Things To See In Japan
Go to the Geronimo Shot Bar in Roppongi Hills, very small bar, and each time someone bangs the large drum over the bar, that person has to buy a shot for everyone in the bar! Those who order a ‘record breaking’ number of shots get a plaque on the wall. Order a couple hundred that night on the Gizmodo expense account and throw up a Gizmodo plaque
Forget Tokyo. It’s all about KANSAI.
Hit the temples in Kyoto. Visit Nara. Skip lame, touristified Akihabara and hit Osaka’s Den-Den Town. And take in Himeji Castle, Japan’s best preserved.
The food’s better, the people are friendlier, and you’ll run into way fewer gaijin.
Go to Tokyu Hands in Shibuya. It’s an 8 story tall hardware and general merchandise store.
Blah. That doesn’t make it sound nearly as cool as it is. I’m guessing the Giz crew is all from SF, no? If you’ve ever been to Cliff’s it’s like that, except Japanese and 10 times as large. The top floor is all scale models. They also sell that Yamanote alarm clock that you guys posted awhile back, so you can get one of your very own.
If you go to Odaiba go to the bath; it’s old Tokyo theme, open late, and they serve beer inside.
Ditto on avoiding Roppongi.
Eat okonomiyaki; it’s hard to find in America. Same for Japanese style Karaoke — do it with a Nomihodai (all you can drink) package. You can bargain with the guys on the streets if it’s early. Then go to Mos Burger afterward for hangover prevention food.
Oh yeah, go to an Izakaya (Japanese style pub). There are a bunch in Shibuya…
You should check out Asakusa too. It’s quiet and a little older than the rest of Tokyo, so when you’re itching for something a little more traditional go there.
– Tsukiji fish market – and sushi for breakfast. don’t worry, they have menus with photos that you can point at! (and English too)
For cameras, Nikon, Canon, Leica, Minolta all have demo-centers that you can play with live cameras. BYO SD/CF/xD card 🙂 Look them up in LonelyPlanet Japan guide.
Find one of those notorious Japanese toilets and do a review for us 🙂
Unless you are looking for a truly cheap (and by that, I mean lame, not inexpensive) Tokyo experience, avoid Roppongi like the plague. It’s filled with drunken Westeners and there are almost no natives (except Japanese cougars looking to pick up gaijin). The booze is way too expensive and on every block there will be at least one scary-looking African trying to get you to come into a “massage parlour.” It’s a meat-market at best. Unless you need to stay around English speakers, there are much better places to spend your time and money.
Last time I was in Tokyo, Shibuya is where the youth culture is really centred. Lots of good bars, clubs, shopping and neon, neon, neon. It’s almost always packed and I found it fun just to walk around at night and absorb the weirdness. E.g. I witnessed a guerrilla punk band appear out of seemingly nowhere, set up an impromptu performance (drum kit, amps and all), rock for a bit and then disappear just before the cops showed up. Things like this are the rule, not the exception. There’s also an insane medical prison themed restaurant in Shibuya called Alcatraz E.R. The food is mediocre and a little expensive, but the thematics are pretty over the top and totally worth it.
If you’re looking for more of a red-light district that isn’t mean to rip-off foreigners, Shinjuku’s eastern side (Kabukicho) is what you’re looking for. The western side of Shinjuku has more upscale bars in hotels and the like. The Park Hyatt, where the hotel scenes in Lost in Translation were filmed, is in Shinjuku.
Akihabara is definitely a safe bet for gadgets and games, but it’s more mainstream and a little less edgy than it was 5-10 years ago.
Yasukuni Jinja (Shrine) is the controversial war memorial that Prime Minister Koizumi caught a lot of flak for visiting. The shrine itself is quite modest, but there’s a war museum on the site that offers a very … “Japanese” perspective on Japan’s military history. All the signage is available in English, so it’s gaijin friendly, if a little scary. Sensoji in Asakusa is the largest Buddhist temple in the city and it’s absolutely spectacular. The Imperial Palace is also great, but you have to arrange tours at least a day in advance IIRC, and I don’t think the tour bookings are in English.
Tokyo is one of the strangest, but most interesting, places I’ve ever traveled. Enjoy!
I’ll add a 4th or 5th vote for the Tsukiji Fish Market. You have to wake up at an ungodly hour, but it is worth it. A walk by the Harajuku Station is fun too.
Check out the new DoCoMo phones in Japan. I hear that hi-speed N902 is pretty kuhl.
As for the Tsukuji fish market, the public can still go.
Definitely hit up Odaiba, its way cool. Lots of high-techy fun stuff.
Akihabara is pretty much like going to a bunch of department stores, all the good stores there are just chains now.
if you can check out yokohama chinatown, its like
a lot of other chinatowns, but its got japanese high techy flair, like a dim sum go round.
tokyo tower is an overrated tourist trap, spend time in roppongi though.
make sure you eat onigiri, ask for ume boshi, and stop at a cocos curry and get a level 10 beef curry with fried chicken
also, go to a sushi-go-round, its good and cheap, and the fried chicken in japan is awesome. and try a hot milk tea from 7/11.
