Alternative places to visit in Tokyo: a 2 day itinerary

September 20, 2016 by  
Filed under featured, Guest post, Japan

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Are you visiting Tokyo but want to try something a bit different? Our guest author Mike Gale lives in Tokyo and has been busy discovering alternative places to visit. He shares a two day itinerary that will allow you to find some more unusual places while having a good time in Tokyo.

Unusual things to do in Tokyo

Day 1- Owls, Culture and Delicious Restaurants

Brunch time – If you’re looking for a great place to stay while in Tokyo check out some of the recommendations at the end of this article or try our Tokyo hotels booking page powered by HotelsCombined. We recommend the Shinjuku district which is centrally located for getting around Tokyo.

Now it’s time to have a leisurely brunch at Bubby’s in Roppongi Iichome. Getting there: Take the Marunouchi Line 4 stops then transfer to Yotsuya Station for 3 stops until you reach Roppongiicchome Station. Total trip time is 15 minutes. Once you make it to Roppongi iichome station head to Bubby’s nearby where you can find the best brunch in Tokyo. Their pancakes and burgers are absolutely delicious!

Bubby’s in Roppongi Iichome Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bubby’s in Roppongi Iichome

Late morning: Next we’re heading for the Owl Cafe Fukuro No Mise. Have you ever heard of an owl café? I never did until I spoke to some friends who recommended it to me. Getting there: To get to the owl café you will take the Namboku Line two stops from Roppongiichome station. You will transfer on the Yurakucho Line to Tsukishima Station. The journey takes around 18 minutes.

Owl Café Tokyo Japan Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Owl Café Tokyo Japan

Visiting Fukuro No Mise:  In this café, you can actually pet owls and have a good coffee. First, you will learn about the owls and how to handle them. You will have time to take pictures with the owls as well and there are small, medium and large ones you can pet and hold! (Timings can be subject to change due to appointments on the day )

Price Range – 2,000 yen per person, Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. More information here.

Owl Café Tokyo Japan Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Owl Café Tokyo Japan

As an alternative, visit the Owl Café and Bar Café in Harajuku if going on Monday or Tuesday. You can take the train from Roppongiichome Station to Tameike Station on the Namboku line, transferring at Kokkaogijido-Mae Station.

Owl Café Tokyo Japan Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Owl Café Tokyo Japan

Afternoon: Head over to JR Harajuku Station to see a cultural area and also try out my restaurant recommendations in the area. Getting there: You will take the Oedo line back to Shinjuku Station then transfer on the Yamanote Line to JR Harajuku Station.

Meiji Shrine Japan Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Meiji Shrine Japan

Walk around the Meiji Shrine which is one of Tokyo’s most famous shrines. It is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The Shrine was founded in 1920. It is located in a forest that contains 70 hectacres. Pretty impressive in such a crowded city!

Meiji Shrine Japan Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Meiji Shrine Japan

Next walk over to Takeshita Street. Although crowded, you will get to see some of Tokyo’s famous young street “Harajuku” fashion. Walk around to the different shops, try a crepe and enjoy all of the different fashion styles around.

Baird Beer Harajuku Taproom Tokyo Japan Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Baird Beer Harajuku Taproom Tokyo Japan

Late afternoon: Stop for a beer at the Baird Beer Harajuku TaproomIt is on one of the side streets of Takeshita Street and is relatively easy to find. Here, you will find some of the best craft beer Japan has to offer; owner Bryan founded the company in a small southern town of Japan. I recommend trying their beer sampler as you will be able to try three different types of beers for only 1,000 yen. If you are a bit hungry, you can snack on some izakaya food which are Japanese side dishes of fish or vegetables.

Evening:  Time for dinner at Chiles Mexican GrillYou will head over to one of the best Mexican restaurants in Tokyo, which is also in the area of Takeshita Street and easy to find. I recommend trying their chicken ranchero burrito. It is absolutely delicious. The staff at the restaurant speak English as well.

Day 2- Ramen, Art, Shimokitazawa, and Jazz

Early morning: We have an early start today (6am!) –  head over to Sugamo Station on the JR line. Aim to arrive at Tsuta Restaurant by 7am. More information here.

