A layover in Tokyo is not just a visit to the city; it is a visit into the Japanese culture. You can witness Japan’s excellence at everything from gaming to hospitality. Japan is an epitome of precision and perfection evident all over Tokyo. For me, Tokyo is the perfect blend of entertaining gaming, enchanting art, and heavenly cuisine. So, let me share some of my favorite experiences from all my visits.
Fun Tokyo: VR Rides, Cosplay Gokarting, Small Worlds
A layover in Tokyo is a dream come true if you love gaming! I go insane the minute I land there because there is so much to play and so little time! Throughout all my layovers, I have explored many gaming offerings of Tokyo, and I can assure you, if you try just one, you are bound to be amazed! Some top fun attractions are:
Enter the VR Realm at VR Park Tokyo
I am a VR gaming freak, and Tokyo is my favorite destination. Locally known as the Shibuya, VR Park Tokyo offers some of the most immersive virtual reality gaming experiences. Also, I am blessed with a crew that is equally crazy for VR, so always make it a point to have our own gaming competitions every time we have a layover in Tokyo.
Although VR gaming is available everywhere in the world, Japan leads this entertainment format with its cutting-edge technology. The experience is literally other-worldly. They have the whole spectrum of gaming experiences, including body-stimulating adventure sports, traditional sports, action fighting games, and so much more.
And the best part is that you don’t have to pay for individual games, you get all-you-can-play passes valid for a good whole 90 minutes, so you can choose and have the best time of your life.
Sightseeing in a “Mario Kart” the Cosplay Style
In a new city, you’d always want to go look around. However, ever imagined the commute being as fun as the sights themselves? Tokyo ensures it. And not only is your ride fun, but your clothes also take you back to your childhood.
The most exciting part of the whole experience is that you are not bound by the premises. You roar off dressed up as your favorite cartoon character on the streets of Tokyo!
However, it is perfectly safe because, first of all, you go with a group led by a tour guide, second, your cute little kart is GPS-tracked, and third you get accidental insurance with the ticket.
Keeping the technicalities aside, the ride takes you through some of the best parts of Tokyo, including the nightlife street “Roppongi” near the Tokyo Tower, the Shibuya, and the Harajuku for some more cosplay shopping.
If you have an international driving license as required for karting, this is a must-have experience on a layover in Tokyo.
Relive Childhood at Small Worlds Tokyo
When your games have come alive and you’ve lived the life of your favorite cartoon character, why stop? Check out Tokyo’s own version of Disney Land.
We love to take the magical boat cruise through the beautiful exhibits of our beloved Disney characters, including Dory and Nemo, Little Mermaid, Jasmine from Aladdin, and so many more. And the best part is they all dance to enchanting music throughout the ride.
Along with that, the theme park also has some really beautiful miniature replica exhibits, including those from the famous anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. This is the best places to buy souvenirs for yourself or your little loved ones.
Tokyo Delights: Izakayas, Kaiseki & Omoide Yokocho
A layover in Tokyo is a glimpse into the Japanese culture of food. Not only the cuisine, but also the seating arrangement, the ambiance, and even the number of courses smell of the authentic omotenashi culture – the philosophy of wholeheartedly looking after the guests.
Feel Japanese Hospitality through a Kaiseki Meal
I had read so much about this multi-course ritual that on my first visit to Tokyo, it went unsaid that I had to try a traditional Kaiseki Meal.
We chose Akasaka Eigetsu as it is a relaxing, at-home experience. The place is run by a couple who carefully improvise heart-warming dishes with organic and seasonal ingredients.
The most exciting experience is that there is a long table where customers can sit together, and the chef serves each their choice of Miso soup and other courses. I loved that I could mingle with the locals and share their love and insights into the delicious Japanese food.
But there are only ten seats, so if you can’t wait, you must reserve a space, but the food is definitely worth waiting for. Also, the place offers 40 kinds of Sake to go with the dishes and the chef has a story behind each of these.
Eat and Drink at Omoide Yokocho & Golden Gai
While the traditional Japanese Kaiseki meal is a peaceful experience, Golden Gai, and Omoide Yokocho are packed with hole-in-the-wall diners, dive bars, and pubs, making them vibrant street food and party hubs in Tokyo.
These places are much more fun if you go in a group as you can stay there till late. The lanes are lit up with the classic red lanterns and you can smell the aroma from a mile ahead.
I prefer Omoide Yokocho because it has more restaurants with an old-world charm that gives it the name of “Memory lance.” But Golden Gai is perfect for bar hopping and is famously called the “Izakaya Alley”. However, we only go there if we have multi-day layovers.
Although walking through these alleys, the smell will lure you to the best dish of the day, over time, a few restaurants have become my very favorites – Kabuto for freshwater eel, Tachan for marinated tuna, and Yasubee for Saikyo Yaki with rice wine sake.
It is not a fine dining experience, but it is fun, comforting, and delicious.
Artsy Japan: Paper-Folded Masterpieces & Mesmerizing Light Displays
Although people are well aware of Tokyo’s technological prowess and food hotbeds, its art paradigm is no less in any way. You can’t imagine how fun art can be in Tokyo, in fact, your visit to Tokyo is incomplete unless you visit at least one of the below places:
Get Amazed with Paper Art at Origami Kaikani
Those neatly folded paper crafts showcasing the creativity of the Japanese mind are simply enchanting. I have always desired to learn the art myself; however, I’ve never had the discipline it takes. But that doesn’t stop me from visiting the academy just to look at the inspiring paper-folded masterpieces.
Origami Kaikan is a museum cum academy that makes you go wow. From the seasonal displays at the reception to special exhibits in the gallery to the paper-dyeing area, everything about this place is awe-inspiring. Also, it’s perfect for gifts and souvenir shopping.
My favorite is the palm-sized Aya Paper Doll wearing the traditional red Japanese Kimono. It displayed such intricate folds and sturdiness that I couldn’t believe it wasn’t made from cloth or wood. I bought one for my niece who simply loves it; it’s her favorite doll.
Get Lit of teamLab Borderless’ Light Displays
If you think lights are just to overpower darkness, teamLab will definitely be a perspective-changer for you. This museum allows you to touch everything – it is truly borderless.
A visit here means experiencing creativity as you have never experienced before. And it is not just educational or for art-lovers. It is a “creative physical space” where you can play enchanting games with the whole crew.
The lantern forest is the most beautiful light display I have ever seen in my life. It changes colors representing the seasons of Japan. However, the games in the Athletics Forest are true examples of how art can be fun.
Hopscotch and Aerial Climbing are so amusing as you see the light vortex intermingle or the colorful butterflies getting born as you hop along the game course.
The place offers so many unimaginably beautiful artworks all created by arranging lights that you are guaranteed to be mind-blown.
Arigatō Tokyo: You have been a charm
A layover in Tokyo is always bewitching. I have been there so many times, and every time there is a new experience awaiting me. I still have to visit the much-recommended Robot Restaurant, witness a Sumo fight, and look at the city from the Tokyo Skytree observation deck. So, I am sure my next layover will unravel some more of Tokyo charms. Until then, I bid my favorite city adieu, eagerly awaiting my next visit.
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