Tokyo is a city of superlatives. The city’s modern culinary, fashion and cyberpunk scene, and Instagrammable Technicolor lights are set against a storied history. The mountains are accessible via a single train and bamboo forests flourish within reach while the city’s buildings scrape the sky and technological innovations mean a highly efficient railway system to get you from Point A to B and back again. Peel back the layers and expect the unexpected. Here’s our guide to the most unique spots in Tokyo.
Golden Gai – a tumbling maze of tiny eateries and watering holes minutes from Shinjuku Station
- This is an evening you don’t want to over plan for. The six jam-packed alleys and sharp staircases are filled with over 200 wildly individual bars that are meant to be chosen at whim. From 9 pm on, pick a fancy—whether it’s 80s punk or film—and you may find yourself in the company of artists, musicians, writers and celebrities.
- Note that photography and video is frowned upon here, so take in your surroundings the old-fashioned way. Some bars also have a cover charge, so have some cash handy.
TeamLab – step into the most Instagram-friendly exhibits in the world
- In 2001, a local interdisciplinary collective of artists, animators, architects and more created TeamLab to explore collaborations between art, design and technology. Their ideas opened up an immersive digital art museum that’s unlike any other filled with rotating exhibits of 360 displays, sounds and sensory experiences.
- Reserve in advance, this is a hot ticket!
Onsens – Japanese hot springs but make it urban
- A naturally volcanic country, thousands of onsens (or hot springs) can be found scattered across Japan. Outdoor, indoor, private or public – there’s a vibe that fits every personality.
- Toshimaen Niwa no Yu is a fantastic bathhouse to start out at that’s open until 11 pm for late night soaks. Their facility features mineral-rich water comes from natural hot springs, a Bade Pool, steam saunas, a restaurant and views of lush Japanese gardens.
- Note that many onsens are strict about age limits (usually 13 and up) and tattoos must be covered. If you have small ones, band-aids may do the trick or find a tattoo-friendly onsen here.
Convenience Store Food – really!
- Tokyo is a culinary wonderland and we recommend that you eat every ramen bowl, tempura, donburi and nigiri you can find. Try street food, zakayas, hole-in-the-walls, train station spots and Michelin-starred restaurants. But if you’re looking to keep it casual, go on a picnic or find delicious souvenirs, look no further than a Japanese 7-11 or FamilyMart.
- Stock up on fresh Bento boxes and onigiri (rice balls with fillings like umeboshi – pickled plum or tuna), a cacophony of instant ramen varieties, hot snacks like yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and shelves of different filled breads. There are also microwaves in the stores for immediate gratification.
Wherever Tokyo takes you, know it’s a different adventure every time.