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Top 20 Places to Visit in Tokyo in 2020

I have a feeling that by the end of 2020 Tokyo is going to be the “it” city to visit in the world. Why is that? Well, if you haven’t heard, the summer Olympics are coming to Tokyo. And after people see the sights and neon lights of Tokyo on their TV sets or their computer or phone screens, they’re going to want to visit. So, you better beat everyone else to the hottest city of 2020 and book your ticket NOW!

Tokyo is a great place to explore the two sides to Japanese culture: the traditional side of temples and history and the modern side of manga and robots. Here are my top 20 places to visit where can experience both sides of Tokyo in 2020:

Where to see the best traditional Culture of Tokyo:

1. Senso-ji Temple

The oldest and one of the most important Buddhist temples in Tokyo is Senso-ji.

Originally built in 645, Sensoji is dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Compassion (a.k.a. Guanyin in Chinese culture). Senso-ji was destroyed during World War II, so the current one that you’re seeing was built in the twentieth century.

Pro Tip:  Make sure to get a omikuji, a paper fortune. Just follow the instructions (written in English). Don’t worry, if you get a bad fortune, just tie the paper around a nearby rack to stop the bad luck from happening.

2. Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is one of Japan’s most popular shrines. This shrine is the one Tokyoites visit at the beginning of every year in order to pray for good fortune.

Built in 1920, the shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of the Meiji Emperor and his wife, the Empress Shokun.

What to do at Meiji Shrine: Write your wish on an ema, a votive tablet, and place it under the big camphor tree to the right of the main hall.

3. Tokyo National Museum

This museum is the best place to visit in Tokyo to get a sense of the overall history of Japanese art.

The Tokyo National Museum is made up of 5 buildings. It would take you a few days to visit all of them. However, you don’t need to do that. Just head to the one in the center, the Honkan Gallery. Here you’ll see an overview of Japanese art from the Jomon to the Edo periods.

Pro Tip: I love the paintings by Hakusai. His most famous one, “Great Wave of Kanagawa,” was located on the first floor when I visited.

4. Edo Tokyo Museum

This spectacular museum in Sumida covers the fascinating history of Tokyo.

The Edo Tokyo Museum takes you through the history of Tokyo when it was called Edo to the present day. It’s filled with reproductions such as the Nihon Bashi Bridge (considered the center of Edo), a Kabuki Theater, and a Japanese apartment from the 1960s.

Pro Tip: The Edo Tokyo Museum is huge! To see it all, you’ll want to schedule three or four hours. Be sure to arrive early because most museums in Japan close at 5:00 pm. Also, make sure you have enough time for the post World War II section of the museum.

5. Ukiyo-e Ota Museum of Art

If you’re looking for a break from the teeny boppers crowds of Harajuku, head to this small, gem of a museum, the Ukiyo-e Museum of Art.

This museum focuses on Japanese woodblock prints of the Floating World in the Edo and Meiji periods. The Floating World was the term used to describe the pleasure world where Japanese went to watch kabuki, drink, gamble, and visit geishas and prostitutes.

Pro Tip: It’s small, so you need just an hour to visit. You could go back to this museum every month as the prints change monthly.

6. Kabuki-za Theater

Watching a kabuki performance at Tokyo’s Kabuki-za Theater is a must for anyone wanting to explore Japanese traditional culture more deeply.

Kabuki is traditional Japanese drama. The stories usually feature tales of romance and heroism. It was traditionally performed by all female casts, but the Japanese people felt this was too risqué, so female actors were banned and replaced by an all-male cast.

Pro Tip: The Kabuki-za theater has four to five performances every day from morning to evening. You can buy single act tickets on the day of the performance from 600 yen to 1,500 yen. I highly recommend renting an electronic translator at the theater to get a translation of the play.

7. Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Stadium

Seeing a sumo match is not just for the sports enthusiast, but also for those wanting to experience one aspect of Japan’s unique culture. You can do that at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Stadium in Samida.

