5 Unique Things Every Traveler Should Do in Tokyo

Tokyo is a city that offers innumerable unique experiences for visitors. There are so many odd and wonderfully quirky things that seem to materialize out of nowhere. It’s a culture and a place that thrives on the unusual. So let’s look at 5 unique things you can experience in Tokyo.

Explore the backstreets and alleys

In just about any other city, advising visitors to explore the backstreets and alleys might not be the best advice. But this is just one more way that Tokyo is different.

Step just beyond a main street in Tokyo and you may find yourself in one of the city’s many yokocho alleys, a whole different world lined with small distinctive shops. These unique places can vary in style; in some, you can feel like you’ve stepped back in time, and in others it might feel like a portal to the future.

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Then there are Golden Gai bars, found among the network of six narrow alleyways in the Golden Gai neighborhood in the Shinjuku area. Here you’ll find more than 200 tiny bars densely packed into the pedestrian-only alleys of this slice of old Tokyo.

Most of these places seat only a handful of people, so you’re bound to meet and interact with locals and fellow visitors alike as you bounce from bar to bar.

Venture down Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) and you’ll find the restaurant equivalent of Golden Gai. Charming eateries and smoky stalls line this narrow alley, where you can grab a stool and get your fill of yakitori skewers, or try something a little more adventurous like grilled salamander or frog shashimi – prepared right in front of you.

Visit an animal café

If you miss your daily contact with your animal companions back home, you’ll find lots of opportunities for surrogate snuggling in Tokyo. Cat cafés have started springing up in North American cities recently, but they’ve been popular among Tokyo denizens for some time now because many apartments don’t allow pets. At Nyafe Melange, in Shibuya district, you can visit with the 23 cats that sometimes nap on their custom-made wall perches.

Bunny rabbit cafés are also popular places to go. After a day amid the hustle and bustle of the city, what could be better than cuddling or playing with a cute bunny? Maybe playing with an owl? That’s actually the latest animal café craze in Tokyo! Yes, owls. Why owls? Hooo knows? This is Tokyo, where trends and fashions often sprout up with no discernable rhyme or reason – so just enjoy it!

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Dine at a quirky themed restaurant

If you like unusual restaurant experiences, then Tokyo is the place for you. The city is full of them. Robot Restaurant is in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district. There are four 90-minute floor-show extravaganzas every night, where sexily clad young women stage battles with gigantic, menacing cyborgs amid tech-pop music, flashing lights and lasers. At ¥7,000 ($90 CND), it’s not cheap, but some things are worth experiencing once, and after all, when’s the next time you’re going to be in a robot restaurant?social_8_1200x628

Or how about a restaurant that’s a medical prison? At Alcatraz ER, near Shibuya station, you get a private dining room all to yourselves – but it’s a prison cell. After you clang your tin cup along the bars for service, a uniformed nurse arrives to serve you menu items such as sausage in the shape of a bowel, beef salad shaped like a brain and cocktails served out of (fake) human heads.

Stay at a weird hotel

At the Henn na Hotel (which translates as Weird Hotel), the reception desk is staffed by robots – including a dinosaur – and an automated trolley carries your luggage to your room. Even standard electronic room keys are too old-fashioned for this hotel; facial recognition technology records a digital image of your face when you check in. And despite all the technology, a stay at Henn na Hotel starts at only ¥9,000 ($115 CND), which is quite a bit cheaper than most hotels in Tokyo.

Capsule hotels are another unique stay for Tokyo visitors. The capsules are often stacked one on top of the other, and offer just enough room to lie down and sleep (some include TVs). Your luggage is stored in a separate locker and the bathrooms are shared. Capsule Hotel Asakusa River Side, close to the Askausa subway station and Sensō-ji Temple, rents 140 capsules with separate floors for men and women, with prices starting from ¥3,600 ($45 CND).

Take in sumo wrestling

Sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport, so why not check out a match while you’re in Tokyo. The Japan Sumo Association has its headquarters at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan sumo arena in the Yokoami neighbourhood, where it holds tournaments three times a year.

But if you want a more immersive experience – short of stepping into the ring yourself – there are places where you can watch wrestlers practice, and even dine on chankonabe, the stew that sumo wrestlers eat every day. Though they eat it to add bulk, it’s a very nutritious meal, high in protein, low in fat, with tons of vegetables. There are lots of chankonabe restaurants in Tokyo, often located near the sumo stables where wrestlers live and practice. Yoshiba is one of the more unique chankonabe restaurants; it’s in an old sumo stable and features a wrestling ring in the middle of the dining room.

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What about you? What unique or quirky things did you do on your visit to Tokyo? Or what would you be excited to see? Let us know in the comments below!

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One Response to “5 Unique Things Every Traveler Should Do in Tokyo”

  1. Roger Williams October 25, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    I have fond memories of Tokyo. The Cabaret shows were fabulous and so were the restaurants. One restaurant we frequented served the meal by one waitress and another waitress served the Saki, at just the right temperature. 20 small courses over a couple of hours. Expensive, but what a pleasure.

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