My Recommended Places to Visit in Tokyo:
Kyomachi-Koishigure – Transport yourself back to Kyoto around the time Geisha ruled as the best entertainers!
Gyukaku – All you can eat Japanese BBQ. What more could you want!
Torikizoku Izakaya – You can’t beat the price of this Izakaya and all the delicious food on the menu. Everything on the menu is 280 yen!
Shanghai Xiaochi – What an experience this place. This place has a BYOA policy. Any type of alcohol minus beer is allowed to be brought into the restaurant. The lady that runs the place is what really makes this place. You walk down a dirty alley which seems like you will be mugged to see a quirky little Chinese restaurant. The first two floors are for customers and the kitchen is on the third floor. The lady can be seen yelling your order from outside to the 3rd floor kitchen. And did we mention the food here is AMAZING! We recommend the tofu noodles, clam in oyster sauce, deep fried bread and any of the green Chinese vegatables. AMAZING!
Ramen Shops – You can’t come to Japan and not enjoy ramen. Take all your preconceptions and throw them out the window. We are not talking about Top Ramen, if you have never had Japanese ramen, you are in for a treat. Go to either Ippudo, Ichiran, or Jangara. There is bound to be one in every major city you visit!
Gonpachi – You wanna see the restaurant that inspired the movie set that Quentin Tarantino designer for the famous Kill Bill fight scene? Wanna see the restaurant that Japanese prime minister Koizumi took George Bush for a fun night out. This long time favorite themed restaurant in Roppongi should not be missed!
Sushi – Our favorites are Standing Sushi and Sushi Zanmai. If you are visiting Japan, odds are you love Sushi and can’t wait to taste what Japanese sushi tastes like. And yes, it’s better than anything you had outside of Japan. The Japanese get the cream of the crop, mostly because they buy so much, they tend to get first dibs in the market. There are so many different sushi restaurants, but you are bound to be able to find a standing sushi shop in pretty much every major city in Tokyo and you just can’t beat the quality and the taste!
Ebisu Yokocho – This is a cool indoor place where 2 dozen or so restaurants are stacked side by side. It’s a very popular place for tourist and Tokyo locals. Expect slightly higher prices for your standard yakitori, oden, and izakaya fare, due to the atmosphere. Great place to kick off your night out!
Sakura Tei – This is a cool Okonomiyaki restaurant sit inside a massive art gallery complex. Cool structures, art work, and graffiti on the walls. Definitely a great place to enjoy Okonomiyaki with friends. It also has outdoor seating areas which are nice.
Omoide Yokocho – One of Shinjuku’s oldest areas. This little place is a secret gem not most know about or frequent all too often. But here you can find several tiny little 4-5 seat bars in the back alleys of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area. A very local spot and will let you experience a side of Japan, most do not.
Ootoya – Denny’s of Japan, but just so much better. It’s Japanese staple food at great prices. Perfect for a solid Japanese meal that taste delicious but under 1000 yen. Perfect for the budget traveler!
Andy’s Izakaya – Can’t beat Andy’s Izakaya which is a restaurant that sits directly under the train tracks that the bullet train rides on. This place has a lot of character. Make sure to say hello to Andy and ask him what the fresh seafood of the day is. He goes to the Tsukiji fish market every morning and purchases some of the best and freshest seafood. Don’t leave here without getting the scallops, order at least double of what you think you will eat, because you will eat them all!
Chinese Cafe 8 – A quirky Chinese restaurant with decor to get you in the mood. Oh by the way, the food is amazing!
Agave – The tequila bar in Roppongi is a place to end the night, start the night, or take a break from the night. A HUGE selection of tequilas and some great Cuban and Dominican cigars available for purchase!
Womb – Womb is a an awesome club in Shibuya near love hotel hill. Womb gets some amazing DJs from all over and you can guarantee your night will be fun if you end up in this basement club!
Scramble – Any local will tell you scramble is one of those places that never gets old. Pop in for a quick drink and watch the crazyiness go on around you. Prefect for a pre-game drink or to hang out until that darn first train!
300 Bar – 300 bar has two locations in the glitzy Ginza district and gets PACKED! We also like that all drinks are only 300 yen. Say hello to Johnny the skater bar guy. The coolest dude this side of Tokyo Tower.
Geronimo Shot Bar – An awesome dive bar in the heart of Roppongi. Blasting music all night long…this little bar gets PACKED and wild! Definitely not Japanese, but our local Japanese friends love in and frequent it all the time. Take the shot challenge and get your name engraved on a name plate and have it nailed to the bar somewhere, there are hundreds already there, so you will need to fight for space.
