Japan has got to be one of the best places I have traveled thus far. From the kind people to the delicious detailed craft of cuisine, Japan is deeply rooted in its traditional culture. If you have plans to travel there but don’t know where to go, scroll down to see some of my favorite places I visited. For dated reference, this trip took place in late October 2018. If your time is limited, as my trip across Japan was only a week’s worth in time, let me inspire you on how to do the absolute most with your travel! This itinerary starts out in Tokyo, takes the bullet train to Kyoto, then ends in Osaka. If it’s your first time in Japan, I highly recommend this city route as these are some of the major cities people like to visit.
This list is in no particular order aside from the major cities. It is a walkthrough my scheduled itinerary.
Hotel: Hotel Sardonyx Tokyo
Location: 1 Chome-13-7 Hatchobori, Chuo City,
Tokyo 104-0032, Japan
Cost: $387 for 3 nights
Stayed in a double bed room for 3 nights and it came out to roughly $387. The hotel was really clean, comfortable, we had a good view of the river and street, and staff was friendly. They even had little hotel supplies down stairs for things like foot soak, mouthwash, etc in little packets in the hotel lobby. It wasn’t too far of a walk to get anywhere we needed to go, there were stores and restaurants on the streets that were easily accessible. It wasn’t a super busy area so we felt really comfortable roaming around the town. Overall I give this hotel a 5 out of 5 in terms of location, service, comfort, and cleanliness.
#1 – Hanamaru Udon
Location: Japan, 〒103-0025 Tokyo, Chuo City,
Nihonbashikayabacho, 3 Chome−8−5 松村ビル １F
Cost: ~ $10 for a tray of food
This was my very first meal in Tokyo as this was very close to the hotel I was staying at. First tell the worker which udon you want, they make you a fresh bowl then you go down the “self serve” line that is filled with different tempuras, rice cakes on sticks, eggs, & croquets. Fill up your tray with what items you like to eat and at the end is the cashier who will ring up your items. After paying there is a self serve water machine and you find your own seat. This restaurant caught my eye because even though it looked small and quaint, there was a decent line (maybe about 5 people), and the restaurant was a full house. The price was extremely affordable, my whole tray was less than $10 USD! Honestly I have to say, this was the BEST udon I’ve ever had in my life. I had the salted pork onion udon and my little sister had the beef udon. They both were equally delicious and the eggs… well I’ll tell you right now, Japan eggs are just to die for.
#2 – Studio Ghibli Museum
Location: 1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku,
Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0013, Japan
Cost: ~ $9 / GA Admission Ticket
Got the last run of tickets a month in advance. They do not sell any tickets at this museum so be prepared to figure out how to get your tickets before getting here. The tickets sell out extremely fast so you have to be on top of your game! Took the Studio Ghibli bus to get here which had animations of the cartoons on the bus just like it was in the movie Totoro. They have a very strict no pictures inside policy. The experience of the museum in itself was so spectacular. You really do have to be a fan or have watched the anime movies to understand and appreciate this museum. (Highly recommend you go on a Ghibli Movie Marathon before arriving.) Plan to stay here for quite a while! I think we spent a good 3 hours and it still wasn’t enough time since we had other plans on our itinerary. Every inch of the museum is intricate and imagination play is so big here. You are allowed to take photos on the outsides of the museum where you can either go up to the top for the Studio Ghibli Laputa robot statue or hang out in the gardens that surround the museum. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to be walking around a lot inside, waiting in pretty decent lines to enter some of the rooms because of the many people appreciating the arts and relics inside. I don’t want to spoil the magic of the inside so this review will have to end here!
#3 – Robot Restaurant Show
Location: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City,
Kabukicho, 1 Chome−7−7 新宿ロボットビル B2F
Cost: ~ $70 / GA Admission Ticket
This is a very touristy spot but if you want to see a kooky raucous pop-culture show with robotic monsters, dancers & lasers, then I highly recommend you come to watch the Robot Restaurant show with no expectations and you should leave very surprised! Reserve/buy your tickets online ahead of time before coming to this show. Make sure you come at least 30 minutes before your show time to ensure your place. When you enter in they take you to the lounge/bar waiting area before they let anyone into the main show area. At this time, you can take some photos with the kooky interior, buy some drinks (non-alcoholic & alcoholic), and there is even a small patio as a smoking area. The food is really mediocre for the price so I highly recommend you eat before you come here. In between the show they have a few “breaks” and at that time, you can go purchase more drinks or use the restroom.
