How much time do you have?
Toys – Dept. Stores in East Shinjuku, or any Sanrio outlet
Food – Yurakucho (near Ginza) yakitori stalls under the JR tracks
Culture – Asakusa Kannon Temple area
CDs – Tower Records Shinjuku (at Isetan)
Also: Harajuku/Meiji Shrine, Shibuya at night, the SONY building in Ginza, Roppongi at night, too much to do!
Agreed with the above. If you have even more time…
Toys – Mandarake—all kinds of new and used collectibles (a few places, but around and across from Tower Records in Shibuya I can remember); Tokyu Hands Depato in many parts of the city; Animate and others in Akihabara for manga/anime; Kiddyland in Harajuku is 5 floors of bliss.
CDs – I think Tower Records Shibuya might be bigger… but really, can’t go wrong.
Parks – Yoyogi and Ueno parks are wonderful, the former especially for unique culture groups dancing or doing whatever. There’s a really nice Japanese traditional garden in Shinjuku.
Food – Milky Way is a great dessert restaurant with astrologically themed dishes—in Ikebukuro next to the Sanrio store on the main drag to Sunshine city. Hostess bars in Akihabara are always interesting. Christon cafe in Shinjuku has a goth/lolita/punk theme that’s cool. Kaiten sushi (conveyor-belt sushi plates). Matcha lattes at all the Starbucks.
Culture – Cat/dog petting experience store (Nekobukuro). Odaiba and the harbor area has interesting shopping and events sometimes.
Nearby – If you have a few days to get out of the city, Nikko has beautiful temples and really nice resorts/onsen. Check a guide book about Hakone, Yokohama, and Kamakura.
You asked about “GREAT food, japanese culture”…
What would your answer be if someone was planning to visit the US and were asking about “great food and American culture”?
It’s simply too vague of a question to get a useful answer. Japanese food ranges from humble tachi-gui to super-elaborate shojin-ryori. Japanese culture ranges from sarari-men to the Imperial Family to tracksuit-clad yanki to mori-gyaru. You can’t possibly narrow “Japanese culture” down to even a half-dozen things, much less one!
I don’t mean to chide, I just want you to think about what you really want to experience and ask more specific questions. Because the way your question is parsed now, you’re going to get far too many different answers to be useful. If we don’t know more about what you want to see, any suggestions you’re going to get here are just going to be reflections of other people’s taste and preferences.
For example, the person above me said “toys: dept. stores and Sanrio”. But I might say “Aki-ba”. They said “food: yakitori”, whereas I might say “Crayon House”. They said “culture: Asakusa”, but I might say “the Tokyo-Edo Museum”. They said “CDs: Tower Shinjuku”, but I might say “RecoMints in Nakano Broadway”. And I’d avoid Roppongi like the plague. Which of us are you going to believe?
We need more info from you before we can suggest anything useful. What are your tastes and interests? Are you a yaoi fan-girl, a scholar, a Shinto pilgrim, a black metal thrasher? More info, please.
Man, this site has a lot of gliches!
For one – we are staying for about 10 days.
And the reason why I didn’t write my life story as a question is due to the fact that when you ask a question, there is a word limit. I’ve had problems with this before, and have actually contacted 43places about it. They told me to keep my answers short and snappy. That is what I have done.
Bricology – I’m an Australian girl who likes her old skool rock n’ roll and rockabilly. Love anything to do with the 40s and 50s – vintage items. I ADORE food – but not spicy food. I love vinyl toys like you get at kid robot.
I don’t like – manga too much, gothic/emo/hello kitty, etcetc.
I have researched MANY trips – and this is what I do – I take everyone’s advice, then I go to websites and judge it for myself. I’m not idiot. And I don’t really care if you think I’m an idiot. But really dude, you have to drop the attitude a bit. I’m asking you a travel question – there’s no right and wrong, and you won’t be tested on this in the final exam. No pressure. Chill!
Hi, I am Japanese, live in Tokyo.
I recommend you Shibuya and Akihabara, Harajuku.
Shibuya and Harajuku is town for the young. fashion, cd stores, so on.
Akihabara is gadget city. so many internet gadgets, manga goods, toys.
You’ve gotten some good answers but I’ll add my ¥20.
You could knock most of your initial question out with a visit (or two) to Shibuya.
The Tower Records there is my all time favorite. 6 floors and I’ve only ever made it to the 2nd. First floor has lots of listening stations and 2nd floor has most types of J-* music that you might be looking for. Anything above 2 is mostly imports which means that you’ll likely be able to get it cheaper at home. CDs in Japan are expensive so you really have to want them.
There are a few other shops in Shibuya that carry new and used where you can find some music at a reasonable price. Cisco comes to mind.
If you’re into the whole Shibuya-kei thing then you might also want to check out the HMV in Shibuya since that seems to be one of the original epicenters of the movement.
