Tokyo was hands down one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Eugen and I impulsively decided to take our 8-day vacation in Tokyo because we wanted to go somewhere we’d never been before and somewhere totally foreign to us. Neither of us speak a work of Japanese, but we managed just fine and I already want to go back for longer! We spend the entire time in Tokyo. I wish we had planned to go to Kyoto, but I felt like there was so much to explore in Tokyo alone. The best things we did were the simplest things like wandering through residential neighborhoods, grocery shopping through isles of obscurely flavored item, and drinking “free flow” green soda and a bubbly water called “Pocari Sweat” haha. I’m a crazy type-A planner, but all the most memorable things that happened on our trip were unplanned and totally spontaneous! Can’t wait for more travels and more adventures together ❤
Not in the mood for reading? Check out my Tokyo Video filmed entirely on my Snap Spectacles 2.0!
8-Day Tokyo Itinerary
- Flying out of JFK with a 7 hour layover in Taipei, Taiwan
- Taxi to downtown and went to TAS (my elementary school then walked around the neighborhood
- Stopped for food at 7/11 and iL Mercato
- Walked around the back of my old apartment to the local markets
- Zipped back to the airport and headed to Tokyo
- Head to the AirBnb via Bus from Narita Airport
- Dinner at Tavern on S at the NEWoMan Food Hall
- Wandered around Shinjuku and explored Taito Station arcades and nightlife
- Up at 5AM because JETLAG
- Go out for breakfast at St. Marc, a local chain with sugary baked goods. This was the only breakfasty food we could find so we loaded up on coffee and chocolate croissants here.
- Wandered around the Shinjuku malls (there are so many and they all connect!) – Tokyu hands, Lumine, Lumine 2.0, Lumine 3, Takashimaya, NEWoMan
- Made our way to the Shinjuku Gyo-en. Japanese gardens are nothing like ones in the West. Many of the ones we visited are all natural and very forest-like. It was cool to step out of the city and into the wild in just a few minutes.
- Din Tai Fung for lunch. This was #1 on my Asia to-do list haha. There was an hour wait so we stopped at an empty Belgian restaurant that was only playing Taylor Swift’s Fearless album (love) for a quick beer.
- Explored Golden Gai to kill time. This is a MUST in Tokyo. I’ve never seen anything like it! Rumor is that it’s all going to be shut down before the Olympics so if you’re heading to Tokyo, be sure to check it out!
- Robot Restaurant…. I wish we had not gone. It was SO TACKY and shabby, but this was on every single Tokyo Must See list so we went. If you don’t go, you’re not missing out. It was a good way to keep us awake during our jetlag though.
- We were so tired that we went back to the Airbnb to take a nap
- Back out for Ramen at a place just around the corner from us: Machida-ya, a very local spot that was not super foreigner-friendly. The broth was amazing and the counter was filled with local businessmen on their way home from work.
- We had planned to go back to Golden Gai, but we were too tired and just went to sleep!
- Tried somewhere new for breakfast. On the other side of the NEWoMan mall was Boulange, which actually ended up having a similar sugary pastry selection as St Marc.
- We needed more coffee so we stopped at Toraya Cafe in the same mall
- That day, our goal was to head to the Google office – a 1.5 hour walk through residential areas, quiet back streets, and along a highway.
- We hung out at Google and got lunch there. There was a Western food cafeteria and a Japanese food cafeteria.
- Stopped at Zara to get a skirt – it was TOO HOT for skinny jeans
- Then we took the train to Odaiba to explore
- Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari – a bathing hot spring water park. I knew I wanted to go here, but the website was very unhelpful. You get to change into a traditional Yukata (keep your underwear on!) and then head to the pools. We did a fish foot pool where they eat off your dead skin. It was an extra fee and a VERY unsettling feeling.
- Walked along the malls – Boardwalk Mall, Aqua City, VenusFort
- Dinner at Gogo Curry
- Explored small street-side bars in Shinjuku
- Breakfast at St Marc again
- At this point, everything we had done was very modern and we were ready to soak in some traditional architecture and nature so we headed to the Meji Shrine and the surrounding Yoyogi Park. This was another all-natural style park that is far different than anything I’ve seen in NYC or my travels. The park was Eugen’s favorite part of all of Tokyo. It was HUGE and you could spend hours just wandering down different paths. During our exploration, we stumbled upon a dojo (yes an actual dojo) and saw a traditional Kyūdō training taking place (archery).
