Tokyo is well known for pop-culture, it’s crazy population and of course, it’s deep history.
There’s so much to see and do one could easily stay in Tokyo for a month, even two. In fact, I spent a week with my 19-year-old daughter in Tokyo and we still had places we wanted to see.
For us, the stationery-obsessed, music-loving nerds we are, we found tons to do. Once in Tokyo, we planned out a couple of days surrounding these interests and when we posted those photos to social media, we found we weren’t alone in these obsessions. Seems there are many who, like us, would be very happy spending hours in a stationary store. In fact, we spent four hours in a 100-year-old stationary store in Tokyo. This was just one of the amazing discoveries we found in this amazing city.
But it wasn’t just stationary…. there was music, and of course, some other iconic places in Tokyo that were nearby and ‘must sees’. We’ve compacted these discoveries into a list for the perfect day in Tokyo. There are lots to do on this list, so it would be best to spread it out over a couple of days, but these are our top recommendations.
A trip to Tokyo wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the world’s largest Muji. At 3,500 square metres and three floors, this Muji has something for everyone. It was recently renovated to include a fresh food market on the first floor, in addition to its miniature home gardening section (think cute little succulents and bonsai trees!). There was also a little lunch area, so we picked up iced coffees and a quick bento box before heading upstairs.
The second floor is where all the goodies are –stationery, clothing, travel, skincare and a bookstore. The stationery is the most iconic part of Muji (to us), and we never fail to pick something up, whether we’re dropping into a full store or a kiosk in one of Japan’s many shopping centres. There’s also another, larger café here.
On the third floor are home furnishings and appliances – all the things we couldn’t take with us. So, we went back down to the second floor, purchased many things we just had to have before realising we had to somehow fit it into our suitcases. After a quick stop at the stamp bar (the stamp bar!!), we were good to go.
(It would also be worth noting that we came here twice, once at the beginning of our trip and once at the end. It is one of our favourite stores.)
LOCATION: 3-minute walk from Yūrakuchō Station.
Itoya and K.Itoya, Ginza
G.ITOYA was established roughly 100 years ago and has remained a Japanese favourite. It was renovated in 2015 and hosts 12 storeys with each floor having a different ‘theme’. I think our favourites were 2F ‘LETTER’ and 5F ‘TRAVEL’ – we could each spend hours on those two floors specifically (and we did!).
There was also a café on 12F, which had good hummus and a good view of the Cartier store across the street, but it was also a quiet refuge from a busy day.
Admittedly, we were more taken with K.ITOYA, situated across the alley from its sister store. This store was much newer, having opened in 2012, and just as amazing as the larger store. We both bought something on every floor (but don’t tell!) and had a great time doing it. K.ITOYA is small, but more of the ‘artsy’ everyday stationery store, whereas G.ITOYA was more of the ‘high end’ artsy store.
All in all, I think we spent about three hours just between the two stores – and would have been very happy returning – so if you go, be sure you plan with an open schedule!
LOCATION: G.ITOYA is in the heart of Ginza. G.ITOYA is two blocks from Ginza Station, between BVLGARI and Tiffany & Co.
K.ITOYA sits behind G. ITOYA (in an alley behind G.ITOYA). You can find it by walking through the G. ITOYA Store.
Tokyo Tower, Minato
Tokyo Tower is one of the most famous landmarks of Tokyo. At 33 metres (1,092 feet), it is the world’s tallest self-supporting steel tower and the second-largest tower in Japan, behind the Tokyo Skytree. For context, the Tokyo Tower is 13 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower. It is an incredibly famous symbol of Japan and sits on many postcards. It opened December 23rd, 1958 and sees approximately three million visitors annually.
There were two different decks– the Main Deck and the Top Deck. The Main Deck is cheaper and further down the Tower, but it still has two floors (that include three skywalks, a café, a stamp station and a gift shop). This is the level that we went to. The views from the Main Deck were amazing, on both floors. On a clear day, one could see as far as Mount Fuji (but of course, it wasn’t clear when we visited). Views of Tokyo could be seen from the 365 viewing platforms, with historical photos showing the changes over the years.
We stayed at the Tokyo Tower for probably an hour or two, just looking around, dodging tour groups and enjoying a little writing in the café before moving on.
Main Deck (Adult) – 900yen,
Top Deck (Adult) 2,800yen
LOCATION: A 5-minute walk from Akabanebashi Station (Akabanebashi Gate) or a 7-minute walk from Kamiyacho Station / Exit No.2
The Snoopy Museum, Roppongi
The museum was like walking through a giant comic strip, broken up based on who was being featured. After purchasing a ticket, you are moved into a room that displays a mosaic of Snoopy and Charlie Brown. In fact, it is 4,500 comic strips mounted on a wall in a 3D display.
This is a waiting room of sorts, before you are moved into a small theatre to see the Snoopy movie, The Final. After a few minutes, the doors are opened into another part of the museum where large comic strips are displays showing the character relationships over the years. This exhibition is known as Friendship in Peanuts and it’s only on display until September 2018. I am a huge Snoopy fan, but I wasn’t even aware of how some of these relationships connected. It was well presented.
The last section is, of course, the gift shop and these are limited edition Snoopy Museum items. I had to control myself here, and before leaving, we stopped and had a late lunch in the Café Blanket. The café was packed when we arrived late afternoon, but people were enjoying their dog bowl treats.
