Unforgettable experiences

CRAZY FUN • ONLY-IN-JAPAN ENTERTAINMENT • LEARN SOMETHING AMAZING • #UPWORTHY • ENTERTAINING EATS • SEASONAL GOODNESS

CRAZY FUN

Take photos of yourself in amazing situations at the TRICK ART MUSEUM

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You’ve got forty-five chances to take the most killer profile pic ever! Life-size illusions range from being swallowed by a shark to battling ninjas to being trapped by a giant in his wineglass!

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Directions & maps

Be a LOLITA FOR A DAY

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At Maison de Julietta in Laforet, you can choose from all this season’s latest Lolita fashions (including wigs, stockings, and matching accessories), then be styled by a professional makeup artist, and have your picture taken!

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Directions & map

Be dazzled by fembots, laser lights & neon taiko drummers at the ROBOT RESTAURANT

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Vegas meets New Japan in this music, dance and laser light show extravaganza. Taiko drumming and pole dancing alternate with battling robots. Everybody should go once, because you definitely won’t see anything like this outside Japan!

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Watch the best free entertainment in Tokyo, every Sunday afternoon at YOYOGI PARK

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 Watch the rockabilly dancers, take in a performance of  rakugo (traditional Japanese storytelling), try slackline, check out the costumed dogs, marvel at the Skate Beagle, and more!

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Directions & map

RIDE A ROLLER COASTER THROUGH A TOKYO SKYSCRAPER at Korakuen’s Tokyo Dome City

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How could you resist going to this amusement park, right in the middle of Tokyo?

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Directions & maps

Get a pedicure from foot nibbling therapy fish at the OEDO ONSEN

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Fifteen or thirty minute sessions guarantee to make everything below the water line squicky (and I don’t mean squeaky) clean!

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Directions & map

Beat your compadres at a Smile Fight at the Explorascience Museum in ODAIBA

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Who’s got the deadliest smile? Let the Sony Explorascience computer snap your photo and rank you among the best smilers of the day!

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ONLY-IN-JAPAN ENTERTAINMENT

Watch some RAKUGO: Traditional Japanese Comic Storytelling!

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If you’ve never watched rakugo, you’re in for a treat. There are about three hundred funny, poignant stories that have been told since the Edo Era by wandering Japanese actors, and my friend Ootomo-san has translated some of the most famous ones into English! He has performed the stories over a hundred times for audiences ranging from victims of the Tohoku tsunami to ambassadors’ wives at the German Embassy, and everybody leaves with smiles on their faces. He hones his art in Yoyogi Park on Sunday afternoons during warm weather, trying out new stories and practicing the old ones, and he’s happy to perform them for anyone who asks. Whether you can spare five minutes or half an hour, don’t miss this truly Japanese art that few foreigners ever get to see! Details on where to find him and how to contact him here.

Take a sneak peek at some of Ootomo-san’s short pieces in English!

 Fishing For Women (19:15) • Ghost Woman Returns (5:36) • The Unobservant Husband (13:20) • Too Much Religious Devotion (5:31) • Drunk Under The Cherry Blossoms (4:52) • The Water Vendor’s Fortune (7:11)

Spend three hours on the edge of your seat at the KABUKI THEATRE

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Think three hours of stylized acting in archaic Japanese might be wasted on you? Think again! First of all, the English earphones are so great, even my Japanese friends use them because they explain stuff like, “that flute music you’re hearing always plays when someone is about to die.” The costumes and sets are amazing, and the stories are real classics of love and betrayal and pranksterism and death. I guarantee, you won’t be bored. Here’s a step by step guide to how to get tickets and what to do when you get there.

Watch a taiko-drumming FIRE CEREMONY

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If you thought Buddhism was all about silent contemplation, think again! The Fukugawa Fudo temple dishes up bonfires of flaming prayer sticks and towering taiko drums. This ceremony takes place several times daily at a fascinating temple that also has a hall of 10,000 crystal Fudo figures and a room filled with glow-in-the-dark gods.

