The Tokyo Travel Guide is part of the Trip Report: The $77,000 Trip Heard Round the World which covers 5 Continents, 13 Countries, and 17 Cities.
- Tokyo, Japan
- Melbourne, Australia
- Wellington, New Zealand
- Sydney, Australia
- Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Saigon, Vietnam
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Hong Kong
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Knysna, South Africa
- Durban, South Africa
- Johannesburg, South Africa
- Doha, Qatar
- New York, New York
- Helsinki, Finland
ようこそ to Japan!
Here is what to do in Tokyo using the Guns & Butter methodology:
- A trip is composed of two factors: Labor And Lazy
- Anything on the line (Production Possibilities Frontier for my fellow economists) is an efficient use of your time depending on your tastes and preferences.
- Anything inside the line is inefficient as should be avoided.
- Anything outside is aspirational but may be impossible to do given the constraints of time and resources.
- The opportunity cost (what is given up) for relaxing and being Lazy is gained by being adventurous in the form of Labor and vice versa.
As part of the New Year’s Roll Call, we went to Tokyo making this guide more inclusive than what I did there during my brief stopover round the world. It’s jam-packed with activities so get ready to get exhausted.
Mt. Fuji is an active volcano and the country’s tallest peak. It is also ‘covered with garbage’ according to a local. That is all I can tell you about it. We missed the Mt. Fuji tour because we decided to stay out all night our first night in Tokyo to trick jet lag.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Chances are you will not be one of the few that can say that you have visited the Emperor. He is off limits to the public except for January 2nd when he delivers the New Years Greeting or on his Majesty’s birthday, December 23rd.
Going was an interesting experience. The Emperor comes out and says a few words and the crowd goes wild! Actually the crowd quietly and reverently waives their Japanese flags.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Observation Building
Located in Shinjuku, the observation building provides stunning views of all of Tokyo including the Imperial Gardens that you may not have been able to visit. You can also see the modern architecture that was commissioned before the bubble burst on Japan’s economy. On a side note, it’s remarkable that every emerging economy that makes progress spends as irrationally as Japan did expecting a different result. (see Dubai, see Shanghai.)
If you aren’t a business traveler, I recommend staying in Roppongi at least for a few nights to witness the chaos of Tokyo nightlife. Missing it would be like going to Bangkok and skipping Khao San Road. There is always a bar to go to, a club that stays open all hours, and healthy trouble on the horizon.
I believe the classics of Motown, Wall Street, Wall Street 2, Gas Panic (which is fucked up according to local), and the Ice Bar Tokyo are no longer in service but the alley right near the TGI Fridays will have their replacements. When I was there in December 2013 , Jumanji on a Sunday night was going off like a Robin Williams movie.
Roppongi is crazy. Brace yourself.
Late Night Sushi & Ramen
In Roppongi, there is a sushi restaurant that is open all hours called Sushizanmai. There is also one at the Fish Market. Here, the sushi is affordable, the sake is endless, and the wait staff is tolerant of gaijin Shaqtin’ a fool.
Before the sun goes up, head to the Tsukiji Fish Market for the world’s freshest sushi. Take care not to act like the Roppongi fool you were the night before. There have been many incidents with foreigners interfering with the operations of the fish market which temporarily forced its closure to the public. The Fish Market is like the NYSE but with fish. Everything is being traded. The prices for tuna are incredible.
“I want onsen,” I told the information desk at the Tokyo Station. “No onsen here, this is metro.” Onsen translated means hot springs. There aren’t hot springs within the subway station, but there is the world’s greatest spa with hot tubs and shiatsu. For a great afternoon of Roppongi recovery, head to the Tokyo Kur. There you will be bathed thoroughly as if you were Zamunda royalty.
Shibuya Karaoke & Park Hyatt New York Bar Shinjuku
Located in different districts of Tokyo, these two must see attractions give you insight as to the many worlds that exist in one city. Shibuya is where the original hipster must’ve come from. It is also home to the busiest intersection of the world.
If you’re looking for fun, cross the intersection while a friend takes your photo. Send that to your family for some Where’s Waldo entertainment. If you do get lost, meet up with your friend at the Hachiko statue. Legend has it that the dog, Hachiko, used to walk with his master to work every day and return in the evening to pick him up in this very spot. Long after the master died, the dog continued the ritual until he passed.
Now it’s time for karaoke. Before going to Asia, I had always hated karaoke. Who likes to sing songs in front of strangers? And who likes to wait for strangers to sing songs they do not care to hear? In Asia, karaoke rooms are private and the waitress delivers beer. Add in your best buddies and you’ll have ‘the time of your life’.
Park Hyatt New York Bar
Leave the cool kids in Shibuya and head over to the Park Hyatt Shinjuku, a hotel too pricey even with points. Take the elevator to the New York Bar, order some overpriced wine, some rare cheeses, and prepare to be lost in translation.
Seriously, I don’t understand jazz music.
The view from the bar, the clientele, and atmosphere make coming here worth a peek.
The Tourist Traps
The Tokyo Tower
The Tokyo Tower is a bootleg Eiffel tower. It looks dumb and is not worth the price to go to the top. Take a pic if you’re in Roppongi. Otherwise skip it.
The Gentlemen’s Bar
So a friend of mine told me…
In Roppongi there are plenty of intimate bars with passionate owners begging you to come inside. The scam is the same: Pay a low rate for open bar for a couple of hours, jack up the prices, followed by blackout, followed by obscene bill payable immediately. You’ve been warned.
On that happy note, it is time to get out of Tokyo and head for the next adventure. Come back again since there are dozens of other things to do in this great city.