Official Sumo tournaments only take place in January, March, May, July, September, and November. If you’re not in Tokyo in those months, you can also watch a morning practice session.

Pro Tip: You can buy tickets on Voyagin or Viator websites. You can also buy cheap same day tickets at 8:00 am. However, they sell out very quickly, so get in line really early in the morning.

8. Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Another cultural experience you must try before leaving Japan is a visit to a hot springs (called onsen in Japanese). An easy way to visit one in Tokyo is at a hot spring entertainment park called Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba.

At Monogatari, you’ll find an outdoor foot bathing area, a food court, and a gender-separated bathing area with several different kinds of baths. The other unique aspect about this experience is that you’ll wander around the park in a traditional Japanese robe called a yukata.

Pro Tip: Japanese hot springs can be an intimidating experience for the first-timer. Before your visit, watch some videos to learn how to tie a yukata and read up on Japanese bathing etiquette.

9. Tsukiji Outer Market

You can’t leave Japan without experiencing its world-famous food. One of the most fun ways to do it is to visit Tsukiji Outer Market. Here you’ll get to sample Japanese street food like tamagoyaki, sea urchin, and oysters. There are also lots of delicious restaurants for a sit-down meal of sashimi or seafood rice bowls.

Tsukiji Market used to be divided into 2 parts: the outer market for tourists and the inner wholesale market. The wholesale market moved in 2018 to modern facilities in Toyosu. You can also visit, but it’s far away and it lacks the character that Tsukiji has.

Pro Tip: Shops are open from 9:00 to 14:00. All are closed on Sundays and some are closed on Wednesdays.

10. Staying in a Ryokan

You should at least experience staying in a traditional Japanese inn, called a ryokan, at least once during your trip to Japan. Tokyo is a great place to experience this only-in-Japan style of accommodations.

Ryokans have several features that are uniquely Japanese. They’ll have their own hot spring bath for their guests. Some of them will also serve a multi-course breakfast and/or dinner consisting of seasonal dishes.

Pro Tip: Asakusa and Yanasen areas have some affordable ryokans for around (and sometimes under) US$100 a night.

11. Visiting traditional pre-war neighborhoods

If you want to see what Tokyo was like before World War II, the neon lights and shiny skyscrapers, then wander through the streets of Yanasen. 

Yanasen consists of three areas: Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi. Here you’ll find pre-war wooden buildings, lots of old temples and cemeteries, and shops selling traditional sweets and home goods.

Pro Tip: Try to have lunch or dinner at Hantei or Kamachiku.

Modern Japanese Culture

12. Visiting Shinjuku

If you have time for only one place to visit in Tokyo, make it the district of Shinjuku. Here is where you’ll see the Tokyo from the movies: the neon lights, unique bars, the crazy pachinko parlors, modern skyscrapers, and crowds of hip Tokyoites.

When visiting Shinjuku, there are three modern places to visit: Kabukicho, Omoido Yokocho (a narrow alley filled with tiny bars and yakitori restaurants), and Golden Gai (a series of small lanes filled with more tiny bars).

Pro Tip: Join a food tour of Shinjuku to get the inside scoop on where to go. You can sign up with tours through Get Your Guide.

13. Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is THE famous crosswalk where you see a mess of people coming from all directions at one time to cross one intersection. To add to the experience, you’re surrounded by bright neon lights, huge television screens, and slick skyscrapers.

Don’t feel embarrassed if you do the crosswalk numerous times. I think all tourists do it! After doing Shibuya Crossing, check out the surrounding neighborhood. I found it to be a great place for street photography.

Pro Tip: Find a place from above to watch the crossing. An easy place to watch is from Starbucks. Sometimes it’s hard to find the exit from the station for Shibuya Crossing. Be patient. Look for the Hachiko Exit. This also leads to the statue of the famous dog called Hachiko.

14. Takeshita Dori Street

Takeshita Dori is a fun street to visit in Harajuku. It’s where Japanese teens go to shop, to eat, and to strut their stuff in the latest fashions.

