Ever since I was a little girl it has been my dream to visit Japan. Visiting Tokyo last month brought my childhood dream to life in the most extraordinary way. Tokyo is such a magical city comprised of many distinct neighborhoods or districts, each offering something so unique and special. I couldn’t help falling in love with Japan even more. I put together my Guide to Tokyo with all my favorite details on the areas we explored.
TTL’s Guide to Tokyo
Darlings, Asakusa is a special gem. Located on the outer edge of Tokyo, Asakusa is the perfect introduction to Tokyo. Maybe I’m biased because this is where our AirBnB was, but I really love it here. One of the most memorable parts of my exploration of this area was discovering that we were only 5 minutes away from the oldest temple in Japan, Senso-Ji. This temple was absolutely impeccable and clearly well kept. I would recommend checking this temple out even if you aren’t staying in the area for the rich cultural experience.Alongside the temple, vendors are set up selling all kinds of foods and Japanese goods. It’s a wonderful set up and really allows you to immerse yourself in Japanese culture. You can also pay a nominal amount for a fortune and find out your luck.
Aside from the temple, there are a ton of wonderful local restaurants in the area, and the subway station is only a 5 minute walk from the temple. While we didn’t know we were booking to stay in a neighborhood not in the metropolitan area, it was nice to be in an area that served as a refuge from the loud and bright city, but still had all the quintessential Japanese characteristics. From the quaint neighborhoods to the rich history of the Senso-Ji temple, it really is such a delight to explore this area. If you’re in the area, check out some of our favorite restaurants:
- Feb’s Coffee – We literally went here every morning! This charming coffee shop was a short 5 minute walk from our AirBnb. They served up the yummiest matcha and chai lattes, biscuits, scones, and breakfast sandwiches. Keep in mind that the dine-in seating is limited.
- Yukikage Ramen – Asakusa is “ramen paradise” as described by our AirBnb host, but this local ramen spot was a favorite among our group. Yukikage offered white chicken ramen which is not only delicious but very rare to find in Japan.
- Gonpachi – For an amazing Japanese meal, you’ve got to try this place! They had everything from sashimi, freshly made soba noodles, skewers, and dumplings. We loved it so much we ate here twice, once for lunch and again for dinner. If you want to try a little of everything, lunch time is a great option because they have a lunch special that comes with with a little of everything.
- Benitsuru – If you love Japanese souffle pancakes than you can’t leave Asakusa without visiting Benitsura. The restaurant features bar seating while these delicious creations are made right before your eyes. The pancakes come with sweet and savory pairings, like fresh fruit, ice cream, eggs, and bacon. The presentation is beautiful and your pancakes are served perfectly jiggly! Before you go: You’ll need a little planning to visit as they are quite the local favorite. The restaurant opens at 10 am but we heard that people start lining up by 8 am. Our group arrived around 11 am and received a time of 1:30 pm to come back. To book your spot, you’ll need to leave a cash deposit of 1000 JPY.
When you think of Tokyo and its iconography, the image you picture is most likely Shibuya. Shibuya is where the famous crosswalk is located and let me tell you, it’s as splendidly chaotic as you’ve seen. Up to 3,000 people can cross at any given time. It really is amazing and worth visiting, especially if you’re hoping to have that “Tokyo” experience. Also known as Japan’s youth capital, I think what makes this area really unique is the blending of cultures. Since it’s such a touristy area, there are people from all over world exploring the area, and it’s reflected even in the surrounding area. There are all kinds of shops, restaurants, and even billboards that reflect a sense of catering to a wide audience. I wish I had explored the area more as there are so many iconic spots in the area, but at least I can say that I crossed the famous Shibuya crossing.
Another famous area that I had the pleasure of visiting was Harajuku. Harajuku is the area to visit if you are looking for high-end items. Whether it be new or second hand, this area has something for everyone looking to buy some luxury goodies. I went to some of the second hand stores I’ve been obsessed with for years, and let me tell you, it was a dream come true. Although I didn’t end up buying anything, the selection of items was immaculate. It’s clear that these stores have carefully curated the best of the best, and each item has been carefully preserved. I think my favorite part was seeing the extensive Chanel collection, and there were so many pieces I had never seen before. The Hermes selection was also so beautiful. As I walked around, it felt like I was in a museum that showcases luxury goods. I would definitely recommend buying second hand goodies if you’re ever in Tokyo and these stores not only charge the same price as what you could find in the states, but since the yen tends to be weaker than the USD, that means what you’re paying is less than the states. Additionally they also tend to offer tax refunds, so you don’t have to pay the tax on the item, meaning that you’re getting even more of a deal. In addition to luxury goods, Harajuku is also iconic for its fashion and stores that sell streetwear. I recommend visiting Takeshita street in Harajuku as there are many people with fun streetwear looks, iconic stores, and the famous quirky “animal” cafes that many tourists like to visit. If you are looking to shop, I would definitely give Harajuku a try.
Before visiting Shimokitazawa, I was unaware of how big of a market there is for second hand clothing in Tokyo. Shimokitazawa is the best shopping area for second hand clothes that are not only affordable but diverse in style. There’s everything from streetwear to high end clothing, but again all pretty affordable. If you’re a sneakerhead I would also recommend checking this area out as there is quite a variety of sneakers in this area. I really enjoyed seeing what kind of styles are popular in Japan, and found that some of the streetwear was similar to that of LA. It was also cool to go to 2nd Street store in this area, as this is also a popular vintage clothing store in LA. Like the second hand shops in Harajuku they offer duty-free shopping as well as the prices being cheaper than they would be in the states. Shimokitazawa is definitely an underrated area in Tokyo and is worth a visit if you are looking to do some second hand shopping!
