tokyo-do

Mandarake

You don’t have to go all the way to Akihabara to see cosplay. Mandarake is the largest second-hand manga shop in Tokyo, also housing anything to do with anime. Staff can often be spotted dressed up in wigs and full costumes – get involved.

  • +81 3 3477 0777
  • Go to Website
  • B2F Shibuya Beam
    31-2 Udagawachoi
    Shibuya-ku
    150-0042

Yayoi Kusama Museum

One of Japan’s most high-profile artists, Yayoi Kusama’s lavish polka-dot style has popped up at exhibitions in capital cities across the globe. The artist now has more permanent lodgings for her eye-popping pumpkins, mirror rooms and dazzling installations, in central Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighbourhood, just a short stroll from the psychiatric institution where Kusama has voluntarily resided for 40 years. Despite the minimalist exterior of the building, the displays inside are – in true Kusama style – anything but. Tickets must be bought in advance and go on sale on the first day of each month for entry the following month (purchasable only via the museum website). All booking slots are for 90 minutes, and the museum is open Thursday to Sunday, including national holidays.

Yakatanbune

A party boat with class, yakatabune are Japanese-style historic wooden boats which sail the Tokyo Bay and Sumida River area. The boats interiors feature tatami mat floors and paper lanterns, which work to create an atmosphere of Edo-Period Tokyo – a nod to when these boats thrived as entertainment for rich merchants and samurai warriors. For first-time visitors, this is a great way to take in some of Tokyo’s most iconic skyline attractions, and tick lunch or dinner off your list in the process. Cruises depart from a variety of areas in the city, depending on your selected route.

Mario Kart Tour

Several companies in the capital offer unofficially branded, Mario-style go-kart tours of the city, allowing you to take to the streets and re-enact your favourite scenes. Tours are guided so there’s no concern about getting lost in the city’s seemingly infinite maze of streets. Most last between one and a half to three hours and dressing up is optional –  costumes are provided for an additional rental fee. You’ll need to show evidence of your driver’s license to take part.

  • +81 80 8899 8899
  • Go to Website
  • 4-12-9 Sotokanda
    Chiyoda Ward
    101-0021

Origami Kaikan

A shop, gallery and workshop combination, this is the one-stop destination for origami fans and those wanting to learn. The artisan origami displayed and sold here goes well beyond the simplicity of paper cranes, while craft lovers will adore the third floor, dedicated to reams of origami paper in varying colours, sold from fabric-like rolls. Beginners’ origami lessons take place daily on the upper floors for around 1,000 yen (£7).

Nezu Museum

Down a bamboo-lined pathway (designed by Kengo Kuma, the architect behind the 2020 Olympic Stadium) leading visitors away from the bustle of Omotesando you’ll find the Nezu Museum. Its tranquil confines houses 7,400 artefacts and National Treasures from Japan’s history. The Japanese garden, with winding paths and small bridges as well as teahouses, is not to be missed either.

  • +81 3 3400 2536
  • Go to Website
  • 6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama
    Minato-ku
    107-0062

Oedo Antiques Market

Held on the first and third Sunday of every month between 9am and 4pm, this is one of the largest open-air markets in Japan (it features over 250 dealers) and is the place for picking up things like kimonos, which can be extortionate first-hand. The women in the stalls will let you know if you have gone for the wrong style − a man’s kimono or one meant for staff − and point you towards a more suitable one, such as long-drop sleeves signifying an unmarried women. Another great thing to keep an eye out for are the soba bowls – Japanese sets traditionally have five bowls, so you can get a set of four for next to nothing.

  • +81 3 6407 6011
  • Tokyo International Forum
    3-5-1 Marunouchi
    Chiyoda-ku
    100-0005

Tower Records

This is Tokyo’s largest record shop, catering to the younger generation’s enthusiasm for music, particularly vintage records. Tower Records also has a novelty café which is Rilakkuma themed (a famous Japanese toy bear). Rice dishes come in the shape of a bear on a yellow pillow of omelette and even the teas and coffees have Rilakkuma on them.

T-Site

Bookshops are booming in Tokyo. Tsutaya has branches all around Japan but the mothership, T-Site, is located in Daikanyama. Incorporating a packed restaurant (Ivy Place), a music library within three beautifully designed buildings and a mini park, you could and should spend hours here. There are magazines from all over the world to peruse with your coffee, music of every genre can be listened to in Italian leather armchairs and the restaurant has an amazing flatbread selection. The only setback is that you have to book if you want to eat.

  • +81 3 6415 3232
  • Go to Website
  • 17-15 Sarugaku-cho
    Shibuya-ku
    150-0033

Visit a Sumo Stable

Visiting a sumo stable provides an insight into sumo-wrestling culture without devoting a whole day at a tournament – while beautiful events bound by tradition, it’s easy to lose interest if it’s not your passion. But wrestlers at a stable start as early as 6am, with training finishing by 8am. You’ll sit right behind the trainer, probably smoking and shouting at the wrestlers, and often just as interesting as the athletes. You are expected to bring a small gift from your home country as a thank you for being allowed to spectate, so come prepared.

Maid Café

Maid cafés are the perfect way to get some exposure of the Kawaii or “cute” culture in Tokyo. The girls are dressed as maids and sing to your food to make it taste better. If it is especially busy then they’ll  dance too. Do not go on an empty stomach as the food is usually fairly disgusting, as are the drinks – but it is all about the experience. A seating charge is about £3 and limited to an hour – which is usually more than enough.

  • +81 3 5846 1616
  • Go to Website
  • 4F-7F Mitsuwa Building
    1-11-4 Soto-Kanda
    Chiyoda-ku
    101-0021

Mandarake

Oedo Antiques Fair

Tower Records

T-Site

Maid Café

Yayoi Kusama Museum

Yakatanbune

Mario Kart Tour

Origami Kaikan

Nezu Museum

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