Takeshita Dori is the perfect place to do both your people watching and shopping. You’ll see Japanese teens showing off their latest hairstyles and clothes. There are lots of trendy boutiques, inexpensive shops selling things you really don’t need, cat cafes, hedgehog cafes, and cafes serving crepes, cotton candy, and whatever the latest snack fad is.

Pro Tip: Stand at the beginning of the street to take a photo of the sea of people bobbing their heads as they parade down the street.

15. Fluffy Pancakes

The Japanese like to take foreign dishes and put their own spin on them. One dish that the Japanese have made their own version of is the pancake called the fluffy pancake. You can find restaurants all over Harajuku selling this delicious it.

You can find fluffy pancake restaurants in Harajuku. Here are some popular ones: A Happy Pancake, Burn Side Street Cafe, Flippers and Rainbow Pancake.

Pro Tip: Expect to wait in line to get in. I arrived at A Happy Pancake before it opened at 9:00 am, put my name on a list, and went off to wander the streets of Harajuku.

16. Akihabara

Another teen hangout that epitomizes modern Japanese culture is Akihabara.

You’ll find lots of stores for electronics, manga, anime, and video games. Looking for a Maid Cafe? Look no further than Akihabara.

Akihabara is named after Akiba, a local shrine. On Sundays, the main street, Chuo Dori, becomes a pedestrian only zone from 1:00 to 6:00 pm.

Pro Tip: You’ll see “maids” standing outside maid cafes getting customers to come inside. Please ask first before taking photos of them. They hate it when you snap one without asking.

17. Robot Restaurant

Some may say that the Robo Restaurant is a tourist trap, but it’s a fun and only-in-Japan tourist trap that keeps people coming. 

The Robot Restaurant isn’t a restaurant per se. You can order food, but you don’t have to and you probably don’t want to since the food isn’t all that good. The main focus of the “restaurant” is the robot show.

Pro Tip: Buy tickets for the show through Klook to get a discount.

18. teamLab Borderless

MORI Building Digital Art Museum: teamlab Borderless is the newest tourist sensation in Tokyo. It’s a museum devoted to interactive digital art. The digital art is projected onto the walls, floors, and ceilings. It’s constantly changing so that you can enter a room twice and experience different works of art.

There are actually two of these museums in Tokyo: teamLab Borderless and teamlab Planets. The teamLab Borderless in Odaiba is a permanent museum, while another one is temporary.

Pro Tip: Buy your tickets ahead of time because they sometimes sell out AND arrive before the museum opens to be the first ones in the museum. You’ll avoid crazy long lines.

19. Tokyo Sky Tree

The Tokyo Sky Tree is the best place to see 360 degree panoramic views of Tokyo. It towers over the city at 634 meters. 

Tokyo Sky Tree was finished in 2011 in Sumida district of Tokyo. It has one of those glass floors that you can walk on and see the world below you.

Pro Tip: Some people suggest skipping the tree and going to the Tokyo Government Building in Shinjuku. It’s free, while Tokyo Sky Tree isn’t. I felt the views were better from the Sky Tree, and you can actually take photos without the glass causing a glare on your camera.

20. Studio Ghibli Museum

The Ghibli Museum is the animation museum of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. The studio made many famous Japanese anime movies such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke.

You’ll find exhibits on the process of making an animation movie and an opportunity to watch a movie that can only be seen at the museum.

Pro Tip: You need to buy the tickets online and in advance. You can’t buy tickets at the museum. Online tickets go on sale 3 months before the date of the visit. They sell out quickly, so as soon as your ticket date is being sold, buy it. Don’t even wait a day.


To read more about what to see and do in Tokyo click here!

 

Advice Asia

How To Avoid Looking Like A Tourist In Japan

Japan’s mystery unfolds in front of travelers in unexpected ways. In between its modernist skyscrapers, you’ll find ancient rituals and deep history. With its intensely rich culture, very unique customs, mouth watering beautiful dishes, there’s no doubt that travelers will find themselves enamored with the Land Of The Rising Sun. For travelers about to embark on their first trip to Japan, it can seem overwhelming to assimilate into its daily life. So, here’s our biggest tips on how to avoid looking like a tourist in Japan!