Okay so this is a bonus area to visit but, I HIGHLY recommend that if you ever visit Tokyo, you do a day trip to Fuji. Only a 2-hour drive outside of Tokyo, Fuji is easily accessible by train, bus or car. We booked the Mt. Fuji and Hakone Pirate Ship 1-day tour through a website called “klook”, and it was rather affordable, as you get to do some sightseeing, shopping, and have a provided lunch. Our bus tour began at 8 in the morning where we met our tour guide. We then headed out on the bus and drove to Hakone and took a “pirate ship” across Lake Ashi. Babes this had to be one of the most serene lake views I have ever seen! The scenery felt like a scene straight out of a Ghibli film (if you know, you know), and it was just so healing and beautiful.
After the pirate ship ride, we headed to lunch at an all you can eat yakiniku, which is essentially hot pot and bbq meat. Next we headed to Fuji to take pictures of the mountain. Our tour guide told us that Fuji was being shy that day and hopefully she would peak through the clouds. I loved learning that locals refer to Fuji as if she were a lady. For some reason that endearment really added to the overall experience. When we got to the mountain, unfortunately she was still hidden but it was wonderful to hike up some of the mountain and take pics. In the future I must come back and actually climb the mountain. I love that so many locals were hiking as if this was their normal trail. Can you imagine??!
After leaving the mountain she started to show her face as we headed to our last stop at the Gotemba Premium Outlet Mall. Babes this outlet was HUGE. Think of a store and they probably had it. I’m talking about high-end to sportswear to everyday shopping. Of course I was drawn to the luxury stores – they had everything from Gucci to Louis Vuitton and even Bottega Veneta. Who knew these brands had an outlet? May, Carol and I each scored the cutest Bottega Venetta sandals for about $160. When we returned to the U.S. we found them being sold for over $900!! And to make it even better the outlet had an insane view of Fuji and we finally got to see her in her in all her full glory. It was the kind of view that makes me tear up just thinking about it and I felt like the luckiest girl to get to see her.
After the outlet our bus took us back to the city, with two stops at a rest stop included. Also can I just say rest stops in Japan are niiiccceee. They aren’t like the scary ones in America where all you wanna do is quickly pee and leave. No, these have restaurants, markets, vendors, and most importantly, clean bathrooms! Lordy it was so nice to leisurely enjoy a rest stop! After we arrived back in the city we said our goodbyes to our tour guide and headed back to our AirBnB. Again babes, this was one of the most magical days of my life, and I really hope that you plan at least one day of your trip to visit Fuji.
Honestly babes, there are so many other neighborhoods in Tokyo that we didn’t have time to explore. We would have needed at least another week or two to hit everything. However, there were a few other destinations that we visited that were so memorable.
Okaayyy so we saw lots of chatter on TikTok about this place, so I just want to chime in on the discourse of whether Team Lab Planets is overhyped or not. We attended with our full group of 12 and I can unequivocally say that it is NOT overhyped! In fact, it was one of our most favorite group experiences. I personally had no idea what Team Lab Planets was before going, but it was really important to my babies that we go. Let me tell you I was blown away. It is not only fully immersive, but each room is visually stunning. From the first moments of being told to take off your shoes, to then stepping into water and entering one unique room after another, it was truly amazing. I don’t want to spoil too much of what each room had, but I just want to say some of my favorites were the iconic infinity mirrored room with lights and this room where you are prompted to lie on the ground and take in these projections of flowers on the wall. All of the rooms are so fun and interactive, and are really special to experience with your friends/and or family. I highly recommend that you go as it is very one-of-a-kind and fun. Also sidenote, the “feet smell” that people complain about is not as bad as it’s been made out to be. If you ever find yourself in Tokyo go to Team Labs, but make sure to wear pants that can roll up or shorts as there are mirrors on floors and knee-high water at times!
If I’m being honest, going to Disney wasn’t high on my list of things to do in Tokyo but everyone else in our group wanted to go, so I gave in and decided to come along. If you want the traditional Disney experience then you’re going to want to visit Tokyo Disney whereas DisneySea is like the California Adventure of Tokyo. Technically, Tokyo Disney and DisneySea are in Uruyasu, Chiba (about an hour outside of Tokyo). DisneySea overlooks the Tokyo Bay and has a nautical theme with water rides, sea creatures & mermaids, gondolas and boat rides. It has familiar rides like Tower of Terror, Soaring: Fantastic Flight and Toy Story Mania but also some rides that are unique to Tokyo. In my opinion the two things that made DisneySea amazing are the merch and Japanese inspired food and treats. We literally could not get very far without hopping into a store or grabbing a Japanese inspired churro or popcorn flavors. I’m talking churros in flavors like soy sauce, creme brulee, potato, and chai. We even had the most epic Toy Story themed mochi ice cream. We ate so much you literally could have rolled us out of the park. While it rained lightly here and there, I must confess that it’s not hard to have a good time at the happiest place on earth. In the end, I’m so happy I got to experience this day with my family.
Gundam Factory in Yokahama
If you’re an anime fan you’re going to want to check out Gundam Factory in Yokahama. I mean, what’s not to like about giant mechanical robots? If you’re not familiar, Gundam is a giant mechanical robot based on the Japanese anime series created in 1979. You can now see the nearly 60 foot moving gundam at the Gundam Factory and it’s quite remarkable. Save your money though and don’t pay extra for the observation deck. You get a better view of the show from the ground below. It takes about 90 minutes to watch all 4 shows. Keep in mind that the Gundam Factory won’t be around for much longer as it is scheduled to close in March 2024.
Okay babes that concludes my recommended areas to visit in Japan! I hope you’ll have the opportunity to visit Tokyo one day to enjoy these areas and explore all the city has to offer. You never know what you might discover in a city like Tokyo!