We’ve all heard about some of Japan’s cultural quirks—the crazy game shows, the karaoke parlours, the unusually flavoured Kit-Kat bars. But it’s one thing to see Japan on TV, and another to experience it for yourself. In Tokyo, Japan’s massive capital, there are literally millions of unexpected things to do. Put these wonderful and slightly weird Tokyo experiences at the top of your Japanese bucket list.
OVERLOAD ON CUTENESS
The crowded Takeshita Street in Harajuku is overflowing with colourful, kitschy, cutesy items from socks to hair accessories. When you’re done marvelling at all things kawaii (a Japanese adjective meaning “cute”), find a purikura—a photo machine with a Japanese touch. Once you’ve posed for your photos, you’ll move to an editing booth where you can make your snapshots even cuter by adding embellishments like speech bubbles and eye makeup before they’re printed. Strolling the neighbourhood as part of a guided tour can add a bit of cultural education to your exploration.
BAR HOP THROUGH GOLDEN GAI
If you’ve ever wondered how many watering holes can fit in a half-dozen alleys that are too narrow for cars, you’ll find the answer in Shinjuku Golden Gai. At least 200 tiny bars, clubs and eateries are sandwiched on the six streets that make up one of Asia’s most renowned drinking districts. When you need a break from the lively establishments, explore the old-style Japanese architecture in this tiny piece of Tokyo.
DOG WATCH AT YOYOGI PARK
The main athletes village during the 1964 Olympics is now one of Tokyo’s largest green spaces and most popular parks. On weekends, its 54 hectares are filled with cyclists, runners, dancers, and musicians, though it’s the furry four-legged creatures squished into adorable outfits that steal the show. Head to the fenced dog runs in the middle of the park to marvel at the hottest canine fashions.
Discover even more of Asia by cruising the Mekong River through Cambodia and Vietnam
BE A SUMO SPECTATOR
Japan’s national sport brings to life ancient ceremony and ritual, and is well worth watching. If you’re visiting Tokyo outside of tournament season (January, May and September), you can typically still observe the wrestlers in early-morning practice sessions at the sumo stables where they live and train. Most of the time, tourists are asked to sit silently on the floor while watching the enthralling action, though more interactive sumo demonstrations can also be booked.
TRY A FUTURISTIC TOILET
From train stations to parks, clean, free public bathrooms are commonplace in Tokyo. Most toilets are surprisingly advanced and the various buttons, which typically aren’t labelled in English, make relieving yourself an adventure. So, sit down on the heated seat, try to adjust the water pressure, temperature and sound volume, and prepare to have your high-tech flusher sing, spray and deodorize.
CHEER FOR BATTLING ROBOTS
Nowhere else in the world will you find an hour-long spectacle as gaudy, outrageous and memorable as what’s on display at Tokyo’s famous Robot Restaurant. Order a drink, find your seat and wait for laser fights, dramatic battles and some major sensory overload from this cabaret show featuring robots like giant, mermaid-bearing sharks and machine-gun-firing, gorilla-toting mechanical moths.
VISIT A VENDING MACHINE (OR 20)
There are more than five million vending machines across Japan—the greatest concentration in the world, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. So save your spare change because you’ll constantly come across automated vendors that dole out pretty much every hot or cold beverage imaginable. You’ll also find toy vending machines offering unusual trinkets, like a sushi key chain or a small sleeping bag, complete with pillow, for your cellphone.
EAT THE FRESHEST—THEN THE FASTEST—SUSHI
Go to the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest wholesale seafood market in the world, for a wide selection of breakfast sushi. Whether you fancy waiting in line to sit down at a highly endorsed eatery or ordering from a busy stall, you’re guaranteed amazingly fresh fish. For dinner, visit one of Tokyo’s many automated sushi restaurants, where you’ll order from a touchscreen and have your food whisked to you via a conveyer belt connecting the kitchen with every customer. You can also take a sushi-making class to improve your own culinary skills.
RENT A KIMONO
Across Tokyo, storeowners are keen to help you experience the city in a colourful, traditional kimono. If you want to stroll (or take a rickshaw ride) around the streets of Tokyo in the cultural dress, or pose for authentic photos at a tea ceremony or shrine, reserve ahead, then step into a rental store where staff will outfit you with a kimono, split-toe socks, flip-flops and accessories.
BOOK WITH AMA
Regardless of how you want to experience Japan, AMA Travel can help you with all your needs. Air, hotel, train tickets, car rentals, activities and much more can be booked in advance. Contact AMA Travel online, visit your local AMA Centre or call 1-844-771-1522.