Walk To The Left

Japan, especially its largest cities, is an incredibly systematic country. The level of organization and attention to detail will floor you. Every step of your path, whether its walking to the cleanest subway system you’ll ever experience or maneuvering through bustling Shibuya crossing is organized.

Tourists, especially Americans, might struggle to (literally) go with the flow if they don’t know to always walk to the left. So, now you’ll know better! Walking, driving and riding to the left is the ticket to making your way through Japan a breeze. There are even markings that split the tunnel systems of Tokyo’s subway to show visitors where to walk!

Be Aware Of Your Volume & Space At All Times

Visitors can sometimes stick out like a sore thumb. You’re very likely to if you’re blissfully unaware of your volume when in Japan! The locals are very accustomed to being mindful of the level in which they talk. Public transportation is seemly almost silent on most rides! So, be conscious of how loud you’re being in public spaces. Turn your phone on silent, keep your chatter to a soft hush and never intrude on someone else’s conversation by overwhelming them with your own volume!

Similarly, be observant of your space at all times… especially on transportation and maneuvering through busy streets. Japanese locals are incredibly conscious of the space they are in. Be weary of invading anyone’s personal space and always apologize if you happen to brush by someone.

Know Local Customs

There are lots of little nuanced customs in Japan. But here are some basic ones to keep in mind!

  • Always return a bow (we’ll discuss more on customary ways to say hello later in this post!)
  • Be observant when you enter a restaurant. Take off your shoes if you see a pile of them in the entrance!
  • Acknowledge every greeting you recieve
  • Say “kampai!” before you clink your drinks for a cheers
  • Be mindful of how you use your chopsticks (more on this later!)
  • Don’t hand your money directly to the cashier… instead, place it on a tray that’s near the cash register
  • Take business cards offered to you with two hands

Know How To Dress

Sure, you’re bound to see young Japanese locals decked out in their wild outfits in Harajuku… but unless you’re part of the fashion scene, you’ll need to dress more conservatively. Generally in Japan, you’ll find polished looks and chic pieces everywhere. Men and women often are dressed incredibly professionally while out and about, especially since many of them are coming and going from their workplace.

​​​​​​​To fit in, dress up your look a little extra! Wear comfortable clothes that you can easily move in, but also are stylishly sharp. Tuck in your shirt to a well-fitting pair of jeans or shorts, and be sure to wear shoes you can easily slip on or off.

Clean Up After Yourself

When in Japan, you’ll notice how incredibly clean everything is. Any sign of litter, trash or rubbish is a completely oddity in the country. That being said, always be sure to tidy up after yourself!

Learn How To Handle Chopsticks

Yes, chopsticks are (typically) your only option for utensil in Japan. So, buff up one your chopstick skills if you’re a complete newbie. There are some classic no-go’s when it comes to using chopsticks. Here are some basic things to know:

  • Be sure not to point at something using your chopsticks. This is considered rude!
  • Avoid sticking your chopsticks straight up into rice. In general, it is good practice to always place them on the table when you are not using them.
  • Don’t pass food using chopsticks. This is considered impolite and mirrors the funeral tradition of transferring cremated bones to an urn. Yikes!
  • When sharing a plate, use the opposite end of the chopsticks that you eat from (the wider part) to take a portion.
  • Don’t rub your chopsticks together! This is often read as you telling the owners of the restaurant that you think they’re a cheap establishment!

Master The Subway

The Tokyo subway is fantastic (if you haven’t caught on already)! The public transport system throughout Japan is just as incredible. The buses, trains, subways and more are clean, efficient and impressively punctual.

To master the subway system, be sure to buy a prepaid card (like the Pasmo card)… even if you’re just visiting for a few days. Simply buy them at the vending machines in most subway stations and load them up whenever you need to. They’re able to be used on all trains, buses and subways in Tokyo! And most of the time, all you have to do is tap them on a sensor near the entrance gate.

