37.8 million people make the metropolitan area of Tokyo to the world’s most populous congested urban area and so it was only a matter of time until our quest for fun and excitement lead us to Tokyo for a drinking spree. Three weeks of Japan, that we mainly spent in Tokyo, except for some short trips to Kawasaki (to attend the celebration of Kanamara Matsuri a.k.a. the “Festival of the Steel Phallus”), Kyoto, Yokohama and Osaka raised our level of awareness, that only a very few things that look like chicken actually taste like chicken. Now to prevent you from any unpleasant surprises, we’ve composed this short Tokyo Travel Guide to give you a brief but comprehensive preparation.
In case you're only interested in the pictures, here's the link to the Tokyo Gallery.
Food and Restaurants in Tokyo
Speaking of food: There is not a single specialty in this world that you can’t get in Tokyo. Well, everything has its price of course, but in general the food is very reasonably priced. For example a dinner at a causal restaurant (at least 100 meters away from the typical tourist hotspots) will cost you less than 10 Euro (assuming an exchange rate of 135 Yen per Euro) and consists of:
- Miso Soup
- Pickles and/or some Salad
- Ragout or fish as the main course.
- Green tea – which is often included for free.
One of the must eats is Fugu fish. But be warned, it can be deadly! So you'd better prepare yourself by first reading our Fugu Fish Menu Review for details. It includes the fugu fish poisoning survival guide so needless to say, it’s a must read for every adventurous Japan traveling gourmet!
Most casual restaurants got either pictures of the food on the menu card, or they have plastic replicas of the dishes on a display. This makes the communication with the restaurant stuff “a little bit easier” (not to say even possible). An other thing worth mentioning are tips: Tips at a restaurant are a no-no! The restaurant staff will even chase you through the streets of Tokyo if you somehow manage to give them a tip (which will be quite a challenge anyway).
An other remarkable thing about Tokyo is the habit of the locals to place a beverages vending machine at every corner. You’re able to witness a similar trend at other Japanese cities too, but it sometimes appears that there are perhaps more beverages vending machines in Tokyo than citizens.
Tokyo City Sightseeing Recommendations:
One word of advice upfront: Grab yourself a Tokyo Handy Map and a Handy Guide. Both are given away for free at the tourist offices as well as on the reception of most hotels. Beside that, here is our short, unordered list of impressive sights that we have found:
- The second tallest building in the world enables an astonishing view over the biggest city in the world. A must see! Check out our Tokyo Skytree Guide for more details.
- Tokyo Tower Guide.
Edo Tokyo MuseumA museum dedicated to the history of the city. The building is impressive! And the exhibition even beats it. One word of advice: Try to get one of the voluntary guides and it will become an unforgettable experience!
Tokyo Sea Life ParkYou're allowed to pet sharks and stingrays. It's a big fun for children (regardless their age).
Ueno ParkThe park itself, the shopping/market street as well as the zoo and national museums of nature and science. Allocate at least one day for that area alone. One word of warning though: The park is extremely overcrowded during the time of the cherry blossom, which usually happens between the end of March and the beginning of April.
Some food recommendations:Sushi (hey! how obvious is that?), Gyosa, Ginger Pork and Okonomiaki.
A food recommendation for adventurous gourmets only:Fugu Fish! But please check out our Fugu Fish Menu Review, for details first.
An awesome place to get drunk:Shinjuku Golden Gai. More than 250 tiny bars give plenty of opportunity to work on an apocalyptic hangover.
OdaibaOdaiba houses a lot of shopping centers. The monument of the nerd god "Gundam" can be found there. There's also a replica of Lady Liberty in front of the picturesque Tokyo city panorama and the Rainbow bridge.
A shopping attraction:Don Quichote - The only place on earth where you can get everything you didn't know you need. Like for example a Rolex, Umbrella with Katana handle, Vibrators, Video Games, Dom Peringon and Cognac sold for various 1000s of Euros, right next to Paperbag Sake, soft guns, kitchen ware, carnival costumes, dried fish, shoes, jewelery - honestly, if there's anything you can't find at Don Quichote, you haven't searched long enough.
Asakusa AreaThe area around the Sensō-ji Temple is probably the best place for souvenir shopping in Tokyo - maybe even in whole Japan. The temple itself is also very beautiful and there's even a (very) small theme park in the area.
ShibujaA fashion center for young people and one of the most frequented crossroads in the world. (This one's rather for girls).
Electric CityA shopping street for electronics. Kinda like the male version of Shibuja
Arcade HallsIf you like video games, this one's a must see as well as a no-brainer! Just be sure to bring enough 100 Yen coins with you to enjoy a continuous arcade frenzy!
Soju and SakeAre the preferred weapons of choice for Japanese people to get drunk. Both very delicious stuff, so try to stick with the HangOverEurope.com mantra of "much helps a lot" and the fun will be guaranteed!
A tourist trap:Tokyo Korean Town: The only (for Europeans subtle) difference are the Korean letters, beside that the prices are higher than average while everything else looks kinda the same.
A nice place for a power nap - well, almost a tourist trap:Konica Minolta Planetarium located at Tokyo Skytree. Unfortunately the presentation is held in Japanese only. Although the computer generated images are nice, the chairs are too comfortable to stay awake.
Sightseeing at the metropolitan area of Tokyo:
Although the following places belong to the metropolitan area of Tokyo, they are actually located at separated cities with their own administration. Not that his detail makes any difference for a tourist, but we thought it's worth mentioning if for the sake of completeness.
Every first Sunday in April, the "Festival of the Steel Phallus" a.k.a. Kanamara Matsuri is held in Kawasaki. There's too much to talk about it here, so we condensed the most important facts into a dedicated Kanamara Matsuri traveling guide. Enjoy reading :)
This almost concludes our traveling guide about the Tokyo metropolitan area. Just let me close it with one last word of advice about public transportation: The Tokyo subway net is complicated! In case you miss one of the subway stations, don't just enter the next train in the opposite direction! This might (ok, almost certainly will) get you somewhere utterly different! (Odd, we know, but it happened twice to us). If you manage to get lost (and it's not a question of "if", its a question of "when" and "how often") than better ask one of the locals which way to take back! Beside that, have fun exploring. We hope you enjoyed our Tokyo traveling guide and would be happy if you share it using the buttons below. Thank you.