always another available.
Opening times start early in the morning and proceed until late in the evening. Check it out early in the morning on a clear day and get a great view over Tokyo or head there in the evening after dinner and drinks to see the skyline lit up. For the most up to date information visit the official website here.
Piss Alley (Omoide Yakocho)
Omoide Yakocho, also affectionately known as ‘Piss Alley’, was remarkably quiet during the day when I visited with just a handful of restaurants open. At night though, much like ‘Golden Gai’ this small alleyway is said to come to life, with small restaurants serving Japanese cuisine.
Day 8 – Minato
To reach Odaiba, you’ll need to purchase an additional ticket, to get to the island. I travelled on the Ginza line to Shinbashi, using my 24 hour metro pass, and then on to the Toyosu line to reach Daiba, at an additional cost of 320 Yen. There’s so much to do on the island of Odaiba like the Legoland Discovery Centre, Madame Tussauds several shopping malls, and great views over Tokyo City. Definitely worth including on your itinerary to Tokyo.
Lego Land – Statue of Liberty – Unicorn Gundam Statue
There are several landmarks for you to track down on this little island south of Tokyo. First up the Lego Land statues on the deck of Decks Tokyo Beach Island Mall. There is actually a Legoland Discovery Centre, where you can explore all that is lego but with the hefty ticket price of 1700 Yen, I couldn’t justify being a big kid so sadly had to walk on by. Next up, the Statue of Liberty, this replica is smaller than its original measuring at just 40 feet tall. It was erected in 1998 to pay tribute to Japans ties with France (who also has a replica of the statue of Liberty). There are, in fact, many more replicas of lady liberty around the world, and you can find her in other countries like China, Brazil, Israel and Denmark! Lastly, the magnificent RX-0 Unicorn Gundam replica from the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn series. Placed in front of DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, the life-sized Gundam statue towers over its fans at a staggering height of 19.7 metres.
Toyota history Garage
This is a place where historic cars from all over the world are gathered. The area has different sections where you can enjoy the history of motorsport, and master’s work on car repair. It’s also completely free! If you want to check out the latest of Toyota car models then head to Toyota City Showcase just nearby. For more information visit the official Mega Web site here.
Venus Fort shopping
This is the Venus Fort Shopping Mall, situated in the palette Town area of Odaiba, Tokyo. As you can see this is not your average mall, the interiors are decorated in this grand style with Venetian pillars and a painted sky ceiling.⠀It reminded me of the shopping malls I visited in Macau a few years ago. ⠀
Obviously, the Venus Fort Shopping Mall also comes equipped with a beautiful fountain under a painted domed ceiling and marble-esque sculptures, it also has a wide range of shops available. Nearby to the Venus Shopping Mall you’ll also find a huge Ferris wheel as well as the Mori Building, Digital Art Museum, Team Lab Borderless. I really wanted to visit this amazing gallery but the tickets were a little out of my price range. For more information, you can visit the official website here.
Telecom Centre and Flame of Freedom Sculpture
Two more notable landmarks in Odaiba include the Telecom Centre and the Flame of Freedom Sculpture. The Telecom Centre is the headquarters of Tokyo Metropolitan Television (Tokyo MX), and you’ll also find on the 21st floor an observatory. The Flame of Freedom sculpture also demonstrates the Japanese-french relationship, and was installed in 2001 in the center promenade, the sculpture is made from aluminum and bronze covered in gold leaf and reaches an impressive height of 27 meters.
First and foremost, the bridge is not always lit up like a beautiful rainbow. I had to learn the hard way. I also met another traveller who did the exact same thing, waiting with anticipation for the colourful bridge lights to appear only to be met with a white glow. So the bridge is nicknamed the Rainbow Bridge because it does occasionally get lit up like a rainbow for special occasions, sadly my visit to Tokyo, not being one of those times. It was still worth it if you’re in Odaiba wait for the sun to set, and marvel at the beautiful views over the Sumida River and on to Tokyo City.
Day 9 – Ryogoku
Sumo Wrestling Hall
I highly recommend spending some time in Ryogoku and visiting the Sumo wrestling Museum. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that I was actually visiting during the sumo match season! It was a last minute booking and it had completely slipped my mind, I would have loved to watch a real sumo wrestling match, but the museum was very informative nonetheless. They had a large TV screening the career of Kisenosato Yutaka, as well as several other sumo related items, and historical displays. For up to date information about sumo matches and ticket prices visit the official website here.
Fun facts about Sumo Wrestling:
- The sport is over 1500 years old
- Salt is thrown before the start of a match, both to purify the dohyo and protect the wrestler from injury.
- Sumo wrestlers tend to consume around 20,000 calories per day, made up of two hefty 10,000 calorie filled meals!
Edo Tokyo Museum
The Edo Tokyo museum is a great place to visit to get a better understanding of the history of Tokyo and wider Japan. The Edo Tokyo Museum, offers its visitors a journey through the 400-year history of Edo-Tokyo since Tokugawa Ieyasu entered Edo. There are interactive installations, recreated housing and scenes from the Edo Period, as well as real artefacts and objects from the time. For the most up to date information on opening times and admission fees visit the official website here.
Kyu Yasuda Garden
I stumbled across this beautiful garden on my way to the Sumo Wrestling Hall Museum. it was relatively small but beautifully looked after and arranged. In the centre of the park is a beautiful pond, which is home to koi carp, as well as turtles, some of which were swimming, others sunbathing in the midday sun. I took a few moments to take it all in and enjoy the sunshine before moving on to the museum.
Parks and Gardens
All of the beautiful parks, there’s so many to choose from. If you are visiting when the weather is nice, I strongly urge you to spend some time in one of Tokyo’s beautiful parks. My favourite out of all of the parks I saw has probably got to be Yoyogi Park, it was lovely after a busy morning of sight-seeing, to find a park grab something from a convenience store and relax in the sunshine.
I really enjoyed my stay at Nine Hours Asakusa, if you can definitely book a capsule hotel for an authentic Tokyo experience, there isn’t really a ‘back-packer vibe’, and it had a real international feel, but I slept like a baby and the facilities were excellent.
Even though I have at times found it difficult to find vegan food in this seafood-loving city, I have had some exquisite meals which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Some of the restaurant waiters and kitchen staff have also been very attentive and understanding when I have communicated with them, even when having to use google translate or my Vegan Passport app.
My experience of Tokyo, although it is a very busy, high paced city, there is an ever extending reach of kindness and politeness from my Japanese hosts. From staff at restaurants and accommodation or train stations, to other tourists and travellers. I felt completely safe and at ease in this welcoming city.
Like it? Pin it!