Tokyo Off the Tourist Path

Hi all, Carolyn here. In this guest post I wanted to talk a bit about my trip to Tokyo. First, let me say that being single and female in a foreign country is nerve-wracking enough, and being in a place where English isn’t really spoken much at all was an added concern. However I must say, from the few times I’ve been, I’ve come to love Tokyo.

The thing about Tokyo is you’ll never run out of things to see and do.  I’ve been to all of the tourist spots, did the tours so now I’d like to tell you about discoveries I’ve made on my most recent trip that aren’t so well-known to most visitors.

Tokyo Station

You’d think Tokyo Station would be an obvious tourist spot, but since most tourists arrive at Narita Airport, Tokyo Station is often overlooked.  This station is a perfect example of the old and the new co-existing together, where on one of the platforms, they left one of the original pillars from the early 1900s.  The old-world feel of the red brick facade of the station itself is picture-worthy too.  Belying its historical looks, Tokyo Station has been undergoing an expansion to celebrate its 100th year.  If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in heaven walking through the latest addition, the Tokyo Station City, a complex of restaurants and savory and sweet shops – I spent a whole day here just looking at intricate food displayed in that beautiful Japanese way.

Nico

It was at Nico where, while speaking to one of the staff  I discovered my favorite shop of all.  I wanted to get my friends back home unique souvenirs.  So I asked the Nico guy if he knew of any one-off places and he pointed me to Blue and White, a small boutique specializing in traditional Japanese indigo and white things like embroidered cloths and summer kimonos.

Wako Department Store

If you’re more of a fashionista than a foodie, Wako department store should be on your list of must-see places in Ginza.  I feel that Wako is often overshadowed by its more famous rivals like Mitsukoshi and Matsuya, but being the most exclusive of all, Wako isn’t for the budget-conscious traveler looking for a deal.  It is so intimidating just to go inside, as everything is so hushed with attendants who glide and follow you quietly.  This is the place if you’re into expensive jewelry, watches and bags. Money to spend or not, it’s definitely a unique experience.

Azabu-Juban

One of my favorite towns in Tokyo is Azabu-Juban, just a stone’s throw away from the glitzier Roppongi area.  It used to be a town with quaint eating places dating to the 1700s and only accessible by bus, but ever since a subway station opened some time ago, Azabu-Juban has transformed itself into a hip destination with specialty boutiques and cool restaurants. I love it because I can have all kinds of cuisine all within a small radius – La Boheme for Italian, Ichi Ban Kan for Korean barbecue, Sarashina for Japanese soba noodles, Le Petit Tonneau for casual French and Nico for healthy donuts, an oxymoron if there ever was one.  It uses soybean flour to make these sinful treats easier on the conscience.

These are just a few of the gems hiding in plain sight, only because the more famous places are extolled in tripadvisor.  I’m sure there are so many more and I can’t wait to go.

Carolyn, I am sure, will not mind me hi-jacking her article to just mention again how important we think learning a local language is to the quality of travel you will experience. In many articles we will give you a few phrases to take away, but for Japan, my Japenese only covers “What is That” (“Hori wa nan deska”) and “one, two”  which sounds like “itchy knee”! So if you want to learn more try a site like  http://japanesemasterymethod.com/ to help you find out what is good to see in Tokyo