Tsuta Michelin Ramen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Tsuta Michelin Ramen

Your goal is to arrive here to get a coveted ticket to this ramen restaurant. Get a ticket for 1PM to give you enough time in the onseon. Here, you will get a chance to try some delicious ramen. How delicious? Tsuta Restaurant was given a Michelin Star two years in a row! I got a chance to try the black truffle ramen and it was absolutely delicious.

Morning:  Visit Tokyo Somei Onsen Sakura, a traditional Japanese style spa. Make sure you have clean clothes and a towel. They charge extra for towels. You must not have any tattoos or you won’t be allowed in. Getting there: You will head back to the JR Station and go clockwise on the Yamanote line to Komagome JR Station.

Alternative spa if you have a tattoo: Head over to Akihabara. You can take the JR train clockwise from Sugamo Station and counterclockwise back it will take about 16 minutes to get there. This is one of Tokyo’s famous otaku (anime) neighborhoods. I recommend visiting any of the maid cafes around the station. Also, you can walk around and see the weapons store, which will showcase a katakana up close.

Lunchtime: Head back to Tsuta Restaurant (Take the JR line to Sugamo Station) with your ticket to enjoy the delicious ramen. You won’t be disappointed.

Afternoon: Ueno Park and art galleries – Stop over to Ueno Station on the JR line (11minutes) to check out the famous park as well as the art galleries. Check out the famous park first then the Tokyo National Museum. It is one of the largest art museums in the world!

Late afternoon: We’re exploring Shimokitazawa, one of the Bohemian neighborhood of Tokyo where you will find many interesting boutique shops and restaurants. Getting there:  Take the JR line counterclockwise to Shinjuku Station then transfer to the Odakyu Express train to Shimokitazwa. The journey will take about 39 minutes.

Anjali Curry

Anjali Curry

For the best curry in Tokyo, I recommend going to Anjali Spices. The owner is from Osaka and puts pride into his cooking. He also spent time in India so you will expect to have authentic Indian style cooking.

Evening: A drink at Pit InnAfter you finish walking and eating in Shimokitazawa, I recommend one last stop in Shinjuku at the Pit Inn which has been open for 40 years. Take the Odakyu Line to Shinjuku, which is a good area to stay. This Jazz Bar has many local and international artists and is known to have some of Tokyo’s best jazz music. As it is a smaller venue, lounging may not be the best option but the sound system is incredible. The shows typically start at 8PM and cover charge is 3,000 yen which includes one drink. Check the website before going because some shows can start at 7:30PM.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your discovery of Tokyo’s alternative side, mixing up cool cafe’s, delicious food and nightlife with a bit of authentic Japanese culture.

Need somewhere to stay?

Try these hotel choices in the easily accessible Shinjuku district;

Granbell Hotel Shinjuku: This boutique hotel has a clean and modern look and is centrally located in Shinjuku which will make Tokyo more accessible. The lobby has coffee available and a good view from the roof terrace.

Hotel Rose Garden Shinjuku: This is a family owned boutique hotel with friendly staff and clean rooms. It is located closely to the train station.

Hotel Mystays Asakusa-bashi A modern 3 star hotel close to the station.

About the author: Mike Gale writes at NomadLifestyle, a Tokyo based food and travel blog. His aim is to find delicious food in Tokyo and document his foodie and travel adventures around the globe.

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This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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My places to see before I die – by Heather (with a little help from HomeAway)

November 21, 2013 by  
Filed under featured, Greece, Israel, Japan, World

One of my favourite games is to dream of the places that I might travel to, the things I could see, imagining the pleasure of sharing the experience with friends and family. Let’s face it, at this time of year when the days can be dark and cold, we could all use a little escapism, to imagine ourselves in a place with blue skies and sunshine or at least one that has new and fascinating possibilities. HomeAway have come up with a clever game to help with the daydreaming in a Places to see before you die micro-site which allows you to plug in your interests and see what places you could visit at each age of your life.

To give it a try, I put in my age and location, then selected some of the things that I enjoy such as culture, gastro, activity. To be honest I love doing a whole range of things depending on where I am and who I’m with, but the things I didn’t bother to tick were clubbing (I leave that to my kids), shopping (although I love searching out local crafts), beach (love walking along them but not so good at relaxing) and romantic (although I enjoy spending time travelling with my husband).

