I spent lots of time in Tokyo, but the first area I discovered was around Ginza and Tokyo Station, as that’s where my first hotel was.
GINZA AND NIHONBASHI
On my first day in Tokyo, I headed to Ginza, an area full of major retailers. It’s a good area to visit, as it’s full of flagship stores and bustling with people. Nearby Nihonbashi is equally impressive. Even if you don’t like shopping, it’s interesting with lots of flagship stores.
I visited Uniqlo (spread over 13 floors!), Muji, Mitsukoshi (a famous department store) and G. Itoya (a great stationary shop). Shops around Ginza often cover many floors and have anything you need (and even more that you don’t).
Ginza is considered to be a more Western part of Tokyo, with its ample avenues. To me it’s still very much Japan, completely OTT, but a bit less hectic than Shibuya or Shinjuku.
Tokyo Station is massive and manic, and it has lots of shops and restaurants around and inside it. It’s a useful place to visit for tickets and to get information, but it’s also an interesting stop itself.
Inside the station there’s T’s Tantan, a vegan favourite as it serves ramen (which is rarely vegan-friendly). The food was really delicious and definitely worth a visit (lunch for two including drinks for Y3000). The restaurant is located inside the JR barriers at Keiyo Street, so you need a valid ticket to get in.
Just outside Tokyo Station is Hitachino Brewing Lab, a nice bar serving Hitachino beer. You can try one of their nice beers for around Y700, or sample a float of three for Y980.
After many days of rain there was finally a break, so we went to the Imperial Gardens (free to visit). It is one of the largest green areas in central Tokyo, and a good place to spend a few hours. There are ample green areas, an orchard, and many historical buildings which used to serve as lookout posts.
Tokyo’s Museum of Modern Art is behind the Imperial Gardens. The place hosts many different exhibitions and you can buy different tickets – we visited the permanent collection for Y500. It is a great museum with lots of interesting artworks by Japanese artists, so definitely worth a visit to get to know their work.
One of those things you think about doing before you go to Japan is seeing some Kabuki, and it was actually quite easy to do. Kabuki-za is a famous theatre in Ginza, and it has performances every day.
You can buy tickets on the day for a single act (the whole thing lasts four hours, so an hour-long act is enough). You join the queue about 1h30 before it starts and you get a ticket for Y1000 to Y1600 depending on the performance. You can rent an audio guide to translate it, but they also give you a written summary before it starts (all the details are on this website, look for the single act instructions).
We went late one afternoon and it was a great experience. The theatre looks amazing and brand new, and the set and costumes are perfect – I don’t think I’ve seen this level of care in a production before.
The plays are quite old-fashioned – it’s all funny expressions and funny lines (I gather), so you only need to try it once!