#4 – Sushi Dai
Location: 6 Chome-5-1 Toyosu, Koto City,
Tokyo 135-0061, Japan
Cost: ~ $40 / Omasake (roughly 10 pieces)
Sushi Dai is a Michelin star restaurant and is possibly one of the most popular sushi spots in Tokyo. They are located inside the new (they moved in October 2018) Toyosu Market. I visited one week after the restaurant moved, so thankfully not many people knew if the restaurant was open or not, so the line was 70% shorter than normal. They only seat 13 people in the restaurant at one time so be prepared to wait. We still waited about 2 hours to finally get inside. Highly recommend that you come early and also have a snack in handy. The course lasts about 45 minutes and they serve you around 10 pieces of sushi. They are CASH only. I don’t speak Japanese so I can’t describe every thing I ate but regardless the food was melt in your mouth, drool worthy good. Sushi Dai deserves the award for the best sushi I have ever tasted in my life thus far!
#5 – MORI Building Digital Art Museum: Epson teamLab Borderless, Tokyo
Location: Japan, 〒135-0064 Tokyo, Koto City,
Aomi, 1 Chome−3−8 お台場パレットタウン
Cost: ~ $30 / Entrance Fee
Tickets are NOT sold at the museum, they must be purchased on your choice of date and time on their teamLab Borderless official website prior to visiting. When picking the admission time, remember that you can line up in the admission line only at the time you select.The line was pretty long… when I first got there I was standing about 30 minutes away from the entrance… all the way at the ferris wheel. It can get hot so bring your water bottle or a drink with you. For the experience, I don’t want to ruin anything so I’ll just leave it at… WOW this place is a wonderland. The “show” they have is really really good so I highly recommend you watch that one. I believe it was called the nest? So you go in a hammock type net and watch the show looking up as if it’s a galaxy. It’s really easy to get lost, it was near impossible for us to find the way out through the museum. (Not that we cared because we were having so much fun, but for a few minutes I thought maybe we might never find the exit.) There are LOTS of people there so it can be really hard to get your “perfect instagram shot” but it’s possible!
#6 – Jirōmaru Shinjuku Honten
Location: 1 Chome-26-3 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City,
Tokyo 160-0021, Japan
Cost: ~ $35/ 6 Pc Set Meal
Drool worthy A4-A5 wagyu meat for only $35?! YES, PLEASE. We stumbled here on accident because we needed a place to eat and had not picked a place for dinner. While we were waiting here we realized on Instagram that one of our favorite mukbang-er Yang Soo Bin had visited not too long ago. Knowing this right before entering the restaurant, we knew this place had to be good. The wait was about 30 minutes long. The restaurant is very very small & the most surprising thing of all, there are NO CHAIRS! I think there were less than 10 grills and everyone was standing, even to eat. It made the experience that much more fun. They give you little black aprons to wear and there are hooks under the bar table where you can hang your bag/jackets. The chefs spoke very little english & the entire menu is in Japanese but we got through ordering our meal. We had the 6 pcs course set that came with rice, plate of veggies (mushroom and asparagus) , salt, and sauces. The chef’s were really nice and showed me the proper way to cook my food because I was doing it wrong in the beginning. I don’t know how else to describe these A5/A4 meats other than WHAT THE JESUS MELT IN YOUR MOUTH AMAZINGNESS. I might have cried a tear because it was so good. You have to eat here, trust.
#7 – Tsukiji Outer Market: Street Foods Edition
Location: 4 Chome-9-12 Tsukiji, Chuo City,
Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Cost: ~ $ through $$. Bring Cash!
The original Tsukiji market is gone but the outer stores and street vendors still remain. We walked down a couple of the streets and alleyways before deciding on which vendors to eat from. I’ll list out the places we visited as best as I can but they were random so I don’t remember all the vendor names. Come hungry, bring cash, wear comfortable shoes and have fun trying new things here.
• Kitsuneya : Legendary Organ/Intestine Stew $8
4 Chome-9-12 Tsukiji, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Come early! We got here right before it opened and didn’t have to wait. It is a street vendor so it’s just a stall type of store front. There were very limited seats and you have to just eat your own meal fast (they don’t rush you) and respectfully move on for the next person to enjoy theirs. I personally really love liver and intestines so this was SO good. My little sister on the other hand isn’t too big of a fan of organ meat so she said it was too gamey for her liking. It’s a very “homemade style” warm breakfast stew, rich in flavor, over steaming rice. PS, There is no sharing, each person must get their own bowl.
