It’s here: The 2018 Tokyo Game Show. The video game expo of video game expos, hosted in the heart of the mecca of geekdom. For those of you traveling halfway across the globe for a visit, I’ve enlisted knowledge gained from yearly visits to Japan to put together this handy guide to places you must visit, foods you must try, and shows you must experience if you’re in town for TGS!
First and foremost, if you are planning on spending more than just a few days over in Tokyo, I highly encourage you to purchase the JR RAIL PASS. For less than $300 for 7 days, you get a ticket to ride any JR trains which includes the Shinkansen AKA the bullet train. This will allow you to get out of Tokyo and check out other cities like the very traditional Kyoto, the lively Osaka, the peace park in Hiroshima, the originators of Tonkotsu Hakata Ramen in Fukuoka and so much more…. In a much shorter amount of time. On average, a one-way bullet train ticket to any of these places can easily cost you $150. So it’s quite a steal and only available to tourists! More on that later….
For now, let’s chat Tokyo. If you’ve never been to Tokyo — all the things you heard of, the crazy Shibuya crossing, the electric town of Akihabara, the eclectic fashionistas of Harajuku — everything you’ve heard is probably an understatement. The city screams futuristic technological intrigue.
Ninja Akasaka – Is a must-try. You must make reservations beforehand. Be prepared to be guided deep into the old world of Ninjas and plates and drinks themed for the darkest of assassins.
Penguin Bar in Ikebukuro – If you’re a fascinated by marine wild life like myself, you’ll probably enjoy having some Sapporo on tap hanging out with some cute chilled out penguins
Maid Cafe (All over Akihabara) – Once you get off the Akihabara train stop and walk around the area, you will certainly be stopped by some overly Kawaii maids tempting you to try out one of their cafes. Expect a maid or two to coddle you with love, feed you, and entertain you with some games that they will purposely lose at to make you feel like the champion that you are.
Coco Ichibanya (Curry House chain) – Do go here if you like Japanese curry. Pick your meats & vegetables and top it off with some curry rating from spicy level 1-10. Beware: I have a high spicy threshold but 5 was killing me!
Tsukiji Fish Market – If you love sushi, sashimi, and seafood that’s fresh as hell this is a MUST. Plan to wake up around 5AM to catch the early train to taste the freshest catches of the day and even check out some fish auctions.
Fluffy Pancakes in Shibuya – Find these overly fluffy and marshmallow textured pancakes in your mouth! They aren’t too sweet, aren’t too bland. They are just right.
Eorzea Cafe Tokyo – If you’re a Final Fantasy buff, this is the place to visit to drink potions, hang out with moogles, and enjoy a brief time in Fantasy all while listening to FF scores pumped through the cafe’s speakers.
Other Gaming Cafes – There’s also the Gundam Cafe for those who like a side of giant mechs with their order, the Pokemon Cafe for fans of pocket-sized monsters, and the Capcom Bar (we recommend the Resident Evil brain!)
Let’s talk about some of the activities:
The Robot Restaurant in Tokyo. Photo: Chris McGrath [Getty Images]
Mari Cart – Not quite Mario Kart, but also…definitely Mario Kart. You get to ride go carts on an actual guided tour through Tokyo – but before getting into your cart you get to pick your character and dress up! Make sure you cross Rainbow Bridge, yes – the real Rainbow road. Last thing I’m going to say about this: It’s crazy!
Shinjuku Robot Show – Book this in advance. This is a mix of a carnival and high tech insanity that has been all the rage since it started. It is a MUST-SEE, you will never have another experience like it.
Asakusa Shrine – Buddhism and Shintoism lie deep in the heart of Japanese culture and though you may pass by many temples and shrines, Asakusa is a great place for visitors as they have many souvenir shops, and a breathtaking shrine to send out some prayers.
Tokyo Sky Tree – Yup, I place this relatively new building over the Tokyo Tower. It has an amazing 360 view of Tokyo at the top and a mini mall which includes a pretty sick aquarium.
