7 Places You Must Visit In Tokyo

“I wonder if you know
How they live in Tokyo
If you seen it then you mean it
Then you know you have to go” 

That is one catchy song. I remember singing along and dancing to the song a few years ago when it was released as a theme song for Fast & Furious – Tokyo Drift . It wasn’t a bad movie too. But I used to have a huge mild crush on Vin Diesel, so I might be biased.

Tokyo. What an incredible city. It is where my Japan trip starts and where it ends.

Buzzing city, crowded street, neon lights, skyscrapers, swanky malls, crazy costumes, high-end fashion and the unparalleled public transportation system. Tokyo is as I imagined it to be and more! It definitely is one of the most amazing cities on earth. Here’s my list of 7 Places You Must Visit In Tokyo, if you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip there. Take me!!

1. Ginza

For the first few days in Tokyo we stayed in Ginza. We were only meant to stay there for 2 nights but we gave ourselves an extra night. Obviously this has nothing to do with the massage chair in my hotel room, or the amazing aerial view of Tokyo. I may or may not spent 30 minutes each night at the massage chair.

Ginza was very convenient and central to the major attractions I wanted to see, such as the Tsukiji market, the high street shopping and eateries at Yurakucho. I was there Christmas 2013, and during the early evening and night, the Christmas lights come on, bringing an amazing spirit of festivity to the area. I even saw Santa(s) racing through in motorbikes.

Only in Japan


 Beautiful Christmas lights





View From the hotel room… at night


And during the day…


2. Sensoji Temple

Located in Asakusa, this is one of the most popular temples in Tokyo. It is so colourful and majestic and I love the busy shopping street which leads from the outer gate to the second gate of the temple. It is 200 meters long and you’ll find tons of Japanese souvenirs, traditional food and snacks here. The temple itself is spectacular but the shopping street…bloody awesome!






3. Tokyo National Museum

I love museums so I’m probably a bit biased, but I love Tokyo National Museum.

It is the oldest and the largest museum in Japan. It has so many interesting traditional pieces and wonderful display. Although there’s hardly any English translation on many of the displays, it gives you some insights into early Japan. The exhibits comprise of old Japanese artworks, potteries, paintings, and other significant historical artifacts such as Samurai armour and swords.

The walk to the museum itself is quite scenic as it is situated in Ueno Park (right next to Ueno station). I came during winter but if you come in March or April, you will be greeted with lots of cherry blossoms as the park has more than 1000 cherry trees lining its central pathway.

Tokyo Museum



Old man playing a traditional musical instrument at the park. A cool sight.

Man playing traditional string instrument

Tokyo Museum

Tokyo Museum

Tokyo Museum

Tokyo Museum

4. Shibuya

It’s like being inside an MTV music video with all the music, the neon lights, the giant video screens and the flood of pedestrians crossing the intersection every time the traffic lights turn green. The city is very lively with tons of shopping centres and entertainment quarters, as well as some really nice restaurants and cafes.

I stayed in Shibuya for about a week and I absolutely love it! For me it was the perfect place to stay as a base while venturing Tokyo and its surrounding spots. I stayed at the Excel Tokyu Hotel right above the Mark City and the Shibuya station and I found it to be very handy and convenient, not to mention that I get the view of the famous Shibuya pedestrian crossing from the hotel.

Yes. They have rooftop futsal!

Shibuya rooftop soccer field

The famous Shibuya scramble crossing

Shibuya crossing


Shibuya’s street view from hotel room


Outside the Shibuya Station lies a bronze statue which has become one of Tokyo’s most popular meeting points. It is a statue dedicated to a dog named Hachiko. If you don’t know who Hachiko is and haven’t seen and balled your eyes out over the English remake Hachi: A Dog’s Tale then I recommend you do some research, borrow the DVD and watch this amazing heartwarming tale of loyalty and love.

Hachiko is a Japanese ‘Akita’ who became a national hit in the 1930s because of his incredible loyalty to his owner, even long after his owner’s death. Hachiko waited at the Shibuya Station every day for its owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor of agriculture at the University of Tokyo, to return from work. One day the professor didn’t return as he had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died. Hachiko continued to wait for the professor, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station each day for the next ten years.

Love and loyalty, something we all can learn from Hachi.