Heather's passport from HomeAway

Here’s the link to my passport page

I was impressed to discover that I would be travelling until I’m 82, and why not? My parents are in their late 70s and are always off somewhere interesting, and they were the ones that gave me the travel bug from our family camping trips around Europe. Here are  the HomeAway Places to see before you die recommendation for me and what I thought of them.

When I’m 56 I should visit the Dead Sea in Israel/Jordan

Dead Sea in Israel Photo: HomeAway.co.uk

The Dead Sea in Israel or Jordan

The Suggestion: Bordering Jordan to the east and Israel to the west, the Dead Sea is a unique body of water that lies 423 metres below sea level. That alone ought to make the Dead Sea an intriguing proposition, but its peculiarities don’t just end there. With a salinity level of 33%, the Dead Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world

My Thoughts: Israel and Jordan are both on my bucket list, ever since I spent a week in Lebanon a few years ago. I know that in the Middle East the hospitality is boundless, the people incredibly welcoming, the culture rich and the landscapes varied. I suspect that rather than spending much time drifting around in the Dead Sea, I’d have a quick dip and then get my hiking boots on to explore some of the desert and mountain landscapes of this part of the world.

When I am 61 I should visit Meteora in Greece

Meteora in Northern Greece Photo: HomeAway.co.uk

Meteora in Northern Greece

The Suggestion: Situated in Thessaly, central Greece, Meteora is one of the world’s more unusual destinations. Famed for the ancient monasteries which sit perched atop its cloud-topping rock towers, it’s a fantastic spot for those seeking a rural retreat in the mountains; and those looking to discover some of Greece’s finest natural landmarks.

My Thoughts: My sister lives on the Greek island of Zakynthos, where I visit her each year. Many years ago, when we were en route to her wedding to her Greek husband, my younger sister and I took a detour through northern Greece. I do believe that we may have visited Meteora or at least some of the rocky peaks and villages of this area, although I know that in some of them women are not allowed. I’d be very happy to go back, perhaps in the spring or autumn and link up with my Greek sister for a stay in the mountains.

When I’m 67 I’ll be visiting Socotra Island, Yemen

Socotra Island in Yemen Photo: HomeAway.co.uk

Socotra Island in Yemen

The Suggestion: Made up of four islands in the Indian Ocean, Socotra is an amazing archipelago; an area of isolated, alien landscapes. Famed for its plant life, a third of which can be found nowhere else on earth, its main island Socotra sits amidst three smaller and stranger isles; Samhah, Darsa and Abd al Kuri.

My Thoughts: Yemen is also a place that’s on my list to visit at some point and hopefully by the time I’m 67, some of the political volatility in this part of the world will have calmed down. I’ve heard that Socotra is one of the safest areas of Yemen to visit and I was fascinated to read what my friend Anil from Foxnomad had to say; It’s sort of like evolution got bored with the rest of the planet and decided to drop acid while creating the four-island archipelago. However I probably won’t wait until I’m 67 as my spirit of adventure may be waning a little by then.

When I’m 70 I should visit Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo in Japan Photo: HomeAway.co.uk

Sapporo in Japan

The Suggestion: Japan’s city of Sapporo is famed for a number of things. It boasts the country’s oldest beer (Sapporo Draft has been around since 1876), it’s the capital of Hokkaido (where the indigenous Ainu people are now settled), and it’s home to the Sapporo Snow Festival, which takes place every frost-laden February. Hats and scarves at the ready!

My Thoughts: This is one suggestion that I’m not really sure about. Although in a detatched way I find Japanese culture fascinating, it’s not a destinations that would be top of my list. The thought of discovering the country’s oldest beer is not especially enticing, although I can see my husband knocking back a few pints, and I’m afraid that I can happily miss out on frost-laden February, as I am more of a sunflower, gravitating towards warmth and sunshine when I travel.

When I’m 82 I should visit Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem in Israel Photo: HomeAway.co.uk

Jerusalem in Israel

The Suggestion: Not only is it the capital city of Israel, but one of the most important holy cities to the religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Brimming with historical sites, it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, and known as the ‘City of Gold’ in Hebrew. When you’re looking for a destination where glistening skyscrapers sit aside first century dwellings, head for Jerusalem.

