Climbing the Tokyo Tower and seeing the Imperial Palace is amazing, but this city has even more to offer. Today, we’re looking at hidden gems in Tokyo. Spots that savvy travellers, insiders and locals love in this eclectic Japanese city!
1. Akihabara secret shrine
Japan is famous for many things, including their technological prowess. So for the travelling techie, a visit to Akihabara is a must. This bustling tech-centric neighbourhood is the go-to destination for travellers in the know, looking for the most unique and cutting-edge gadgets and tech. Though Akihabara itself isn’t a secret, many of the best or most unique shops will go unnoticed by outsiders. Tiny specialty stalls abound and you can find vintage radios and throwbacks to the city’s wartime history. Funnily enough, one of the hidden gems in Tokyo involves no tech whatsoever. There’s a tiny, unexpected shrine hidden in a narrow alleyway, an oddity in Tokyo’s electric town!
2. Caretta Shiodome Observatory
There’s no shortage of tall buildings and structures in Tokyo from which a visitor can get a view of the city skyline. But not everyone wants to wait hours in line or pay a steep entry fee, as is often the case with Tokyo Tower and the Skytree. If you don’t have a vested interest in visiting the most talked-about viewpoints or don’t necessarily feel the need to climb the tallest building in Tokyo, the Caretta Shiodome Observatory has an observation deck on the 46th floor that is a great, less competitive vantage point from which to look out over the city. Best of all, it’s free!
You know who rarely gets the love they deserve? Architects! Museums featuring conventional works of art and artefacts are numerous in most major cities including Tokyo. And institutions like architecture museums are not always considered must-visit attractions. The Archi-Depot in Tokyo takes a very different approach however, and might just give you a newfound appreciation for Tokyo’s skyline and the people behind its design! This is a dedicated space in which architectural models are housed and displayed, so the public can get up close and really appreciate the detail that goes into designing these structures.
3. Mandarake Complex
If you’re a big manga fan and you’re visiting Tokyo, chances are you already know about this mecca. But even for more casual anime and manga fans, Mandarake Complex is still well worth a visit. What makes this such an interesting destination is the fact that it isn’t just one store – it’s a collection of numerous distinct shops, spread across eight floors, subdivided and tailored to specific tastes, subgenres and niches within anime, manga and everything in between. Translation: it’s otaku heaven!
4. Golden Gai
Located in Shinjuku, Golden Gai is an area jam-packed with tiny dive bars. And by tiny, we mean really small, shabby and brimming with personality! It’’s a relic of the postwar era that’s done nothing to endear itself to tourists and that’s what makes it so compelling. In these few square blocks, you’ll experience a very different type of Tokyo, a glimpse into the city’s culture and history rarely seen by outsiders. Most of these bars were locals-only type joints until recently.With wider interests, many have started opening their doors to foreigners. You are welcome to explore, but do so respectfully!
5. Kit Kat Chocolatory
You may or may not know KitKat does things a little differently in Japan. You’ll find a few different varieties of them in North America, but it’s nothing compared to the seasonal specialty and regional flavours available throughout Japan. Needless to say, KitKat has a big presence here. To get the full experience and understand the scope of Japan’s love affair with this particular candy bar, you really need to visit a KitKat Chocolatory. There are a few different locations in the city, so do yourself a favour and pop in to sample a selection of truly unique KitKat bars!
6. Odaiba Daiba Park & Trilingual Android
Another must-see that many people miss when visiting Tokyo is the artificial island of Odaiba. Located in Tokyo Bay and originally built for military purposes, Odaiba has taken on a new life as a vibrant hub of entertainment and shopping. To appreciate its often ignored history, visit Daiba Park, where the green space and cannon batteries remind you of its roots. The island is home to a number of entertainment centres, tech showrooms, museums and various other attractions. With so much distraction, it can be easy to overlook some of the finer details like the Trilingual Android working the info desk at the Odaiba Tourist Information Centre in the Aqua City Shopping Centre.
7. Ryogoku Kokugikan
If there’s one thing you might kick yourself for not visiting in Tokyo, it’s the Ryogoku Sumo Hall. Located right next to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, this indoor arena has a capacity of over 11,000, regularly hosts sumo tournaments and other events. You’ll definitely want to plan ahead for this one in order to make sure that your trip overlaps with a tournament. They occur in January, May and September. But should the timing not work out, you can always check out the Sumo Museum which is also fascinating!