Over the course of seven weeks in 2019 Japan will be the stage for the biggest sporting event of the year. Most fans will be based in Tokyo- the world’s biggest city. The stage is set. Are you ready for the challenge? If so, read on.
Your Bucket List Challenge- Tokyo
Tokyo is quirky & bizarre. During the day it’s a teeming metropolis inhabited by be-suited businessmen & bedazzled tourists. During the night it lets off steam and everything turns a little wild. To help you better experience Tokyo we’ve put together 2 x different bucket list challenges. We’ve even got a teeny-weeny 3rd Bonus Bucket List for you to do before you get here- see the end of this post for details.
Tokyo Bucket List Challenge: Day Version
1. Shibuya’s Scramble Crossing:
Tokyo has no fixed centre but Shibuya is a contender. After all it has the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing that turns insane on Halloween night (October 31st). Your challenge? Take a photo with Hachiko the dog (statue) or take a photo of the crowds from the 2nd floor of Starbucks.
2. Eat at Tsukiji Fish Market:
Although officially shut down in October 2018 the original market location is still in business with food stalls serving up sushi for breakfast or grilled fish for lunch at really good prices. Get there to sample some of the freshest fish available!
3. Visit Odaiba by Monorail:
Take the unmanned monorail “Yurikamome” to Odaiba & experience Tokyo’s waterfront. The alternative way to travel is to walk the Rainbow Bridge (closed 3rd Monday of each month) or take a ferry trip from Toyosu. Odaiba is the newest part of Tokyo and offers everything – a simple beach to sit and watch, a giant-size Gundam robot statue and every manner of bar, restaurant & shop. The getting there is just as fun. Amazing Bay views!
4. Pedal a Swan Boat in Ueno Park:
Ueno Park itself is amazing but anyone who’s anyone in Tokyo has whiled away some time paddling a swan-boat whilst taking in the surrounding city views. Only 700 yen for 30 mins for up to 2 x adults & 2 x children.
5. Stroll around Tokyo Station:
Tokyo station’s red-brick facade of Tokyo station is iconic but the surroundings are also worth visiting. Choose your challenge from the following options. Find Tokyo Ramen Street located inside the station & travel to noodle heaven. Alternatively take a stroll down the tree-lined Naka-dori avenue on the Marunouchi side of the station that’s closed to traffic during lunch. Not a noodle shop in sight in this more upmarket area.
6. Take a shit-a & Harajuku:
Tourists love that name. Harajuku has two streets you simply have to experience- walk up one, walk down the other. Takeshita Street screams youth culture and Omotesando screams opulence. Enjoy street-food (the crepes are famous!) in Takeshita and visit the huge Daiso 100-yen shop and window shop on Omotesando. Must-sees nearby include the Oriental Bazaar (souvenirs), Kiddyland (toys) & Meiji-Jingu Shrine!
7. Asakusa & Senso-ji:
Japan’s most photographed temple for good reason. The walk leading to the temple is only 250 metres. It should take 5 minutes. However you need to pass 89 shops selling everything from lucky cat trinkets to freshly baked melon bread. Don’t be surprised if it takes an hour.
8. Tokyo Disney or Tokyo Sea:
It’s only a short train journey from Tokyo Station and you too can experience the magic of Disney- Tokyo-style. If you’re not feeling it you can opt out on the basis that the actual location of both theme-parks is Chiba, not Tokyo!
9. See (or imagine) Mt. Fuji from the To-cho Building:
Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Building is Tokyo’s premier city-scape viewpoint & is free! On a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji from the South Tower.For night views the North Tower stays open until 11pm & views are amazing.
10. Take a Garden Walk:
You simply must experience a real Japanese garden. Do only 1 or all 3 of these options. Koishikawa Korakuen– a gem surrounded by Tokyo Dome- another great area to spend a day. Shinjuku Gyoen– a short walk from Shinjuku Station. Hama-rikyu– this river-side garden that somehow manages to feel secluded. Hama-rikyu can be accessed by boat from Asakusa (30-35 mins). As it’s possible to visit Odaiba by boat from the gardens it’s possible to go from the fish market toAsakusa to Hama-rikyu Gardens to Odaiba and still have room to take on a challenge from our Tokyo Night-Time Bucket List! Knock 5 items off our list in one fell swoop!