My Thoughts: As a Catholic, I would love to visit the Holy Land, in fact I’m not quite sure why I haven’t already been as I enjoy connecting with my faith through pilgrimage travel. I’d love to experience at first hand the melting-pot of cultures and religions and to feel the history of the place, to walk where Jesus walked, and connect with what happened there centuries ago.

I’ve picked out the places I fancied most, but there were also some other suggestions that I might try in the future;

  • St Helena, the volcanic island in the Atlantic that I’ll be visiting when I’m 64
  • Rome, Italy I’ll be visiting when I’m 73
  • Vienna, Austria I’ll be visiting when I’m 76
  • Knossos, Greece I’ll be visiting when I’m 79

If you would like some inspiration for the places you could visit in the future, do check out the Places to die site from HomeAway.

More Travel Inspiration

A culinary tour of Israel
St Anthony’s monastery in Lebanon
More than Moussaka – some delicious Greek dishes to try

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscribe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

27 – Cool-hunting in Tokyo – food, fashion and street-style with La Carmina – Podcast

In Travel Podcast Episode 27, I talk to La Carmina; fashion blogger, TV host and expert in Japanese street style, about Tokyo. We find out where to shop if you’d like to dress in Gothic style or as an antique doll from the forest. Hear about the Tokyo theme restaurants that will give you a night out you’ll never forget and some of the more extreme body modifications like snake tongues and bagel heads, as well as hanging out in Cat Cafes and finding things that you can enjoy in Tokyo with the family. Even if you’ve never thought of Japan as a place to visit, you’ll be fascinated by all the cool and quirky things that La Carmina recommends in Tokyo.

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La Carmina with her Scottish fold cat, Basil Farrow Photo: LaCarmina.com

La Carmina with her Scottish fold cat, Basil Farrow

An Introduction to La Carmina

La Carmina lives in Vancouver in Canada, although her family is originally from Hong Kong. As a child, she travelled widely in Asia with her family and started to fall in love with Japanese street style, the cute Hello Kitty culture, the punk and Gothic styles and Harajuku. Her experimentation with crazy fashion continued when she went to college in New York and she started blogging to share her photos and fashion style. Since then she has written books and worked on TV shows about Japanese street culture. You can follow her on her blog at La Carmina.

So what makes Tokyo unique and special?

There’s something for every type of traveller in Tokyo. Whether you love fashion and nightlife or whether you want to go for adventure or relax with the family, Tokyo has it all. The food is wonderful and the people are so nice. Of course it can be a bit of a culture shock – the movie Lost in Translation sums it up. It’s hustle and bustle, neon lights, and people don’t necessarily speak English so it can be a challenging place. But if you give Tokyo a try, it can be an eye opener and shock you out of your comfort zone.

La Carmina in Tokyo Photo: LaCarmina.com

La Carmina in Tokyo

Which areas should we explore in Tokyo?

Ideally you’ll want to stay a minimum of 5-7 days to explore some of the main Tokyo neighbourhoods as well as take some day trips. La Carmina recommends that people stay in Shinjuku, because it’s the hub for the famous subway system and the bullet train. Shinjuku is also an area where there are a lot of great restaurants and nightlife, and only one stop away on the subway is Harajuku, famous for the Harajuku girls who pose in their Gothic and Lolita fashions. Also nearby is Shibuya, where you’ll find shopping, the trendy Gal culture – it’s shopping central.

Getting around in Tokyo

The subway is the best way to get around unless you can afford the taxis, which are very expensive. If you’re not careful a 20 minute taxi ride could blow your entire budget for the week! On the other hand the subway works very well, the trains come very frequently and are always on time. However you need to remember that the subways stop running between 1am and 5 am so if you are going out late, make sure you have a ride back or you plan to stay out all night, otherwise you could get stuck.

Harajuku girls in Tokyo Photo: LaCarmina.com

Harajuku girls in Tokyo

Tips on Japanese etiquette

Everyone knows that the Japanese are very polite and always bowing, so when in Tokyo you should try not to be too loud. On the subway it’s considered rude to speak on your mobile phone – you can text message but otherwise you should only be whispering. The subway is not the place for you to be chattering loudly with your friends. Then there’s food etiquette, for instance you should not put your chopsticks into the bowl of rice so they stick up vertically, as this is a symbol of death and you don’t want to be thinking of death as you eat.

