Travel Log: Tokyo, Japan

 If you follow me on Instagram, you have already seen a peek at my recent Japan and Bali trip. This trip was a pandemic reschedule centered around the destination wedding of two of my longtime dear friends. I was over the moon to be invited to their rescheduled wedding, be able to attend, and plan out a two week Asia trip around it. Our itinerary included time in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Bali. You can read my Kyoto travel log here, my What I Packed and Wore in Japan post here, and please stay tuned for a Bali travel log coming soon. 

It has been a minute since I visited Japan; my last trip was in December 2016/January 2017 when my husband (technically my fiancé at that time) and I celebrated New Year's in Tokyo with a group of wonderful friends. You can see my posts detailing that trip's travel looks herehere, and here with quite a few pieces that I still have, love, and wear. Similar to my "What I Packed and Wore in Peru" post earlier this year, I will create a post to share what I packed and wore in Japan. Today, however, I want to focus on how we spent our time in Tokyo. Since my husband and I have both been to Tokyo a couple of times and have seen the major tourist areas, we had the luxury of choosing where we wanted to revisit at a relaxed pace instead of rushing to see everything. We also prioritized seeing the newer Shibuya Sky observation deck since that did not exist the last time I visited Tokyo. Please continue reading to see photos and more detail on where we went along with (hopefully) useful travel tips.


The first area we prioritized visiting was Asakusa. There is so much history in this district, and although many buildings have been rebuilt over time there has been significant care taken to preserve the look and feel of this area. It honestly looked exactly the same as the first time I visited in 2009! Asakusa station is only about a five minute walk from the famous Kaminarimon Gate entrance, so it can be very easy to reach by train depending on where you are staying. A few interesting facts about Asakusa are below and you can also check out my
Asakusa Instagram reel:

1) During the Edo period (1603-1867), Asakusa was Tokyo’s leading entertainment district with kabuki theaters, tea houses, and restaurants. Asakusa is Tokyo's oldest geisha district and if you are lucky you may see one of the few remaining working geisha in this area.

2) Kaminarimon or Kaminari Gate is over 1,000 years old and the first of two entrance gates leading to Sensoji Temple. Statues of two Shinto gods, Fujin (god of wind) and Raijin (god of thunder) stand on either side of a large red lantern with characters 雷門 (Kaminarimon - the name of the gate). This is a very popular photo spot and depending on what time you arrive there will likely be a line of people queued up to take this pic. We arrived about 30 minutes before the shops opened and the area was not too busy--easily snapping a photo by the gate with barely a wait--but by the time we left a couple of hours later it was packed.

3) Nakamise Street is one of Japan’s oldest shopping centers, starting in the late 1600’s when shops were allowed to open and serve visitors to Sensoji Temple. Today there are over 50 stalls selling snacks and souvenirs, so you can take your time to wander and browse. 






A fun new thing that we did this time in Tokyo was to visit the Shibuya Sky observation deck. The 360 degree views from the 46th floor observation deck are incredible, and be sure not to miss the seasonal installations. Shibuya Sky is located right next to Shibuya Station, and to enter you just need to follow signs to the outside elevator where an employee will check ticket times and manage entry. You'll take your first elevator up to the 14th floor where another entrance and ticket check will be immediately to your right. There is a mall in this building, which you will see when you exit and head back downstairs. Here are a few tips to ensure the best possible experience at Shibuya Sky:

1) Purchase your timed tickets online in advance. Sunset and weekend timeslots can sell out well in advance. We booked our tickets a couple of weeks prior and chose an 11am timeslot before our nearby lunch reservation. Next time I would definitely try to get a sunset reservation as the photos I have seen are gorgeous on a clear day.

2) Take a few 100 yen coins for lockers. You are only allowed to take your phone and wallet out onto the 46th floor observation deck, and are required to store even small purses in lockers that take a 100 yen coin to secure. If you visit on a sunny day be sure to grab your sunglasses from your bag so you don't do what I did, leave them in your purse, and squint in 99% of your rooftop photos. Whooops.

3) Take your time walking around and taking in the views. There is a professional photographer located at the popular rooftop corner photo spot, but the line can be quite long! I actually preferred the opposite corner with views of Tokyo Tower and there is a “selfie station” where you can place/stabilize your phone. Bonus: that corner is covered by a roof so I wasn't squinting in those pics.

4) Don’t miss the down escalator with the views you see all over Instagram. There are a couple of escalators and sets of stairs to bring you from the 46th floor back to the 45th floor with the gift shop and seasonal installations, but you want the one on the side with the cloud hammocks. If you don't like your initial content, you can walk back up the stairs right next to the escalator and take it again.

5) Check out the seasonal installations before you head back to the elevators. They are easy to miss because they are not immediately visible when you walk back inside the building. To see the seasonal installation, you will need to pass the gift shop, walk down the hall to your left and around the corner. If you miss it like I did and end up going down the escalator and ending up at the counter where you can pick up your professional photo, don't worry, there are stairs you can take back up a floor. 



