Beyond the royal palaces, temples, and skyscrapers, Tokyo has an underworld of unconventional places and attractions waiting to be discovered. Get packing, here’s a look at some of the most unique experiences you can have away from the usual hustle and bustle, courtesy of guest editor Nellie Huang.
1. Mingle with cool locals in Akihabara
Watch anime characters come to life in the district of Akihabara, which is not just known for the multi-level arcade game centres and electronics stores, but also for its parade of funky cosplayers and extreme fashionistas. Locals dressed in wild, intricate costumes and outfits come here to show off the latest in alternative, underground fashion. Don’t be afraid to stare — it’s perceived as a compliment.
2. Stay in a capsule hotel
As the name implies, rooms at these hotels are pods that fit just one person, and have only the basic necessities required for a good night’s rest: a mattress, pillow, and TV. Those with claustrophobia need not apply, but the space-saving hotels are brilliant for people who seek affordable yet interesting accommodation.
3. Eat at Robot Restaurant
“Robot Restaurant” is perhaps an understatement for Shinjuku, where diners are treated to a loud, psychedelic cabaret show featuring scantily clad orchestrators and dancing, larger-than-life robots. The music here is kitschy, and will feel nostalgic to most Western travellers. Expect to leave dazed and bewildered.
4. Drink with Japanese office workers at Piss Alley
Tucked within the shiny district of Shinjuku is a narrow alley known as Omoide Yokocho, which translates literally to "memory lane," though many know the stretch as “piss alley.” It’s chock full of closet-sized restaurants known for their unique dishes, and yakitori pubs. The alley is a favourite among Japanese working-class men looking to blow off some steam with a drink (or two, or three… ). One of the most famous restaurants here, Izakaya Asadachi, serves such unique fare as grilled salamander, so don’t miss it if you’re looking for something to write home about.
5. Watch the Shibuya Crossing from overhead
Tokyo’s most famous intersection is probably the most organized chaos you’ll ever experience. When the light turns green, hundreds of commuters dash across the road in every direction, and somehow manage to get to the other side before the light changes back to red. It can be overwhelming to cross the intersection if you’re a first-timer, so I recommend heading up a nearby building to get an aerial view from above first. You’ll be surprised by the perspective from that angle.
*Imagery courtesy of Jeff L. and Josh H.