How do you describe your fashion style?

My look is influenced by so many Japanese street styles. There are so many different tribes and fashion sub-groups that have a particular fashion outlook. For example there are the J-Rocker or Visual Kei group, then there are the Goths, the Punks, and also groups that only exist in Japan like the Mori girls who look like antique dolls that live in the forest like Hansel and Gretel. It’s fascinating to walk through Harajuku and see the stores that carry these designs and see the teenagers all dressed up. I personally like to mix up all these styles, but I don’t associate with any particular one group or style as I find them all fascinating. I like to find my own personal style and I don’t like having rules for ways to dress. Sometimes these fashion sub groups are very strict about wearing things a certain way and that’s not for me.

Harajuku and street fashions in Tokyo Photo: LaCarmina.com

Harajuku and street fashions in Tokyo

Harajuku – the place to see and be seen

I love Harajuku, it’s a great place to go, even if you’re not into fashion. It’s a wonderful place to people watch, to just sit in a cafe and check out the scene. I’d recommend taking the train to Harajuku station and go down Takeshita-dori, which is a narrow street with a colourful arch over it. Down there you’ll find all these bizarre, quirky, wonderful stores, that sell toy accessories, colourful bracelets, crazy stockings. Walk through there and browse around. There’s also the famous Jingu Bashi bridge in Harajuku, where young people come in their flamboyant costumes and styles to pose for photos. It isn’t as popular a hangout as it used to be but you’ll still see people there, especially on Sundays. You can’t go wrong if you stop in Harajuku and walk around – you’ll see crazy fashions and you’ll find something funny to buy.

Shibuya for crazy clothes shopping

Shibuya is also a wonderful place to go, especially if you’re into Gyaru or Gal fashion. For this style, the girls might have bleached blonde hair and wear shorts and boots; it’s a trendy celebrity style and a lot of them have big doll-like eye-lashes. The main hub for these shops is a place called Shibuya 109 which is a craziest department store you’ll ever set foot in. Once you walk inside, there are tons of little shops, each blasting techno music, it’s a total assault on the senses. These cute Japanese shop girls are yelling at you to come into their store and try on the clothes. You wander around and see everything from hip hop to trendy to doll-like fashions. You’ll find Shibuya 109 by the big red sign when you step out of the Shibuya subway station.

Cute Lolita fashions in Tokyo Photo: LaCarmina.com

Cute Lolita fashions in Tokyo

Designer fashion or vintage in Tokyo

If you’re more into the high end fashions, then go to Omotesandō, which is also in Harajuku, just a few blocks away from the station. Ginza is also famous for being the ritzy part of Tokyo, you can find some beautiful fashions there from all over the world and I’ve seen some gorgeous kimonos on sale there. If you’re into bohemian, vintage and young hippy fashion, there’s a neighbourhood called Shimokitazawa, that not many first time visitors know about. It has a really laid back atmosphere, and feels a bit like college town with lots of cafes, tons of vintage stores and you can get some pretty good deals.

Cute inexpensive souvenirs

All my friends are happy when I bring back souvenirs from the 100 Yen stores, which are like dollar stores in the USA. However, where dollar stores can have a reputation for being full of junk, the 100 yen stores are full of colourful, unique gismos. You can get everything from cute stationary to bizarre cleaning products such as sponges shaped like teddy bears. When you buy something in these stores to give to a friend, they think, Wow! only in Japan. The most famous 100 Yen store is called Daiso and there’s a big one in Harajuku, where you’ll find an amazing selection of things you’ll love.

Japanese foods to try when out and about in Tokyo

A lot of travellers know about the typical Japanese food like Sushi and Ramen which you can find everywhere. For a unique experience try the vending machines, where if you want to buy a bowl of Ramen or hot noodles, you would  punch in your order then get a ticket which you give to the cook to make your order. With Sushi you can go from the most high end $100 a meal to conveyor belt sushi, and although it’s inexpensive, you’re in Tokyo so you know the quality will be amazing.