Since we visited Tokyo in late November, another place on my list to see was Meiji Jingu Gaien Gingko Avenue at night. There is a 300 meter long path stretching from Ayoyama-dori Avenue toward Meiji Jingu Garden with a view of the Meiji Memorial Museum. The avenue is lined with gingko trees that turn gorgeous golden yellow hues at the end of autumn. This is a seasonal must-see location with prime viewing between November 25th and December 3rd when the trees are lit up at night. As you can see in these photos, it can get quite busy but was beautiful! These trees are conveniently situated between multiple train stations, making them easy to walk to regardless of where in the city you are staying.







Visiting Tokyo during the holiday season meant being able to see a wealth of holiday decorations, but if you have a limited amount of time and want to see as much Christmas decor as possible I recommend visiting Roppongi Hills. There is a large shopping mall here with a Christmas market, pop-up shops, and even a row of lights next to the mall with a view of Tokyo Tower.

1) The Grand Hyatt Tokyo is located right next to the Roppongi Hills shopping center and you can walk to the mall via an indoor walkway that connects through the parking garage to the mall's escalators. The Grand Hyatt is a popular wedding venue and has beautiful holiday decor.

2) Roppongi Hills Christmas Market is an adorable little European style market situated in the shopping center with food stalls and shops to purchase holiday gifts. I just read that 2023 is its 17th year of operation!

3) Dior's "Garden of Dreams" popup in Roppongi Hills was a beautiful installation with a popup store, lighted carousel and Christmas tree, mini Dior cafe stand with hot drinks and crepes, and a massive screen with Anna Taylor Joy's Dior ads running on repeat. The line for the Dior popup store looked like a Disneyland ride, so I did not wait to go in, but I read that if you spent 44,000 JPY at the store (~$300 USD) you would get a free Dior canvas shopping/tote bag.

4) The shopping mall itself has gorgeous Christmas decor including a Cartier tree outside the Cartier store. So pretty and definitely worth a walk around if you enjoy holiday lights and decorations, plus you can pick up some gifts while you are there.

5) Keyakizaka Illumination on Keyakizaka Street next to the Roppongi Hills shopping center. This street lined with lighted trees has a view of the Tokyo Tower, making it extremely popular during the holiday season. These trees are lighted every evening 5pm - 11pm between mid-November and Christmas day. People wait on either side of the street for the crosswalk, and during those few seconds rush into the middle of the street to take the optimal photo with Tokyo Tower perfectly in the middle. There are so many people doing this that the city places police officers to ensure that the road is cleared for vehicles when the lights change.






It would be a shame to create a post about Tokyo without touching on its amazing restaurants and meals. During our stay we treated ourselves to a Michelin starred omakase at Sushi Masashi in Minato City, not far from the Meiji Jingu Gaien Gingko Avenue I previously mentioned. We enjoyed 17 different courses, all delicious and meticulously prepared with the freshest seasonal ingredients. A few highlights were an uni handroll (I rarely eat uni because it tastes like dirty sea floor if not prepared well), steamed egg custard with crab, chutoro (fatty tuna) and otoro (ultra fatty tuna). While there are many Michelin-starred omakase restaurants in Tokyo, getting a reservation can be a challenge since seating is limited and I definitely recommend booking as early as you can to guarantee your experience.




Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the hotel we chose for our stay: the Tokyo Prince Park Hotel in Minato City. This hotel is in a great location, located 10-15 min walk from two train stations, right next to Zojo-ji Temple and its surrounding park, and there are restaurants plus a Lawson's convenience store in the basement of the building. Our room included breakfast on the club level, which also had amazing views, as well as access to a bar with free drinks and snacks in the evenings. The service was wonderful and our room itself was large and comfortable with a small outdoor balcony and amazing views of Tokyo tower. This was my first time staying at this hotel and I would absolutely stay here again.

Have you been to Tokyo during the fall or holiday season? If so, what was your favorite memory? Thank you for visiting my blog today and I wish you a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate! 

Comments

  1. Tokyo is on my bucket list. What a fun city to visit! I'm terrified of heights and don't think I could do the observation deck or escalator despite the amazing views! Merry Christmas!

    Jill - Doused in Pink

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    1. Tokyo is a great city with so many things to see, eat, and do! I am sure you will love it when you go.

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  2. Wow! It looked like such an amazing trip. Your photos and description just made me wish I was there right now. And look at that view from the sky deck. I bet it’s even more stunning in person. Looking forward to reading the rest of your getaway!

    Maureen | www.littlemisscasual.com

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    1. Shibuya Sky was so cool, I'm really glad we went! I hope you had a great Christmas and wishing you a Happy New Year!

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  3. Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting my blog and for your kind note!

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  4. This looks like such an amazing trip with so many fun things to see and do!

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    1. There is indeed so much to do in Tokyo! Thank you and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

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  5. Thank you, Danielle! It was a wonderful trip!

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