First impressions of my no.1 dream country to visit, Japan, and a rundown of my top things to do in Tokyo.
What an adventure the last few weeks have been! A truly epic, eye-opening, heart-warming one.
For me, Japan was a country rooted firmly at no.1 on my bucket list. It leapt onto it a few years ago, and I can 100% say the food was a major reason.
Sushi, gyozas, noodles, ramen. Some of my favourite dishes ever invented! I’ve often admitted that my love of food and travel go hand in hand, and this was one country that I knew would offer a lot.
Despite a few invites to visit, my partner and I had a firm pact. We wanted our first trip to Japan to be together, so we started planning a 12-day adventure that would offer a mix of the crazy, the fun, the beautiful, the zen and plenty more. We wanted to be tourists, but also wanted to track down some authentic experiences.
Now we’ve returned, I’m wading through over 900 photos, and struggling to narrow down what to share. It’s rare I return from a trip and feel I could write a new post or two about every single day we were away.
So where did we go on our Japan trip? I’d describe it as a tri-peninsula / two-city trip.
We flew to Tokyo (more on that coming up!) and enjoyed playing tourists, checking out the famous show at the Robot Restaurant, eating our way around Asakusa, and soaking up the rainbow colours of Harajuku.
Next up was the volcanic Izu Peninsula, famed for its rugged coasts, pristine beaches, waterfalls and sea caves.
Then it was up to the Noto Peninsula to enjoy mountains, rice paddies and rock formations aplenty.
Our third peninsula was the mountainous Kii Peninsula, a region with mist and low-lying clouds adding to its magic.
We finished our trip in buzzy Osaka. At this point, the weather changed our return plans, as Typhoon Jebi raged across the region, completely submerging the airport. I guess the silver lining in the stormy typhoon cloud was a few extra days to explore the city – cue shopping for gifts fuelled by gigantic bowls of ramen. While there are plenty of places on my Japan bucket list, it was a perfect introduction to the country.
Plenty more content to follow on all of this, but for now, here are a few of my favourite things to do in Tokyo!
Top Things To Do In Tokyo
Enjoy The Buzz Of Shinjuku
We stayed in Shinjuku and what a fun intro to the city it was! Masses of people, fast pace of life, lights, noise, buzz and more! There are plenty of restaurants in this part of the city, and while some streets are a little seedy (you’ll know what I mean when you venture out) there’s plenty to explore.
Snap photos of the lights, check out some arcades, and feast on sushi, yakiniku (Japanese BBQ), ramen and deep fried delicacies, all washed down with an Asahi or a whisky.
Learn About Tokyo Through Its Food On A Food Tour Of Asakusa
This Tokyo food tour was an incredible introduction to the city as a whole. Our guide, Satoshi, was born and bred in Tokyo, and was ready to share stories about the region, what it’s like to live there, traditions, history and of course plenty about the cuisine!
Asakusa was once filled with gangsters, geishas, writers, artists, and beggars. It had a reputation of being a little rough, but was transformed post-war and these days is a pretty desirable place to be. It’s picturesque with temples, shrines and gardens. Plus it’s famed for its lengthy street market that attracts tourists every day.
Our guide took us to small stores and markets to taste unique Japanese ingredients. Things like spices, crackers, pickles and sugary treats. He really knew where to go in Tokyo for authentic, local experiences.
We enjoyed a filling and flavoursome lunch of multiple dishes (with a choice of more flavours of soy sauce than I knew existed), before showing us a few more key sights. We learned about temples, kimonos, Japanese customs and more. It was an excellent way to get under the skin of Tokyo, and something I’d recommend doing at the start of your trip.
Find out more about the food tour and check prices here. Ooh and you can get a 5% discount on Voyagin’s Japan tours with the booking code Chloeinjapan!
Visit Colourful Harajuku
Ready to live your life in rainbow colours? I certainly was! Harajuku is cute, colourful, playful and energetic. The fashion is a little wacky (often referred to as ‘kawaii’) and it’s not uncommon to see girls with multi-coloured hair wearing super-bright clothes, using the streets as their catwalk.
Head to Takeshita Street to shop for similar clothing and accessories or to sample some wacky, colourful foods. You’ll find everything from rainbow candy floss, to loaded crepes and colourful ice cream.
Enjoy An Eye-Opening Evening At A Robot Show
Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant was recommended to us by a lot of people before our trip. Everyone said it was crazy, but in the best way possible!
The show is a visual spectacle, with live music, dancers, and errr… robots. Everything is colourful, with flashing lights, and a few explosions along the way. It’s definitely one of the top things to do in Tokyo at night!
If you book with Voyagin you get a free gift and you can book seats in advance, perfect for the busier shows. You can also get a 5% discount on Voyagin’s Japan tours with the booking code Chloeinjapan! Check latest prices here.
Stay At The Godzilla Hotel
Looking for alternative things to do in Tokyo? How about staying in a hotel with Godzilla sleeping next to you…! What a hilarious sight. Most people in Tokyo know the Godzilla Hotel, aka Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, as yep, it has a gigantic Godzilla on top of it! It’s a smart hotel in the heart of the action, and serves up a great breakfast too. The main attraction though is definitely Godzilla, with his hourly light show in the evenings!
Eat The Best Gyozas In Tokyo
When friends and travel blogs and foodies all recommend one place, you know it’s going to be good. We queued for around ten minutes at Harajuku Gyoza-ro, and once we’d been around the bar, we ordered ‘one of each’.
This was the most basic menu we came across in our whole time in Japan. They make two types of gyozas – original and with garlic and chives. Then you can choose whether to have your gyozas steamed or fried.
My favourites were the fried gyozas with garlic and chives, and at just 290 Yen for 6 (around £2 each), it’d be rude not to have several portions! These are a definite contender for the best gyozas in Tokyo. I’d book a flight back just to eat them again!
Explore Golden Gai At Night
If you’re looking for something to do in Tokyo at night, head to Golden Gai. With Shinjuku being so modern, all dressed in neon, it feels unlikely to stumble upon a maze of bars like Golden Gai. This skinny pedestrianised area is home to several narrow bars, most with room for 8 or so people. Many have a small cover charge, and while some feel like real ‘locals haunts’, plenty are open to tourists. Part of the adventure is poking your head into each one and seeing what’s going on inside!
For more information on travelling around Japan visit www.seejapan.co.uk, or head to www.enjoymyjapan.jp to build your own personalised Japan itinerary. As always all thoughts and opinions are my own!
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