Food in Tokyo's theme restaurant Photo: LaCarmina.com

Food in Tokyo’s theme restaurants

Quick bites on a budget

If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat on a budget, try the convenience stores. In the West nobody would dare to eat there but in Japan you can find delicious foods in the 7-Eleven stores. For instance, they serve rice balls with intriguing fillings such as plum or fish eggs and although you only spend $1-2 on these they can be a delicious and filling meal. They don’t have any place to eat inside, but are full of little take-out boxes for rice balls and tofu platters. There are convenience stores on every block in major neighbourhoods, so stop by and grab something that will make a cheap and delicious meal.

Theme restaurants in Tokyo

The Theme restaurants in Tokyo are an  immersive experience – it’s as if you are entering a theatre world and you are part of the play. Take the Monster Theme Restaurant which I went to quite a few times. As soon as you walk inside you are surrounded by jail cells, the waitress is wearing a skimpy nurse uniform and she handcuffs you, then she leads you to your table which is inside a jail cell and locks you up. Then when your waiter comes and you order a drink it might come in the form of a syringe or a bedpan and while you’re eating, the monsters would run around, the lights would go off and the monsters would pop into your jail cell and scare you. It’s completely over the top and you are a part of the experience.

To be honest the food is not the main draw, although it has got better as theme restaurants continue to pop up, creating more competition, so the restaurants started to put more emphasis on the quality of the food. The main thing that distinguishes the food is how quirky it is and how well it fits the theme. For example there’s something called Russian Roulette Takuyaki which are octopus balls. You would be served 6 octopus balls but one would be filled with Wasabi which is green horseradish paste, which if you bite into it your head would explode. Everyone would take one octopus ball but the victim would be the one running to the bathroom, sweating all over.

Food in Tokyo's theme restaurants Photo: LaCarmina.com

Food in Tokyo’s theme restaurants

Sounds scary, but where can I eat with my family?

There are all sorts of theme restaurants and not all are frightening. Some have a fairytale theme, for instance, there are Princess cafes where the guys would treat you like a princess, they put a crown on your head and bend to your every whim. There are Cat cafes and Dog cafes that pet lovers would love. In a Cat cafe you will have a dozen little kitty cats running around and you can play with them; you can hang out and drink your coffee and eat your cake with cats all around you. In Japan there’s very little space in apartments for people to have pets, or they work too long hours, so a Cat cafe is a great way for them to have a pet for a few hours. On the other hand the dog cafe is where you bring your dog, and you can eat at the same table as your dog and dress them up, and even eat the same food as they prepare food that is edible for canines and humans.

Which Theme restaurant do you suggest for teenagers?

Teenagers might love the Ninja restaurant – you walk through secret passageways as if you were in a hidden Japanese cave, and the Ninjas are doing acrobatics and magic tricks at your table. They might serve you a desert shaped like a frog, or an appetiser where the fire travels down a string until it hits the appetiser which bursts into flames. Theme restaurants are also very popular with groups of friends and co-workers in Japan, as it gives them a chance to hang out and also something to talk about.

For a group night out my favourite restaurant is Kagaya, and it’s impossible to describe if you don’t want to ruin the surprise, let’s just say that when you walk in it seems like a homey little restaurant/bar and the owner seems perfectly normal until he pops into a closet and comes hopping out, dressed in a frog costume, it’s a bit of a surreal performance art. It’s completely unpredictable, there are gags everywhere. He’ll serve you beer and then the beer starts shaking so you can’t drink your beer – that’s just one of the 50 surprises that will happen all evening.

Food in Tokyo's theme restaurant Photo: LaCarmina.com

Food in Tokyo’s theme restaurants

How about bars and nightlife in Tokyo?

A lot of tourists go to Roppongi and although I can’t especially recommend it, it’s the Disneyland version of Tokyo. If you want to hang out with other foreigners then Roppongi is the place where people let loose, but the locals don’t really go there. It reminds me of a Las Vegas environment.

Another fun area is called Golden Gai in Shinjuku, it’s a series of little streets packed with tiny bars, where you might only fit three people inside and each one may have something unique about it. One has a punk theme, another a Gothic theme and some offer Karaoke, so that could be an interesting place to bar-hop. If you want to try drinking something that’s uniquely Japanese, try the Sake or the Soju which are the rice wines. I personally love cocktails that use a Yusu flavour, it’s a Japanese citrus which is a cross between an orange and a lemon, it has a distinctive taste and it’s very hard to get outside Japan, so be sure to check if they have any drinks that have a Yusu flavour on the drinks menu.

