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Top 10 Hidden Gems in Tokyo

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
Climbing the Tokyo Tower and seeing the Imperial Palace are amazing, but this city has even more to offer. Welcome to MojoTravels and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hidden Gems in Paris. For this list, we’re looking at the spots that savvy travellers and locals love in this eclectic Japanese city.

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Top 10 Hidden Gems In Tokyo

Climbing the Tokyo Tower and seeing the Imperial Palace are amazing, but this city has even more to offer. Welcome to MojoTravels and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hidden Gems in Paris.

For this list, we’re looking at the spots that savvy travellers and locals love in this eclectic Japanese city.

#10: Akihabara’s Secret Shrine

Japan is famous for many things, but their technological prowess is definitely up there. So for the travelling techie… a visit to Akihabara is a must. This bustling technology-centric neighborhood has, for years, been the go-to destination for travellers in-the-know looking for the most cutting edge gadgets and tech. Though Akihabara isn’t exactly a secret, many of the best/most unique shops will go unnoticed by outsiders. Tiny specialty stalls abound. You can even find vintage radios - a throwback to the neighborhood’s wartime history. Funnily enough, one of Akihabara’s best kept secrets involves no tech whatsoever. There’s a tiny, unexpected shrine hidden in a narrow alleyway - an oddity in Tokyo’s Electric Town.

#9: Caretta Shiodome Observatory

There’s no shortage of tall buildings and structures in Tokyo from which a visitor can get a view of the city’s skyline. Of course… not everyone wants to wait hours in line to do it, or pay a steep entry fee - as is often the case with both the Tokyo Tower and the SkyTree. If you don’t have a vested in interested in visiting the most talked about viewpoints, or don’t necessarily feel the need to climb the tallest building in Tokyo, the Caretta Shiodome Observatory has an observation deck on the 46th floor that is a great, less competitive vantage point from which to look out over the city. Best of all… it’s free!

#8: Archi-Depot

You know who rarely gets the love they deserve? Architects! Museums featuring conventional works of art and artifacts are numerous in most major cities, including Tokyo, but even when a city does boast an architecture museum, such institutions are not always considered must-visit attractions. The Archi-Depot in Tokyo however, takes a very different approach, and might just give you a newfound appreciation for Tokyo’s skyline and the people behind its design. This is a dedicated space in which architectural models are housed and displayed so the public can get up close and really appreciate the detail that goes into designing these structures and spaces.

#7: Mandarake Complex

Alright, if you’re a big manga fan and you’re visiting Tokyo, chances are that you already know about this mecca, and you’ve been looking forward to visiting it in the lead up to your trip. But even for more casual anime and manga fans, or those just curious about these popular Japanese forms of media, Mandarake Complex is still well-worth a visit. What makes this such an interesting destination is the fact that it isn’t just one store - it’s a collection of numerous distinct shops, spread across 8 floors, subdivided and tailored to specific tastes, subgenres and niches within anime, manga and everything in between.Translation… it’s otaku heaven.

#6: Golden Gai

Located in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo, Golden Gai is an area jam-packed with tiny dive bars - and by tiny we mean really small. Shabby and brimming with personality, it’s a relic of the postwar era that’s done nothing to endear itself to tourists - and that’s what makes it so compelling. In these few square blocks, you’ll experience a very different type of Tokyo - a glimpse into the culture and history of the city rarely seen by outsiders. Most of these bars were “locals only” type joints until recently, but with wider interest, many have started opening their doors to foreigners. So go explore, but do so respectfully.

#5: Tokyu Hands

What can we say? Cool, super eclectic shopping spaces in Tokyo have a habit of cropping up in 8 storey buildings. Like the Mandarake Complex, Tokyu Hands is a sprawling department store with numerous shops in it. Unlike Mandarake however, Tokyu Hands is dedicated to home, lifestyle, hobbies, crafts and all sorts of DIY products. That being said… it’s also full of some of the most odd and wonderful things you’ve ever seen. Its website describes it as ““THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of many products unique to Japan” - and boy does it ever come as advertised. Even if you’re not in the market for anything in particular, this is mandatory window shopping.

#4: Kit Kat Chocolatory

As you may or may not know, Kit Kat does things a little differently Japan. In North America, the candy bar offers a few varieties, sure, but nothing compared to the seasonal, specialty and regional flavors available throughout Japan. Suffice it to say… Kit Kat has a big presence here. To get the full experience, and understand the scope of Japan’s love affair with this particular candy bar - and to appreciate their commitment to flavor experimentation - you really need to visit a Kit Kat Chocolatory. There are a few different locations in the city, so do yourself a favor and pop in to sample a selection of truly unique Kit Kat bars.

#3: Ghibli Museum

There are few Japanese entertainment exports more cherished around the world than the films of Hayao Miyazaki, who, with his film production house, Studio Ghibli, has given us so many imaginative classics. It doesn’t matter whether you’re familiar with Miyazaki's body of work or not, because when you visit the Ghibli Museum… you can’t help but walk out a fan. This colorful, vibrant and whimsical space is dedicated to Studio Ghibli films and the art of animation in general. But it’s more than a series of exhibits; the entire Ghibli Museum feels like Miyazaki’s films brought to life.

#2: Odaiba’s Daiba Park and Trilingual Android

Another must-see that far too many people miss when visiting Tokyo is the artificial island of Odaiba. Located in Tokyo Bay and originally built for military purposes, Odaiba has taken on a new life as a vibrant hub of entertainment and shopping. To appreciate its often-ignored history however, visit Daiba Park, where the green space and cannon batteries remind you of its roots. The island is home to a number of entertainment centers, tech showrooms, museums and various other attractions. With so much distraction, it can be easy to overlook some of the finer details, like the trilingual android working the info desk at the Odaiba Tourist Information Centre in the Aqua City shopping center.

#1: Ryōgoku Kokugikan

If there’s one thing you might kick yourself for having missed on your trip to Tokyo after you’ve gotten home… it’s not visiting the Ryōgoku Sumo Hall, or Ryōgoku Kokugikan. Located right next to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, this indoor arena has a capacity of over 11,000, and regularly hosts sumo tournaments, in addition to other events. You’ll definitely want to plan ahead for this one in order to make sure that your trip overlaps with a tournament; they occur in January, May and September. But should the timing not work out, you can always check out the sumo museum, which is nonetheless fascinating.


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