Here’s my selection of 20 unique things to do in Tokyo, Japan.
Tokyo is vast and ever-changing. It has been done to death on travel blogs and in guidebooks but you can never quite capture it. For that reason, I didn’t want to write down what we think you ‘shouldn’t miss’ or ‘must see’ places. But here are 20 things I really enjoyed on my last two visits that aren’t your generic big sights.
We’re lucky enough to have friends in Tokyo, so we try to stay near where they live in Ogikubo. This gives us a unique insight into local life there every time we visit. Here’s a brief summary of things we love about Tokyo off the beaten track. It covers: Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Kichijōji. This area is basically a western section of the Chūō-Sōbu line: one of the most crowded commuter train lines in Japan (which is really saying something).
If you want to visit somewhere in Tokyo without the tourists, where normal people live, and where the huge 20-storey buildings give way to low-rise winding streets, this area is perfect.
I’ve been meaning to write this for ages: my ultimate Funchal, Madeira travel guide. Madeira is a gorgeous island in Portugal and Funchal is its much-underrated capital. It’s one of the few places I keep returning to year after year. I first went for guaranteed winter sun in February and I’ve been back not just for the sun, but for the beautiful scenery, culture and food.
Funchal as a city is amazing and probably not at all what you’d expect. Sweeping boulevards, a harbour to stroll down, flowers everywhere. What more do you want? An airport that you land in over the sea and feel like you’re about to die? Got that covered, too.
It’s also deceptively large – almost an optical illusion, in that you can think something is fairly close by but actually takes ages to walk to because of the steep roads. It’s got some of the prettiest architecture I’ve seen, but never feels built up because you can always see the sea.
We gorged on udon noodles until we could hardly walk round the gardens in Takamatsu, Japan. This is obviously an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
Takamatsu isn’t somewhere we’d ever heard of. We’ve actually never heard of anyone going there. But it was on our way back from an incredible long weekend on the art island of Naoshima and our friend Tom was in charge of our lives and knew we would like it so off we went.
We had a day trip to Himeji Castle, Japan as part of our two-week trip in January. It’s considered Japan’s most beautiful castle, towering over the city with its pure white facade and silvery grey tiles. Its exterior has a real castle-based wow factor. Like lots of this sort of thing in Japan, it’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site and official National Treasure.
We also saw loads of cats.
As part of our fantastic trip in January, we had a day of deer and Buddha in Nara, Japan. We did this day trip from where we were staying in Kobe. Nara’s Todaiji Temple is one of Japan’s most famous temples, home to a ginormous 15-metre high bronze Buddha. But Nara is most famous for its tame, free-roaming deer, whose cuteness has made the city a popular tourist destination.
You can follow a pilgrimage route to the temple via loads of cute Bambis. And if that doesn’t sound like a good day out to you, we’re no longer friends.