It’s a common thing to found Asakusa, Akihabara’s shops of electronic goods or Hachiko statue in your Tokyo bucket list, as well as any tourism spots recommended by your trusted sources of traveling info. Well, not that those mainstream attractions are boring but let me tell you some hidden gems of the city that will bring the awe to you!
1. Design Festa at Tokyo Big Sight, Odaiba
A must-see event for all the art lovers and designers out there! Design Festa is an international art event that held twice a year (correct me if i’m wrong), featuring booths of numerous artists selling their works. It’s like the artsy version of Comiket event for short. Trust me, you’ll be surprised at how various the forms of creativity could be. The venue itself is very huge so the booths’ locations are divided into their categories such as 2D art, 3D art, lighting art and more. You can also find stage performances, live-painting murals, bunch of cosplayers, also collaborative arts which you can participate into the making. Tired of walking? Go outside to refresh yourself in fresh air while having a snack from culinary booths and watching the performances of local Jpop/Jrock bands!
2. Budget Shopping at Notoya, Takashimadaira
As your friends and relatives have said, don’t bring too much clothes from home since you would buy many things in Japan! True that. Quite far from the city center, Takashimadaira offers a shopping center named Notoya to help you survive with its low budget apparel and daily goods. Well, it’s more like a ‘granny store’ with things considered old fashioned in Tokyo, but who cares anyway when you are in the middle of a journey? Lol. Buy the inner sweater for 200 Yen (tax not included). Beat the cold air with a pack of 10 kairo portable heaters for 100 Yen. Get a cute backpack for 950 Yen. Looking for something to complete your fashion needs? Well, i got myself a Hello Kitty cat ears cape and other cheap yet nice clothes for summer! Don’t forget to visit the neighboring shoes store to get a pair of cheap running shoes.
3. Jazzy Night at INTRO, Takadanobaba
You know that Japan is also famous for their music scenes, including jazz. Escape yourself from bustling city vibes with some soothing sessions in one of Tokyo’s jazz spots, INTRO. Located in a building’s basement, this tiny pub has a warm atmosphere with dim lights, music instruments, jazz magazines, vinyl collections across the walls and friendly musicians. Yup, most of the customers and even the bartender are talented jazz musicians! With the variety of age range, they got music as a universal connection. You are allowed to watch their performance with a choice of 1,000 Yen welcome drink*. If you happen to visit late at night, better make it on the other day anyway because INTRO’s closing time is at 12pm.
4. The Whole Odaiba and Digimon Rendezvous
This was the top of my bucket list, my pilgrimage. As a 90s kid growing up with Digimon franchise, seeing the same environment and landmarks i used to see in the first two series of Digimon anime (and later Digimon Adventure Tri which launched when i was still in Tokyo!) made me nearly shed my tears of joy. That super-iconic Fuji TV building. That Rainbow Bridge. That giant saw near Tokyo Big Sight. That ferris wheel. Aah… Okay. Even if you are not a Digimon person, i still recommend Odaiba area with its wonderful features! Ride a monorail along Rainbow Bridge to enjoy the scenery. Go snap some selfies with the mini-me of Liberty. Get inside Aqua City. Relax at the magnificent Oedo Onsen Monogatari. Explore the Palette Town entertainment complex, including VenusFort arcade mall and Toyota Mega Web exhibition. You can put DiverCity mall on your priority to see the giant-head-moving Gundam statue, visit Gundam Cafe, try a row of gacha (capsule toys) and shop for relatively cheap clothes at Uniqlo. Then go back through a railway station whose name is so fancy to me: Tokyo Teleport.
5. NewType Maid Cafe, Akihabara
Not your usual maid cafe, i remind ya. NewType has the concept of cafe/bar with crossdressing maids. Yes, all the cute waitress you could meet there are actually males in maid costumes! The idea may not appealing much to young boys, since i have barely saw them as customers while i was there. But if you are girls or someone with old soul (as i am) or simply someone who wants more than a common all-girls maid cafe experience, this place is there for you! Have some chat with the maids or sing together with everyone, as the other maid plays series of vintage tokusatsu and anime soundtracks. One thing, photo-taking of any maid is prohibited. Just choose a package consists of food, drink* and photo. A staff will help to take a picture of you together with a maid by your choice using their instant camera (check out that cute photo deco drawn by the maid!) You can also pick a random selection of maid photo as collectible cards.
6. Night Snacks at Ameyakocho, Ueno
I think after-office hour is a global time for people to go on refreshing routines before they go home. This also relevant to people around Ameyakocho in Ueno who spend their time to eat, or having snacks and drinks there. You too! When you feel hungry at night, you’d better try to go there as well because there are so many Ameyakocho’s interesting street foods you can choose at night. Go try some cream-puff taiyaki (fish-shaped cake) and manju. Enjoy your warm snacks right away while watching people having fun with their coworkers. If you still have time before going back to your accommodation, just have some walk over a huge pedestrian sky-walk next to Ueno Station. Plus, you might see a flying commercial zeppelin above your head if you’re lucky. Cheers.
To be continued!
*) No worries if you don’t drink alcohol, this place also serves non-alcoholic drinks. At least soda or Coke.