Tokyo Bucket List Challenge: Night Version
1. Drink a Tower Beer at a HUB Pub:
HUB serve 1-litre tower beers in cylindrical test-tubes. For a full-on Japan experience enjoy your drink at the HUB in Shibuya’s Centre-Gai.
2. Take a booze cruise with the locals:
Aim to board a “Yakatabune”- a low-lying canal barge bedecked with red lanterns. Cruise tickets usually include the cruise fee, food & wait for it- drink-as-much-as-you-like beer & spirits. Expect to pay in the region of about 10,000 yen for a 2-hour full-on course. There’s over 50 boats on the Sumida River alone with Asakusa a popular boarding point- see here for all locations.
3. Drink under the arches in Yurakucho:
For about 700 metres each side of the JR Yurakucho station (beside Tokyo station) the arches under the railway tracks are occupied by drinking holes. Each evening businessmen walk in and crawl out. Choose from a traditional Japanese bar to a German beer-house. Bar-hopping under the arches is thoroughly recommended. Necktie wrapped around the head is optional!
4. Karaoke till the trains run again:
You can’t say you’ve done Tokyo until you’ve spent the night drinking singing in a Karaoke Box until the trains start running again. Practically nobody sets out to do this in advance. Somehow around 2am when options are running low and nobody wants to go home everyone does! It’s a lot more fun than you think!
5. Occupy a bar in Golden Gai, Shinjuku:
With over 200-hundred bars crammed into six alleys you are spoiled for choice but limited for space. This bizarre network of drinking dens has its own rules so expect to pay a small cover charge and be frowned on for taking pictures. Drinking is taken seriously but you can choose from authentic 1950’s black market chic holes in the wall to neon-lit zany pubs.
6. Be Bill Murray in Tokyo:
“For good times, Suntory times”, right? It’s not enough to simply sample the local whiskey. You’ve got to experience whiskey at the New York Bar in the Park Hyatt Hotel, Shinjuku. Drinking whiskey while drinking in the views from the 52nd floor bar to the sounds of jazz will blow your mind. Expect to pay a cover charge of 2,500 yen from 8pm weekdays or 7pm at weekends. You won’t be in a hurry to leave.
7. Eat like a Sumo:
Eating is not cheating in this challenge. Not finishing your food is! Find a bar serving “Chanko-Nabe” (wrestler’s hot-pot). The meal itself is low-fat, high protein & packed with veggies & meat. You won’t have a problem with the food- just the amount. The area around JR Ryogoku station (near Asakusa) and the Sumo Hall is packed with chanko-nabe restaurants. Here’s one that used to be a sumo stable in the past- Yoshiba. The chicken & pork dish for two works out at around 2,300 yen per person!
8. Drink outdoors in the Ameyoko Market, Ueno:
If drinking alfresco in a warren of small alleys packed with bars in a post-war black market sounds like your thing- you’ve hit gold! The deals on offer from the local food stalls are good too. Known locally as Ameyoko Yokocho it’s a tiny walk from Ueno station- which should make getting home easier too!
9. Hoppy Street, Asakusa:
If you plan to visit Sensoji temple then you’ll be in need of a beverage. On the west side of the temple there is an entire street of old-school hoppy houses. Get down & dirty with the locals and enjoy a relatively cheap night of potent alcohol. Oh- and the answer to your question as what is Hoppy is here!
10. Visit a Themed Bar:
Japan excels at odd. Take your choice from a Maid Cafe, Robot Restaurant, Ninja Pub or Ghost Bar!
Maid Cafe’s – take your pick from here!
Ninja Restaurant– make sure you sit with your back to the wall!
Ghost Restaurant– visit the underworld for a spooky meal
Bonus Bucket List- To Do At Home!
We’ve made this nice & easy and doable in one night. By the end of this list you will be either be an emotional wreck or emotionally prepared for Japan!
- Watch Lost in Translation & pour yourself a whiskey.
- Eat a cup noodle with chopsticks during the movie.
- Watch Hachiko the movie. Bonus points if you skip Richard Gere’s re-make and watch the original 1987 movie. More bonus points if you don’t cry!