This might come as a little bit of a spoiler as to what Japan actually is like… No, it is (almost) nothing like what you see in them animes and mangas (Disappointing, I know!), but I say “almost” because Japan definitely has pretty quirky things, and also because it really depends on the type of manga/anime you read/watch.
Though, I can’t say I was really expecting any of the drama that often happens in fiction to play out in real life, but have no fear! This little guide I’m writing here will give you a sneakpeak of the wonder that is Tokyo, as well as recommend some rather unconventional spots that will hopefully brighten up your trip and save those
dying dreams of a real-life anime you might have had.
Without further ado, here is:
Tokyo and just a peek of its little things for a fan.
Now, this recommendation should not come as a surprise to anyone at all. I decided to start with this because it’s so popular I figured most of you guys would have heard of it, and I wanted to get past this to the slightly more unconventional recommendations.
Being heavily loaded with electronics, collectibles- figurines and such, gaming centres, anime and mangas stores, Akihabara is the dreamland for most of us fans- gamers included. I actually only went as a favour to my friend, who wanted me to locate and purchase one of the limited editions of this Gundam figurine (or something like that). So away I went to Akihabara, the electric town to be specific (which is stated on the signs heading out from the station)!
I have to admit I was pretty overwhelmed once I got off the train. It was just so busy and overflowing with… well, everything!
(I apologize in advance for all crappy photos, my phone camera wasn’t the best)
That is just a snapshot, a very tiny snapshot of what Akihabara looks like. In reality, there are multiple streets that never seem to end and all filled with buildings like these, which made it extremely difficult for me to know where I should even attempt to begin my search.
Luckily for me, I found a map of Akihabara, complete with little explanations of stores and the like, and best of all… wait for it- all in English.
Considering the number of tourists that go to Japan, I was pretty surprised to find how inconvenient it actually was for foreigners- in terms of internet, ATMs, guides… and while a lot of people can somewhat understand English (even just a little bit), most are too embarrassed to speak it (or so says my friend) and will proceed to explain everything in Japanese. Things weren’t so bad for me because I can actually speak conversational Japanese, but my parents and my friends struggled because they couldn’t understand a word.
Anyways! I highly recommend grabbing this guide; I got mine from the station, which is probably the best place to get it from before you leave to explore the area.
For you collectors out there, the Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara has a whole level dedicated to the figures, so it’s usually quite a good choice to head that way (plus it’s usually tax free!). Sadly, I didn’t end up finding the model that my friend wanted, but that was partly because I was getting quite tired and had no idea which one I was actually even looking for, so I gave up. But I did find the next best thing for him:
The Gundam Cafe. No idea what the food is like in there, since I didn’t eat there, but I did step into the little gift shop they had at the entrance. And I do mean little. It had a pretty limited collection of goods to choose from, but there were some pretty cool stuff like the cups and the Gundam Curry.
And while we’re still on the topic of Gundam, my next location to recommend would have to be Odaiba, simply for this reason.
That’s right! The gigantic Gundam statue that resides in Odaiba. Odaiba itself has pretty cool stuff- it’s on a man made island, and definitely feels secluded from the rest of busy Tokyo. I would recommend going there, but it can be quite far and inconvenient to travel to depending on where you’re staying and since it is only served by one of the train lines. The ride is about 25 min from Shinjuku, if I’m right.
The Madam Tussauds wax museum of Tokyo is also in Odaiba, by Decks (where Joypolis is also located). For those who don’t know Joypolis, it’s an amusement park of sorts in Japan.
I personally am not a fan of amusement parks, but I do love game centres! Tokyo Leisureland is an enormous game centre in Odaiba, an absolute must see for game centre/arcade fans like me. And even if not, it’s worth taking a look at! There’s also a Ferris wheel outside, along with a ninja house inside!
Apart from these, there’s also a Toyota Mega web, as well as a few very huge shopping malls!
This is probably the most and only unconventional tourist spot I’m going to recommend to visit. Unconventional because… well, it’s a red light district. But all that means to me is that you don’t go at night. Unless that is your thing, which is fine, of course, I’m not one to judge. Kabukicho is a part of Shinjuku, albeit the more dodgey part and is possibly quite hard to find (I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have my friend to guide me there).
The reason why I’m recommending this place is because there are some really cool restaurants- Tokyo has quite a few themed ones too, around Shibuya and Shinjuku.
This is one of them- a robot cafe and restaurant. No idea what they have in them to be honest, since I didn’t go in- this was just from the entrance!
And of course, what Kabukicho is actually known for, the host clubs.
And this is just a couple of photos as we strolled past to go to a batting centre (as in, baseball?). The host/hostess clubs are literally everywhere. There is no escaping them! We also passed some of the hosts on the streets, which I honestly thought was pretty cool.
4) Shinokubo Korea Town
Sadly enough, I didn’t think to take any pictures of this part, but Korea Town is right beside Kabukicho, within walking distance. Not only does Korea Town have a lot of really delicious looking korean food, there’s also stalls selling posters and other collectibles of korean bands! Once upon a time, I used to follow korean boybands, and I was quite the avid collector too (I’ve since moved to Jrock), but I was still really excited and impressed to see the selection they have available. There were also stalls selling skin care products and other make up products, which again, I thought was really cool.
I’m going to just end this here because I don’t have any photos to show for it, but it is a pretty amazing place to check out too!
5) Shibuya and Harajuku
We’re nearly at the end of this brief guide so bear with me! I’m going to end with my favourite area in Tokyo: the Shibuya/ Harajuku area. Though they are only like one street apart, the fashion difference is actually rather amazingly (in my opinion) different. Shibuya has a pop feeling to their clothes, probably more aimed towards the youths, as Harajuku is, but Harajuku, as it is known for, has the wilder fashions.
I would definitely recommend Harajuku, even if you aren’t into their style of clothes, but I like to think of it as an expression of Japanese culture. In fact, I loved Harajuku so much that my friends call it my “territory”, because I was there pretty much every day of my few months of holiday. Again, I don’t have photos of Harajuku to show, mainly because Harajuku street itself is a single street, but the Harajuku fashion and stores actually spread out quite a bit.
Shibuya on the other hand…
The famous Hachiko statue. For anyone who doesn’t know the story of Hachiko, I suggest you read it, and be prepared to bawl your eyes out. But the story is basically about Hachiko, a dog who waited every day at the station for his owner, even when the owner passed away. Hachiko kept waiting, and waiting and well… *spoiler alert!* eventually died as well. But what I actually wanted to recommend for the anime fans is this:
The One Piece Store in Shibuya Parco (a mall). Pretty cool, huh? I thought so too!
By the way! There is actually an even better alternative for One Piece fans, at the Tokyo Tower, but I didn’t have time to go to that, so I’m not going to recommend it.
And very, very last of all! The Disney stores! There’s one in Shibuya, but there’s a few littering Tokyo and Japan anyways! I’m not a major fan of Disney, but the Japanese Disney has the most adorable plushes and other merchandise, so it has become a must see for me when I’m heading that way.
And that’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and better yet, gone on to explore some of these recommendations!