Where should I go clubbing in Tokyo?

For clubbing it depends what kind of music you like, and the sub group you associate with – there’s an amazing music scene in Tokyo. They bring in DJs from around the world so whether you’re into techno or into hip hop there will be a fascinating scene for you. I personally love the Gothic and alternative parties which are centred in Shinjuku, and my two favourites are called Midnight Mess and Tokyo Decadance. At the parties they play everything from classic Gothic to Industrial to Synth pop and everyone dresses up in these flamboyant, elegant Gothic costumes, they are some of the best parties I’ve been to ever, On the extreme side there are fetish and experimental nightlife events as well, especially one called Department H, inside you’ll see people in head to toe handmade costumes and body-moders who do extreme modifications like snake tongues and temporary piercings all over their body or even bagel heads.

Sorry, did you say Snake tongues and Bagel heads?

Yes, a snake tongue is when you split your tongue in half, so that it now has two points instead of one, and the two points can flip back and forth or dart in and out like a snake. There are other temporary forms of body modification, for instance I’ve seen some people who get their mouth sewn shut; it’s a half fetish, half body modification thing.There are  also suspensions, where people have metal hooks inserted into their backs, and then they are suspended above the ground and they can swing back and forth. Extreme as they are, these effects are temporary. In a society like Japan people can’t go around in the streets with permanent body modifications and there’s a great stigma against tattoos in particular, as they are associated with the criminal culture, that’s why temporary modifications can be pretty popular at these events.

The bagel heads are created where you place a needle under the skin of your forehead and drip saline solution into the skin, so that your forehead bulges out into a bubble shape, then you press your thumb into the centre of the bubble so that it creates a doughnut or bagel like shape, which lasts for around one day. (Although La Carmina hasn’t had a bagel head done herself, her company worked on four TV shows about bagel heads) If you get a bagel head done in Japan, although it looks extreme, they use sterile solution and are very experienced and qualified.

Dressing up for a night out in Tokyo Photo: LaCarmina.com

Dressing up for a scary night out in Tokyo

So where do I get my party outfit?

I think people in Tokyo are very creative with their outfits. I have friends who go into 100 Yen stores and create costumes out of surprising materials there; they might use a plant or a broom, or fake flowers to create an incredible costume. There are plenty of costume stores especially in the district called Akihabara, where all the geeks go, as it’s a centre of electronics, video games and comic books. However, even though you see these crazy costumes in photos, not everyone dresses up, for instance some people if they go to a Gothic party would just wear all black.

Out for the night in Tokyo Photo: LaCarmina.com

Out for the night in Tokyo

Any other places I could take the family for a unique Tokyo experience?

One area that is fun for all ages, but especially families and kids is Odaiba, it’s the Tokyo port on the east side, right by the ocean and not that many first time visitors know about it. It’s a great little half day trip where you take the subway there, and there are a number of different attractions. There are a few museums and as is typical in Japan, there’s a theme everything. For instance there is a cat petting zoo, similar to a cat cafe except that you only go there to play and pet cats. There’s a gigantic video game centre with every video game you could think of, there are giant robot panda bears that you can put a coin in and ride on the back of the Panda bear, there’s a Rainbow bridge and a Little Hong Kong, It’s an indoor recreation of Hong Kong, you walk inside and you see neon signs and Chinese restaurants and even sound effects like the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong – everything but the smells!

Where to find La Carmina

My thanks to La Carmina for sharing her tips on all the cool and quirky things to see and do in Tokyo. You can find more about every aspect of Tokyo culture on La Carmina’s blog and on Twitter @LaCarmina on the La Carmina Facebook Page and watch some cool travel and fashion videos on the La Carmina Youtube Channel

La Carmina’s Books

For more information about the Tokyo Theme Restaurants, you can read La Carmina’s book on Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo and Cute Yummy Time with 70 recipes for the cutest food you’ll ever eat.

Photo: All photos are copyright of La Carmina

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