Shibuya – Shibuya has your shopping, awesome restaurants, bars, clubs, and more. Perfect for a day time stroll around to shop and get funky at night!
Harajuku – Check out this famous shopping street, which is famous for those Harajuku girls and their unique clothing styles.
Yoyogi Park – Enjoy a nice walk in the park. Come out on Sundays to see the park come to life with groups of people doing all kinds of interesting things!
Jingumae Baseball Stadium – Catch a Japanese baseball game. Something NOT to miss…especially when the Hanshin tigers play!
Hanami – Cherry blossom season (end of March/early April) is probably our favorite time of the year. The weather finally warms up after a long winter and the cherry blossoms start to bloom all over Japan making Japan look like something out of a story book. Everyone is happy enjoying a picnic under the trees and drinking liters and liters of beer.
Hanabi – We can’t forget about Hanabi – summer firework festivals! Some of the festivals last for several areas, like Sumidagawa with an amazing 22,500 fireworks!!!
Roppongi – Home to Gonpachi, Mori Tower, VERY expensive flats, world famous clubs, bars, and restaurants!
Asakusa Sanja Matsuri – A summer festival in Asakusa. It gets a bit crazy, but hey, that’s why we love Japan!
Koenji Awadori Festival – If you are in Japan during the Koenji Awadori festival, make sure to get yourself down to Koenji and enjoy watching the festival.
Mt Fuji – No explanation needed. If you are in Japan during the summer months, you can join a tour group and climb (more like walk) to the top of the mountain and see the sun rise over Japan. Well worth it!
Kamakura – One of the more famous places where Samurai ruled the land. This beautiful area is perfect for a nice sunny day as it’s literally a short walk to the ocean and has temples and shrines and samurai museums scattered all throughout the area. It’s also within close proximity to Enoshima island.
Enoshima Island – If doing a visit out to Kamakura, make sure you walk out to Enoshima island and check out all the cool little Japanese shops. If you are up for a hike, walk to the top of this island and see the temples scattered throughout. You could easily spend a day just exploring around this island. So perhaps make Kamakura a 2 day trip. There is a cool little onsen/hotel on the island that you can spend the night in relaxing after a long walk around all that Kamakura has to offer!
Niijima, Mikurajima, Shikinejima Islands – Yes Tokyo has islands. Some of the islands are only 3-4 hours away by speed boat with others being around 5-7hrs. Mikurajima has around 300 wild dolphins that live around it that you can swim with! Shikinejima is a beautiful island with white sand beaches and natural hot spring spas that sit right on the water. You literally enjoy a nice hot spring while looking into the ocean. Great fishing and snorkeling around this island too!
Hakone – Up in the mountains and only an hour or two away from Tokyo. There is some very scenic places to see here with temples and shrines buried in the woods. Stay the night and enjoy natural hot springs and rejuveniate from a crazy weekend in Tokyo. Our detox destination!
Shinjuku – What can you not do in Shinjuku? There isn’t much you couldn’t! Check out all the cool restaurants and bars? In the mood for some outdoor batting cages after your late night of drinking? Jump into a karaoke box and sing the night away? Bowling? Darts? Shinjuku has everything for a fun night out…or every night out!
Odaiba – Odaiba, a man made island that has a theme park, man made beach, the statue of liberty, Toyota’s car park, outdoor onsen (hot spring) and more. You can easily spend a day or weekend here!
Tsukiji Fish Market – Where blue fin tuna is auctioned off every morning and shipped all around the world.
Maps and Other Useful Information
Tokyo Subway Train Map – A high quality PDF of the Tokyo underground. This does not include regular/overground train lines. It would just be too difficult to read. Most likely you will be using the metro in Tokyo, but feel free to reference the Jorudan train software link below to see if there are better travel options.
Jorudan Train Route (English Train Route Finder) – Find your way from point A to point B including train fares and times. One of the most handy tools for savvy tourist and used by millions of residents of Japan.
Food you Must Try:
- Yakiniku – Japanese BBQ. Many restaurants in Tokyo have all you can eat deals for under 3000 yen. Like our favorite Gyukaku. You get to choose from all kinds of cuts of beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and vegetables
- Ramen – Japanese ramen is our favorite type of noodle dish. Try it and you will know why!