The subway system is very easy to understand. Most of Tokyo labels their neighborhood by its nearest subway station. Simply using Google Maps will direct you. Be sure to note which exit you should take! Some of the stations you’ll be using are incredibly huge and you don’t want to be on the opposite side of where you want to be!

Slurp Your Noodles

The notion of slurping makes Americans shudder. But in Japan, loudly slurping your noodles is a signal of the deliciousness of your meal!

Don’t Harass Geishas Or Sacred Deer

There are many sacred traditions in Japanese culture. Do not overstep the boundaries!

P.S. if you’re planning a trip to especially see Japan’s magical cherry blossoms… check out this post!

Don’t Leave A Tip

Unlike American culture, the Japanese do not view tips as a recognition of great service. In fact, many consider it to be rude! Unlike other restaurants around the world, you’ll find that Japanese restaurants have their customers pay at the front register when they are ready to leave. So, save yourself some cash and avoid looking like a tourist in Japan at the same time!

Learn Basic Phrases

Knowing a few simple phrases is a great way to show respect for Japanese culture… and it goes a long way! Here are some basic ones to keep on hand:

  • “Konnichiwa” (hello)
  • “Sayonara” (goodbye)
  • “Arigato” (thank you)
  • “Sumimasen” (excuse me)
  • “Oishi” (delicious)

Greet Locals Appropriately

Japan may be the most polite country in the world! And that is no joke. You’ll find that Japanese culture lends itself to expecting all citizens and visitors alike to show grace and appropriate behaviors at all time. Here are some things to keep in mind when interacting with locals. You’ll be charming them in no time!

  • Address professionals by “sensei” or “san” … but never refer to yourself as “san”
  • Know when to bow! The longer and deeper the bow, the more respect you convey. Simply put your hands behind your back and bow for an informal interactions. Casual interactions don’t require a bow, but always return one if someone gives one to you! If you’re meeting someone for dinner or thanking them, lower is better. Men should also keep their hands at their sides, women with their hands in their lap for more formal situations.
  • Handshakes are very common after or during a bow!
  • Take your shoes off when entering a home. And always be sure to take a peek if others have taken their shoes off in restaurants and gathering places.
  • Pour your friends drinks and never pour your own. This tradition comes from the viewpoint many Japanese have that pouring your own drink is selfish.
  • Never point using your fingers, use your whole hand instead!

 

Asia Food Hotels

You’ve Done All The Traditional Touristy Stuff In Tokyo, Now What?

The non-traditional stuff, that’s what! These unique sights, activities, and noms will show you Tokyo through a quirky lens and allow you to explore the city’s cultural and culinary nooks and crannies.

What to See

Shinjuku Neighborhood’s Godzilla Head
Lounging outside of the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku’s 8th floor lobby, the hotel’s resident pet peeks over the building, roaring and spitting light and smoke a few times each hour. While only guests of the hotel can see the Godzilla Head up close, the best view is from the street, as you walk towards the hotel from Shinjuku Station’s east exit.

 

The World’s Busiest Intersection
If you want to glimpse orderly chaos, head over to the 2nd floor of the Starbucks in the Shibuya neighborhood. Situated at the head of the world’s busiest intersection, watch hundreds of pedestrians walk the spider-web crosswalks as they cross the intersection.

Hachiko
If you love animals and want to have your heartstrings pulled, head to the Shibuya metro station. Outside of it is the famous statue of the Akita dog Hachiko (1923-1935), which symbolizes fidelity and loyalty. Hachiko waited every day for his owner, a professor of agriculture at the University of Tokyo named Hidesaburō Ueno, to return home from work. One day, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage during a lecture and did not return on his commute home. Hachiko kept waiting in the same spot for his owner for nine years, finally passing away when he was eleven years old.

