It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Japan – and particularly Tokyo. For those of you who don’t know – I’m half Japanese! I grew up in Arizona, but have always felt a super strong connection to my Japanese side and loved watching my grandmother make sushi and rice balls in her kitchen as a kid. Being in Tokyo was almost an out of body experience – everything was so unique, different, eye catching…special. I kept saying “wow wow wow” at every corner, at every meal, at every little detail.
The one thing I will say before visiting is that, despite having Japanese heritage and having traveled quite a bit to foreign countries, I was actually intimidated to visit Japan! I was worried because I didn’t speak the language and am directionally challenged so thought I’d get lost and feel a bit frazzled while I was there! I was very pleasantly surprised that everything was a lot more peaceful and easy than I originally thought. The Japanese are so polite, quiet, and friendly which makes you feel very calm walking around the city – there really isn’t a sense of “chaos” that I envisioned despite the millions of people living in Tokyo.
The one thing I will say, is that just “popping into a restaurant” or stumbling upon on a cool park/museum/sight isn’t quite like it would be in cities such as NYC, Paris, or London…things are a bit more spread out in Tokyo and there are just SO many spots to see/try so you should absolutely have a general game plan/itinerary of places organized by neighborhood each day. Here are the places we LOVED on our trip! PS I’m almost done adding the TOKYO + KYOTO section to my Travel App which will have even more details! Oh, and PPS if you missed my Japan Vlog you can watch it here!
Tokyo Travel Guide
Add these to your Tokyo itinerary:
We stayed at the beautiful Park Hyatt Tokyo located in the Shinjuku District. This was where the movie Lost in Translation was filmed! The service was impeccable, the breakfast every morning was delicious, and their iconic New York Bar and Grill restaurant is a MUST whether you’re staying there or not. Listen to live music and sip champagne on the 52nd floor overlooking the city.
We just barely missed cherry blossom season as it came so early this year – but this gorgeous garden had some of the last vibrant cherry blossom trees to admire. It also had a beautiful lake and was just really peaceful to wander around.
You can’t go to Tokyo without crossing the world’s largest intersection! What an experience!!!!! Apparently there are a ton of great bars and restaurants in Shibuya – but we opted to hang in Harajuku mostly which I’ll talk about next…
If you head to the train station on a Sunday after lunch you may be lucky enough to spot the colorful Harajuku girls! This area has fabulous shopping and loads of yummy restaurants! We walked from Shibuya Crossing to Harajuku – so easy and pleasant.
Located right next to Harajuku – this was my favorite neighborhood. It felt like Nolita or a little bit of Le Marais in Paris… such darling flower shops, boutiques, some of the best restaurants! We had lunch at the yummiest place called SEIKOUAN.
Wander around this cool neighborhood for vintage stores, coffee shops, pubs and a more downtown/grunge feel. It’s dubbed as the Williamsburg of Tokyo which is spot on.
Yoyogi Park + Meiji Shrine
Walk to the Yoyogi Park where you’ll find the stunning Meiji Shrine. Write down 5 wishes or prayers and have them transcribed onto beautiful wooden plaques…you may have seen me do this in my Japan vlog. Truly a special moment.
Wake up SUPER early to explore the iconic Tsukiji Fish Market (some recommend getting a guide!) and enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast while you’re there.
Do some damage shopping around the Ginza District. It’s home to all of the best designer shops and just a really chic neighborhood to stroll around! Head to the top of Barney’s New York which has several amazing restaurants… we enjoyed a traditional teppanyaki meal at KAIKA which was expensive, but SO worth it for the private ambiance, presentation and food quality.
Eat Ramen at Tokyo Station
The train stations oddly have the best ramen!!! That’s what everyone told us and it was true! The train stations are very clean there and I highly recommend getting a J ticket and taking it to explore different neighborhoods.