Tokyo is filled with rare finds to discover and offerings tailored to almost every niche, the likes of which make standard travel guides seem cliche. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer well-versed in the nooks and crannies of Japan’s capital or a fresh-faced foreigner yet to set foot in the land, nothing will have you booking faster than the promise of undiscovered treasures.
For those who are familiar with traditional Japanese delicacies, it may come as no surprise that a large slice of the city’s intrigue can be attributed to its food. In fact, according to recent perception study, more than one in five Americans associate Tokyo with beautiful cuisine and a thriving culinary culture, and for good reason. There are more Michelin starred restaurants here than anywhere else in the world, so for those that are into their tucker, the city is a veritable mecca of culinary delights.
This Shinjuku hot spot offers a variety of options for those chasing traditional Japanese flavours. Cravings for fresh seafood and hot chicken skewers known as yakitori will meet their maker here, but if you’d rather try something unusual, you’ll also find cooked liver and heart on some of the menus.
Kawaii Monster Café
This type of exaggerated dinner theatre isn’t just for kids. If you’re around Harajuku and looking for some entertainment, this is the place to go, but be aware, it can get busy. Be sure to take in the eerily bright pink interior, and to try a serving of the rainbow spaghetti – it might sound childish, but this speciality comes with a trio of sauces so delicious you’ll clean out the bowls.
Zauo Fishing Restaurant
If you’re a fishing fanatic or a fan of the “farm to table” philosophy, this may become a new favourite find. You can catch your own fish from the tanks in the restaurant and have it cooked fresh within minutes by professional chefs, exactly to your specifications. Snag a seat on the boat and you’ll be able to fish without leaving your seat.
Whether you’re waking up or going out, you’re guaranteed to find a place in Tokyo serving beverages the way you like them.
Chatei Hatou Kissaten
The word kissaten roughly translates to traditional coffee shop, and there are plenty of people in Tokyo who like it old school. It goes without saying that the coffee experts who work in places like this hold every cup to a high standard, so if you’re willing to pay a little extra and endure a longer wait time, the quality of the brew will be your reward.
Finding a small, intimate piece of nightlife you love is a wonderful thing. Just imagine what you could find wandering down an alley filled with over 250 different bars, some only large enough for a handful of visitors at a time. Those who love a cold beer or a bottle of Sake (a popular Japanese spirit) will find themselves spoilt for choice, with prices ranging from around 100 yen.
You won’t need to search high and low for memorable cultural experiences in Tokyo, although looking that little bit further might uncover one of these hidden gems.
This traditional spa is tucked away down a dead-end lane, so obscured that even locals may not know about it. Everything you need is provided, from soap and towels to shampoo, and there are plenty of separate baths for those who like it hot, cold, or somewhere in between. Just make sure to read up on onsen customs before you go, and prepare your birthday suit.
Cat lovers, rejoice! This temple is famous for its cat figurines, numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. Not only do they make for very interesting photos, but they’re also said to bring good luck. The beckoning cat, traditionally known as maneki-neko, is a common welcoming relic often spotted in store windows.
Espace Louis Vuitton
Don’t be fooled by the name – you won’t find any designer clothing here. What you will find, if you manage to track down this well-hidden gallery, is a room full of artwork produced by local artists. What better way to get to the heart of Japanese culture? Hint: check out the city views on the elevator ride up.
Op-shop fans will find their second home in this little neighbourhood. Comprised of stores selling second-hand clothing and records, it’s a little bit hipster and a lot of fun, and it will have your inner-artist squealing with joy.
Kowloon Walled-City Arcade
Animation is a huge part of Japanese culture and has been for decades, from video games to full-length movies. Designed with a dystopic aesthetic, this arcade offers gaming fanatics the opportunity to experience eight stories of classic games, from Pacman to Mario and everything in between, so prepare yourself for a video game hangover of square eyes and strained digits.
Tokyo is filled with so many crevices, it would be impossible to look into each one, but make sure you know what’s out there. Otherwise, you run the risk of walking right past some of the best the city has to offer.