What to Do

MariCAR Tour
The tour is hands down the must-do activity for first-time visitors to Tokyo. There is no better way to experience the energy of the city than to zip through traffic in a go-kart. And doing so in full costume is the quirky cherry on top of this wacky sundae of sightseeing. The tour options range from one hour to three hours. The one-hour tour is 6,000 Yen per person (roughly $54) and you drive by the Tokyo Tower and through Shinagawa. The two-hour tour is 8,000 Yen per person (roughly $72) and you drive by the Tokyo Tower and through Roppongi, Shinagawa, and Shibuya (where you drive through the World’s Busiest Crosswalk). The three-hour tour is 10,000 Yen per person (roughly $90) and you drive by the Tokyo Tower and through Roppongi, Odaiba (where you get to test the speed limits of your go- kart as you drive on the Rainbow Bridge and see the bay), Shinagawa, and Shibuya. I recommend the three hour tour at sunset (tour started at 6:30pm and ended at 10pm). Seeing the cityscape at night lit up and sparkling is breathtaking.


Robot Restaurant’s Evening Cabaret Show
A psychedelic blast. For 8,000 Yen per person (roughly $72), you get 90 minutes of this high-energy, Alice-in-Wonderland-esque performance. It’s the flamboyant love child of Cirque du Soleil (without the acrobatics) and Medieval Times (exchange the horses for lit-up robots) and definitely a unique experience. You’ll leave entertained but scratching your head at what exactly you just saw.


Owl Café Skip the clichéd cat café and visit an owl café instead. At the Owl Village Harajuku Café, you get to interact with nine owls for an hour which costs 1,500 Yen per person (roughly $14). Included in the price, you get a drink before and one free souvenir after playing with the owls. You can pet and hold them and pay extra to feed them. Definitely do the feeding. Some of the owls are being trained and you can participate in the training by having them fly to your arm to retrieve the raw meat treats.


What to Eat

Anti-Social Ramen

If you want to taste some of the yummiest ramen in Tokyo, head over to one of the local shops where you order your ramen through a vending machine of sorts. Made for those with hermetic tendencies, this is a limited-human-interaction experience. Once you place your customized ramen order through the machine (select extra toppings like a soft-boiled egg, additional garlic, etc), the machine will spit out a ticket. Once you plop down on a bar stool with privacy screens on each side, you hand the ticket to the pair of hands that reach through the window in front of you. Once your ramen is served through the front window, the server pulls down the sliding screen and you can slurp your noodles in privacy. Try Ichiran in the Shinjuku neighborhood.


Yakitori in an Izakaya For carnivorous souls, head over to an Izakaya, a Japanese tavern, like Torikizoku Okubo in Shinjuku. A local joint, half the fun is navigating the Japanese-only picture menu and ordering through a touchpad screen located at each table. Salivate over succulent skewers of grilled meats and don’t forget to try the fried chicken skins and chicken butt.


All You Can Eat (AYCE) Yakiniku
Translating to “grilled meat”, the Japanese BBQ is a fun experience. Much like Korean BBQ, each table has a grill in the middle of it and you order an assortment of beef, pork, seafood, and/or vegetables to grill yourself. If you’re in the Shibuya neighborhood, try the Yakiniku Fufutei Shibuya. In addition to AYCE, you have the option of ordering All You Can Drink. You’re allotted two hours to eat and drink to your heart’s content. Try the beef tongue.

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Asia Food Hotels Reviews

Hotels We Love: Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo, Japan

As a full-time traveler, it’s safe to say that I can appreciate a hotel that is more of an experience rather than just a place to sleep. We recently traveled to Tokyo and stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel, brand unique to Japan  that gave us the full Japanese experience we were looking for.

Located in the heart of Tokyo in the Shinjuku district, Keio Plaza Hotel offers 1,438 rooms, complimentary wireless Internet, 11 restaurants and 3 coffee shops/cafés and 5 bars/lounges. The place is a city within itself! I also loved that the hotel towers are located next to a tunnel that leads your right into the convenient Shinjuku station with the JR line that leads you to majority of the main sights in town.

