Tokyo is a place where it’s easy to fall into tourist traps given the language and the amount of very random things you can find, my trips in Japan were filled with Japanese friends and colleagues tips, this is why I managed to live Tokyo more like a local. For this reason i have some tips for hipster travellers who value random experiences way more than museums and sightseeing. This is my very first installment of my “Top 10 hipster things to do…”
1. Visit the Tsukiji Market very late and not very early
Yes if you go there for 3 am and queue you can see the tuna bidding, but if you are agoraphobic like me and not a fan of crowds go there around 14:30, jump in a tiny place and eat all the sushi you can and then take pictures of the market while it closes.
2. Eat mostly Street-Food
Vendors in the street or outside of temples are the best food you can get in Japan. Keep coins in your pocket and try one of each. Especially sweet potatoes, that is the street snack of choice of most japanese.
3. Look for vintage otaku merch in Nakano Broadway
They say that for otaku and nerds the best place is Akihabara, well I do not agree, Nakano Broadway is much better, mostly because there you can find more vintage toys and collectibles, so avoid the new shiny Akihabara and move to the dusty Sailor Moon original vintage merch!
4. Shop Vintage Streetwear
Harajuku is not only the fashion district is also the land of streetwear, so if you are a sucker for limited edition Supreme, Japan only Bape collection one of the many streetwear reseller is what you need to look for. Prices goes from “honest but pricey” to “way too much”.
5. Buy Japanese Knives
If your hipsterism also turned you into a foodie lover, if you think you can be a chef just after a binge session of Chef’s table on Netflix you cannot say no to some fancy japanese blades.
The art of samurai sword making became soon the art of fancy and expensive knife making. You can go budget or super fancy but japanese blades are seriously the best one. While our favourite knife maker is in Kyoto in Tokyo you can go to Kappabashi for some time into the kitchen accessories paradise.
6. Stay at Graphy Nezu
I’d love to be sponsored by them, but I swear I am not. Graphy Nezu
is an amazing hotel/hostel (pick your preference), simple, hip, with amazing drinks and food, complimentary daily cocktail, free wifi that you can keep with you all week and fixie bike rental. The area is quiet and well served by the Tokyo metro service. It’s also near the zoo and the JR lines. If you stay here also try Hantei
, a tiny restaurant with a traditional setting and an interesting tasting menu of fried skewers.
7. Drink fancy in Ginza
Ginza is the fancy quarter of Tokyo, and is full of American bars and fancy cocktail places. My advice is to hit some of them and drink the night out. Beware of cover charges, Japanese bars are sometime very expensive for this. If you need an advice for your drink of choice go with Japan’s favourite, the highball (from the name of the glass it’s served into) the recipe is easy, Japanese whiskey and soda (you can also get flavoured ones).
8. Find vintage designer items
Ok, I admit I am a fashion lover, but luckily Japanese ladies are as well. For this reason Japanese vintage stores are filled with designer accessories, especially Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel. Yes you need to look our for fake items but overall you can really get a deal if you do not expect mint conditions on your item. I never actually bought anything while travelling but some of my favourite bags (my Vuitton Keepall and my denim Lady Dior) come from vintage stores in Japan. One of the most famous is definitely Amore Vintage
9. Queue like a pro
Best food places are those with a queue, and sometimes you end up queuing for more than an hour. One of my favourite spots in Tokyo Asakusa Gyuukatsu
has only 8 seats and we ended up queueing once for more than 2 hours. When in winter bring your hot pads in your pockets to keep you warm, also bring your battery pack to keep your phone charged, also make sure to check the menu so you can order before/while you seat!
10. Japanese Bootlegs a must have for Vinyl lovers
Tokyo is a must location for vinyl lovers, from 70’s bootlegs to electronic new releases there are so many record stores in Shibuya that I wish I lived there. Get inside these stores find your genre of choice and enjoy shopping. The prices are reasonable, the quality is good, transportation back home needs some care but if you’re like me you have your tricks to travel with records.
Here’s a map with some hot spots I marked during my last trip, some of these places are still on my wishlist as last time it was NYE and many stores and places are closed during the celebration of the new year. Feel free to use it or let me know if you have any suggestion.