Spotlight: Tokyo 

Forward Economy, Forward Fashion, and World-Dominating Cuisine

Home to some of the most fashionable people on earth, crazy and energetic Tokyo remains one of our favorite places in the world to visit.

And even if you haven’t seen Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, once there you’ll quickly grasp the gentle, fun-loving nature of the Japanese, whose cuisine is cherished globally, yet whose customs, etiquette and culture are quite insular to the island.

After a decade of stalemate and deflation, Japan is experiencing a financial stimulus, thanks to popular Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has charged the Bank of Japan with shooting life serum back into the country’s economic veins.

Spending is resilient, and very apparent as we walked (and shopped) in all the luxury high retail areas. Luckily for us, as of this writing, many imports aren’t yet yen-adjusted to reflect higher prices. So go forth to the Apple store and go splurge on high fashion. Don’t forget to bring your passport; you’ll receive an immediate sales tax discount (forms and receipts stapled in your passport, will be removed at the airport).  

 
 

Must See Sights

Sensōji (浅草寺)
Tokyo’s oldest temple, and a major attraction for Japanese and foreign Buddhists, located in Asakusa. The historic street leading up to the temple, Nakamise-dori, is also decked out with a hundred or so small shops.

Meiji Jingū Shrine and Garden (明治神宮)
The Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken, also set among beautifully maintained and pristine gardens. On weekends, you’ll see traditionally dressed families and wedding processions.

Nearby, as you round the corner of the high fashion Omotesando Hills area, you’ll see the famed Harajuku Girls, what Gwen Stefani bleated on and on about in her songs. There’s Goth, Rockabilly, Victorian and schoolgirl costume-play at work; both fascinating and visual spectacular. Read here for an in-depth look at Tokyo’s Fashion Tribes.

Ginza (銀座)
The high fashion center of the city and our personal favorite! With so many upscale shops and restaurants to choose from, you can kill a day . Check out the Matsuya Ginza department store for all the latest high luxury goods.

Arcades
At nighttime, the city comes to life. Bounce around Shibuya, Shimbashi and find life-sized claw machines!

 

Predominant Language
Japanese (Nihongo)

 

Memorable Experience
Wake up at the crack of dawn and head down to Tsukiji Fish Market, where fishmongers and world-renowned sushi chefs do some hard negotiating for prized menu items. 

 

Best Places for a single girl or groups of girls to go out
The Roppongi district's where you’ll find nightlife, bars, karaoke and a generally crazy scene.

From our favorite locals on the Tokyo scene:

R2: Billed as a "supper club", but really more of a bar/lounge, the recently opened R2 is run by the same people who operate Aoyama's popular Two Rooms restaurant and bar.  Drinks are on the pricier side, but quality is good. The crowd is a mixed Japanese and international crowd on the older, professionals' side, with plenty of finance types (and the women who want to meet them).

Vanity: If you want a full-on Tokyo local club experience, this could be it. Located on top of Roppongi's Roi building, it's the rare club with a view. Was used as a setting in this Black Eyed Peas video. Girls usually don't have to pay cover, so there isn't much harm in checking it out. Fridays and Saturdays can be a packed mad house.

Lega: Often the venue for some of Tokyo's famed Blacklist parties (monthly events), Lega opened around 2 years ago. Located across the street from the Tokyo Midtown complex. A hit-or-miss, depending on who/what group is promoting or hosting an event there, but can be a good time.

A971: If you want a very western feeling bar while in Japan, this could be the place. On the ground floor of the Tokyo Midtown complex, A971 has outdoor seating available in summer as well. It’s a favorite spot for expats and international types. Also a good place to get drinks to start your night out. Decent chance a Brit/Aussie businessman or traveler will hit on you as well.

Oak Door + Maduro: 2 upscale bars located in Roppongi's Grand Hyatt hotel, both with great interiors. Interesting mix of wealthy hotel guests, foreign businessmen, with a few high-end escorts sprinkled in the mix (particularly at the Oak Door). Outstanding cocktails though, and a respectable selection of wines.

Propaganda Bar: As dive bars go, this one isn't bad. Relatively inexpensive drinks and a mixed crowd. Located on the second floor of a small building across the street from the well-known Roi building on Roppongi-dori.

In Odaiba, there are three huge shopping malls to enjoy. The girly Venus Fort has a European inside-outside theme, complete with artificial sunrises and sunsets. Next, head over to Aqua City and Tokyo Decks where you can enjoy lunch outside with great views over Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay.

 

Safety and Medical Tips

Walking alone and around at night

Safety Scale – 1: Generally safe, however be aware of your surroundings.
You’ll be safe walking round most districts, even late at night. However, common sense should always be followed.

When traveling via subway trains, despite their eery super-silence, beware of gropers, particularly during rush hour. Some lines have female-only carriages during peak periods, at either ends of the train and indicated by signs in both English and Japanese.

Popular over-the-counter drugs for cold/flu symptoms
Cold medicine is 風邪薬 (かぜぐすり, kazegusuri) in Japanese

The best places to look are local grocery or convenience stores and pharmacies  called 薬屋 (くすりや, kusuri ya) or 薬局 (やっきょく, yakkyoku). 薬 (くすり, kusuri) means drugs/medicine

Over-the-counter drugs for curing women’s (yeast) infections
There is no over-the-counter medication for yeast infections in Japan.

Process to acquire birth control pills or if need of a gynecologist
Most OB/GYNs at “Ladies Clinics”, mostly spelled (often spelled as Lady’s, Ladys, Ladie’s, Ladies’s) can prescribe oral birth control pills, or “piru” (ピル)in Japanese. A local could likely help with obtaining an appointment.

Random Helpful Fact  
If you wish to lease a cellphone while in Japan, check out Softbank’s global rental facilities. Basic phones and even smartphones like iPhones (we rented an iPhone 4S) can be rented for as little as 500 yen or around $5 per day including basic usage. Obviously international calls and texts will be charged; for a week’s worth of intense data usage (including lots of Google Maps, Foursquare-ing and Instagram-ing) and some international calls and texts abroad, a final of approximately $100 was billed.

Return the phone at Narita Airport at the Softbank counter on your way home.  Easy breezy!

 

And now, Instagrams from Tokyo: