The constant traveller: Tokyo
The Handbook / Culture / A city guide to Tokyo

A city guide to Tokyo

The constant traveller: Tokyo

Words— Kaitlyn McInnis

Speak to any frequent traveler and they’ll be quick to tell you: go to Tokyo once, and you’ll go back again, and again; once you love it, you’ll love it forever. Whether you travel for great food and drinks, shopping, unique cultural experiences, or for a relaxing retreat, Tokyo has you covered. The mammoth city truly has something to offer every type of traveler and its cutting edge innovations, kind and helpful locals, and wild experiences around every corner will keep you coming back for more.

 

To get you started, we’ve put together a list of all the must dos and sees in Japan’s largest city. From secondhand shopping to all you can eat yakitori, here’s how to plan an unforgettable adventure in Tokyo.

 

 

Where to eat

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Joe (@fiftyshadesofjoseph) on

 

Fu unji

Obviously the first thing you’re going to want to do upon landing is go out and grab some ramen. We don’t blame you. No matter where in the city you’re staying, drop your bags and head to Shinjuku. Here you’ll find a hole in the wall ramen shop with a big reputation. Fu unji is world renowned, but hasn’t lost its quality or local clientele. Be prepared to wait in a line that often snakes across the street for some of the best tsukemen you’ll likely ever have. Note that tsukemen, unlike traditional ramen, is served cold, with boiling hot broth that you dip your noodles in before taking each bite.

 

Savoy

Would you believe us if we told you some of the best pizza we’ve had was in Tokyo? Savoy, which is tucked into the Roppongi neighbourhood, boasts just two types of wood fired pizza: margarita or marinara, both of which are out-of-this-world delicious. If you’re traveling with a buddy, we recommend getting both and sharing them—and washing them down with the wine of the day, usually a bold Italian red.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TIFFANY (@tiffersliu) on

 

Soba DAIAN

For a more refined noodle experience, head to Soba DAIAN. Although you can sometimes get lucky, we recommend reserving a table in advance, especially if you’re dining during a weekday. Loved by locals and visitors alike, Soba DAIAN boasts handmade soba noodles in a variety of different broths and toppings. Private rooms are available for groups, but the main dining area may be preferable if you like watching the chefs at work—the kitchen walls are made of glass so patrons can see their meals being prepared.

 

Jamon

For classic yakitori and beer, head to Jamon. It’s teeny tiny, with just twenty or thirty seats, half of which involve sitting on the floor with your feet dangling out the window—which, believe us, makes for an unforgettable dining experience. The menu changes seasonally, but you can count on yakitori mainstays like lotus root, ginger pork, and chicken. Be sure to try the smoked cheese and avocado while you’re there. While they’re not exactly what you expect to find at yakitori, they just work.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by 嵯峨根家 SAGANEYA (@saganeya) on

 

Saganeya

Blink and you’ll probably miss it, Saganeya is a teeny tiny restaurant on the outskirts of Shinjuku with just ten seats. Order a draft beer, tuck into your bar stool, and order a plate of scallop karaage. Karaage is essentially a deep-fried, battered version of yakitori—think of it as your childhood chicken nuggets, all grown up. It’s always bustling, but small groups can get a seat within a few minutes, and it’s well worth the wait.

 

 

Where to drink

 

 

The New York Bar

Perched on the 51st floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, The New York Bar is one of the most coveted watering holes in Tokyo. Movie buffs will recognize it as being the setting where Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) met Bob (Bill Murray) in Lost in Translation, but anyone with a penchant for a sick view and a stiff drink will also appreciate its wonder.

 

 

 

Albatross

Tucked into what’s colloquially known as “Piss Alley”, Albatross is a teeny, tiny bar that touts maybe six-foot ceilings, adorned with chandeliers, a friendly bartender, and a wild assortment of liquor. Grab a cocktail, munch on some bar snacks, and enjoy the modern-meets-gothic decor. Note that a drink will run you about double what you’d pay next door, but if you’re into a quirky atmosphere, it’s worth it.

 

Golden Gai

Golden Gai is a small few streets in Kabukicho, and is a must-see for architect lovers and boozers alike. The network of bars is composed of just six narrow alleys and has an unknown amount of speakeasy-style bars, some of which only have room for three or four patrons at a time, others being quite large, but tucked behind hidden doors and panels. Whether you’re into speakeasies or not so much, Golden Gai is a trip.

 

 

Galleries and museums

 

Yayoi Kusama Museum

The Yayoi Kusama Museum is a must-see for contemporary art lovers, hands down. Dedicated to the work of the 90-year-old Japanese artist, the museum boasts the largest collection in the world. Note that tickets sell out extremely fast, and go on sale on the first of every month. It’s imperative that you book in advance.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by teamLab Borderless (@teamlab_borderless) on

 

 

teamLab Borderless

You’ve probably seen shots of the teamLab Borderless exhibit on viral Facebook videos, but the interactive digital 3-D museum is well worth visiting in real life—and not just for the social media pics. Expect moving art, hidden rooms, and innovative installations that will instantly transport you back to childhood.

 

The National Art Center

From Murakami to Cartier, The National Art Center in Roppongi highlights some of the best contemporary and classic art from around the world. One of Japan’s largest exhibition centres, here’s where to come for the best and most interactive art exhibits in the country.

 

 

Things to see and do

 

 

Taito Station Arcade

Claw machines galore, full-sized Mario Kart, and the original Dance Dance Revolution can all be found at Taito Station Arcade. We recommend the Shinjuku location, but just about any arcade around the city will be equipped with enough claw machines and racing games to keep you busy for an afternoon.

 

Robot Restaurant

So, admittedly, the Robot Restaurant is probably one of the most tourist things you can do in Tokyo, but you just have to do it. Have a few drinks at Golden Gai and get ready to get weird. Flashing lights, anime reenactments and straight-up mechanical robots hit the stage at this weird and wonderful Shinjuku performance.

 

Takeshita Dori, Harajuku

All the wild stuff you hear about Tokyo can be found on one street in Harajuku. Crazy kawaii style, owl and hedgehog cafes, two-foot-high cotton candy, and crepe vending machines are just some of the wild things you’ll find on this bustling street. It’s a must-see for anyone seeking out the strangest corners of Tokyo subculture.

 

 

 

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world, and you’ll have to see it for yourself to believe just how crazy it is to get stuck in the flow of the scramble. While there are hundreds of people crossing the street at a given moment, the ebb and flow of pedestrian traffic works seamlessly—good luck seeing anyone bump into each other. It just doesn’t happen.

 

 

Where to shop

 

Don Quixote

Think Toronto’s Honest Ed’s (RIP), but even more random and stuffed full of random items. Here, you’ll find everything from vintage designer handbags and top-shelf alcohol to sex toys and endless amounts of Japanese candy. It’s worth a walk through just to take in the atmosphere alone.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Malizia Shop (@maliziarimini) on

 

 

Dover Street Market

More into Comme des Garcons and Balenciaga? Head to hypebeast heaven, Dover Street Market, for some of the most carefully curated street fashion in Japan. The clean lines and curated styles feel almost more like a museum than a shop—but in a very, very good way.

 

Shimo-Kitzawa

Packed with enough vintage shops to rival Brooklyn, Shimo-Kitzawa is an underrated neighbourhood in Tokyo that touts endless vintage shops, from curated high fashion spots to true thrift shops. With a little patience and a lot of digging, this is undoubtedly the neighbourhood where you’ll find your most precious souvenir.

 

Our purpose

Designed in Canada. Made for good living. We’re dedicated to providing you with purposefully designed products, made ethically and sustainably.