15 Things We Loved About Tokyo & 7 That We Didn’t

Today I’m sharing 15 things we loved about Tokyo and 7 that we didn’t. If you’ve been following this series, you’ll note that today’s post follows a much different format.

As the largest city in the world based on population and third largest by area, Tokyo is overwhelming. There is so much of everything that I didn’t know where to start in creating a city guide.

First, determine what you want to see or do. Tokyo abounds with shopping, historical sights, museums, theme parks, natural wonders, dining options, and more. Do your research and create a list then determine where each point of interest lies within the city.

Next, plan your activities by neighborhood. Visiting all the sights in a specific district considerably lessens the time you’ll spend transiting between neighborhoods. On a first-time visit, you should be able to enjoy all of your most important sights (with good planning, of course)!

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15 Things We Loved About Tokyo

The lists below are in no particular order although I tried to organize them by category for easier reading!

Food/Drink

  1. Shopping for snacks at 7/11 stores! In a city with the most Michelin-star-rated restaurants in the world, who would think that food from a humble 7/11 could be such a highlight? From the incredible onigiri to the famed egg-salad or fruit-filled sandwiches, from fried chicken to bento boxes, we happily could have eaten at 7/11’s (or Lawson’s or Family Mart) every day!
  2. Kagari Ramen in Ginza. This hidden gem is beloved by locals for its rich and creamy chicken broth. Somewhat unique even in Japan, it is almost impossible to find chicken ramen in the US so enjoy this spot while you’re in Tokyo.
  3. Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai. These two districts of narrow alleyways are often panned as being tourist traps but we loved wandering the unique mazes. Omoide Yokocho is known for its food, mostly yakitori/skewers while Golden Gai is known for its bars. They are crowded and well-touristed but we found them fun and distinctive, as well.
  4. Tsukiji Outer Market. We had the best seafood chowder, wagyu beef, and green tea ice cream of our lives here! Another collection of narrow streets with all sorts of food, kitchen supply, and other vendors. Easy to see in just a couple of hours. Be open to trying/tasting a bit of everything.

Attractions/Neighborhoods

  1. The Meiji Shrine. Perhaps it was because it was the first shrine we visited in Japan but walking through the beautiful park, in the midst of the bustling city, was a favorite experience. From the many sake barrels on display to various weddings and families dressed in kimono, we couldn’t stop taking photos here.
  2. Walking around Harajuku. People-watching in Tokyo is fabulous and nowhere more so than in the Harajuku neighborhood. Checking out the quirky shops and seeing so many young girls in their anime and kawaii (cute) fashions was really fun and felt very “Tokyo-esque”.
  3. Asakusa. The historic streets near Senso-ji Temple (the primary landmark in this area) are much more interesting to walk around than the temple itself (which is packed). Be sure to take a peek at the Hanayashiki Amusement Park and stop in one of the many izakaya to feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
  4. TeamLab Planets or TeamLab Borderless. These immersive art museums get very mixed reviews online and we hadn’t booked a visit in advance but I am so glad we were able to get into TeamLab Planets one night. We felt like kids again (especially in the fish room) and found it to be a magical experience!
  5. Shibuya Sky. Even on a cloudy day, Shibuya Sky was super-cool and worth the hour or so we spent visiting it. On a sunny day, you could easily spend several hours enjoying a drink on the rooftop.
  6. The New York Bar, Park Hyatt Tokyo. You may need to be of a certain age to appreciate this bar from Lost in Translation but it gave us all the feels and looked exactly as we remembered, right down to the saccharine lounge singer!
Snippet of TeamLab Planets Experience

Culture/Lifestyle

  1. The Restrooms. In Tokyo, you are going to want to go and go often. It’s a veritable potty-paradise with clean facilities, full-length doors, self-open/close, heated seats, heated bidets, privacy noise machines, self-cleaning features, and more! They are simply the best and you will want to upgrade your own throne as soon as you return home.
  2. Politeness. Tokyo is orderly and oh-so polite. No pushing in line or raised voices. Everyone acts with consideration and attention. People wear masks when sick to prevent spreading their crud to others. We could learn a lot from them!
  3. Touch for Service Tabs in Restaurants and Help Me/Don’t Help Me Shopping Baskets. This ties in with #12 above and I wish it would be adopted everywhere! Most restaurants have a small button somewhere on the table that you can use to call your wait staff when you need something. Otherwise, they will leave you alone to converse. Some stores have shopping baskets marked with either Help Me or Don’t Help Me labels and the customer service reps will approach you or not according to the basket you select. BRILLIANT!
  4. Fashions and Shopping Merchandise. At the risk of sounding like I’m in junior high, the stuff in Japanese stores is so cool! From fashions to household gadgets and more, everything seems to be of high quality, superb design, and well-crafted.
  5. The Lack of Touts or Need for Bargaining. In many cultures, the expectation of bargaining and the need for touts is a way of life in the tourism industry. Not so in Japan. While we’ve gotten accustomed to the practice over the years, it sure is nice to enjoy a city without being harassed or having to negotiate for every little thing.
Let’s potty, people!
Handy baby seat to place your child in while you go!
So orderly!