Premier Grand Room
The brand new, minimal and beautiful rooms immediately make you feel right at home. It’s worth upgrading to their Premier Grand rooms as they’re brand new, spacious and give you access to the lounge on the 45th floor.

The bathrooms were quite the treat with a view of the gorgeous skyline through the glass facing the window of the room.

We slept soundly thanks to the sound proof walls and incredibly comfortable beds with Sealy beds and Italian linens.


Premier Grand Lounge
This was my favorite area of the hotel located high up on the 45th floor with stunning views and gorgeous decor. The aesthetic exemplifies East meets West with its comfortable couches, chairs and light wooden accents. The lounge was designed by London’s G.A. Design.

The lounge offers complimentary cocktails and snacks from 5-7 pm and a nice Western style or Japanese breakfast.



Concierge services are also provided for guests and we were kindly assisted with the booking of our Mt. Fuji full day tour with ease.

Themed Rooms
Themed rooms include traditional Japanese rooms, with minimalist furnishings such as tatami mats and Zen-style rock gardens, and two types of Hello Kitty rooms The Princess Kitty for the elegant traveler and the Kitty Town for the fun traveler. Both rooms are brilliant and fully equipped with themed details galore from the wallpaper to the amenities, to the pancakes served during room service!

Princess

Kitty Town

Yukata Experience
The hotel offers a kimono experience all year round and the yukata experience worn during warmer months where guests can spend the day in the traditional dress while taking photos and walking around town or the hotel. I chose the powder blue with pink hints! Optional hairdressing and professional photography services are also offered.


Tea Ceremony
The tea ceremony was a truly authentic and memorable experience. Our kind host explained the traditions with such beauty and passion. The tea ceremony is held on the 10th floor in a traditional tatami room and chairs are offered for those that can’t sit comfortably on the floor.

Japanese food
We dined at the traditional Japanese restaurant, Kagari where we were treated to a sake tasting along with delicious and fresh sashimi.

The Aurora Lounge
Located in the Main Tower 45F offers spectacular views over Tokyo & is definitely worth going up for a late night drink.

 

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

I was invited as guest by Keio Plaza Hotel. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Advice Asia Guides

Top 12 Things to Do In Japan

Japan, the land of the rising sun, is a country filled with beauty, energy and ambition, a once-in-a-lifetime destination that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

With its fascinating contrasts of traditional and modern, Japan has something for every visitor: stimulating culture, breath-taking scenery, fascinating shrines, beautiful old castles, and the food – oh, the food!
It’s a country filled with unexpected surprises, and the spontaneous of you who embrace the unexpected will revel in being lost in a world so completely different to their own.

In hopes of inspiring you to visit this marvelous country, I’ll show you here a selection of 12 breath-taking sights and experiences in Japan that no traveler should ever miss:

1. VISIT THE SENSO-JI TEMPLE IN ASAKUSA,TOKYO
Senso-ji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest and most popular Buddhist temple. Its history goes back to 628, when a gold statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, was found in the nearby river.
Take your time to observe all the unique rituals and watch the devotees’ as they write prayers on wooden plaques, rub incense smoke into their skin and drink the water from the dragon head’s faucet.

 

2. GET A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF THE CITY
Tokyo Skytree (634m) and Tokyo Tower (333m) are the two tallest artificial structures in Japan. The red and white Tokyo Tower is wrapped in a warm light at night, while the Skytree is painted in a circus of lights, but in the end, they both offer visitors a chance to enjoy an amazing panoramic view of Tokyo.

 

 

3. EXPERIENCE THE MADNESS OF SHIBUYA CROSSING
If you’ve seen photos of an insanely busy intersection with mobbed crosswalks packed with pedestrians, you’ve probably seen Shibuya, aka the busiest intersection in the world. It’s a good place for people watching, window-shopping and snacking on some seriously weird food. You can observe the spectacle of lights and people from the Starbucks on the north side, or you can experience the madness for yourself!

