Where do we even begin?
There are plenty more than 8 reasons to visit this incredible city. It is, at it's heart, where the most advanced and high-tech metropolis in the world meets ancient history. Futuristic high-rises tower next to quaint yet powerful shinto shrines. Millions of people file through Shinjuku's Central Station, making it the busiest train station on earth - and yet one can find peace and quiet in neighboring Yoyogi Park. Tokyo is a city for all of the senses. It's overwhelming, brilliantly invigorating, and there's nothing better for a novice traveler than a plunge into the city.
1. Incredibly Easy Transporation
Japan is one of the easiest countries to travel in due to it's extensive and nearly perfectly organized rail system. Upon flying into either of Tokyo's international airports, Nartita (NRT) & Haneda (HND), you are greeted by an abundance of English signage directing the masses of tourists towards the trains. Once your pass is purchased and registered, you hop on the rail and like magic within an hour you're directly in the center of Tokyo! Many hotels throughout Tokyo provide transfer to and from the accommodation, so make sure to check with yours prior to departing.
Not to mention, traveling around Tokyo isn't just pretty, it's freaking gorgeous. The city greets you with a surprising punch, and then you want the city to keep on punching.
If you are planning on spending over a week in Japan and you're traveling outside of Tokyo, I highly recommend looking into purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. This will save you more money for amazing things like sake and ramen!
2. All We Need Is Ramen!
There are endless possibilities when it comes to where to eat. Tokyo is filled to the brim with high-class Michelin Star winning restaurants. My recommendation, eat everything and eat a lot!
Hands down, our favorite place for ramen (and there are quite a few across the city!) is Ichiran. Here, you can grab classic tonkotsu with all the fixings necessary to most likely change your life. Around any lunch or dinner hour, you'll find a long line waiting outside, but don't let that scare you off. Most restaurants in Tokyo serve their food FAST, and the customers likewise eat quite fast, as ramen is best consumed at it's optimal temperature - right out of the boiling pot. If you're looking for another adventure, be sure to take a stroll down Tokyo Station's famous Ramen Street. It's virtually a city built underneath one of Tokyo's largest stations, and yet they've dedicated an entire street to ramen shops! The famous Rokurinsha is located here, and it does not disappoint!
Outside the brick-and-mortar restaurants across Tokyo, there are plentiful food carts and stands throughout the city. Enjoy a scoop of matcha or black sesame ice cream, or enjoy a nice skewer of freshly grilled octopus! And apart from ramen, there are hundreds of other Japanese cuisine you must try. The multitude of sushi, obviously is a must. Head on over to Tsukiji Market for the morning's freshest catch!
3. Race Mario Kart IN REAL LIFE!
I can't even describe how awesome the Mari-car tour is. If there is one single reason to visit Tokyo, or one thing you could do in Tokyo,
THIS IS IT.
Dressed up like characters from Mario, you're ushered into little go-carts, and led around Tokyo on the actual city streets. You drive with the traffic, across bridges, through tunnels, and all around Tokyo's most famous landmarks and sights. All the while, citizens and tourists alike take photos and video with you - since you're literally a Mario character driving around - you basically get to be famous for a day and see one of the most incredible cities in the world from an entirely new perspective.
Watch our video on our experience to find out more!
4. The Thirst Is Real
What more can you ask for than futuristic beverage dispensers located nearly every 50 feet throughout the city!?
It can get extremely hot and humid in Japan during the summer months, so hydration is absolutely key. I have never been to any place in the world that is as dedicated to making ice cold drinks so accessible to the general public, and I am here for it.
Not only are these machines everywhere, they also have an enormous variety of drinks. From ice cold coffee, to sugary sweet soda, green teas, juices, milk teas, ice waters, red bull and a variety of other drinks I have yet to even try - these machines blew MY MIND. Affordable too, from 80 cents to around $1.50 per drink, you can't help but grab a little somethin'-somethin' each time you pass by one of these glorious machines from heaven.
5. Release Your Inner Gamer
There is no better place in the world for gaming than Tokyo's Akihabara neighborhood. Towering arcades up to 10 stories tall are filled with everything from claw-machines, retro 80s arcade classics, to virtual reality.
You can easily spend a day getting lost in the massive tech stores, quirky coffee shops, and overstimulating arcades.
I found a classic Pokémon Stadium game and was living life on cloud 9 for quite some time.
6. The Many Sights, The City Lights
One of my favorite things to do in the great city was to just walk around at night with no particular destination in mind. Tokyo's nightlife center Shinjuku is the perfect neighborhood for such walks. The excess of restaurants, bars, clubs, arcades, shopping malls and cafés provide endless possibilities of activities. Yet, even just walking from one place to another creates an experience in and of itself.
7. Escape To The Past
The region wasn't always an urban steel jungle. Formerly known as Edo, Tokyo has its roots as a small fishing village from the 1400s. Fascinatingly enough, with as much change the region has experienced over the hundred years, it's thankfully managed to maintain it's historic character. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets by visiting one of the many temples and Shinto shrines around the city.
One of the area's most famed sites, Tokyo's Imperial Palace holds a green patch of peace and serenity in the center of the city.
Likewise, Yoyogi Park, neatly nestled between Shinjuku & Shibuya, provides the perfect little getaway in a beautifully forested green space. It's main attraction, the Meiji Jingu Shrine located in the middle of the park, stands strongly with historic and spiritual reverence. You can join the many others on their trek through the forest to the shrine, or just enjoy the sights and sounds from the birds inhabiting the towering patches of trees and bamboo.
No trip to Tokyo is complete without paying homage to the grounds of historic Edo itself, Asakusa. Here you can find an abundance of historical sites, as well as an exceptionally lively outdoor market.
8. There's A Surprise Around Every Corner
Something I wasn't expecting when I visited Tokyo, that no tourism book or guide or online blog prepared me for what I would experience. Walking down a street, you will be confronted with many sights, sounds, tastes and smells that outside of Japan - you are not accustomed to. Previously to entering Tokyo, there was no frame-of-reference for me to compare to. It's simply incomparable.
On our first evening in the city, after departing form our hotel, we crossed the street adjacent to our accommodation and immediately walked straight into an enormous protest. A spontaneous occurrence, yet as we walked and the protest mixed with music from street performers, the rush of pedestrian traffic by way of a subway station, and the air flooded with smells from surrounding restaurants - the entire moment overwhelmingly came together like a perfect symphony. Building's neon lights from above coming to life, storefront doors turning in circles, taxis whizzing by, and everything together moving and flowing and blowing our expectations out of the water.
With over 9 million people living in the city of Tokyo, 160,000 restaurants, and countless sights to see, there are bound to be many exciting surprises.
For more fun from Tokyo, be sure to check out Michael's and my YouTube where we recorded and video blogged our trip!