• Soratsuki Ichigo-daifuku : Strawberry Mochi $3
4 Chome-11-10 Tsukiji, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
We were originally looking for white strawberries but they were not in season, so we ended up just trying a strawberry mochi type of dessert. Ichigo-daifuku is a dessert that consists of sweet red bean paste, anko, wrapped in gooey mochi, and topped with a strawberry.
• Unagi Shokudo : Grilled Eel Skewer $2-$5
Japan, 〒104-0045 Tokyo, Chuo City, Tsukiji, 4 Chome−13−18 場外市場内
They have lots of different types of food on skewers. They are highly known for their grilled eel skewers so we got those and a shrimp. Both were simply delicious.
• Tsukiji Yamachou : Tamagoyaki Sweet Steamed Egg on a Stick $2
4 Chome-10-10 Tsukiji, 中央区 Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Omg what a cute and delectable egg treat! You can see your order being made, piping hot and fresh, in front of you at this street vendor cart. They have a lot of different types of tamago (egg) mixes that you can choose from.
• Grilled Scallop with Sea Urchin on Top
(Not sure which vendor this was.)
• Fresh Uni
(Not sure which vendor this was.)
#8 – Sensō-ji Temple
Location: 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City,
Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Cost: ~ Free
Sensō-ji is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and one of its most significant. It was rebuilt and is a symbol of rebirth and peace to the Japanese people. They have a lot of little shops lined up all inside that you can buy really nice arrangement of souvenirs from. You can also purchase charms, trinkets, prayers, inside of the temple. You can pray and burn incense in a huge burner in front of the large stairs. My personal favorite was where you shake a container of sticks that tell you your fortune.
#9 – Suzukien Asakusa Honten
Location: 3 Chome-4-3 Asakusa, Taito City,
Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Cost: ~ $6 Single Scoop Ice Cream Cone
Richest matcha gelato in all the land, coming in at different matcha flavor levels. It is conveniently located about 3 minutes of a walking distance from the Senso-ji Temple. They have 7 different levels of matcha and you know we just had to try the highest one. Warning, it is Japanese culture to have respective places to enjoy your treats. They have a small space indoors where you can enjoy your ice cream. If you go outside and try to eat it on the sidewalk most people will be very upset. I stood outside to take a picture of the ice cream and a lady from the alley was pretty upset with me. I wasn’t aware of this prior… so here’s your tip for eating in Japanese culture. And, you ask about the 7th level of matcha ice cream? It’s very very concentrated and pungent on green tea/matcha flavor.
#10 – Harajuku’s Takeshita Street : Shopping
Location: 1-chōme Jingūmae, Shibuya City,
Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Cost: $ to $$$ ~ Bring cash if you want to haggle down prices.
This the probably the best area to shop for everything you might need and want. Especially if you like Harajuku style and fashion. Harajuku’s Takeshita is a shopping street lined with fashion boutiques, cafes and restaurants. I personally love the Asian Baddie style so I picked up a lot of fashion wear, purses, and platforms here. Some shops are cheap but some shops are expensive so make sure to check the prices carefully. They sell a lot of stuff – sometimes same stuff for different price – so I’d advise to walk through the whole shopping center before committing to buying. It’s very crowded and loud so be prepared for what I can only compare with “what Disneyland in California feels like” amount of crowds.
#11 – Imperial Palace Gardens
Location: 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda City,
Tokyo 100-8111, Japan
Large landscaped gardens in the grounds of a palace first built in 1888, with some Edo castle ruins. This place is free and open to the public. Other than taking in the garden and grounds landscaping and beauty, there is not much activity to do here. The entire place is VERY large so I’d recommend taking wearing comfortable walking shoes (unlike me who wore boots and my feet went so numb I could barely walk anymore).
#12 – Rokurinsha
Location: Japan, 〒100-0005 Tokyo,
Chiyoda City, Marunouchi, 1 Chome−9−1
東京駅一番街 B1 東京ラーメンストリート内
We got here early in the morning before taking the bullet train to Kyoto. They are located inside the Tokyo Train Station. Because we came early, there was not that much of a wait, it was about 15 minutes of standing in line. You pay ahead with a machine that gives you a ticket and when you are seated, you give the ticket to the cook for your food. My god the tsukemen (dipping ramen) here was SO delicious. After eating all of your “dipping ramen” there is hot water in front of you so you can pour it into the leftover tsukemen sauce so that it becomes a drinkable soup. Again, have to mention Japan’s soft boiled eggs are just absolutely to die for.
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