Off the Beaten Path Tokyo - Alternative Areas Abound



Description:

With 13 million people living within its expansive borders, Tokyo offers something for everyone. The city is broken down into 23 separate ku (or, wards) guaranteeing a change of scenery – and downright attitude – at virtually every stop on the subway. Add to that a large college population,Tokyo's history of cultural reinvention, and surprisingly relaxed social attitudes, and conditions are right for a foray into the alternative. Although at times you may find it easy to get pinched between a salaryman and yet another sushi boat restaurant, something different is always waiting for you, not too far away.

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Author: Alex


Day 1 - Tokyo


Start your day at JR Harajuku station and – if it's a Saturday or Sunday – take in the cosplay action going on all around you. Walk the small streets around the station and do some shopping for fake fashion glasses or that gothic lolita costume you've had your eye on. Don't forget to hit Nekko Dori (Cat Street, really more of an alley), Harajuku's epicenter filled with high fashion boutiques and vintage stores, with prices to match. For lunch, go to Jangara Ramen (1-13-21 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; http://www.kyusyujangara.co.jp), a landmark ramen shop that's a perennial favorite among the youth set. By now, you should be ready to escape Harajuku's frenetic crowds, so trade those in for Shibuya's equally persistent pedestrians. Skip the train and walk down Omotesando Dori to get to Shibuya through the back door. Steer clear of Center Gai for now, and stick to the tiny shopping streets to the north; here you'll find shopping havens UniQlo and Tokyu Hands. After all that shopping, you should be ready for a drink. As soon as cocktail hour strikes, head to Hachiko crossing, in front of the JR station. If you look north from here, you'll see a tiny alley hugging the train tracks across the street. Follow it, and take a right when the alley ends, going underneath the tracks. To your right, you'll find a mini shanty town line up of izakaya (Japanese pubs) that are all great for some nibbles and drinks with the locals. After that, head all the way up Center Gai to Beat Cafe (33-13-3B Udagawa-cho Shibuya; http://www.beatcafe.info/) for more drinks with the locals and music on-request that you should by all means sing along to with the often rowdy crowd. If you're staying in Shibuya, or don't mind missing your last train, head to Red Bar (or alternatively, Chandelier Bar; 1-12-22 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku) for a late-night session. This well-kept secret will keep you happy chatting away with the friendly crowd and – shall we say, “opinionated” – owner until the wee hours.


1

Harajuku

Location:

Area around Harajuku Station
Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 3 5321 3077


2

Jingu Bashi

Location:

東京都渋谷区代々木4
Tokyo, Japan


3

Shibuya

Location:

Area around Shibuya Station
Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 03 5321 3077


Day 2 - Tokyo, Musashino-shi


Your second day takes you through Shimo-Kitazawa and Kichijoji, two of Tokyo's hip west-side towns. From Shibuya, take the Keio Inokashira line all the way up to Kichijoji, the end of the line. Start off with a leisurely brunch at Nigiro Cafe, a local favorite, then hit the neighborhood's shopping streets for a snapshot of everyday Tokyo life. You'll find acres of pedestrian arcades, sometimes covered, to explore. If you're feeling brave, hit Kozasa for their famous sweets. Then, it's off to Inokashira Park. You could take the train, but it's really just as easy to walk. So trek south and take in this wonderful refuge from city life; on weekends it's jam-packed with local artists selling their wares. Rent a boat and take a ride on the pond; just be careful: this is a famous spot for break-ups. If you're in the mood and have the time, the Ghibli Museum is also here, and shouldn't be missed. Make your way back to the Inokashira line and head straight down to Shimo-Kitazawa. If you've got the munchies, go to Asa for some hempy bites. But, this college neighborhood, famous for its live houses, really comes alive at night, so it's ok if you got distracted in Kichijoji. Near the station, by way of the area's trademark meandering alleys, you'll find Ushi-Tora (Kitazawa 2-9-3), a beer bar specializing in local microbrews (around 20 on tap). If you've worked up an appetite, go to Gu for crunchy organic bites in an earthy setting. A trip to Shimo-Kita isn't complete without checking out the local music scene at one of its intimate, dark, and always pumping live houses. Most can be scouted out from the main drag; inquire within to find your fancy. Just be careful: shows start and end a little earlier than you might be used to, usually from around 7 or 8. After the show, it's time to explore the neighborhood's art bar scene. Because there are so many special places to see in a short time, bar-hopping is recommended, but be careful with those 500 yen table charges.


1

Nigiro Cafe

Location:

R. Matsumura Building 1F
1-9-6 Musashino-shi, Minami-cho
180-0003 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 (0)422 40 9533
fax: +81 422 40 9530


2

Kozasa

Location:

1-1-8 Kichijoji Honcho
Musashino-shi
180-0004 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 4 2222 7230


3

Inokashira Park

Location:

1-18-31 Gotenyama
Kichijōji Minami-chō 1-chōme
180-0005 Musashino-shi, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 422 47 6900


4

Ghibli Museum

Location:

1-1-83 Shimorenjaku
Inokashira Park, Mitaka-shi
181-0013 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 5 7005 5777


5

Gu

Location:

Coni Building 2F, 2-26-8 Kitazawa
Setagaya-ku
155-0031 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 (0)3 3485 2187


6

Asa

Location:

Kitazawa Building 3F
2-18-5 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku
155-0031 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 (0)3 3412 4118


7

Era

Location:

2-34-5 Kitazawa
4 F prima veil Shimokitazawa
155-0031 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 3 5465 6568
fax: +81 3 5465 6567


8

Nakamura

Location:

Shimokitazawa MT Building 2F, 2-37-3 Kitazawa
Setagaya-ku
155-0031 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 (0)3 3466 4020


Day 3 - Tokyo


Spend today getting a different look at Shinjuku, and lose yourself in the nooks and crannies of Tokyo's heart. Your tour is best started at dusk, when the city lights up and the smaller establishments open their doors. Although you may have passed it many times already, there's a good chance you haven't checked out the crowded ramshackle of eateries and bars located almost directly beneath the JR Shinjuku tracks. Head out the JR West exit and walk north. Take the first right you can and you're skirting a maze of alleys chocked full of yakitori stands, sushi bars, and tiny bars up narrow stairs. Lose yourself here for a while; it's a great place to try some of Tokyo's culinary oddities, like basashi (raw horse meat). When you've had your fill, take a quick tour of Kabukicho on your way to Golden Gai. Ahh, tiny, cramped, smoky Golden Gai: the haven of the dry artist, the heart of Tokyo's old-school drinking culture. Golden Gai, a collection of tiny bars in an even smaller area, is a night in itself. Each bar has its own character, and you'll probably want to visit more than one. Space is at a premium here, with many places offering only five or so seats. So don't go with a crowd, and do your best to talk to the locals and owners. If, after all that, you're still down for some exploring, head to Shinjuku Ni-Chome, Tokyo's hub for gay culture, housing the world's highest concentration of gay bars. The scene here is always lively and friendly.


1

Shinjuku

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Location:

Shinjuku
163-0601 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 3 5321 3077


2

Golden Gai

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Location:

1-1-10 Kabukicho
Shinjuku-ku
160-0021 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 (0)3 3320 3331 (Tourist Information)


3

Club Dragon

Location:

2-14-4 Accord Building, B1
Shinjuku San-chome
160-0022 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 (0)3 3341 0606


4

Kinswomyn

Location:

Daiichi Tenka Building 3F
2-5-10
160-0022 Tokyo, Japan

Contact:

tel: +81 3 3354 8720


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