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Directions & map

Sit among the musicians at the world’s smallest live jazz bar APOLLO

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Most nights of the week, live jazz spirals up into the night from the basement lair of the Apollo bar in Shimo-kitazawa. For the price of a beer and a cover charge of about $15.00, you can sit so close to the musicians you can see the scratches on their instruments. One night it’s Brazilian, one night Afro, the next night blues, but the quality of the music is always amazing. Japanese jazz musicians love experimenting with unusual instruments too – it’s the only place I’ve seen someone jamming on a bass flute or a six-string bass! Details here.

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LEARN SOMETHING AMAZING

Make your own PLASTIC FOOD

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There’s a store in the restaurant supply district where you can sign up for a two-hour workshop to learn how to make a piece of tempura and a head of lettuce!

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Directions & maps

Head over to the Tsukiji Fish Market and LEARN HOW TO MAKE SUSHI FROM A MASTER

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This four-hour workshop (in English!) starts with wandering the fish market and choosing the ingredients to a hands-on workshop teaching the techniques master chefs use to make sushi.

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LEARN FIRST-HAND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WEAR A KIMONO

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This two-hour tour includes being dressed in a kimono with all the trimmings, then walking around Roppongi for photo-taking ops.

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Learn the secret messages hidden in woodblock prints at the AMUSE MUSEUM

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The Amuse Museum is home to a collection of wonderful artifacts illustrating Japanese country life before Japan opened to the West (I especially love the salmon skin boots with fins!), but they also have a tiny theater that shows a terrific loop of shorts pointing out the hidden messages in woodblock prints. As a special bonus, you can head up to Bar Six for a drink and the best view of Senso-ji temple around!

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#UPWORTHY

Double your money at the Zeni-arai Benten MONEY-WASHING SHRINE

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The gods who promise to double any money you wash in the spring at the Zeni-arai Benten shrine in Kamakura must be in a generous mood because the live in one of the most beautiful shrines I’ve ever seen. Hidden away through a tunnel carved through a cliff, it’s a cool grotto of ferny walls, with trickling waterfalls and loads of small shrine buildings and torii gates.

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Directions & map

Go inside the GIANT BUDDHA

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Yes, you can go inside the Daibutsu and see how it was made!

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See monkeys & a lovely shrine at the top of MT. TAKAO

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You can get there by cable car, chair lift or hiking trail • The monkey park features lots of lively & entertaining monkey families • Nice shrine, snack bars & souvenir shops at the top • All-you-can-eat-and-drink beer garden is open from July-Oct • Great place to see cherry blossoms (early Apr) and autumn leaves (mid- to late Nov).

Directions & map

See giant frozen tuna at the TSUKIJI FISH MARKET

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Ogle the giant tuna and the still wriggling denizens of the deep, then eat the freshest fish in the world at 24-hour sushi bar

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ENTERTAINING EATS

Now you see it, now you don’t, at the NINJA RESTAURANT

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If you want to see what this flaming egg turns into, let’s go to Ninja Akasaka! I was expecting something pretty cheesy, with lousy food, but I was totally surprised. The place itself is a delightful dungeon full of drawbridges and secret passageways, staffed by ninjas who conjure up quite delicious dishes with surprising twists. This restaurant does not disappoint! Details here.

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Visit a maid café in AKIHABARA

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Have the ultimate otaku lunch, being served by uniformed maids who call you “Master of the House”!

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Order a smokin’ Witch Girl cocktail and Black Rage Of Satan Pizza at the  CHRISTON CAFÉ

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I discovered the theatrically great Goth-Catholic theme café while doing book research for Nightshade, then I went back just for fun! The food isn’t amazing, but how can you resist ordering Black Rage Of Satan Pizza, washed down with a smoking Witch Girl cocktail?

