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Let It Flow Layover: Tokyo

Travel

A major city like Tokyo, Japan can take anywhere from weeks to a lifetime to explore. But what if you have less than 24 hours? Our handy guide will explain all of the things you need to do from dawn until dusk.

5am: Tsukiji Fish Market

This world-famous fish market, which supplies most of Japan with the freshest catch, actually opens its private market at 3am to licensed professionals. But at 5, the rest of us are free to explore this sprawling complex. While seeing the auctions might be fun, what you really want to do is browse the shops of the outer market, and then grab a sushi meal in the inner market. Actually, do it the other way around, because the lines do get mighty long for what will be the most amazing sushi you will ever put in your mouth.

9am: Starbucks in Shibuya

You may say – “Starbucks? Are you kidding me?” But if you want a taste of how the Japanese do everything better than us, you will want to try this branch.  You’ll be awake already from the early morning fish market excursion, and nothing else will really be open until 10 or 11. Chill out here, enjoy the view of the famous Shibuya intersection (and the hordes of commuters), and sip on Starbucks concoctions that way they are supposed to taste, not the sloppily made ones that we try to justify as ‘barely drinkable’ anywhere else.

11am: Tokyu Department Store, Shibuya Station

When you are fully caffeinated, stick around in Shibuya for a bit, because you’re not going to get to too many neighborhoods in the sprawling city in one day.  Anyway, the train station is a great destination, as it not only has the famous statue of the dog Hachiko, but it also home to one of two Tokyu Department stores. The one in the train station itself stands out, however, for its authentic ‘Depachika’, two basement floors of prepared foods, pastries and traditional sweets that is arguably the best place to pick up gifts.

2pm:  Afternoon in Harajuku


Harajuku is the place to go if you are enamored with the concept of ‘kawaii’ – the Japanese word for ‘cute’. You’ll see people dressed up Cosplay-style, and see fashions that no one else in the world would dare to try.  But make sure to check out the Purikura photo booths, which are all the rage with the kids these days. These high-tech photo booths will direct you through a photo shoot, suggest poses, enlarge your eyes (!), and even allow you to add graffiti to your pictures before spitting out a print of them. And if you’re hungry, there’s a great Ramen place around here called Jangara.

4pm: Beer Break

Before you start wrapping up your afternoon, consider taking a beer break wherever you can find it.  Hitachino is an artisanal brewer that has a lot of interesting beers and ales, but we prefer a good old traditional beer like Suntory’s The Premium Malts – hands down superior to the Sapporo, Kirin and Asahi swill that we’ve gotten used to in our home towns.

Last Stop: Meiji Shrine

You didn’t think we’d let you see Tokyo without tasting a little of the old culture did you?  Meiji Temple is a must-see for those who want to leave the city with a lasting impression beyond the glitz and glamour. This forest in the middle of Tokyo will transport you to another era, and the traditional architecture will make you finally think, ‘Ah, this is Japan’. This magnificent area is open until dusk, and just a short walk from Harajuku.

Now, head back to the airport. You are done until next time…

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  • imeka

    I went on a couple of sales trips to Tokyo for Nikko Hotels (when they still had the hotel property in Manila) back in the 80′s and I’m looking for good photos of Tokyo districts like what you have here. I don’t have Twitter so ‘not sure if I can follow you there. Do you have photos of the Roponggi district? I recall we went there for the discos during that time. I am working on a Pinterest board of places that have left fun and fond memories.

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