Asakusa (Last station on the Ginza Line)
Outside the station you will find signs that lead to Senso-Ji Temple. You will first spot it by the huge ‘Kaminarimon’ gate. After you enter the gate the street in front of you is called Nakamise Dori, it’s great for street food and souvenirs (spend some time strolling down here slowly and do some shopping). NOTE: if you buy ice cream on this street you will have to eat it in the store, they don’t let you walk around with ice cream in case you drop it and dirty the streets (lol). At the end of the street you will find the temple. Some of the side streets have good food too if you want to explore them. There are also rickshaws you can hire to take you around on a quick tour of the streets, we haven’t done this before, but it’s something Linh might enjoy.
Harajuku and Meiji Jingu
From Harajuku station you can walk to Meiji Jingu Shrine. It’s a bit of a walk, but the shrine is very beautiful and if you go early you might miss the crowd and it will be quite peaceful. Afterwards, you can spend a good few hours walking down Takeshita-dori, the main street of Harajuku. There’s lots of shopping and some nice cafes (there’s a cat cafe and owl cafe there somewhere if you are interested, we didn’t have time to go so don’t know if it’s any good).
There’s 2 very famous crepe stores on this street: Marion Crepes and Angels Heart Crepes The angel one is super bright and colourful and hard to miss. For good gyoza you can try to find this place: Harajuku Gyozaro, it’s not on the main street so only go there if you happen to end up near it.
Another great place to shop. There’s 2 multi-level (like 9 levels!) shopping centres – 1 for girls 1 for guys. It’s called Shibuya 109 and 109 mens, they are on opposite sides of the street facing the famous Shibuya crossing. Shibuya is great for food. For breakfast or dessert/coffee there is a nice cafe in the 109 mens building called Hoshino Coffee. They make really good and pretty french toast here. They also serve drip coffee and if you’re lucky, grab a seat near the window so you can look down onto the Shibuya crossing (great for photos). For lunch/dinner there is a 24hr Coco Curry and a really cool sushi train: Uobei Sushi. If you like ramen, you must visit Ichiran (possibly the most famous and arguably best ramen).
You will probably enjoy this area more than Linh, but you have to visit it. This is where all-things manga and anime are. If you are interested, visit a maid cafe – I’ve heard @home maid cafe is the best one where both girls and guys will enjoy (we haven’t been, but check out video below).
This is a man made island, try to visit around sunset. There is a nice shopping centre here that is inspired by Venice called Venus Fort, it’s very pretty to walk through. Nearby you will also find Diver City, which is where the famous Gundam statue is (but I think they removed it this March and are replacing it, I don’t think the new one will be up at the time of your visit yet, but double check if you are interested.) Once it gets dark you can wander outside along the harbour. There is a mini statue of liberty and you can also see the rainbow bridge in the distance.
A great place for yakitori! Underneath Yurakucho station you will find a few alleyways filled with Yakitori bars. There is one place called Yakitori Tonton which we highly recommend. Great local experience.
Tsukiji Fish Market
If you can get here early (like 5:30am-6am early) and you like sashimi, there is a very famous sushi restaurant here called Daiwa Sushi, I think it was $50-$60 for their set menu of fresh sashimi from the market. Later on in the day you can end up queuing for hours. Otherwise, you can wander through the markets and try random food, there’s lots of fresh seafood.
If you can be bothered making a day trip to Yokohoma, there is a ramen museum and cup noodle museum there that are both worth visiting. At the ramen museum you get to sample ramen from all over Japan. There is also a really nice ferris wheel on the harbour.
One of the most famous destinations in Japan. This place is so good for photos. Walk up the mountain between the multitude of tori gates, the further you get, the less people, so you get better photos. It’s a pretty long walk to get all the way to the top, along the way there is a nice view over the city. But it is a lot of walking and Linh doesn’t like walking, so depends on what you guys feel like that day. The gates look the same all the way up, so you don’t really need to walk the whole thing, just walk up a little and come back down if you can’t be bothered.
There are sooooo many temples in Kyoto. At Kyoto station you can buy a bus pass from the information desk – there are a few different day passes that allow access on different bus routes around the city and they stop off at all the temples. I think the bus was called the ‘Raku’ bus from memory. The most famous temples are Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkakuji. There are stores where you can hire kimono for the day, lot’s of people do this (we didn’t, but Linh would probably enjoy). This is fun for photos.
In the evening head over to Gion to try and spot geisha scurrying off to dinner performances. If you can find Pontocho Alley, that is a nice place for food with a nice atmosphere (but generally quite expensive, we didn’t eat here so no suggestions).
You must go here! The bamboo forest here is amazing. There is also a monkey park on top of the mountain where there are lots of free roaming monkeys. The tofu here is very famous, you can find it everywhere served all different ways. We hired a bike near the station to get around and explore, but you can also walk.
We ran out of time to visit here but have heard it’s really nice. Beautiful park with free-roaming deer. It is similar distance from both Osaka and Kyoto.
Probably the most famous area of Osaka with all the restaurants with huge signage. The crab here is good. Takoyaki store with the huge octopus is overrated.
Pretty much only good if you are either a Harry Potter fan or have never been to any other Universal Studios. Rides are very similar to the one in Singapore. Harry Potter world is probably the main attraction. Go early and head straight for Harry Potter world to avoid crowds and to get an early timed entry (they only allow a certain amount of people in at allocated times).
Great for photos. We didn’t go inside, so no comment on that. But worth a visit for a few photos outside.
So much good food in this market. There is really good takoyaki here, better than dotonbori in our opinion. Spend some time to slowly explore.