Mount Fuji – Of COURSE I’m going to mention Fuji-san. Climbing season may be over (as it may be too cold) but you can still take a tour bus up to station 5 to hit the mid level of the mountain and have another gorgeous and serene view of Tokyo and surrounding areas.
Tokyo DisneySea – If you’re a Disney fanatic you’ll love this entirely sea-themed Disney park. Theme park experiences are uniquely fun in Tokyo due to Kawaii – that distinctly Japanese trait of giving yourself over entirely to things simply based on their overwhelming cuteness. When the Japanese go to theme parks, they go hard.
Shopping in Harajuku – The ultimate place to get your fashion fix, to browse unique styles, grab epic souvenirs. Walk a little further along to the Shibuya stop and catch a lot more stores and shops including Don Quijote (a chain). Don Quijote is equivalent to our Target. Floors and floors of electronics, foods, and anything you can think of. Another great place for souvenir shopping … Or personal shopping.
Oedo Onsen – If you’re wanting to try the traditional Japanese Hot Springs… Well this isn’t the place but it’s a great option for Tokyo. It’s by the bay of Tokyo Odaiba, bathe and soothe your muscles in this relaxing environment. You’ll feel like a new person!
Anata no Warehouse in Kawasaki – A little far outside of Tokyo but this arcade made up to look like a dystopian, cyberpunk version of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City has to be seen to be believed.
Akihabara – The electric town where you can find aisles of shops of electronic trinkets from chargers, adapters, consoles, toys, etc… at sometimes bargain prices. Hard to find items and gems stateside are easily found here. Take advantage!
Hedgehog Cafes, Bunny Cafes, Cat Cafes, Dog Cafes… If you like your cafes to include domesticated animals, these will recharge your kawaii energy. Yes, they’re real. I have proof:
As for the Museums, there are so many but here are some of my personal favorites:
The Ghibli Museum – Recently renovated, if you’re a Miyazaki fan (Castles In The Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle, etc…) then you MUST come here to check out all the greatest Studio Ghibli animation exhibits on display.
Edo Museum – You may not think of visiting this place as a typical tourist but it marks the history of Tokyo (formerly Edo) from how the emperor lived vs. Samurais and townspeople. It’s also situated right next to the Sumo wrestling stadium, Ryogoku Kokugikan, where you can catch a sumo wrestling event.
Ueno Park – Which has about 6 museums surrounding the area including the National Tokyo Museum. The National Museum of Nature and Science, where you’ll find Hachiko stuffed and exhibited. He’s a legendary Japanese dog who would always meet his master and wait at the Shibuya train station … even after his Master’s untimely death (the Hachiko statue is at the Shibuya crossing).
Doraemon Museum in Kasawaki – Doraemon is Mickey Mouse for the Japanese. Learn about how he got created and how the artist Fujiko F. Fujio defined anime and comics through early influences.
Ramen Museum in Yokohama – Experience either the traditional ramen museum with samples of ramen from different regions (one stop shop)! Or the Cup Noodle Ramen museum where you can design your very own Cup Noodle!
As you can see, talking Tokyo is a passion for me and I am always happy to point you towards the right direction or hand out some recommendations. Note that if you are able to take some extra time outside of Tokyo, the JR Pass will save you time and money. Keeping it short, places worth seeing with the JR Pass are:
The Hiroshima Peace Park. Photo: Buddhika Weerasinghe [Getty Images]
Osaka and the famous Dotombori (You may even get stopped to be in a Japanese game show) and the Osaka Castle
Kamakura for the shrines and temples
Fox Village in Zao
Hiroshima Peace Park and the Miyajima Shrine
Nara and the Deer Park
Kyoto which serves as the most traditional hot spot in Japan and even has a Monkey Park
And so much more… Please feel free to check out my channel and subscribe for some more in depth visit experiences and follow me on IG and Twitter @Kaorious to drop off some questions in the DM! Trust me, I have so much more info I’d love to share!