And 7 Things That We Didn’t

Truthfully, there is not much to dislike about Tokyo, especially on a short visit. But there are a few things that may prove a bit frustrating or annoying over time.

Culture/Lifestyle

  1. Few Places to Rest. As tourists, this is what we noticed the most. Unlike in the US, parks and tourist sights rarely had benches or places to sit. The same is true for train/subway stations. Pack comfortable shoes and be prepared to be on your feet all day/night.
  2. Rigid Beauty Standards. BoPo (body positivity) has not made its way to Japan yet. The Japanese ideal is small in stature, thin, with flawless pale skin and long, thick, shiny dark hair that holds its style no matter the weather. I felt very splotchy & disheveled much of the time!
  3. The Overwhelm of Shopping. As mentioned among the things we liked, there are so many great products to shop for in Tokyo. The merchandise is astounding but there is just so much of it. Stores are huge, as is the selection of goods in each department. It’s difficult to contemplate an item and backtrack to it later in the day.
  4. So Many Escalators Instead of Elevators. This contributes greatly to the overwhelm of shopping, above. Do you know how long it takes to go up 8, 10, or 12 flights by escalator? Not to mention, isn’t that a fire hazard or something? Elevators ARE available but they are few and far between and typically marked as being for the disabled.

Food/Drink

  1. No Lingering at Restaurants. This ties in with #1 above. When eating in casual establishments, as we were most days, the protocol is that you are seated, you promptly order, you are brought your food and you are to leave within a minute or two of finishing. Fine if you’re a local worker but less so as a tired tourist. Now, I don’t think anyone would have kicked us out if we had stayed but we try to honor local customs when we visit a place and do what the locals do.
  2. Theme Cafes. Often touted as a must-do Tokyo experience, the idea of theme cafes (hedgehogs, cats, pigs, maids, etc.) held no appeal to us. We’re both allergic to cats and neither of us understood the attraction of being treated like a “princess or a king” by some costumed young girl whose language we don’t speak. Just not for us, but to each his own!
Sign for one of the many theme cafes.

Attractions/Neighborhoods

  1. Akihabara. Known as Tokyo’s “Electric Town” we’d been pretty excited to visit here. But expectations didn’t meet reality. Many of the products were similar to what we could get in the US and the anime/manga/gaming culture, while fun to observe, didn’t resonate as much as we’d thought it would. Even for my tech/gaming aficionado husband.
Akihabara

If you’ve been to Tokyo, let me know what made your loved/didn’t love list below! And if you are trip planning, be sure to check out these more traditional city guides on Kyoto, Miyajima/Hiroshima and Osaka/Himeji.


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Today I'm sharing 15 Things We Loved About Tokyo & 7 That We Didn't! #tokyoguide #tokyotravel #therealtokyo

Author: Betsy Ramsey

Betsy Ramsey is the author of Natty Gal. Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, she now lives there with her husband and Bichon-Frise, Dolce. A mindful fashion & capsule wardrobe enthusiast, she travels extensively, visiting 56 countries to date. Betsy is committed to helping others live their most fulfilling life!

2 thoughts on “15 Things We Loved About Tokyo & 7 That We Didn’t”

  1. Hi Betsy. This was such an interesting post! The Japanese seem very driven and maybe a little uptight. Europeans, in many countries, are just the opposite, much more layed back. We’re in Budapest, right now, enjoying a lovely holiday. Take care. xx

    1. Yes! It’s a very formal and structured society. One of the most culturally different places we’ve visited. Osaka is a bit more laid back but, overall, Japan has a distinct formal feel to it. Enjoy Budapest!!! We’ve not visited yet but are working our way there.

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