Saying Tokyo is overwhelming to visit is a gross understatement. Searching for a decent happy place to unwind or simply enjoy a lazy afternoon can become a full on, all-consuming quest. Thankfully, with the age of the internet now fully coming into its prime, it is now easier than ever to shave years off the learning curve and do Tokyo like a local from the moment of touchdown.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
Yoyogi Koen, Shibuya
Of all Tokyo’s green spaces, the city’s fourth largest, Yoyogi Koen (‘koen’ means ‘park’ in English), has the most character. A beautifully laid out park, with sprawling grass lawns, quieter wooded areas, a good sized pond and well-placed walkways and fountains. Stroll through on a Sunday afternoon and you’ll find drum circles, hula hoopers, dance troupes and the odd game of ultimate frisbee. It’s great for an after dinner walk with ones’ beau or letting the littles burn off steam. Weekends typically include exciting international culture festivals and fares.
Ichiran Ramen, Shibuya
No one does hot bowls of ramen quite like the Japanese and every true Tokyo local, has a handful of ‘favorite’ ramen shops — Ichiran is one such list topper. Aside from their heavenly ramen, they’ve gone a step further and made the experience of enjoying ramen Japanese style an inclusive affair. By preparing their menu items and ordering lists in English, the process of ordering Japan’s ultimate comfort food has never been easier. They specialize in a type of ramen called ‘tonkotsu ramen’ which is made from a sinfully delicious pork-based broth. With multiple locations around Tokyo, finding a nearby shop is never difficult. However, the Shibuya location is perfect as a post shop-till-you-drop recharging station.
United Nations University Farmers’ Market, Aoyama
One of the city’s longest running weekend farmers’ markets, this one is highly favored by locals. A beautiful mix of fresh produce, ready-to-eat snack and drink offerings, and plenty of handmade goods, this is great either before or after brunch. It’s also the perfect place to see how salt-of-the-earth, garden-fresh items integrate with the metropolitan vibe of the Earth’s largest city. Fun to walk through with kiddos or alone, the market is a great way to remember there’s more than high-rise buildings and concrete to be found in the heart of Tokyo.
Big Echo Karaoke, Ikebukuro
Literally translated as ‘empty orchestra’ the term ‘karaoke’ makes perfect sense when you think about it. It’s also one of the signature ways Tokyoites of all ages love to spend a few hours de-stressing. Tokyo has no shortage of karaoke outlets, few, however, make it easy for the Japanese illiterate to participate. Big Echo is one company who’s made an honest effort in that department and has machines with English settings. It’s not uncommon to see groups of non-Japanese gathering in the Big Echo lobbies waiting for their turn with the mic. There are plenty of Big Echo shops around the city as it’s a popular chain, but Ikebukuro is one of Tokyo’s hang out hubs and worth spending an evening in.
Bayside Marina, Yokohama
Technically not in Tokyo, Yokohama and Tokyo are two cities that have grown so big they’ve bumped into each other thus representing the greater area of Tokyo. The Bayside Marina has a completely different look and feel from central Tokyo and is a place locals love to go to when feeling the need for something low key. The open grassy areas are perfect for a picnic with friends or a late afternoon snooze. Chinatown isn’t far away and there’s some fantastic food, shopping and entertainment venues — the Ferris Wheel view from the top is fantastic at sunset if you can time it right.
Roppongi Hills, Roppongi
Roppongi HillsMinato-ku, Japanthe views of #tokyotower from #roppongi hills are so good! #favorite so are the #restaurants #yum #goodeats and the Euro style #christmasmarket #high-end #clothes #shopping is awesome for runway fiends
One of Tokyo’s high-fashion havens and modern architectural gems, this is a great place for window shopping, catching a film, imbibing in quality fare and marvelling at both art and Tokyo’s cityscape from the Sky Deck 52nd floor’s observation tower. Roppongi Hills is a place locals often end up when they want to go out but can’t figure out exactly what to do. There’s plenty of options and things to do and see for all budgets. It’s especially good for garnering artistic inspiration and is a favorite among creatives. Weekdays and mid-week evenings are the best times to meander — weekends draw significant crowds though, it’s easy to understand why after touring the grounds.
