The Iron Fairies Ginza
Cafe Ron Ron
Lunch at Kyubey Ginza
Nijigen Cospa Akiba
Unicorn Gundam Statue
Hakone Geo Museum
Dug Jazz Bar
Albatross in Golden Gai
SEGA Akihabara 3rd
Fukagawa Edo Museum
nokishita 711 gin & cocktail labo.
Ippodo Tea Kyoto
Menbakaichidai Fire Ramen
Ramen that is on fire 🔥
Gudetama Cafe Osaka
Beard Papa Creme Puffs
KFC, I swear, really
Ghibli Museum in Mitaka
Brewpub Center Point
Bar High Five
Custom cocktails based on your tastes around $20–25. They get busy, no reservations. Dress nice. The bartenders speak English and are some of the nicest people. Owner is a very chatty, lively fellow.
Hitachino Brewing Lab
Laid back. Very good craft brew. Eat beforehand.
Go for lunch for the freshest sushi imaginable.
This is a small chain but very worth it. Try the yuzu broth at the end.
Expensive drinks, but a must-see regardless. These types of places have seat charges.
Only go on Sunday if the weather’s nice.
Design Festa Gallery
Easily accessible near the Harajuku/Shinjuku area, close to Yoyogi.
Extremely cheesy, worthwhile experience. The food is great! You’ll have to make a reservation two days prior. Parties of 6 or more require pre-ordering your courses.
You can spend a whole afternoon walking around Asakusa’s historical district, shopping center, and by the river.
Sumo at Ryogoku Kokugikan
This is a fascinating experience. You can rent an AM radio with a $30 deposit or bring your own and hear commentary broadcasted in English.
Great neighborhood with shops, food, record stores. Kinda out of the way but gives you a better idea of Tokyo life outside of the 23 special wards.
Beer Bar Ushitora
One of the most amazing craft pubs I’ve ever visited.
Minato Mirai 21
Kinda like the Navy Pier of Yokohama. Great for people-watching. 12 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train.
Cup Noodles Museum
Kinda for kids but fascinating from a designer’s perspective. You can make your own cup noodles as a souvenir.
Pretty cool place for ice cream.
Aritsugu Knife Store
450 year old knife seller in Nishiki Market, adjacent to Kiyiomizudera Shopping District.
Tea Ceremony at En
Really friendly staff, small demonstration, beautiful tea ceremony room.
Better than Cirque de whatever, if they’re still running.
A must. About 2–3 hours to the top and back.
Samurai Kembu Kyoto
Demonstrations for tourists. Very nice.
Drinking at Kamo River
Get some chuhai, beer, or whiskey and drink at the river. There’s a lot of street performers and people relaxing as the city winds by.
Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
This is truly vacation. Go here with some cash for the whisky museum and the tasting room. If you can swing it, book a distillery tour. They’re cheap but fill up fast. Oyamazaki station is 20 mins from Kyoto in Osaka Prefecture.
Stuff as much food in as you can: okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and kushikatsu are musts.
Space Station Bar
Console gaming and cocktails. English focused.
Amazing craft beer selection.
Spend a day on Miyajima island. Lots of hiking, food, and wild deer.
Peace Park and Museum
Hiroshima is a powerful experience. Visit the museum and memorials in the morning, and try Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki for lunch.
This is a great day-trip or you can book a ryokan for the night. Maybe 2.5 hours west of Kyoto on trains through the mountains. The town is mostly a getaway for locals and tourists, and shops shut down around 6pm because everyone’s eating dinner in their rooms. The bathhouse itself is maybe $10 and you can spend a few hours there.
You’re gonna spend hours researching so japan-guide.com is your one-stop-shop for tourism advice. Consider compiling a series of Google Maps and plotting stuff via odigo.travel so you can download them to your phone in case you don’t have service.
A trip is $3k on average, with half going towards round-trip airfare. You can find good deals via travel agencies and the like, but this is what you should expect to spend. There's some rare $600 deals in the States because Japan is in desperate need of a younger workforce and tourists with cash money.
Hostels are almost as nice as hotels at 1/4 the price. Guests are adventurous and talkative, and most places are cleaned daily and provide locker space. Snoring is probably the biggest deterrent for staying at a hostel. I’ve stayed at several K’s House and Khaosan locations, and most were good experiences. HostelWorld is accurate regarding reviews. Airbnb is not exactly on the up-and-up, but worth it if you want a local’s experience.
Train is really the way to go in such a small country. Here's a great breakdown about train travel! JR Pass is a must for most travelers, and grants you unlimited train travel for two weeks for about $350 USD. The purchase involves a background check and government approval, so you must buy your “Exchange Order” about 3 weeks prior to your trip. JRPass.com offers an affordable rate and 3-5 day delivery. Depending how long you're in Tokyo, also consider getting a Suica card.
Google Translate App is a lifesaver but will drain your battery. It has this really useful button that enlarges the type so you can show it to servers, at an information desk, or whoever needs clarification. It now also offers real-time translation via photos. You can book an extremely cheap wifi device via JRPass.com, and pickup/drop it off at the airport.
Lots of Japanese cuisine is palateable to Western tastes, but some of it is very much not. Restaurants in Tokyo typically have menus in English, illustrative photos, or plastic demo food in the window. Forget being vegan during the trip — “no fish” doesn’t necessarily mean they care about the fish oil in their sauce. Learn to communicate your dietary restrictions with confidence and hope for the best.
From a tourist perspective, crime is practically non-existent but take all the same precautions as you would in any major city. Police officers are everyday superheroes who would kindly offer you detailed directions since they don’t have much to do. Do watch out for a small one-inch lip at the top of underground stairwells outdoors. This is probably designed to prevent flooding, but one only wonders if it’s intended to kill tourists.