Hachiko Statue in front of Shibuya Station


5. Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree is a new landmark of Tokyo (built in early 2012) and is the tallest building in Japan with a height of 634 meters. It offers a spectacular view of Japan. We went there. Twice. We went there just before Christmas and on New Year’s day – bad move. At both times it was so overcrowded with people and we had to wait for hours before we could even start queuing up to get tickets to the observation deck.We ended up hanging around the shopping complex Solamachi located at the base of the Skytree. It probably would have been one of the best things we did IF we got up there but it was cold and windy so we gave it a miss. It is definitely on my to do list the next time I visit Tokyo (hopefully in summer next time).

Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree

6. Harajuku and Omotesando Hills

Even if you don’t feel like shopping, just walking around the streets lined with cool and trendy shops that’s uniquely Japanese is quite a treat in itself. I walked from Shibuya to Omotesando through the famous ‘Cat Street’ but you can always catch a train to Harajuku station. The whole area is fashion-crazy and is very teen and pop culture -focused, though you can find some high end fashion labels around Omotesando Hills too.

You could literally spend one full day here just browsing all the different shops. I missed going to Daiso (the 100 yen store) but it was probably good for me as I would have bought the entire store.

Not sure what the speech bubble means but I thought it’s a cool display.

Louis Vuitton Tokyo


Sale, sale and more sale



Street food!



7. Akihabara

If you’re a tech-geek, a gamer or a manga-lover, then you’d absolutely go nuts here. Though I’m a recovering game/manga-nerd, I couldn’t help but get really excited when I see a human-sized Gundam robot in the Gundam Cafe. This place is like an electro maze. Everywhere you go, the streets are lined with shop after shop of games, computer parts and electronic gadgets. There’s a lot of cosplay on the streets, mainly young girls dressing up as sexy maids promoting maid cafe. Something that you will never see anywhere else in the world.

Anime everywhere!



If you’re also a food-nerd, make sure you check out Chabara near the JR Akihabara station. It’s an awesome market full of fresh produce and tons of Japanese foods, including some very delicious vegan foods. There’s tons of free samples for tasting and the staff are very helpful when it comes to checking what’s in (or not in) each product, since everything is in Japanese. Let’s just say that I bought enough Japanese coated peanuts to last me a lifetime.




So there you go! Hope this inspires you to out and about in Tokyo… not that you need any convincing!

What’s the first thing will you do in Tokyo? I’d suggest trying out their bidet. It’s lifechanging!

Japan Travel Tips For Vegan

When I booked for my Japan trip, I was still a full blown omnivore foodie. I remember being so excited at the thought of eating some of freshest and finest sushi and sashimi from the Tsukiji fish market, indulging in authentic omurice and okonomiyaki, splurging on Kobe beef, and lining up to get my hands on the best ramen Tokyo has to offer. Japanese food has been one of my favourite cuisines of all time and it was my life long dream to go to Japan to eat… and eat some more. 


This has been somewhat a moral dilemma ever since I decided to make a lifestyle change and go plant-based (i.e., free from all animal products) a few months ago. A few people have suggested that maybe I should ‘take a break’ during the holiday, compromise and become a pescetarian instead or ‘postpone’ it until after the new year. The thought did cross my mind. It will make my trip a lot easier and less complicated. I’m still only a few months into this diet, and plus, it will make a really good new year resolution.


Being a pescetarian during the trip may seem to be a good compromise, because even though I have a clear stance on not eating land animals and their products (i.e. meat, dairy and egg), I am still not sure how I feel toward the ocean creatures, especially oysters, prawns, clams and sashimi.

Sure, I could try to rationalise and justify it however I like but at the end of the day the only person who will have to live with that decision is me. So, I had to do what I feels right, and just to what I can. Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you can’t do something, anything. It’s how I got started into this whole vegan thing. I don’t see why I should stop just because it’s a holiday.


What I can do is to be as prepared as much as I can and put myself in favourable situations as much as possible. I knew that it would be a real challenge but I couldn’t give up without trying.

So, I researched online to get as much information as I could. printed all the vegan-friendly restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto (the two main cities I visited), learned some basic Japanese, made some translation cards and then prayed for a smooth trip.

