As much as I hate joining tours since I find them rushed and way too packed with things I don't want to see, I recently found myself on a tour of Tokyo with my extended family. While I did feel like I was being herded like sheep, I have to admit that 1) it was much easier with such a big group since no one had to be in charge and 2) I saw things that I probably wouldn't have thought of seeing if I had been on my own. Here are some highlights that you might want to consider on your next visit to the Tokyo area.
The Studio Ghibli Museum
This was pretty much the only reason I was okay with this tour. It was amazing to see cels and drawings from all the movies that they produced—Totoro, Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Naausica and more. We also go to see a special short only shown at the museum . The entire museum was laid out beautifully. Note that you need to by your tickets in advance (way in advance if it's high season) and you'll be given an entry time. And no photos are allowed inside since you can't fully enjoy the experience otherwise.
Tokyo Dome City
The stadium is only part of the attraction. There's also an amusement park, mall and spa. Since our hotel was right next to the Tokyo Dome, so we wandered over to see if we could get some Yomiuri Giants souvenirs. Instead, we lucked into a free minor league game inside the stadium. So if you see people handing out stuff in front of the stadium, don't be afraid to ask them what's going on. They gave us cheering towels and fans to help root on the JX Eneos team. The chanting, drumming and cheering made for a much different baseball experience.
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
If you want to see what 1950's Tokyo might have looked like, then definitely check out this museum. It was fun to wander around the little alley way that snaked down to the ramen shops. It was completely packed when we got there around 5, so definitely try to go off peak if you want to actually eat there.
Note: The Cup Noodle Museum is close by. We didn't go, but it's now on my list since you get to make your own Cup Noodle to take home.
Yokohama Akarenga Sōko a.k.a. the Red Brick Warehouse
Located right by the harbor (and close to the ramen museum), the Red Brick Warehouse is pretty much just a fancy mall. There are a number of cute cafes and restaurants as well as some cute little shops. It's a nice open space, so you feel like you're away from the crowds, especially closer to the water.
Tokyo Disney is pretty much just Disneyland but smaller. The rides are mostly the same, as were the long lines since we ended up there on a holiday. There were a few differences. The food was much tastier and significantly cheaper, even with the exchange rate. Another difference was the merchandise: hooded character towels people used to protect themselves from the sun, Mickey Mouse rice scoops and Winnie the Pooh onigiri holders to name a few. The JR trains take you right to Disneyland and there's a gift shop close to the station so you don't even have to get close to the actual park.
Nippori Textile District
If you love to sew or have someone on your gift list who does, take the time to wander around Nippori. You can find some great deals on Japanese fabrics and notions. Still a little spendy but cheaper than in the U.S. I found a shop selling remenants that were just perfect for making little bags for gifts.
If you have time for a daytrip from Tokyo, Hakone is a beautiful spot. About 90 minutes from the city, Hakone is known for it's onsen or hot springs. You can also visit Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, cruise around Lake Ashi and take the cable car. Don't forget to try the hot spring eggs!
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