60 Hours in Tokyo
September 10, 2013
Things to do in Tokyo with 3 days
I would already be gone 21 days, but when I learned that I could make a second stopover on my flight to South Korea for just the cost of taxes I had to jump on it. Tokyo, here I come! I only had 2.5 days to explore the city and knowing that Tokyo is the largest metropolis in the world I wasn’t sure exactly how much I’d get to see. Turns out, a lot!
I stayed near Shinjuku Station and travelled around on a combination of Tokyo Metro, Toei and JR trains. If you’re thinking of visiting, check out my handy-dandy guide to Tokyo transit first.
So what did I see and do?
The first thing I did was head to Shibuya and the Meiji Shrine. Dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, the Shinto shrine is a very peaceful place to start off your Tokyo tour. While I was there I had a delightful conversion with an older Japanese gentleman who gave me some history lessons and I got to witness a wedding. The torii, large wooden gates, leading to the complex were especially grand and photographic. I made a ¥100 offering and received an o-mikuji – a random fortune on a piece of paper. It was a particularly good fortune so I took it with me rather than tying it to some wire and leaving it behind.
Harajuku / Takeshita Dori
Harajuku is a district in the Shibuya ward known for eccentric fashion and the young people who hang out around Harajuku Station on Sundays, engaging in cosplay (“costume play”). I was there on a Thursday but I still managed to see a couple girls in some amazing get-up. Even though I’m no longer the target market I love a good deal so of course I had to do some shopping on Takeshita Dori. My biggest lament was that my feet are too big for Japanese shoes. *sob* If you wear larger than a US 8/8.5 be prepared to have your heart broken.
Between here and the shops of Takeshita Dori I dropped more yen then I want to think about. Shibuya 109 is an awesome circular “fashion community” that contains 10 floors of boutique shops. It opened for business on the day I was born. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.
This crazy intersection in Tokyo is always an ebbing, flowing sea of humanity. The best place to view it is from the 2nd floor Starbucks near Shibuya Station, but I couldn’t resist getting down into myself and crossing back and forth a few times. Check out the statue of Hachikō, the world’s most loyal dog, while you’re there.
The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest building in Japan at 634m. Considering the CN Tower EdgeWalk is 356m and that was enough to make my ears pop I can only imagine what the view is like from the top. Since lines form early my imagination is all I have from my visit to the Skytree. It would’ve been a two hour wait before I could go up so I decided to give it a pass and chose a different tower instead.
In comparison, there was no line at all when I showed up at Tokyo Tower (333m). I got there at dusk and love watching the city light up at night. You should really visit one tower or the other to really get a sense of just how massive the city and surrounding areas are. The lights just never end.
Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s oldest and most significant Buddhist temple so it was high on my must-see list. The entrance to the temple grounds is dominated by the Kaminarimon or “Thunder Gate”. Beyond the gate is Nakamise-dori which is lined with almost 90 small shops. I loved looking into them all and especially watching one shop making ningyo-yaki (little molded cakes filled with red bean paste). Unlike Meiji Shrine which I found to be quite calm and peaceful, Sensō-ji was bustling and a little chaotic. If you visit be sure to check out old-world vibe of the nearby streets of Asakusa.
Aka, Electric Town – if it has batteries or plugs in, you can buy it here. Not surprisingly, the amount of neon signs here is astounding. Akihabara is also home to many maid cafes (catering mostly to male otaku) where you can have a cup of coffee and be treated as the master of the house rather than a regular old customer.
Kabukichō is the entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku. I had a wander one night, not to visit any businesses but just to have a look around at the three thousand bars, nightclubs, love hotels, massage parlours, hostess clubs and the like. I was there solo at night but felt safe and no one ever approached me. I’m told that if you’re a man be prepared to have bouncers get a bit aggressive trying to get you into their club. It was interesting to see, but now that I’ve seen it once I’m done.
Tsukiji Fish Market
No visit to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market for a look around and some sushi. Even though I had to miss the tuna auctions because of crappy logistics I still loved checking out all the stalls and the tuna plate I had for breakfast was delicious. The market will be changing locations in 2014 though so visit now while you can.
So even though I only had 60 hours in town I managed to pack it full. It was just a taste of Tokyo and I know that the city and I are not done with each other. In the famous words of the Terminator, “I’ll be back.”