Of course, it’s not a real travel adventure without several mishaps and unexpected obstacles. Let’s face it, it’s not easy travelling with a dietary preference or peculiarity or restriction as others may see it, regardless where you go. Finding vegan food can be challenging in your own hometown, let alone in a place where you don’t read or speak the language and have no clue where you’re going. Not the mention that Japan is probably one of the least friendly places for vegetarians, let alone vegans.

Getting vegan food in Japan is particularly challenging due to a few cultural uniqueness:

  1. Japanese diet is fish-based. So, Japanese food commonly contain fish or fish-derived products. You can run away from sushi but you can’t hide from dashi; a cooking stock made using shavings of preserved bonito fish. They’re everywhere. In sauces, salad dressing, miso soup, everything.
  2. Japanese writes in Japanese – as in Japanese characters, not alphabets. Common sense stuff I know, but I was expecting to see many English translations like in many Asian countries. I was wrong. Unless you can read Japanese, checking to see if food labels or restaurant menu contain egg, milk, meat, fish and any other animal products is almost impossible.
  3. Japanese speaks in Japanese. Duh! Yes I know. I just wanted to say, don’t expect to find a lot of proficient English speaking Japanese outside the hotel setting. This makes conveying the fact that you don’t eat meat, egg, dairy or fish difficult. They tend to be too polite to say no and would nod in agreement, even if they don’t necessarily understand you.

What made it even more challenging for me was the fact that I was travelling with an omnivore. I didn’t want to be the ‘difficult’ one. As my boyfriend rightfully said, a few months ago I could eat ‘anything’. From that to not being able to find anything to eat (which often happens) and have to look for places to eat, is a significant change.

Almost everyone I know are omnivores and heavy meat eaters. I’m the only one with a plant-based diet in my family, my circle of friends, my workplace, and pretty much everyone else I know in real life… except an ex-colleague of mine whom I don’t see in real life but maintain friendship with through Facebook. I do plan on getting to know other vegans in the future through events and meet ups, so if you’re one, let’s be friends :)

I feel so grateful that I have a sweet and understanding man who gives me a tremendous amount of support. He associates vegan food with healthy food (vegetable = healthy) and was willing to venture and get lost in the cities with me trying to find vegan and vegan-friendly places.

The whole trip was quite an experience and a huge learning curve. Looking back, there were some things that I wished I have known and could have done better, and believe me, I will do those things next time I travel to Japan.

Here are my top 10 Japan Travel Tips For Vegan which hopefully will make things easier for you in Japan if you’re looking to maintain a vegan and vegetarian diet while you’re there:

1. Happy Cow

A great resource to find vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant around Japan, and around the world. Also has an app which tells you which ones are closest to your current location.


2. Japan Guide

Not a vegan guide but an all-round guide with forums that cover anything from transport to food. I find it invaluable when I was planning my travel itinerary.

3. Kyoto Guide

A good website to listing some of Kyoto’s vegetarian (and vegan) dishes including recommendation for some restaurants.

4. Japan Survival Guide by Just Hungry. 

A great website explaining the cultural aspect of Japan and some survival tips. It’s also where I got my vegan dining out card from. It was a lifesaver.

5. Vegetarian Survival Guide To Japan by Never Ending VoyageAlthough the website caters for vegetarians, there are some great tips and food information which are very useful.

7. Google Maps.

Really helpful when trying to find places. Even the locals use it when trying to give direction.

Google Map


8. train.jp. 

It’s a great app that helps you figure out which train line you need to get from A to B, specifically for the JR-line. Highly recommended if you have a JR pass.


9. Japanese.

A great English/Japanese dictionary app with pronunciation functionality . You learn basic Japanese using this app.


10. Wi-Fi.

I can’t tell you enough how important having a wi-fi access was for me, especially since I didn’t get a rental sim card with data allowance. It’s the only way I was able to check the weather, news,  apps, get in touch with people at home, etc. If you can’t get a rental sim card with data then you will need to find accommodation with wi-fi connection.

11. Print lots of this vegan dining out card

Whenever I struggle to communicate what I can or can’t eat or confirming if the snacks I plan to buy are vegan, I just show this card. It was a vegan lifesaver :)


That’s it! Hope this is useful for you. Let me know if you have other vegan tips for Japan you wish to share.