The Museum is set to close in Tokyo in September 2018, and it wasn’t until I learned this, that the “see you Santa Rosa” signs throughout made sense. The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center is a museum dedicated to the works of Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip. The museum opened on August 17, 2002, and is in Santa Rosa, California.
LOCATION: The temporary Snoopy Museum is located in Roppongi. and is approx. a kilometre away from the Tokyo Tower. Roppongi Station, on the Hibiya and Oedo Lines, sits not too far from the museum. The museum itself is in the middle of a residential neighbourhood as well as amongst many foreign Embassies. Since it is tucked out of the way you aren’t aware it’s there until you see the giant Snoopy statues. In fact, we were right next to the Embassy of the Republic of Philippines when I exclaimed: “SNOOPY?!” (right before I was jumping up and down, once reality hit that we were there!)
Adults : ¥2,000
University/College students : ¥1,400
Junior/Senior high school students : ¥1,000
ADMISSION NOTE: Admission is divided into five time slots per day. There is a limit to the number of visitors admitted per time slot. You’re required to enter the museum within your admission time slot, but there is no time limit for your stay.
Shibuya Crossing, Shibuya
The Shibuya Crossing is one of the most famous symbols of Japan, having a constant presence in media as a landmark of Tokyo. It is regarded as the busiest intersection in the world (and if not, then definitely the busiest in Japan). It is rumoured that over 1000 people cross at peak times. However, when we visited (at 2 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon), it was pretty quiet, with maybe upwards of 200 people crossing at a time.
We were a little disappointed, I have to admit. The crossing did not seem to be the busiest we’d seen on our brief stint in Japan, but it was certainly cool to see all the billboards and side streets all centred around this one busy intersection.
Rumouredly, the best spot to sit and get a view of the crossing is in the Starbucks in the Q-Front building on the second floor. This is true – we stopped briefly to sit and view the crossing from above along with the many others with cameras. When it comes down to it, it’s simply an intersection. Just a crazy, busy one.
The Shibuya Crossing was a little disappointing to us. I guess I imagined a lot more chaos? Certainly, a lot more people, but it was still nice to people-watch for a little while. I would still recommend going into the Q-Front building because on the top floor is the restaurant we went to next.
LOCATION: Inokashira Dori, 2 Chome-2 Dōgenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0043
Wired Tokyo, Shibuya
Wired Tokyo in Shibuya is a restaurant on the 7thfloor of the Q-Front building, the top level of the bookstore in the building, that serves good food, both Western and Japanese options including some fusion dishes. The food menu was not quite as robust as we expected but the drinks menu was extensive! In fact, there was a huge bar in the middle restaurant, with booths and tables surrounding it on one side.
The walls of the restaurant were covered ceiling-to-floor with old record vinyls, matching the music the restaurant was playing – funky old 70s music. As we sat in a booth enjoying lunch, looking around I reminisced on all of the old albums I recognised which were played extensively throughout my childhood. If nothing else, it was a great conversation starter between Natalie (my 19-year-old daughter) and I of my childhood recollections and the massive music fans my parents were, and the artists they were enamored with.
LOCATION: Wired Tokyo in Shibuya is on the 7thfloor of the Q-Front building, on the corner of the Shibuya Crossing.
Tower Records, Shibuya
The Shibuya location of Tower Records is quite impressive. At nine storeys, this building opened in 1995 and is considered an iconic landmark of Shibuya. It’s a 3-minute walk from Shibuya Station and is instantly recognizable by the red-and-yellow colouring, as well as the hordes of teenage girls standing around the entrance taking pictures with the K-Pop posters outside.
Each floor has a different style of music, as well as the foreign book section on the 7thfloor There is also a stage in the basement for live music performances.
The Tower Records Café on the 2ndfloor was large, overlooking the street below, and had a heavy metal concert on a projector in the middle of the café. This gave the cafe a certain vibe, which was somehow soothing to me, but it didn’t make up for the overpriced drinks or the atrocious service. I suppose the state of the bathrooms fit in with a ‘heavy metal/rock concert’ theme as they were trashed, which shocked me for what I had already experienced in Japan.
This store was quite funny – entertaining at least with the right attitude. There were young teen girls taking photos of themselves with idol group posters on every floor (especially posters of the k-pop group BTS, whose posters took up most of the first floor as well as the wall outside). While we weren’t enamored with Tower Records Shibuya, it was certainly interesting to see what music stores in Japan were like.
LOCATION: 1-22-14, Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Japanese Calligraphy Class, Shinjuku
An “honourable mention” of sorts would be the calligraphy class that we took.
It was a 90-minute class, tucked into a residential area of the back streets of Shinjuku. We learned calligraphy brush strokes after learning the correct way to hold and use a calligraphy and at the end of our time, we left with a word created by us, mounted on cardboard. We were given examples of words that we could choose from and had to decide on one which resonated with us. Before writing it on this final cardboard mat, we were able to practice (and be guided on what we needed to improve upon!) on sheets and sheets of beautiful calligraphy paper.
We highly recommend finding and attending a calligraphy class while in Japan. It’s a relaxing experience and definitely an iconic Japanese experience. A treat for any stationery-obsessed nerd!
This post was co-written by my co-traveler, Natalie Cooke.