In case you haven’t noticed, Tokyo became a piece of my soul.
It may be strange to some, but to me this place is pure magic. Memories that I will never forget took shape here and in this city, I fully embraced the weird and the wonderful.
Here are my favorite, weird and wonderful things about Tokyo.
Always on time, clean and quiet, the trains are an experience of their own. Outside of rush hours, it provides a break– a place to briefly decompress from the city on the way to your next stop.
There is no shortage of vending machines in Japan. From drinks, to flower arrangements, to neckties, there is little that vending machines don’t offer. You can even find them in the ramen shops. But don’t worry, your ramen won’t come from the vending machine itself. You pick what kind of ramen you want, toppings, etc. and you pay for it at the machine. The machine dispenses your ticket and then you take it to the counter and give it to the cook where they whip up your order. Easy as that.
There are many animal cafes scattered all over Tokyo where you can go and cozy up to your favorite type of animal. Everyone needs some animal loving, and given that a lot of people don’t have the time or space for pets, these animal cafes are quite popular. Price of admission includes a drink such as coffee or tea…from no other than a vending machine of course.
There are really no words to describe this. The only thing I can say is that no dinner is actually involved. It’s drumlines, dancers, weird furry animals, dinosaurs and lots of lights. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. Prepare for sensory overload at its finest.
This has become a tourist spot, made popular by Gwen Stefani. Along Takeshita Street, you will find the young fashion district, where wacky and weird fashion live. You can also shop and gorge yourself into a sugar coma with sweets that are nothing short of kawaii (cute). Or check out one of the many coffee shops— for instance, this one that turns your latte into anything you desire. I naturally chose my dog. What more could you want?
Among the high skyscrapers and in-between steel and glass, you occasionally come across space. You may always be looking up but then you find yourself having to lower your gaze and find a red-accented gem; a symbol of something different—something spiritual. No matter the neighborhood, every corner of Tokyo can surprise you.
This is the Times Square of Tokyo and certainly my favorite place to go and people watch. Not only will you find the busiest crosswalk in the world, but you can also find a multitude of bars, karaoke, restaurants and 100-yen shops. Whatever you find, it will surely be vibrant, busy and beyond energetic.
Once I saw this I knew I HAD to do it. Where else would you want to go go-karting, dressed as your favorite character from Mario Kart and throw imaginary banana peels as you cruise on Rainbow Bridge?! However, I was devastated when I found out you need a Japanese drivers license or International Drivers Permit in order to sign-up. So make sure to get yours before coming to Tokyo.
Six alleyways filled with over 200 shanty bars are nestled within the bustle of Shinjuku. Each bar is intimate and seats maybe 10 people at most, making it a key place to bar hop.
In true Lost in Translation style, you can rent a Karaoke room, put on a costume and sing your heart out just like Scarlett Johansen and Bill Murray. Flashing lights, drinks and a microphone are the ingredients for a great time. This is the one they visit in the movie, although they have so many branches throughout Tokyo.
In true Japanese fashion, art exhibitions here are far from typical. Japan has figured out that museums can indeed be interesting, fun and of course, weird. The National Art Center Tokyo is always showcasing exhibitions from around the world. I visited SUNSHOWER: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now and was literally on cloud nine as I played in a room of fluffy yarn and colorful wind chimes.
Also, Team Lab is a Tokyo-based creative group that puts on a lot of experiential events that blend the lines between art, science, technology and creativity. I went to their Art Night in Tokyo, which was basically a light show synced with music and the most fun hour of my life. They put on events around Japan and all over the globe. Check their schedules by visiting their websites.
Tokyo is a haven for book lovers. You can choose from the big chain bookstores of Tsutaya to the small used-book shops. Sure, almost all the books are in Japanese and that’s enough to drive you crazy. But they are so pretty that you will want to buy them all anyways.
Of course I’m partial to this place, being that it’s the neighborhood I lived in. I’ll miss my train station that is miles deep underground, the cobblestoned streets, the ramen shop on the corner of the main street, the coffee shop a block from my house and the conbinis open at every hour of the day. Fun fact: this was also the neighborhood where Sailor Moon was based on. It was everything my inner geek could have wished for.
These convenience stores, also know as “conbinis” are open 24/7. They were the best for two main reasons: it was a safe bet for food-on-the-go and it had ATMs for foreigners like myself to withdraw cash. But besides that, conbinis came a part of my morning ritual: cafe au lait, salmon onigiri and my bus ride to Ebisu Garden Place Tower. It was one of those routines that make you feel at home.
After my time in Tokyo, strange is actually normal— and I don’t want to live my life any other way.
What’s your favorite thing about Tokyo?