Food is everywhere in Shibuya. What am I talking about, it’s everywhere in Japan. People are obsessed with all aspects of eating so it’s difficult (not impossible) to have a bad meal. I love Shibuya for their ramen shops and one of my all time favorite udon restaurants can be found there as well.
If you’re looking for urban vinyl depending on how determined you are, you might want to pick up a book called Tokyo Underground covering toy and design culture in Tokyo. The book covers some urban vinyl shops and a lot of Japanese toy shops so it might not be exactly what you’re looking for. A lot of these places can kind of be kind of out of the way but it could be a good adventure.
If you’re a rockabilly chick you must go to Yoyogi Park near the Harajuku JR station on Sunday to check out the Tokyo Rockabilly Club. I’m sure you’ll make some new friends.
Akihabara (aka Akiba) is another good destination for electronics, toys, cheap eats and general otaku (geek) culture. Check out the Yodobashi camera while you’re there. The 6th floor (I think that’s the one) has lots of toys and some urban vinyl. The top floor has some pretty decent restaurants. If you’re looking for some inexpensive sushi there’s a decent kaiten (sushi belt) restaurant that’s known for their tuna.
If you want culture go to Kyoto :).
Have a great trip
imp784 — I don’t know why you presumed that I thought you were an idiot, or why you think I have an “attitude”. You’re mistaken on both counts.
The only thing I was trying to get you to do is understand that your question was uselessly vague, and that you could get more practical responses if you described your taste. That’s all. Australia and the US have only had a couple of centuries in which to develop indigenous cuisines and “culture”; Japan has had millennia, so saying that you’re looking for great food and “culture” when dealing with a society as diverse as Japan’s is simply useless. OK?
You need to understand that you’re asking for other people to do you a favor — to take time out of their day to share with you the benefit of their experience, for your sake. You didn’t say what kind of music you liked, so others already wasted their time telling you where to go for shibuya-kei (which I love, but apparently you don’t). That’s the sort of thing that can be avoided with just a little bit of explication on your part.
So, now that we know that you’re into ’40s-50s stuff, we can give you some real help.
For the vinyl toys, the branch of Mandarake in that’s in Akihabara (the upper floors of the Radio Kaikan building, just across the plaza from Akihabara Station) will probably have the best selection. The Mandarake in the Nakano Broadway mall in Nakano (at the end of the mall furthest from the station, on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors) also has a Mandarake and lots of little shops with vinyl kaiju and other vintage toys. The Mandarake that’s underground in Shibuya is worth visiting too.
If you want to see some of the 1950s greaser guys, go to Yoyogi Park (in the area in-between the Harajuku train station and the NHK center) on Sunday afternoons; they’ll be out dancing to recordings of ‘50s music. There’s a rival gang that dances in Ueno park, but they can be harder to find. These guys are happiest when they’re left alone to do their thing; they’re not terribly chatty, but they’ve got attitude in spades.
For music selection, Tower Shibuya is OK, but I’d head uphill (away from Shibuya Station) to RecoFan, on the 4th floor of the Shibuya Beam building). They have new and used vinyl and CDs and a mindboggling selection.
Another place to check out for vintage goodies is the weekly flea market at the Togo Shrine, next to Harajuku. It happens the first Sunday of every month, from about 10am to 3pm.
One place you should not miss is the Itchome Shotengai — AKA “the nostalgia mall”. It takes up one floor of a mall, and it’s set up to look like a 1950s Tokyo shopping district, with dozens of shops selling everything from toys to vintage (but drinkable and edible) foods and drinks. It’s on the 4th floor of the Decks Tokyo Beach building in Odaiba (an island in Tokyo Bay). You’ll probably have to ride the robotic Yurikamome train line from Shinbashi Station in Tokyo, across the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba (it only takes a few minutes). Get off at the Kaihin-koen Station and walk to the big Decks mall. The escalator up to the 4th floor is is just opposite the entrance to the Sega Joypolis indoor amusement park. It opens at 11am, IIRC.
While you’re in Odaiba, and within easy walking distance, there’s a huge ferris wheel to ride (including some transparent cabs!), a vintage car museum put on by Toyota called “History Garage” in the “Palette Town” complex. Dozens of beautiful old cars from around the world, displayed in period settings, and all free.
There’s also an excellent maritime museum in Odaiba, a huge “women’s luxury mall” with a Venetian theme called “Venus Fort” (as only the Japanese could do it) and for a wonderful vintage-themed evening, there’s a traditional Japanese hot-springs bath experience nearby (a bit Disneyland-ish, but fun nonetheless) called Oedo Onsen Monogatari. A big indoor and outdoor bathing area and indoor shopping area set up to look like a late-Edo Period onsen. There are live performers wandering around in period costumes, restaurants, gift shops, etc., and everyone wears yukata. A great way to unwind after a hard day of sightseeing.
Thanks so much to everyone for taking the time out and giving such awesome answers! Totally appreciate all your feedback.
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