A Change on the Horizon
It’s been a busy few months for the Aussie on the Road. In addition to having a girlfriend and my usual work duties, there’s been smatterings of travel such as trips to Changzhou, Lianyungang, Shanghai, Hainan, and (most recently) Thailand and Cambodia.
This new-found faster-paced life has meant considerably less time for navel gazing, TV show marathons, and – most frustratingly – working on Aussie on the Road.
And while I’ve got a bevvy of experiences from as far back as last summer’s United States tour to write about, sometimes it’s more exciting to look forward than look back.
Japan has long been a country that has fascinated me, but in spite of that, I’ve spent no more time there than a handful of days in Fukuoka doing a visa run from South Korea in 2009. Even that brief glimpse whet my appetite, and if I can’t get excited to write about adventures gone by – I figured I’d write about adventures to come instead.
What follows is a short list of five different, unusual, or odd things to do in Tokyo. Much like my previous lists on different places to visit in China, different things to do in London, different things to do in Egypt, and different things to do in the United Kingdom – it’s all research. If you’ve got suggestions or ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them!
Enough waffling on from me, here’s my (hastily researched) list of different things to do in Tokyo, Japan.
Different Things to do in Tokyo
There’s no shortage of things to see in Tokyo. After all, it’s one of the biggest and most energetic city’s in the world. A dizzying fusion of traditional Japanese values being rapidly overrun by modernization and Japan’s vibrant consumer culture – Tokyo is also no stranger to some of the ‘weirdness’ that so many foreigners find endearing about Japan.
You can check into a fancy hotel, brave one of the claustrophobia inducing capsule hotels, or play it safe as many are doing by renting short-term apartments in Tokyo.
What follows is not a list of must see sights or photo opportunities. It’s simply a list of five unusual things to do in Tokyo. Who knows? They could very well be the highlight of the trip!
5. Indulge in arcade gaming (and batting cages)
Much like Korea, Japan really does come alive at night. While locals and foreigners alike cram into hostess bars and karaoke bars to drink the night away, they aren’t the only options for late night revelry.
One of my fondest memories from my time in Gwangju (Korea) was a night of drinking that culminated with a late night visit to batting cage/arcade for some drunken swinging (and missing), Tetris, and feats of strength.
It didn’t take long for me to find a similar venue in Tokyo – with Oslo Batting Center seeming to be the most popular venue. One particular blogger goes so far as to recommend the entire Shinjuku area for late night silliness on (or off) a budget. You can read his Shinjuku After Dark thoughts over on his blog.
4. People Watch
So few people indulge in the ancient and only slightly creepy art of people watching, but it truly is one of my favourite ways to pass a bit of time when my girlfriend is looking at crafts and my Kindle is not close by. Whether it’s the quaint mall in rural Armidale, the insanity of Fremont Street in Vegas, or an underground station in China – there are few better ways to get an insight into a culture than by simply observing it.
And as proof that there are no original ideas left, I’ve actually found a post specific to the best places to people watch in Tokyo. I just saved you a visit to Google.
3. Visit the Parasite Museum
One of the (only) highlights from my recent visit to Bangkok was an afternoon spent indulging my inner psychopath at the Forensic Museum.
Ian Ord’s very cool entry on visiting the Forensic Pathology Museum tipped us off, and we had a blast ogling fetuses in jars, half destroyed skulls, and mummified corpses.
To that end, the Meguro Parasite Museum sounds like my cup of tea. A collection of over 45,000 parasites (including one freakishly long tapeworm) await those braving this particular Tokyo attraction. Creepy!
Not your cup of tea? There are also museums from everything ranging from the conventional (history, art, and science) to the intriguing (swords, baseball, and music) to the downright odd (gas appliances, leprosy, and the Tokyo waterworks).
2. Participate in (or watch, you pussy!) some cosplay
If you’re a pervert like me, perhaps the first image that comes into your head when you hear the word ‘cosplay’ is squealing schoolgirls and gross tentacle monsters, but I’m certain every one of you pictures something off the wall and zany.
Cosplay (or costume play, for the thick) is huge in Japan. Hell, it’s not without its fans in Korea and China from my experience.
While you may wish to play it safe and just indulge in a little people watching, I like to think I’d go balls deep and pick myself up a costume to really enjoy the experience. It’s all about immersion, right?
Tokyo’s Harajuku district is the place to be if you like to dress up and get down, and there’s also the twice yearly Comiket convention for those wanting a more in depth look at the Japanese subculture.
Akihabara is home to a number of cosplay restaurants if you’d rather be served by a woman in costume than dress up yourself. The notorious ‘maid cafes’ take things to a nearly inappropriate levels as you’re addressed as ‘master’, hand fed your food, and even spanked by the staff in their French maid outfits.
Sounds like my kind of place!
Which leads us nicely into…
1. Visit a theme restaurant
The Japanese sure do know how to make eating a meal exciting. Theme restaurants abound across Japan, but Tokyo has to have some of the strangest you could find.
Want to dine as if you’re a patient in a mental hospital? Alcatraz has you covered.
Do you yearn for the days when you ate lunch in a cafeteria? Kyushukutoban School Cafeteria restaurant is your ticket back to the social awkwardness you have been repressing for years!
Ninjas? Vampires? Disney’s Aladdin? Tokyo has your back!
Or did you like the sound of those French maids hand feeding you? OK Bukujo might be right up your alley.
Prisons and Churches, kittens and Alice in Wonderland… there’s something for every taste, no matter how weird. And damned if I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How’d I Do?
As I said at the outset, this all comes from research, so I’m far from an expert. Have you been to Tokyo and visited one of these weird and wonderful places?
Or maybe you’re stunned by the absence of your own personal favourite. What are your favourite strange or different things to do in Tokyo? Sharing is caring, folks!