- Yakitori – Meats on a stick grilled over charcoal or a gas grill. Chicken, beef ,pork, liver, heart, you name it. Perfect with beer!
- Sushi/Sashimi – No explanation needed! Just eat it!
- Okonomiyaki – What Osaka is known for. This dish is a made of flour, egg, water, cabbage and different types of meats. Many restaurants have a flat grill built into the table and you create your own dish and cook it yourself. Perfect for a night out with friends and several rounds of beers!
- Yaki Soba – Fried soba noodle with vegetables and meat. Another favorite from Osaka
- Takoyaki – Another famous dish that was born in Osaka. It’s hot balls of dough with chopped pieces of octopus and some ginger and chives. Delicious!
- Udon – Japanese fat white noodle in soup. Served with topping like fried tofu, meat, or tempura.
- Donburi – Rice bowl with usually egg, chicken, or pork.
- Tempura – Deep fried seafood and vegetables. Another favorite export from Japan like Sushi
- Katsu Don – Deep fried pork cutlet served surrounded by an omelet over a bed of rice.
- Shabu Shabu – Japanese hot pot. Served with various types of vegetables and meats. Sumos eat something similar which is also highly recommended. Chanko Nabe
- Sukiyaki – Another type of Japanese hot pot. This one is very similar to Shabu Shabu but the sauces are different. You usually eat this by dipping the boiled meats and vegetables you just cooked in the pot into a sauce or a beaten raw egg. Very good!
Words and Phrases you Must Know:
- Sumimasen – This means excuse me and is used in restaurant settings when you want to call to the waitor or waitress to have them come to your table. . Unlike western countries, in Asia, you call the waiter or waitress over to your table. If it’s a loud and noisy restaurant, yelling it to your waitor/waitress is perfectly fine! Isn’t Asia fun! Can you believe you get such great on-demand service and there is no expectation of a tip.
- Kudasai- Please. Used when making requests like when ordering food. Beer Juseyo for example. Similar to the Japanese word Onegaishimasu
- Mizu- Water. You can say Mizu Kudasai to ask for a glass of water in a restaurant
- Otearai- Toilet
- Doko desu ke- Where is…? So mix and match what you have learned thus far…otearai doko desu ka? Where is the toilet. Isn’t language fun. You’re gonna have a blast in Japan!
- Oishii- Delicious! Staff and chefs love to hear compliments. If you are eating some amazing food in Japan, which you will be, tell them, Oishii!!!
- Dekinai- Can’t do it.
- Ikura desu ka? – How much is it?
- Takai- Expensive
- Makete Kudasai – Discount please – great for bartering. Remember, people wont expect you to be fluent, actually they will be surprised you know this much. Don’t worry if you can’t hold a conversation. Just the fact that you are utterly a few words here and there, means you are trying. And people respect and enjoy that!
- Tabemono – Food
- Kaikei (or Okanjo) – Check / The Bill – in a restaurant
- Nanto iu (e-ou) – How do you say…X? The first phrase we ALWAYS learn when we visit a country. It’s the rosetta stone to any language. With a bit of charades and point and this phrase you can pretty much learn anything and then expand on your sentence. Let’s say you want to know the word for water. You can point to your glass of water and say Nanto iu? Or if they know a word in English you can say, hamburger nanto iu?
- Hai – Yes (affirmative)
- Nani- What?
- Nande – Why?
- Tsumaranai – Boring
Visiting a new country and learning about the local people is an amazing experience. Multiply that experience by 100x if you throw in a little local lingo. You will be amazed by how much more fun you will have. Enjoy!
Day Trips & Nearby Destinations
- Hakone – Hakone is a cool destination which is easily reachable by train and is perfect for a long day trip. Enjoy walking around the shrines that sit in the forest along the lake or relax in one of the natural hot springs by visiting one of the hot spring resorts/hotels in the area.
- Yokohama – Yokohama city is another very populous cities that sits only a 30-40 minute train ride away. Be sure to check out the Minato Mirai area of Yokohama.
- Kamakura – Seaside area just 40-50 minutes from Tokyo with many cool temples to explore. Lots of Samurai things to see as well!
- Koyasan (Mt. Koyasan) – South of Osaka, great for a walk around the temples, cemeteries hidden in the forest, or a overnight stay in a temple with morning prayers with monks.
- Osaka – a very cool city to check out with a lot going on very close by. Osaka is home to Dontombori area, the Osaka castle, and Umeda city area.
- Hiroshima – a depressing stop, but great none the less an important place to see.