At long last, we took our dream trip to Tokyo for the first week of spring break to celebrate our anniversary. When people ask us how the trip was, we’re unable to answer in just a few words! It was just too awesome to put into a quick “It was great!” So we’d like to share a few resources for travelers as well as fill everyone in on where we went and what all we crammed into our visit. Did we focus on historical locations? Museums? Tourist meccas? Places for anime and manga lovers? Or ALL OF THE ABOVE AND THEN SOME?? Check it out!
Day 1 We arrived in the late afternoon, so we headed straight for our reservation at the Robot Restaurant in Kabuki-cho. I don’t think words can possibly sum up this attraction, so let’s just say that when you go there, IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD! Your meal will be pretty meh; your money (about $50 in U.S. dollars per person) is going to pay their electricity bill! (Just kidding.)
- Bonus super short robot battle video from the Robot Restaurant
Day 2 We hopped on the train and made our way to the Ghibli Museum. We were able to make reservations at the convenience store in Okinawa and print our tickets in advance (required for your visit). What an amazing value for the price!! This museum is inexpensive to visit but highly enjoyable. I do wish the museum staff would translate at least some of the exhibits or even just parts of them; I didn’t feel that much effort was made in this area. Perhaps it’s a long-term goal for them. After the museum we went to Tokyo Tower and went up to the first viewing platform. (There are two levels, and you pay for them separately.) You can see for miles, and the elevator goes at lightning speed! They have a few small areas in the floor where you can look straight down through clear glass. On our way to the train station, we saw Zojo-ji Shrine. Finally, we got some dinner at the very enjoyable Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum. (They spell it raumen instead of ramen for some reason…) You pay a modest entry fee at the door, and then you can wander through their three floors at will. One floor has a gift shop and some exhibits all about the history of ramen, the revolution that was instant ramen, famous people in ramen, etc. The other two floors are designed to look like 1950’s Tokyo, with all the locations a town back then would have had, like a bath house, a police box, a candy shop, etc., not to mention tons of different types of ramen restaurants. You pick which kind of ramen you want and have at it!
Day 3 I’ve dreamed of going to Sanrio Puroland ever since I learned it existed, and it did NOT disappoint!! We planned to spend a few hours there and spent the entire day, until the place closed. You can see lots of shows, go on a few low-key rides, take pictures with characters, and generally just enjoy the heaping helpings of adorbs that this park offers. This park did a fabulous job with translating not only the maps and show schedules but also nearly everything else in the park (signs, instructions, even lyrics to the musical play!). We cruised Akihabara in the evening and geeked out to our hearts’ content.
Day 4 Senso-ji Shrine is one of Tokyo’s most famous shrines, for good reason. Its grounds are spacious and include lots of different buildings. There are also lots of tourist stalls with cool merch to check out and buy for the folks at home! Next we hopped a river cruise boat so we could enjoy Tokyo’s architecture from the water. After about a 45-minute cruise, we arrived at Hama-Rikyu Gardens, an ancient and important garden area in Tokyo’s history. Nearby was Tokyo’s Pokemon Center, so of course we made a stop there. After that, we decided that since the weather was nice, we’d go to a park I had heard about through someone’s blog, Akebono Kodomo no Mori Koen. It was about a 90-minute train ride away, but we thought the park would be open until sunset at least. Much to our dismay, the park was due to close 20 minutes after we finally arrived and walked all the way from the train station (about a 30-minute walk)! So we wish we could have rearranged our schedule a bit and gone there earlier in the day, but at least we got to see it and enjoy it, even very briefly. (Park hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., just FYI!!)
Day 5 Hats off to the friend who recommended the Edo Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum! This is a lovely park/museum with loads of houses and buildings you can walk through, and they’re not only from the Edo Period but other time periods as well. The area was in full sakura bloom as well, which made the entire visit extra beautiful. We then made a brief stop at Meiji-Jingu Shrine, another super famous Tokyo location. We wrapped up the evening by visiting Shibuya, and especially the much-loved Hachiko statue. The famous “scramble crossing” is everything it appears to be and more. Cra-zay. We found a yakiniku place right near the statue and enjoyed a delicious meal and were in awe of how gorgeous the sakura look at night!
- Bonus video: Kamishibai in the open-air museum
Day 6 We were privileged to visit Tokyo Baptist Church on Sunday and were greeted warmly by the people there. Afterward, we hit Harajuku, fashion capital of Tokyo. It was raining, so we weren’t really able to enjoy the sights too much. We just kind of pushed our way through the umbrella-wielding hordes on the way to the Evangelion Store. We’re not shoppers, but we visited two malls afterward: Venus Fort (for the Italian-inspired décor and indoor sky ceiling) and Diver City (for the enormous Gundam outside the entrance). We finished off the day with the Oedo Onsen Monogatari, a very touristy but super fun and luxurious public bath with lots of indoor restaurants and a festival atmosphere.
Day 7 We spent the morning seriously enjoying the sakura all around the Imperial Palace. You can’t go into some of the gardens near the palace, since it’s the full-time residence of the emperor and his family, but some are open the public, and these were chock-full of spectacular views of the lovely white and pink blossoms, complete with a moat so you could get that “petals falling into the water” thing going on.
If you have a week to spend in Tokyo, these attractions are sure to please. If you only have a day or two, you’ll have to pick wisely, but whatever you choose, have a fabulous time and make sure to really do your research before you go!! Eric spent hours plotting our course on the trains for each day, and it was time well spent. We didn’t have to waste time figuring out where to go because he’d gotten a good handle on it in advance! We can’t begin to imagine how it would have been to visit 20 years ago, or even 5 or 10 years ago, without Google Maps transit directions on your phone!! If you have any must-see tips for us before we leave, please leave them in the comments! We may be able to spend a bit more time in Tokyo before coming home (Lord willing).