The Sweet Wanderlust's Tokyo top 10: a first timer's guide
Hi! I’m Brittany and I am a food and travel blogger at The Sweet Wanderlust. I travel around the world, looking for the best desserts and greatest adventures. While visiting Tokyo, I found both!
Tokyo is one of my favorite cities in the world. With kawaii food, cute characters, quirky activities and a unique history, what more could you ask for? If you want to make the most of your first visit to Tokyo, this list will help you create a memorable foodie itinerary!
1. Eat a rainbow cotton candy that’s bigger than your head
Totti Candy Factory is the reason I visited Japan. It’s a big statement, but the giant cotton candy showed up on my Facebook feed a few years ago, and I followed that sugary rainbow and it led me to Tokyo. The candy factory is located on Takeshita Street in Harajuku, where color, fashion and everything kawaii reigns supreme!
2. Cheer on the cyborgs at Robot Restaurant in Tokyo
Visiting the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo is one of those controversial experiences– if you do a little digging, you’ll find travelers who say it’s overrated and an equal amount who believe it’s worth every penny. I fall into the second category. I’d go back to watch those colorful, LED-lit dancers and otherworldly floats in a heartbeat. If you want to get into the quirky side of Tokyo, this is a perfect place to start!
3. Make your own okonomiyaki
Most people go on holiday and look forward to visiting restaurants in Tokyo where professional chefs do all the cooking. I’m not much of a cook, so I enjoy finding cooking classes, food tours and opportunities to cool while I’m traveling. Okonomiyaki is a wheat-based, savory Japanese pancake you cook yourself on a tableside hot plate. If you speak Japanese, the name says it all: okonomi translates to “as you like” and yaki means “cook.”
Choose your fillings and mix everything at the table, pour the batter onto the hot plate and flip it at just the right time. When it’s cooked, top the okonomiyaki with your favorite sauces and enjoy! This is a great way to practice Japanese cooking at a fraction of the cost of a cooking class!
4. Shop at a 100 yen shop
I hope you left room in your suitcase for souvenirs! Japan’s 100 yen shops have some of the best gifts (and don’t forget gifts for yourself). Daiso which can be found in most cities in Japan, is a popular shop and offers a range of Japanese snacks, affordable beauty products, kitchen utensils, and school / office supplies.
5. Visit Tokyo DisneySea
Did you know that Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea aren’t actually owned by Disney ? The Oriental Land Company owns the two parks and pays royalties to Disney. And I believe that’s why Tokyo DisneySea really IS the happiest place on Earth. At DisneySea, you’ll get all the Mickey-mania you’re used to, at prices far less than you’re used to seeing at Disney parks.
Entry is ¥ 7,500 for adult and food and drinks are reasonably priced. In fact, I brought ¥ 10,000 spending money and left the park that evening with a full belly and money leftover! Don’t miss the mochi aliens and be sure to check out King Triton’s Palace and the mermaid lagoon. If you’re a fan of roller coasters, you’ll love Indiana Jones® Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Raging Spirits!
6. Order coffee from a vending machine
One of the things I loved most about Japan is the vending machine culture. If you’re walking down the street and feel a bit parched, just keep walking because there’s sure to be a vending machine stocked with cool beverages to quench your thirst in just a few steps. The country is estimated to have one vending machine per 23 people and sell everything from soda to bananas to action figures.
My favorite vending machine sells coffee, made to order. Select your perfect brew and wait as the mechanical barista creates your favorite morning drink. My personal favorite? An iced banana chocolate milk! Don’t knock it until you try it!
7. Continue the caffeination in 3D
Coffee is an important part of any trip … so coffee makes my list twice. Pay a visit to Cafe Reissue in Harajuku (Tokyo), known for their lifelike 2D latte art and fun 3D foam sculptures. Bring a photo or choose from their visual menu!
8. Have a drink in Piss Alley
Piss Alley isn’t the official name, of course. Tokyo’s Omoide Yokocho (or Memory Lane) earned the rather unsavory nickname after WWII. In those times, this area was the destination for illegal drinking. However, the lack of toilet facilities prompted patrons to take the short walk to the nearby train tracks for relief and the name stuck!
Today, the quaint backstreets offer a glimpse into Tokyo’s past. This is a great spot to enjoy a couple beers and yakitori with a variety of meats and veggies.
9. Snap a pic at a purikura
In a world where photos go from your phone or camera straight to Instagram, it’s refreshing to pose for a photograph and hold the printed copy in your hand. In Japan, Purikura combines new technology with the old school photo booth for an experiential photo session.
Purikura stands for print club, and as you queue for your turn in the photo booth with teenage Japanese girls, it feels as if you’ve stumbled into an after-school clubhouse.
When it’s your turn, pose for your photos, and be sure to get creative! Next, it’s time for edits. Use the stylus to enlarge your eyes, slim your face, add graphic stickers and more … but do it fast! There’s a time limit and before you know it, you’ll have your very own photo souvenir.
10. Experience Hello Kitty mania at Puroland
As a child, I was obsessed with Sanrio. Hello Kitty, Keroppi and Pochacco adorned my lunch basket and pencil cases. I’m not 10 years old anymore, but I still jumped at the chance to visit Puroland -a theme park designed around Hello Kitty and her friends. Ride the Sanrio Character Boat Ride, meet Hello Kitty and watch a fun Kawaii Kabuki show!
If you manage to tick all 10 things off your Tokyo bucket list, I can guarantee you’ll smile your way through the city! Which of these experiences is your favorite? What else would you add to the list?
Contributor: Brittany Kulick
Brittany is the founder of The Sweet Wanderlust, a food and travel blog for people with a sweet tooth and a taste for adventure. She’s visited more than 60 countries and Japan is one of her favorites!
web: The Sweet Wanderlust