We spent a week in Tokyo, in September 2016.
During this week, we didn’t do much as we were adjusting to the crazy humid hot weather after leaving Auckland winter. Auckland’s summer maximum temperature was around 28°C and it’s not very humid. We really weren’t ready for the crazy Japanese summer.
But we had fun, despite all the heat rash and sweat and all the money we spent on the vending machines (they’re so cool).
Where to go in Tokyo with kids
It’s where our house was. To one side, there were all the tall buildings and the neon-light Tokyo, and to the other, there was the residential area of the neighborhood. It’s a great contrast, fun to watch. Around Shinjuku Train Station, there’s this huge commercial area that’s full of stores, Odakyu (a shopping mall), many restaurants, and it’s always full of people. One thing we don’t hear much: there was a lot of homeless people there too. A lot.
The train station is huge and very overwhelming to newbies. There’s also the bus station right in front of it. It’s pretty confusing on the first few times, but it does get easier.
The signs come in English too, so you don’t need to read Japanese to be able to make out what they say, and the ticket selling machines also come with English – just take your time to find your destination on the map to know how much your trip will cost (the map is usually above the ticket machines, and the numbers are the prices).
Odakyu is a huge, pretty expensive store. We went there once for an ice cream and it was the most expensive ice cream ever (it was good, though, but not worth the price). Very fancy, also, so maybe not a very good idea to go all sweaty and wearing dinky clothes like we did.
Bic Camera is a huge electronics store (floors of it). We were in awe. So much to see! They had EVERYTHING electronic, seriously. Everything you can think of, they had. Even what you couldn’t believe exist, they had. If you decide to wander around the whole store, it can take you half a day, seriously.
What we loved most, though, was the food. Not the fancy restaurants inside the malls, but the little ones on the streets. Really good food, and not overpriced! Our favorites were traditional Japanese food (not sushi and sashimi, but real food) and ramen, but there are just so many options it was hard to choose!
This is where the busiest crossing in the world is. We were there at 2 pm and it was full of people. I can’t really imagine how it was at 5. Maybe we’ll get there again to watch it when it’s at its crowdest. We watched it from a Starbucks inside Tsutaya, which is a huge DVD, comics, CD store that’s also very cool.
There’s also 109, the shopping mall. Apparently, it’s the place for young people to buy clothes, but we found it funny and not very wearable. People shopping there (young women mostly) were not wearing those clothes, but it’d be fun if they were. The air conditioning was life-saving.
We have 2 posts about it on the blog, one from Melissa and one from me. I’m just gonna say that it IS fun! Very different from other Disney parks (as we hear because we’d only been to Tokyo Disney and Disney World).
We did NOT like it at all. The cages are very small, dirty, and overcrowded. The animals are all very sad. Not worth it at all.
We went there because the boys wanted to visit the Pokémon Center. It was just a store, really (a big one, but still, a store), with a small hidden space behind it where kids could play cards or Pokémon games (it wasn’t free). We got pretty lost near it, as it’s in a shopping mall like every other building in the area and it had not one single sign saying there was a Pokémon store there. Anyway, on that day, we got Pikachu dressed up in a ‘happi’ (Japanese summer festival costume) and it was fun for Coral, at least. The store has a LOT of things, from stuffed animals, clothing, jewelry, food (seriously, Pokémon instant ramen!), accessories, games, cards and everything Pokémon. My kids spent about an hour there.
The walk between the store and the train station was the most amazing thing, though! Filled with loads of different kind of people: cosplayers, business people, families, lolitas (girls dressed up like dolls), people in kimonos, couples with matching clothes….
There was also a Bic Camera outlet there, which we skipped due to very tired kids, but maybe we could do it another day.
There are a few things that we knew already, but they always end up surprising us, like the number of vending machines. There are vending machines EVERYWHERE, and they sell a lot of things: from the traditional drinks machine, ice cream, bread, to the gatcha gatcha machines (the ones you put the money, spin the wheel and get a little capsule with a ‘surprise’ thing), electronics, posters, everything!
Another great thing is the bike friendliness! There are bikes everywhere. There are bike parking lots everywhere too, though they aren’t free of charge. By the way, you can’t just leave your bike wherever you want to – you might get a ticket (seriously).
And the toilets are pretty cool. Try every single button on them, but just make sure you’re sitting on the toilet seat (not with your pants on, please) or you have the lid closed. Just saying.
We did send out 3 postcards from Japan to randomly selected subscribers! We send them every month. To go in the draw, all you have to do is subscribe to our newsletter!
Our adventure in video!