Ever dreamed of visiting Tokyo? Kimono make it happen.
Gritty Pretty recently travelled to Japan’s capital city – for the unveiling of Gucci Guilty Eau’s new fragrance for him & her – to give you the lowdown, firsthand.
The verdict? Eccentric, bizarre and organised chaos; Tokyo is a brain blast of culture shock and delightful neon-coloured discovery.
Add grand-slam design, dining and fashion and you’ll soon find yourself having the most fascinating and fun adventures possible – with your clothes on. Onsen not.
This is your essential destination intel…
[Beauty Note: Gucci Audacious Lipstick in Ardor]
THE LOCAL LOW-DOWN
Weather: There are four distinct seasons: March – May is cherry blossom-ravishing, June – September is hot and wet, October – November is mild, and December – February more bone-chilling than Donald Trump’s toupée.
Transport: The subway seems like a terrifying rabbit warren at first (yeah, we admit we got lost – but it’s part of the fun, is it not?), but it’s also cheap, clean, efficient, goes everywhere and is well signed in English. At best, every train line is colour coded. Taxis cost more than Sydney and stop anywhere, but drivers often don’t speak English.
Getting Around: In Japan, the address system is basically meaningless, so use landmarks or get your concierge to call ahead to your destination and arrange maps if need be. Also, Google Maps is your friend. Always.
Cash is King: Many modern establishments in Japan accept credit cards, however, keeping cash on you is a smart move. Trust us.
Tipping: Just don’t do it – the Japanese have been known to literally run down the street after you to return your tip. A smile and polite bow will do very nicely.
The Hub: Grungy youth mecca Shibuya is growing up. Enter Loft – seven levels of everything to suit your lifestyle from stationary and home wares to watches and tech accessories. Posh shopping and dining destination Hikarie is a new hot spot and the venerable Marui department store has been transformed into a Modi flagship (hello wacky Japanese beauty products!) while Shibuya 109, however, could easily be skipped. Think an indoor flea market with rave music blaring from in each store. Yeah, nah.
Events: There’s always something seasonal on. Spring is cherry blossom viewing parties, summer has fireworks festivals, autumn is prime time for Japanese gardens and foliage, and winter has special light-bright illuminations of major landmarks. Plus, sumo matches in January, May and September. Lock that trip down.
Local Showdown: Reserved Tokyoites don’t get feisty over much. In fact, they’re the friendliest of folk and will often stop and offer you directions if you look a little lost, dazed or confused. But, locals do love their ramen. A lot. Disparage the noodles and you could get a ladle of hot soup to your lap. Who are we kidding? You wouldn’t do that. Noodle refill, anyone? Yes, that noodle refills are a thing.
Alcohol Etiquette: Nothing screams Tina Tourist like toasting a round with “chin chin”. The local lingo for cheers is kanpai! Oh, and FYI Japanese businessmen love to drink. Just look out for the drunk guy heading home on the subway on a Sunday morning. Makes for light entertainment.
Back to the Future: Don’t leave without making a vending machine purchase. Situated on just about every street corner, these convenient units are stocked with everything from sweets, hot coffee and green tea to books and video games. Some even stock hot ramen soup. Just remember: eating and drinking on the go is a cultural no-no. Plus, you won’t see public bins anywhere. Got rubbish? Stash it in your bag and dispose of it when you get back to your hotel instead. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
[Beauty Note: Gucci Opulent Mascara in Iconic Black]
The Shrine: Step off Harujuku subway station and you’ll find Meiji Shrine – a short, pleasant walk set amongst 200-acres of trees. A stark contrast from the frenetic Harujuku shops, crepe cafes and Hello Kitty stores, Meiji Shrine is set behind a 12 metre torii entrance gate made of 1,500-year-old cypress. Worth doing: write your wishes on little pieces of paper and tie them onto the prayer wall. Pay a visit on a Sunday morning and you might be lucky to witness a traditional wedding procession (or two) through the courtyard.
Holy Harujuku: The epicentre of subculture, Harujuku is so damn cool. Young Japanese kids display their individualistic expression, contradicting traditional culture. Worth checking out: Takeshita Dori Street – a 500m street full of Harujuku girls, teeny boppers and shops.
Getting High: ¥3,000 yen for a crowded observation deck at Skytree? Yeah, nah. Same goes for Tokyo Tower. Instead, get a picture perfect view from Roppongi Hills. You’re welcome.
Robot Cafe: Fitted out at a cost of ¥10 billion, Robot restaurant looks like something straight out of Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, all migraine-inducing neon, video screens and mirrors. Cover charge is ¥7,000 ($80 AUD): the drink menu only extends as far as canned beer, chu-hai and bottled tea, sold at the kind of prices you’d expect at a baseball game. But, you aren’t paying for food or drink here but rather for a show. When the 90 minute show starts, at first, customers seem a little too gob-smacked to know what to do, but by the end they are all waving their glowsticks like it’s a rave. Give it a chance and keep an open mind.
The Monster Mash: Tokyo is the city of kook and Monster Cafe is an explosion of wonder (or WTF) on the senses. There are numerous themed sections of the cafe: a “mushroom disco”, the “milk stand” featuring a giant bunny drinking milk from a baby’s bottle, the “bar experiment” where you sit underneath a giant jellyfish to drink and a “mel-tea room” decked with oversized macaroons and drooling lips. So weird. So worth seeing.
Meeooow: Chances are if you visit Tokyo, you’ll hear about cat or rabbit cafes. But Tokyo is the kind of city that always needs something new, which is why the new trend is owls. It’s, well, what you imagine. Sipping on matcha green tea with your favourite furry or feathered friends pawing (or clawing) over you. Try Temari no Ouchi for felines or Akiba Fukurou for owls. An experience for serious animal lovers. Otherwise, it’s kinda creepy.
Ramen for One: Going with a group for a bite to eat? The idea at here at Ichiran Ramen, Shibuya, is redundant. Favoured by solo travellers – and groups, just for the fun – to order, you first have to put money into one of the two vending machine and then select the ramen you’d like (just go off the pictures). You’re given a number which corresponds with a solo cubicle. After you take your seat, your ramen is presented under the flap and you eat your food (loudly – it’s polite in Japan) in your private booth. We recommend going around 11:30AM for lunch otherwise you’ll wait up to 45 minutes in line. Put simply, it’s the best ramen you’ll ever eat.
Cross It Off The List: You can’t go to Tokyo without visiting Shibuya Crossing otherwise known as Scramble Crossing. Around half a million people cross Shibuya’s famous intersection every day. Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides, like marbles spilling out of a box. The best time to go though is at night when you stop in the middle, look up and be surrounded with lights.
Daikan-Yama Come Back For More: More hip than Harujuku. With its artsy scene and abundance of quirky boutiques, Daikanyama is basically the Brooklyn of central Tokyo. Daikanyama T-Site, a modern bookstore featuring a lounge, cafe, and upscale convenience store, is worth a visit. Anywhere is, to be honest. But, the best part of Daikanyama though is getting lost. Wandering through the alleyways, visiting boutiques, trying the tea and taking in the architecture. A firm fav.
New York, New York? Anyone who visits Tokyo needs their Lost in Translation moment. Make like we did and head to the top of The Park Hyatt and sip on a cocktail at the New York Bar. The view is one way to make you feel small. Standalone highlights? The live music.
Have you been to Tokyo?
What are your must-see recommendations? Leave your travel tips below.