Tokyo is the biggest, busiest and most confusing city I’ve ever been to. It’s also one the most fascinating travel experiences I’ve had. Its surprisingly easy to find peace in the chaos of this urban jungle, due to the Japanese living ethos and the way the neighbourhoods are compartmentalised. I spent two weeks exploring Tokyo and never ran out of things to see, dishes to try or people to meet. I often went exploring without a plan, finding galleries and interesting streets on the way.

Shibuya Crossing

Famous for being the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. It’s fascinating how the infrastructure planning resulted in this spectacle. I stayed here for nearly hour taking photos here. It’s like Times Square in NY, but with nicer colours and a more open space.

Shibuya District

Shibuya itself is a huge urban district with plenty of nightlife and streets to explore, not unlike Shinjuku.

Meiji Shrine / Yoyogi Park

Just outside Harajuku station is the Meiji Shrine / Yoyogi Park nature area. This place is a place to escape to if you’ve had enough of the busy and noisy streets. There’s a lot of historic temples to explore here, and if you’re lucky you’ll see a traditional Japanese wedding taking place!

Koenji - a hipster neighbourhood

We met a local who wanted to show us one of the coolest ‘hipster’ areas in Tokyo. Koenji has a main street that seems to go on forever, lined with interesting shops. Beyond the main street is all residential, so the area feels very localised and more like a neighbourhood.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe

Akira owl cafe

I love birds and owls are no exception. These owls are well cared for and are better behaved than my friend’s pet birds in Sydney. There are several different species of all ages and sizes. We were allowed to touch some of them – the cafe has signs that indicate wether or not the owl likes to be touched. Make sure to book ahead of time and to be calm and gentle around the owls.

Roppongi Hills at Dusk

Roppongi is a business district which has the best view in Tokyo – at the top of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. It costs about $15-20usd to get a ticket to both the Mori Art Museum and the lookout. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset in Tokyo, and you’ll see all the city lights turn on. Roppongi Hills itself is an interesting building complex, because it embodies the ‘city within a city’ concept.


Known as the luxury district of Tokyo, Ginza is filled with high income business people and shoppers. There are many expensive and high quality brands if that’s your thing.

I went to an elegant tea house called Higashiya, which combines modern design elements with the traditional art of teamaking. You can select from a big tea catalogue and they will recommend seasonal rice sweets to accompany it, just like how some types of wine pairs well with certain foods.

There is a famous tsukumen place called ‘Ginza Kagari’. There’s usually a line of people to get in (which in Tokyo means it’s extra good). Here I had one of the best meals of my life, all for less than $15.

Another place I stumbled upon in Ginza was the Canon art gallery. As a photographer I had to go in and check out the exhibition. A Japanese man started to talk with me – I soon realised it was his exhibition! His name is Yuya Moto. It was great to make friends with a professional photographer at their own exhibition!

Tokyu Plaza - Omotesando x Harajuku

This intersection is between the famous Harauku fashion district and the Omotesando shopping area. Architect Hrioshi Nakamura used mirrors to create the entrance to the Tokyo Plaza shopping centre. For all things

Golden Gai Alleyway

There are a few traditional alleyway districts in Tokyo leftover from the last century, lined with tiny bars and restaurants. Two bustling areas are the Shinjuku Golden Gai and Nonbei in Shibuya.

Kobayashi-san runs JBS where it’s all about jazz, blues and soul. He has a huge collection of records lining the walls. He knows where every single record is located. It’s hidden away on a busy street in Shibuya.


This is where the nightlife is at. You can find food, bars, clubs, gaming, gambling and even a bit of red light district here. It’s really interesting how Japanese people change when they go out drinking! During the day people are quite demure and quiet but if it’s a drinking night it seems like people open up a lot more. I spent a few nights here with friends I made

Late Night Urban Scapes

Instead of taking the subway home I enjoyed walking the long way. It meant I could take photos late after the last train, and see how the city looks without people.

Blue Bottle Coffee

For good coffee go here! Enough said.

Food - oishi!

I think Tokyo has the best food in the world. They say it has the highest concentration of Michelin Star restaurants. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good food here. Even the corner shops here stock fresh bento boxes that are ready to eat. Wether you are a low budget or luxury traveller the taste value is always high. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients, there’s a lot of interesting flavours to try.  I just love Japanese food!

One of the restaurants I visited twice was Genki Sushi – you order sushi by ipad and it gets delivered to you with a robotic monorail. Like all food in Tokyo it’s extremely fresh and high quality.

Convenience Stores

The convenience stores in Japan are the future. The 7/11s here are nothing like in Australia – in fact I think I have to make a separate blogpost about it! I loved getting food and small things like socks from convenience stores.

Getting Around the City

Like many Asian cities, the traffic in Tokyo is very slow. In fact, the average traffic speed is said to be only 16km/h. Therefore I don’t recommend hiring a car or taking taxies regularly. It’s just as well that the public transport system in Japan is awesome! You’ll be able to get everywhere with the trains and subway, using either a Japan rail pass or a Suica/IC/Pasmo cards. By using google maps you can map out public transport journeys easily. If possible try to avoid rush hour as it will be very crowded.

Where to Stay

I used Airbnb in Tokyo, but my friends have had good experiences with cheap hotels and hostels. For a special experience you can try a capsule hotel – which I did in Kyoto. The apartments here are shockingly small coming from Australia!

I stayed in one of the outer districts of Shinjuku, a 15min subway trip to the main Shinjuku station. I would recommend staying somewhere relatively close to the city centre (within 30min travel time).


If you don’t speak Japanese you will be fine in Tokyo. Many people can speak English in places where it matters, like in stores and at stations. Just remember to be polite and learn at least a few Japanese phrases. I had a few Japanese classes back in high school but my skills are pretty terrible (English and German have made sure my brain is completely full). Many people assumed I was a local and it would take a few sentences before they realised I had no idea what they were saying.


When I get to a new country I like to buy a prepaid SIM card, but in Japan it’s kind of hard to find these. You’ll be better off getting a wifi dongle (a quick google search will reveal plenty of options). I didn’t have much money in my bank account so I used free wifi from accomodation and public areas, which meant I got lost a few times when there was no connection. Internet would also have been good to help translate Japanese at times.

Tokyo - where I left a piece of me

In my time in Tokyo I fell in love; it’s such an interesting city. I’m planning to return  next year to explore some new places in Japan as well.