 


4. GET UP *REALLY* EARLY FOR TSUKIJI FISH MARKET

Japan’s fish markets are all exciting, lively and a significant part of the local culture, but the Tsukiji in probably one of the best. The tuna auction is a spectacle to behold and it’s fascinating to see so many unfamiliar sea creatures. You will need an early start to catch the action though – registration for the auctions takes place at 5am (yep!) and it’s pretty much over by 9, but by then you can head over to a restaurant in Tsukiji for an awesome sushi breakfast.

5. WANDER AROUND HAMARIKYU GARDEN
The Hamarikyū garden is a Japanese-style garden located right in the middle of the Shiodome skyscrapers and, like other places across Tokyo, it was originally created as a feudal lord’s residence back in the Edo period. Its ponds are connected right to the Tokyo bay and so the water level can change with the tide. In the middle of March the flowers at Hamarikyu Garden start to bloom, with the spectacular rapeseed yellow flowers being first in the line.

6. WALK THROUGH FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE IN KYOTO
This is another gorgeous temple to put on your list. Dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and business, the shrine lies at the foot of Mount Inari, and it’s world-know for its over 5,000 red torii (shrine gates). The gates – each one a donation from a business enterprise – mark out a 4 km path that lead up the mountain to smaller shrines and awesome city views.

 

7. VISIT THE GOLDEN PAVILION
Nothing is as symbolic of Kyoto as Kinkaku-ji’s golden reflection in the pond. The spectacular Golden Pavilion is a former retirement villa of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and was converted into a Zen temple after his death in 1408. Its shimmering golden coating and the beauty of its natural scenery have given this building worldwide fame and the World Heritage Site status.

 

8. SEEK SERENITY THROUGH THE ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO FOREST
This bamboo forest is a picturesque sight that every photographer will love, and a walk so calming that the soul will find peace with every step. Entering the grove is like entering another dimension, as the bamboo seems to stretch on forever. Also, the sound of the wind in this forest is so pleasant and magnetizing that the Japanese government has included it in the list of one hundred protected sounds of the country.

 

9. VISIT TODAI-JI TEMPLE IN NARA
Todai-ji temple contains the famous Daibutsu, The Great Buddha, in the Daibutsu- den. It is one of the most well-known statues in Japan and was cast in 746. The Daibutsu is 15 m high, consists of 440 tones of bronze and 130 kg of gold. In other words, it’s ginormous. During the “Manto Kuyo-ye” lantern festival, all the windows are opened and an illuminated Great Buddha looks out over the large green grass.

 

10. FEED THE DEER
A big thank you to the lovely town of Nara for allowing me to live out a deer-world fantasy I didn’t even know I had! This park is a fabulous example of how humankind can co-exist peacefully and smoothly with nature. You can even feed the deer with some ‘deer crackers’ (shika sembei), but a packet will last around 2 seconds tops – Bambi is as cute as greedy!

 

11. MARVEL AT KASUGA TAISHA SHRINE
Kasuga Taisha is the most famous shrine in Nara and was founded by the Fujiwara family in the 8th century.
It is well known for its outstanding bronze and stone lanterns that line the paths to the shrine and hang from the eves, all donated over the years by the common people as tokens of their faith. The lanterns are lit twice a year on Lantern Festivals in early February and mid August.

 

12. VISIT OSAKA CASTLE
Osaka is just a 20-minute train ride from Kyoto or Nara, and its symbol is certainly the imposing and world famous Osaka Castle.
This postcard-perfect castle was originally built as a display of power by samurai warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi and was unparalleled at the time as the largest and best constructed castle in Japan. The best time to visit Osaka Castle is definitely in spring, when the surrounding park is covered in beautiful cherry blossoms.

 

There you have it! Twelve awesome things to see & do in Japan.

But remember, sometimes, to really enjoy a place you’re visiting, you have to get yourself lost. Wander the streets and let them take you to somewhere new. Just walk. There is so much to see and so many sights to gaze upon that no travel guide or blog post could ever show you.

Now book that flight to Tokyo!

 

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