It had been a few years since I last visited Tokyo and honestly, I forgot how truly amazing this city is.
If you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time or want to stick to the main tourists places (Imperial Palace, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Government Buildings) you can go ahead and skip this article . I’ve been to Japan a number of times, and there is only so many times I can watch someone auctioning 500lb Tuna. Now eating that tuna….that’s a different story…
If you are into drinking at awesome bars, eating some unique food, and having an overall badass time, then read through my 9 suggestions for anyone visiting Tokyo.
For you slackers who can’t take 5 minutes to read the blog, check this video out.
1. Mari Car – Real Life Mario Kart For Grownups
Imagine yourself dressed up as your favorite Super Mario Bros character, driving a go kart going 55Km/H over the real Rainbow Bridge with no seat belt or helmet….that’s Mari Car. It’s amazing.
For the equivalent of $60USD, you can drive in their 2 hour course. Starting from Shinagawa, they will guide you across the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba to take a few pictures and a quick break. From there, you drive right underneath the Tokyo Tower, and cruise back to Shinagawa.
If this were in the states, this would have been shut down the moment it hit the market. Luckily, you’re in Japan. They apparently have more faith in human kind to trust them not do anything too dumb and use common sense and caution.
Check out the full Mari Car video here:
2. Owl Cafe – So Weird That You Need To Go
This has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done in my life. We went to Akiba Fukurou in Akihabara. Before you enter this little shop (8 x 15 ft little room) workers at the cafe come outside to tell you that you must be quite and to not disturb the owls.
Once inside, workers give you a quick tour of the cafe (which takes 30 seconds) and have you sit down at a 4 top table. They start to bring over a variety of birds. Some require you to wear gloves as they sit on your hand, while other owls don’t require anything and can sit on your shoulder/head. Of course my bird was an “angry bird”….(get it?) and went straight from my shoulder to my head, where it promptly decided to take a poo on my back.
Neither here nor there, it was such a unique experience that you really need to check it out.
3. Kirin Beer Factory Tour (Yokohama) – Had No Idea What They Were Saying, and I’d Still Go Back
Located in Yokohama, the Kirin Beer factory is just a short 30 minute train ride away from most of Tokyo. This free tour might be the best marketing tool of all time (we only drank Kirin the rest of the entire trip).
As the tour begins, you are brought into a small theatre room to go through the history of Kirin Beer Company. It’s in Japanese so you won’t understand it, but they give you a booklet with direct translations. From there, you play around with the different ingredients that are used to make the beer and take a tour of the production facility.
The best part of the tour is the end, where you will be taken into the tasting room to try any 3 Kirin beers on tap. The only downside: they make you drink these 3 beers within 20 minutes, so drink fast.
*** Go to the micro brew restaurant Spring Valley Brewery when the tour is over. They have a flight of beers for $15USD and the food is absolutely fantastic.***
4. Nomihodai Karaoke – Literally The Best Pre Game In The World
First of all, I know what you are thinking. “I don’t want to do Karaoke… it’s embarrassing”. Lucky for you, this is a private room Karaoke with your closest friends or family. This particular one we went to is called Big Echo.
This is an absolute no brainer. For $20 per person, you are able to rent a room for 2 hours, sing karaoke with your closest friends, and drink as many drinks as you possibly can.
Some of the karaoke shops will even offer a tabe/nomihodai…which is all you can eat/drink during a set time. Usually the food is pretty mediocre, and the mixed drinks are watered down, so ask for the “nama beeru” (draft beer) and you’ll be good to go.
***If you want to take a look at Karaoke, check our video at the top ***
5. Tokyo Whisky Library – Every Whisky You Can Think Of
This bar just opened up a few months ago, and was completely packed on a Thursday night at midnight when we went. From whisky snobs to light drinkers, everyone will love this bar.
Located near Shibuya, in a very high-end shopping area, the Whisky Library is on the 2nd story of a dimly lit mini shopping center. Honestly, the entrance is a bit confusing (we walked right by it when we first got there – GO UP THE STAIRS!!!)
Once inside, you can choose whiskys from around the world. Once you select your drink, you can watch the server climb walls (using a ladder) to find your bottle and pour your drink. As they serve you, they will bring the bottles right to your table.
Only downside of this place was that it was extremely smoky, but as you will learn, most Japanese bars are smoky.
6. Kaiseki – Traditional Japanese Course Meal
High end sushi restaurants and Kobe steak houses are well documented (and rightfully so). However, to try traditional Japanese dishes that you will only find in Japan, you need to go to a kaiseki place.
If I’m being honest, did I know everything I was eating? No. But can I honestly say that everything (especially the tempura) was delicious, and something I wouldn’t eat anywhere but Japan? YES!
The one we went to on our last trip was called Kien (located near the Prince Gallery Hotel). For $80 USD per person for lunch, you are able to try a 10 course meal filled with sashimi, cooked vegetables, amazing tempura, etc etc. Did I mention this is a Michelin Star restaurant?!
7. Yurikamome Train To Odaiba – Great Views Of The Bay
This is the light rail that you can pick up at Shimbashi station to go to Odaiba. For those of you who don’t know, Odaiba is a man made island that is full of shops and restaurants. It’s 15 minute ride away from downtown Tokyo.
It’s worth waiting for a train to pass to ensure you get the front seat of the front train car. On a clear day, you can even see Mt.Fuji.
8. Ikizukuri – Eat “live” sashimi
This is a must do for any sushi lover. Going to the tsukiji fish market is nice for a few minutes. Then you realize you’re in the middle of a fish market/auction…nothing special there.
At an Ikizukuri, customers pick what type of fish they want, and can watch the chef pull it from the tank. They then masterfully filet the fish, and serve it to customers as sashimi. Even though the fish is dead, the nerves cause the head and tail to continue to move as people eat.
Honestly, would I go to an Ikizukuri everytime? No. Am I happy that I went and had sashimi while my fish was still slightly moving? Yes. It is so fresh and you can tell the difference in freshness. It is slightly pricey, but worth every penny.
9. Boss Coffee – Straight Out Of A Digital Vending Machine
This probably shouldn’t have made the list, but I find it absolutely amazing.
How many times have you been walking outside, freezing your butt off, and wish you had a warm coffee or soup to drink? Well good thing for you, Japan is full of vending machines that serve both cold and hot drinks.
Or maybe I like it because Tommy Lee Jones is in their weird commercials?
Extra Tip: Go To The Hitachino Brew Lab
Fans of beer, I know you’ve heard of Hitachino. It’s amazing. In Akihabara (near the owl cafe mentioned above) Hitachino has a little 10x 20 ft pub that has nearly every one of their beers on tap.
***********************************************************************So there it is, my 9 (well 10 if you include Hitachino Brew Lab) unique but not talked about things to do in Tokyo. Check out the video below for a full recap in video!