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Eat red hot pepper and other WEIRD FLAVORS OF ICE CREAM

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At Namco Namja Town’s ice cream shop, every strange flavor of ice cream you can imagine is there for the sampling! Red hot pepper, wasabi, soy sauce, garlic, eggplant, beer, eel and more! They also have quite delicious flavors like Hokkaido sweet cream, grape, and Belgian chocolate.

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Catch your own noodles at Chaya Kado in KAMAKURA

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Catch your own noodles as they float past in the stream running down the middle of your table! Cold noodles dipped in a savory sauce with tempura and a beer are an unforgettable hot weather treat from May to October.

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SEASONAL FUN

You can’t enjoy these things all year round, but if you’re in Tokyo when they’re happening, they are well worth seeing! Check the #tokyotrip section of this website to search for special events happening 365 days a year. Here are some highlights:

Music, laser lights and thousands of fancy goldfish rock until late at the ART AQUARIUM

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From early July until late September, thousands of fancy goldfish are displayed at a giant gallery, lit up like jewels with laser lights. Each aquarium is custom designed to highlight the beauty of the fish, and many different varieties are on display. At night, DJs spin music live, and drinks are available (both alcoholic & non-alcoholic).

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Directions & map

Watch a battle of the titans at a SUMO TOURNAMENT

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For this only-in-Japan experience, you need to be in Tokyo during one of the three fifteen-day tournaments (January, May, December), but if you’re lucky enough to be here then, don’t miss watching some sumo! These mountains of muscle clash like forces of nature, and in between matches, the pomp and ceremony are as interesting to watch as the wrestling.

You can get general admission tickets on a same-day basis at the sumo stadium box office next to the Edo-Tokyo Museum: $20 for adults, $2 for children ages 4 to 15 (kids under 4 get in free), cash only. These tickets will give you a birds’ eye view of the proceedings – they’re not close, but you can still see great. (The closer seats are all owned by people, and you have to get an invitation to sit there!) The box office opens at 8 a.m., and competition begins at 9 a.m. and lasts into the evening. Here’s the official sumo page in English with a tournament schedule and more ticket info.

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Sample the traditional entertainment at a JAPANESE FESTIVAL

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If you’ve never been to a rollicking Japanese festival, check the #tokyotrip festivals page to see if there’s one happening while you’re in town! You’ll see why in my next life, I definitely want to come back as a Shinto godMatsuri always feature the neighborhood folk carrying one or more golden portable shrines though the streets, lots of beer and saké, and sometimes a parade in period costume. Everyone ends up at the local shrine, where food booths, old-fashioned carnival games, and entertainments like monkey shows go late into the night. Best of all, this only-in-Japan entertainment is FREE!

Cheer with the world’s craziest fans at a JAPANESE BASEBALL GAME

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Games are scheduled from May-September • In the land of wa, America’s national pastime takes on a distinctly Japanese twist. There’s nothing quite like spending an afternoon at the Tokyo Dome, cheering on the Yomiuri Giants with the world’s craziest (and most organized) fans!

Directions, schedule & map

Be amazed and delighted at Tokyo’s HOLIDAY ILLUMINATIONS

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One of my favorite things to do in Tokyo is to ride the trains around to see all the holiday Illuminations! From late-November to mid-January, neighborhoods try to out-do each other’s displays. Every one of them is a visual treat, but the wildest ones are animated and set to music. Don’t miss this free entertainment if you’re in Tokyo over the holidays! Here’s where to see the best ones.

Wander through a winter wonderland of fairy lights at SAGAMIKO ILLUMILLIONS THEME PARK

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November through mid-April • If you love holiday lights as much as I do, let’s go to the Illumillions theme park! They’ve covered the entire landscape with millions of colored lights, including a forest of golden trees, an underwater wonderland, and a palace that sparkles with a musical water fountain show several times an hour. There are even a couple of psychadelically glowing tunnels you can walk through!

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Jonelle Patrick writes mysteries set in Tokyo

If you’d like to venture behind closed doors to the places they leave out of the guidebooks, click here to browse the books where girls dress like living dolls, beautiful young men entertain lonely women, and…read more

 

 


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