Here at Hero & Leander we think that there is nothing better when visiting a new destination than experiencing it like a local. With this is mind we were super excited when CityUnscripted approached us with the top 10 local things to do in Tokyo.
Did you know that Tokyo has more three Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world? Bet you’re listening now. It’s no happy coincidence that eating and drinking takes up six out of the ten spots for things to do in Tokyo recommended by locals. If you’re visiting Tokyo let CityUnscripted show you some of their favourite places to eat, drink, and be merry and even if the culinary talent isn’t enough for you (unlikely), they’ve also got some pretty stunning scenery and shopping to share. So here’s their top ten things to do in Tokyo:
We’re pretty sure it might actually be illegal to visit Tokyo and not try Japanese BBQ. So with this in mind we’ll let you in on one of our most loved by locals yakiniku spots: Choshunkan. Yakiniku is an experience in itself, as you order the raw ingredients and grill them yourself at your table, making it a great option for dinner with friends and family. This spot in Shinjuku has remained a firm local favourite for over 40 years and has more than earned its reputation, you won’t be disappointed!
Ueno is an area downtown which rivals Shibuya and Shinjuku, so if you feel like checking out a more off the beaten path neighbourhood, we would definitely recommend here. There’s loads of cultural spots to discover, like the Ueno-onshi-koen Park, Ameya-yokocho Market or the Yushima Tenman-gu Shrine, but we have to be honest and admit that our love for Ueno stems in part from the abundance of great izakaya found here. Izakaya are tiny neighbourhood bars where you’ll definitely be rubbing shoulders with a local or two. Most serve food and many have gained international reputation for their cuisine so even if you can’t read the menu, just order like the locals do and you won’t be disappointed!
Although Kayoso is actually a kimono shop, it also functions as a teahouse and is one of the local favourites. In a quiet, residential area inside a Japanese home that’s over a century old is this beautiful teahouse, complete with a traditional garden, making it the perfect place to spend a peaceful few hours sipping tea, munching on some delicious wagashi and watching customers try on kimonos. You might even be lucky enough to watch a kimono maker at work too!
- Attic Room
Hidden away in Shibuya you’ll find Attic Room, which unsurprisingly is in an attic of sorts. This tiny cafe is frequented by locals and is a great spot to stop for lunch, some tea or a cocktail while you people watch. You’ll have to climb a ladder to get to the best table in the house, but it’s worth it! You might just need a little help locating the building, so why not let one of our Tokyo locals show you?
- Tanaka Shoten
If you’re serious about your ramen, and we certainly are, make the pilgrimage to Tanaka Shoten; believe us you won’t be disappointed with the tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen served here. It is a bit of a journey to get to but is pretty much locals only spot since it’s so far off the beaten path and not technically in central Tokyo, but it’s all part of the adventure and you’ll be rewarded with a steaming bowl of ramen topped with spiced ground pork. And even if you get a little lost on the way, true to tradition they’re open until 4am so you won’t miss last orders!
This residential area is one of the best downtown districts for shopping and is certainly popular with locals. You’ll find pretty much anything here, but keep an eye out for some of the gourmet food being bought by the residents and follow suit! This district is always bustling but less crowded than nearby Shibuya, and the cherry blossoms here are second to none in spring.
- Lake Okutama-ko
If you just need to escape the city and spend a little time away from the constantly moving landscape of the central Tokyo, head to Lake Okutama-ko, an artificial lake found located in the Chichibu National Park. Not technically in the city, but pretty damn close. The lake itself might be man-made, but the landscape surrounding it is nature at its most sublime, and if you’re lucky enough to visit Tokyo in the spring be sure to check out the beautiful cherry blossoms too. The view really will take your breath away and leave you feeling renewed and ready to hit the city again.
- Todoroki Valley
Sort of feel like escaping the city but not really? Tucked away in Setagaya in the southwest of Tokyo is a kilometre long path that winds its way along the edge of a small river through lush woodland. It might sound a bit too good to be true, but it’s a great outdoor space to head to for a little bit of peace and quiet within the hustle and bustle of the city and is made even more enjoyable thanks to its unexpected location. For a minute you might even forget you’re in central Tokyo…
- Nakano Broadway
You’d very probably have ended up here even without our guidance, swept along towards this shopping mall by anime loving Tokyo locals… but just in case you don’t, here’s a quick rundown. You could say Nakano Broadway has it all, which is why we just did. Below ground is a market where locals go to stock up on fruit, veg, meat and seafood. Next up is clothes and shoes and what not, but it’s the second and third floors where you’ll find yourself in anime and manga heaven. There’s everything from manga and anime collectables, idol merchandize, video games, manga magazines… the list goes on.
- Sumire Yakitori
Yakitori is a traditional street food of skewered chicken grilled over charcoal and served with a salty sweet sauce, and often washed down with a glass of beer or two in a yakitori bar. Sumire Yakitori is more of an izakaya and is one of our favourite spots to grab these little skewers of deliciousness at a price that won’t break the bank!
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