Go to Yokohama and hit the “Bic” building. Top notch for latest gadgets and gizmos. I got my first Kenwood minidisc portable there before minidiscs hit the US market. Unfortunately the mp3’s took off about the same time.
If you want to party, in Tokyo, go to Roppongi. Bars are open til 5am.
If you go out drinking in Tokyo, anything could happen, because Tokyo is a city full of mind-bogglingly bizarre bars and peculiar pubs that make other countries’ boozers look as dull and sterile as hospital waiting rooms by comparison (although, come to think of it, there’s probably a novelty bar actually designed like a hospital waiting room somewhere in Tokyo.) Below, in no particular order, is a round up of my top ten favourite eccentric establishments.
The chief appeal of this utterly mental Shimbashi pub is the amazing host, Mark Kagaya, who surprises his customers by making them play weird games, and serves drinks in surreal international costumes. The menu is a puppet show.
Read more about it here.
Kagaya, Hanasada BLDG. B1F, 5-12, Shimbashi 2-Chome, Minato-Ku, Tokyo.
2: ALCATRAZ + ER
At this truly macabre prison-hospital-themed eaterie in Shibuya, the waitresses wear nurses’ uniforms, the drinks are served in test-tubes, and your drinking is occasionally interrupted by a deranged escaped convict in an ice hockey mask. A classy joint.
Read about it here.
Tel: (03) 37707100
Alcatraz ER Website
3: DINING BAR SUBMARINE
This sub-aquatic-themed izakaya is submerged beneath the sleazy streets of Kabukicho, Shinjuku. Sit and drink rum in a cabin with portholes, and meet the proprietor, jolly “Captain” Kaji Aishin, who looks like a Japanese Captain Birdseye.
Read more here.
Dining Bar Submarine, Pocket Building B1, Kabukichuo 1-17-4, Shinjuku-Ku
Tel: (03) 5285-3480.
Dining Bar Submarine
4: ALICE IN WONDERLAND
A trippy destination for a party, this place is based around Lewis Carroll’s delirious story, with all the psychedelic decorations and costumes you might expect, and over a hundred different cocktails to choose from. Prepare for mental meltdown!
Address: Taiyo Bldg, 5F, 8-8-5 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo 104 0061
Tel: (03) 35746980
Alice In Wonderland Website.
5: CHRISTON CAFE
In Japan, Christianity is still a novelty, so they’ve turned it into a theme-restaurant in Shinjuku. This place looks like a church and is full of religious imagery and statues, which makes it an unorthodox venue for knocking back cocktails. Worth a visit, (but you might feel compelled to behave yourself.)
Address: 8F Oriental Wave Bldg, 5-17-13 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku.
Tel: (03) 52872426
More details at the Christon Cafe website.
6: ABSOLUT ICEBAR TOKYO
Why not come and freeze your nuts off in a bar full of ice? It costs a lot to get in, but that includes use of gloves and a cape, and your vodka stays cool all night. I wish I’d known about this place in August. In December it’ll be about as appealing as a trip to…er… a prison hospital.
Address: 4-2-4 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-Ku, Tokyo.
Tel: (03) 54642161
Absolut Icebar website
7: VAMPIRE CAFE
This vampire-themed joint in Ginza is both creepy and strangely kinky at the same time. the waitresses wear French maid outfits and the vermilion red decor is complemented by crucifixes, spiders, and Dracula’s coffin.
Address: 7F La Paix Building, 6-7-6 Ginza, Chuo-Ku.
Here’s the Vampire Cafe website.
8: ARABIAN ROCK
Arabian Rock is a novelty restaurant in Shinjuku, designed to transport you to the old Arabia of Sinbad and Aladdin, complete with hookahs, Persian rugs, and the obligatory costumed staff (this time they’re wearing belly dancer costumes and MC Hammer trousers.) There are even cocktails themed around signs of the zodiac, and the “Magic Lamp Abracadabra,” which is six liqueurs you mix yourself in an Aladdin-style lamp.
Read all about it here.
2-3F Square Building, 1-16-3 Kabuki-Cho, Shinjuku-ku, 160-0021.
What could be more Japanese than a Ninja-themed restaurant? At this cavernous underground Ninja-hideout in Akasaka, the food and booze are classy, and the waiters are dressed-up as Ninjas and perform brain-bending magic tricks. It ain’t cheap, though- you’ll need another drink when you see the check.
Address: 2-14-3 Akasaka Tokyo Plaza, Chiyoda-Ku.
Tel: (03) 51573936
Where better to let off steam after a hard day at the office than a bar that…er… looks exactly like an office? This place in Aoyama comes complete with a photocopier, desks, filing cabinets and a view of the city. Somehow it’s very cool.
Address: Yamazaki Bldg, 5F, Kita Aoyama 2-7-18, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel: (03) 57861052