10 Unmissable Tokyo Experiences for When Borders Open


In our very first instalment of #TheLatchLiftOff travel series, we’re bringing you the best-of-the-best of places to stay, eat, go and see when it comes to Japan’s capital.

Previously, we showed you the best places to stay in Tokyo, Japan, and now, we’re bringing you the ultimate itinerary of unmissable Tokyo experiences.

From kooky robot cafes and Instagram-worthy art exhibits, these are the experiences that will leave you with a lasting impression of Japan’s most populous city, and have you planning your next trip back in no time.

1. Mori Art Museum

The Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills showcases modern art exhibitions in a vast variety of mediums, though the large-scale sculptures are what tend to garner the most tourist attention.

The quiet gallery is a great place to retreat to on a hot or chilly day, though the museum’s location on the 53rd floor of a city highrise presents another epic opportunity. A ticket to the exhibition on show also grants you access to the indoor observation deck, which showcases a 180° view of Tokyo’s skyline from 250m up.

Source: Mori Art Museum

2. High-end Shopping in Ginza

You’ll come across countless shopping boutiques and large malls while just walking around Tokyo, but should you wish to dedicate a day to shopping, there’s really no better district than Ginza, which is also Tokyo’s most expensive area.

Here, you’ll be spoilt for choice with multi-level malls, high-end boutiques, and luxury designer flagships. We recommend stopping by Ginza SIX — a designer complex with over 240 stores, the 12-storey Uniqlo, Dover Street Market, and Ginza Itoya — an 18-floor stationery store that will delight crafty types.

ginza shopping guide
Source: Getty Images

3. Sit Down to a Solo Ramen

Ichiran ramen isn’t just delicious, but it’s also encouraging of solo dining, which is great for those who like to devour their big old bowls of soup in silence, and without the judgy eyes of those who might criticise the sheer number of noodles you’re trying to stuff into your mouth in one go.

Before you sit down for lunch, dinner or breakfast (yes, I said breakfast), you’re given a slip of paper — a quiz, almost, that helps you design the perfect ramen for you based on broth richness, noodle texture, chilli levels, and garlic cloves (a full clove is best).

You’ll then dine at a counter flanked by partitions that block you off from the person next to you, eliminating the need for conversation completely. Your ramen magically appears from the kitchen through a shute in front of you, before the shute is closed and you’re left to enjoy your ramen without interruptions.

Source: Getty Images

4. Tsukiji Fish Markets

Tsukiji Outer Market is a maze of stalls adjacent to the site of the former Tsukiji Wholesale Market, where fishmongers would auction off huge tuna for thousands of dollars. Head down here in the early morning with an empty stomach and a pocket full of yen and peruse the stalls for some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever have.

Sashimi aside, you’ll also find both sweet and savoury treats impossible to pass up. Look out for sweet egg omelettes on a stick, corn croquettes, and Daifuku (cream-filled mochi with fresh strawberries).

Source: Getty Images

5. Team Lab Borderless

You’ve no doubt seen the snaps circulating your Instagram feed, and now with your trip to Tokyo comes the chance to view this extraordinary exhibition for yourself.

The Team Lab Borderless digital art museum is a 10,000sqm multi-sensory experience best covered over a few hours of curious exploration with plenty of phone battery.

Book your ticket during the week to limit the number of other tourists, and explore the labyrinth of rooms as the digital projections follow you, light your way forward and respond to your movements.

Source: TeamLab Borderless

6. Streets and Treats of Harujuku

The streets that make up Harajuku are vast and packed full of Japanese sweet treats, shopping boutiques and Japan paraphernalia; it’s the centre of ‘kawaii’ culture (that’s Japanese for cute, by the way), and it would be near-impossible to cover this bustling neighbourhood in just one day — but that won’t stop you from trying.

Start at the top of Takeshita Street and make your way down, sampling desserts like giant cotton candy, rainbow cheese toast, dessert crepes and Croquant Chou Zakuzaku (Google it). Then wind your way into the back streets for boutique shopping.

The popular Kawaii Monster Cafe is also located here, and while some might call it a tourist trap, those who are looking for a loud and colourful experience might just love it.

Source: Getty Images

7. Real-life Mario Kart

Nintendo fans will surely freak at this rare opportunity to dress up like gaming characters and drive the streets of the Akihabara and Shibuya districts in real-life go-karts.

It’s a pretty cool albeit very touristy thing to do, but undoubtedly unique to Tokyo and a fantastic experience for fans of the iconic game. Just remember to get your international driver’s licence at home before you head to Japan to avoid being disappointed.

Source: Getty Images

8. Drink Up at Golden Gai

This clutch of six narrow alleyways in the back streets of Shinjuku is home to more than 200 tiny bars, most of which seat fewer than 10 patrons. Enter through tiny doors on street level or climb narrow staircases to the bars upstairs.

Nowadays, western tourists have caught onto the magic of this Showa-era maze. As a result, some bar owners will ask for a cover charge, while others won’t let patrons in entirely. We recommend Albatross, which welcomes anyone and asks for no cover.

Following a night of bar-hopping, follow the bright lights to the main roads of Shinjuku and seek out a karaoke bar for an early-morning sing-a-long.

Source: Getty Images

9. Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park

Located between Harajuku and Shibuya, the huge green haven that is Yoyogi Park is a beautiful way to escape the concrete jungle and get back to nature. Pick up some beers from the 7/11 before taking a long stroll and perching in the park for afternoon drinks in the sun — Tokyo locals can be found doing just this on a weekend afternoon.

Meiji-jingu Shrine sits adjacent to the park and is a must for anyone who wants to see a more traditional and historic side to the ancient city. Enter through the towering torii gates and explore quietly on foot.

Source: Getty Images

10. Shibuya Crossing

A whopping 2.4 million people pass through Shibuya station each day in Tokyo, and as many as 2,500 pedestrians make their way across Shibuya Crossing each time the pedestrian light goes green.

There’s no real way to describe how tiny this can make a tourist feel, but it’s perhaps best experienced either by viewing the crossing in action from a high vantage point, or walking it a few times yourself.

Source: Getty Images

Now you know where to stay and what to do, it only makes sense you head on over to Japan’s capital. Lucky for you, The Latch has teamed up with Virgin Australia to give away two return flights to Tokyo.

To win, simply tell us in 25 words or less, ‘Where in Tokyo are you most excited to visit and why?’

And then start planning your trip, with what you need to know before climbing Mount Fuji  and this is the only way to get a table at Jiro’s famous Tokyo restaurant.

WIN Return Flights to Tokyo with Virgin Australia and The Latch

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