- There was little to no food in the surrounding area so we made our way towards Harajuku and got ramen at a random chain place
- Shopping at Cat Street, Takeshita-dori, Omote-sandō
- Then we walked to Shibuya Crossing which was a mad house. Definitely cool to see, but coming from NYC, it was not as awe-inspiring as expected. I’d defintiely recommend going up to the Starbucks at Shibuya crossing to get a view looking down at the pedestrians.
- We stopped at a belt sushi restaurant (I believe called Neo Emotion)
- We played at a nearby Taito Station
- Went out for drinks at Golden Gai, the famous “tiny bar” neighborhood. After walking through the whole place, there were so many bars to choose from, but we ended up at the ‘Not Suspicous Bar‘ – you have to check this place out!
- Day trip to Mount Fuji! There happened to be a storm the night before we went so a lot of the pieces of the trip had to be cancelled due to trees on the ground blocking the roads, but we still had a good time!
- Lake Ashi Cruise
- Lunch at Oshina Ninja Village
- Hakone Shrine
- Narukawa Art Museum
- Bullet Train back into Tokyo
- Dinner at Ichiran (our new favorite!) We go now in NYC, but it’s twice as expensive here
- At night, we went back to Golden Gai to try some new bars.
- Our best discovery: Jonathan’s. After 5 days of seeking a nice hearty breakfast, we finally found this gem. Think Denny’s but with some Japanese foods and “free flow” bottomless non-alcoholic beverages for less than $5! Who goes to Japan and eats at a place called Jonathan’s you may ask. Two hungry Americans in need of a big breakfast and LOTS of coffee!
- Tsukiji fish market
- Tea session in Hamarikyu Gardens. It was SWELTERING HOT that day and like a crazy person, I decided to get hot tea. There is NO AC at the tea house – beware.
- Ramen lunch at another random place
- We then walked to Senso-ji and people watched with pastries and shaved ice
- I made Eugen stop at a dollar store to pick up some funny things with messed up English for my parents. See: Engrish
- High Five Bar – The CLASSIEST bar I have ever been to. Don’t let the neighborhood, elevator bank, or entryway fool you. This place is CLASSY. Once you enter the small bar underground, you are given personal attention from an individual host who designs a cocktail for you with the help of the head mixologist (a mysterious and silent figure who never spoke or made eye contact with anyone). It was clear that all the hosts revered the mixologist and were at her command. Eugen and I each had two custom cocktails with liquors from the local region. This place is definitely in my top 3 recommendations for other visitors. Writing this up now, I just found out that it has been rated one of the top bars in the world multiple times. No surprise.
- That night we headed to the club ALife at 10PM which we thought was reasonable, but was very early. We were some of the first people to arrive. We had read online about fees at the door and drink tickets, but they let us in for free with three drink tickets each! We had a really great time there. The vibe was VERY different than clubs in NYC and it was a good time, but girls beware of men there. I would not go back without Eugen with me. And even with him there, I was grabbed and treated inappropriately by other guests. The setting makes it impossible to catch your attackers so I highly recommend you go in fully prepared. I read this exact thing before I went in and I still didn’t believe it. So read up before you go out and prepare yourselves ladies!
- We kicked off the day at Jonathans again for breakfast
- Shinjuku is filled with shopping malls so we walked around and got gifts for friends and family
- At the top floors of each mall, there is a food hall either with restaurants or food stalls. We grabbed some shaved ice and enjoyed people watching for a half hour.
- Got our bus tickets to head to the airport
- Ordered Din Tai Fung to go
- Went back to Harajuku to get some more gifts
- Dinner at Golden Brown – an American restaurant where we saw everyone eating their burgers with a FORK AND KNIFE. They were all giving us weird looks for using our hands hahaha.
- Stocked up on plane snacks at 7/11
- Last morning at Jonathan’s with free flow (never forget!)
- Head to Shinjuku Station to meet our Airport bus to Narita
- Said bye to Tokyo! Hope to be back soon ❤
- We had another layover in Taiwan. Their airport is so amazing. There is a new wing with a gym, library and different themed seating areas (one of which is a soup dumpling room).
- Hop back on the plane to NYC