One big recommendation from friends of ours was a visit to the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku for breakfast or tea. The restaurants are located high up and offer a beautiful view of Tokyo. We were too late for breakfast, so we enjoyed tea and a sweet chestnut cake in The Peak Lounge, which features a skylit bamboo garden as its centerpiece.
For our second to last day, Koen and I explored Odaiba, an artificial island in southern Tokyo. We had beautiful weather and enjoyed walking along the water. Turns out there was a dance competition while we were there, so we bought some street food and watched the show!
The Meiji Shrine in Shibuya is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. The Meiji Shrine is located just beside the busy Harajuku Station, Meiji Shrine and the adjacent Yoyogi Park making up a large forested area – an oasis in busy, urban Tokyo!
Harajuku is a neighborhood of the Shibuya ward, so of course we wanted to explore more of Shibuya. Shibuya is most famous for the busy intersection at the Shibuya Station – the Shibuya Scramble. All of the lights at the crossing turn red and green at the same time. I think in most top 10 lists for Tokyo you’ll find the Shibuya Crossing. You can also spot it in a lot of TV shows or films that feature Tokyo. Like in Girls (40 second mark):
We were in Japan for 3 weeks, the first week in Tokyo, a week of travel, then the last week again in Tokyo. The first week we stayed in east Tokyo in the neighborhood of Ginza, so we wanted to have a different experience for our last week – Harajuku in west Tokyo!
Visiting the Ghibli Museum was one of our tops things we wanted to do while in Tokyo! We didn’t realize how difficult it is to secure tickets (you should purchase them many months ahead of time and you can’t buy them on site). Luckily, after some online searching, we were able to secure two tickets – even though we paid 5x the normal price. But worth it!
Ueno is a neighborhood in northern Tokyo, part of the Taito Ward, and home to many of Tokyo’s museums. Compared to other neighborhoods, Ueno is part of the Shitamachi, or literally the “low city”, a working class area. Koen and I really enjoyed coming to Ueno one evening to walk around and have a drink and sample Japanese bar food.
Koen’s only request for our trip to Japan was to visit a couple of whisky distilleries, specifically Nikka. Nikka Whisky is actually comprised of 2 distilleries: Miyagikyo in Sendai and Yoichi in Hokkaido – both in northern Japan. Seeing as Yoichi was a 10 hour train ride from Tokyo, Sendai seemed more than doable at 3 hours each way by train (so 6 hours travel in total). Well worth it for whisky lovers!
Hakone is an easy and popular day trip from Tokyo. You can escape the busy city and head to the mountains for beautiful scenery and delicious black eggs. Boiled on site, the eggs turn black due to a chemical reaction with the sulphurous water. According to Japanese legend, each egg will add seven years to your life. Plus the taste is 20% more umami than normal boiled eggs!
Lake Ashi is at the center of Hakone, as well as the setting for the iconic image of Mount Fuji with the torii of Hakone-jinja rising from the water. Unfortunately we visited on a cloudy day, so the notoriously shy Mount Fuji was hidden from us.
Kamakura is a coastal city about an hour away from Tokyo – perfect for a day trip! Lonely Planet introduces Kamakura:
The glory days of Japan’s first feudal capital (from 1185 to 1333) coincided with the spread of populist Buddhism in Japan. This legacy is reflected in the area’s proliferation of stunning temples. Kamakura also has a laid-back, earthy vibe complete with organic restaurants, summer beach shacks and surfers – which can be added to sunrise meditation and hillside hikes as reasons to visit.