Verve Coffee Roasters, Shinjuku
VERVE COFFEE ROASTERS SHINJUKU STATION（ヴァーヴ コーヒー ロースターズ シンジュク ステーション）Shinjuku-ku, Japanperfect location for #coffee geeks in #shinjuku area of #tokyo ☕️ this one’s #barista approved #takeaway or #takeout orders are best- the shop space is small and often fully occupied
A tiny shop with sparse seating options, this is best reserved for to-go orders. That said, they make some mean craft coffee, are hip on the latest trends in the global coffee universe, and have a great location — near one of the exits at the world’s busiest train station. On a nice day, watching trains at the public outdoor seating areas in the plaza (coffee in hand) is strangely therapeutic.
Ueno Koen, Ueno
Located in one of Tokyo’s old school districts, Ueno Koen is a one-stop hub of experiential culture. In spring, it’s one of the city’s cherry blossom viewing meccas and is fantastic for panda viewing at the zoo. With five museums, a 2,000 seat performance theater, sprawling green spaces and more, Ueno Koen is a place one can happily spend anywhere from a morning to several days meandering.
Omohara Tokyu Plaza Starbucks, Omotesando/Harajuku
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando HarajukuShibuya-ku, Japan#love this place! the funky escalator entrance is super cool and the #starbucks #coffee shop space on the 6F is beautiful ☕️ and quite possibly their best location in #tokyo
Before ’tisking’ that a global coffee chain outlet made the list, visit this one. Occupying space in Tokyo’s iconic fashion sub-culture hub, this specific location is an oasis. They did an incredible job selecting and designing this space and once you visit, popping in for a cuppa’ will become a must. Mid-afternoons are the best times to take a coffee break here if you want a seat on one of the patio deck’s swinging chairs.
Mori Art Museum, Roppongi
Mori Art MuseumMinato-ku, Japanmy #favorite #art #gallery in #tokyo. tickets get you access to the observation deck in one of #japan’s poshest towers and the twilight view is always incredible. #cityscape dressing up makes it that much better ✨
This museum is part of the Roppongi Hills complex. There are two things that make it fantastic: a) the unique exhibits change regularly b) the season pass includes access to the Tokyo City View observation deck. At only 6,000¥ annually and with fantastic perks, it’s a small investment with a lot of bang. There’s few ways to enjoy Tokyo where one can immerse themselves in creative inspiration, relish an incredible sunset view, and finally look out over the sprawling nighttime cityscape and not drop gobs of cash each time.
Tsutaya Electric Town, Futakotamagawa
Tsutaya ElectricsSetagaya-ku, Japanmy top 5 list of #bestplaces in #tokyo #japan to have a #geekingout session over #books in a language i can actually #read AND drink a #coffee ☕️ at the same time. #tsutayaelectrictown is #heaven for the #bookworm #introvert #sogood to #relax! #futakotamagawa ❤️
Technically at the threshold of Tokyo’s back door, Electric town is a short train ride outside the city center. For book lovers, introverts, coffee hounds, fashionable & functional technology wi-fi geeks who love the bookshop meets coffee shop vibe, this is the place to hang. Be it to browse travel or design books, commandeer a workspace and tap into the free wi-fi or find a unique gift item for a friend ‘disappointing experience’ is never a phrase one will utter here.
Tokyo Hands, Shibuya
Tokyu HandsShibuya-ku, Japan#tokyo’s top one-stop-shopping #sundries ✅ and #diy #supplies destination ⚙️ über great for #souvenirs and finding infamously funky #japanese goods #mustvisit if you love loosing yourself in #retailtherapy (they have everything except clothes) #sofun
The first response to, “Do you know where I can find …. in Tokyo?”, is practically always, “Try Tokyo Hands.” It’s that way for a reason. Tokyo Hands is this city’s one stop shopping/DIY go to ‘they have what you need when you need it’ place of legend. It doesn’t take visitors and newbies long to learn why. The Shibuya location isn’t the only one, there are plenty to choose from — it’s just one of the biggest. Ikebukuro is another great location housing all the things. Try either and see how long it takes before you’re sending people there, too.