Welcome back to yet another episode of Japan Bucket List! This time we’re pinpointing Tokyo and Sapporo, so be sure to bookmark this for your planning purposes.
ICYMI, we did a similar bucket list of must-visit places in Osaka and Fukuoka, which you might want to check out too.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it, shall we?
10 Things To See and Do in Tokyo:
1. Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo
OF COURSE this was going to be part of the list! It’s Tokyo, and it’s an essential checklist, so it is expected that this would go at the very top! It’s been in movies, comics and every other important media imaginable. It might sound crazy to get here just to ‘cross the street’, but trust us, it’s part of any Japanophile journey.
2. Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
While many come here for ‘hatsumode’ (first shrine visit of the year), there are plenty of things to do here such as marvel at the lush greenery that contradicts its location smack in the middle of the city, pray for marital harmony and family safety, and…if you’re lucky, catch a traditional wedding ceremony on the day of your visit!
3. Tsukiji Market, Tokyo
Time to hit the freshest spot in town for the freshest seafood and produce! Imagine mouth wateringly delicious and fresh sashimi, sea urchins (if you’re into that kind of delicacy) and sushi breakfast. Get your fill of amazing sushi here.
4. Robot Restaurant
Japan has always been synonymous with its neon lights and bright colours, so if you’re up for a sensory overload, grab a seat at the Robot Restaurant. It’s bizarre, crazy and over the top with its performances, dances and colours but it’s wholly entertaining!
5. Ichiran Ramen
No trip to Tokyo would be complete if you’re not stopping by at Ichiran Ramen, a place which many around the world would consider serves the best ramen in the world! Plus, it’s best for introverts, or if you’re the only one in the group who’s a foodie because this restaurant houses single booths only. When you’re here, buy a ramen ticket at the vending machine, personalise it and enjoy every single delicious, milky and sweet bite — solo!
The ever-buzzing Harajuku is another one to tick off the Japan/Tokyo bucket list, for its colourful street art and eclectic fashion scene. If ever you feel like experimenting with a crazy colour combination, or dressing up like an anime character, this is the place to be yourself and have fun while you’re at it! Plus, while you’re feeling your best, shop around for more fashion statements and if you can, stop by the Kawaii Monster Cafe.
Famed for its abundance of electronics and known for being an anime haven, you’re in for quite the shopping adventure here…and you might not stop. They sell nearly every neat thing here, down to the most practical to the most bizarre (and scandalous). There’s a Gundam cafe, anime shops and you can also spot some ‘maids’ on the street. The possibilities are endless!
So you’ve seen the fashion street (Harajuku) and the anime street (Akihabara). Now it’s time for Jimbocho, Tokyo’s book town. Home to anywhere between 160 and 200 bookstores, you might get yourself a bunch of pre-loved and antique books (a true bookworm’s dream come true!)
9. Tokyo Skytree
This broadcasting and observation tower is one of Tokyo’s more prominent landmarks, and was once considered one of the tallest towers in Japan, and the world at the time of its completion. Make your way up to the observation deck so you can see Tokyo in all its beautiful glory, and also take a walk around the Tembo Gallery, which is dubbed the world’s highest skywalk.
10. Imperial Palace
Fancy visiting the Japanese Imperial family? Well, you can, but only on the outside.
The inner grounds of the palace are generally not open to the public. However, on certain dates such as New Year’s Greeting and the Emperor’s Birthday, visitors are able to enter the inner palace grounds and see the members of the Imperial Family, who make several public appearances on a balcony. But, if you’re up for a guided tour (in English, too), you can opt for that, although you can’t enter buildings.
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10 Things To See and Do in Sapporo:
1. Shiroi Koibito Park
Ishiya, a local chocolate company, also runs this theme park which consists of various chocolate-related exhibits, and large windows through which visitors can see cookie and chocolate making processes! By the way, one of Ishiya’s most popular produces is the Shiroi Koibito cookie, two thin button cookies with a layer of white chocolate in between — quite a popular souvenir to take home.
2. Sapporo TV Tower
For the best view of Sapporo city, hop over to the Sapporo TV Tower. In fact, it is even better if you go at night because the view was voted as one of the top three best views in Japan!
3. Sapporo Beer Museum
Registered as one of the Hokkaido Heritage sites in 2004, this museum is the only beer museum in Japan, so beer lovers should tick this off the list! Its history dates back to the Meiji period, when William Smith Clark visited Hokkaido and started beer production, so it’s amazing how beer has became part of the Japanese culture until now, as you know! And, while you’re here, be sure to grab a pint of Sapporo beer.
Hike up one of snowy/forested mountains in Sapporo called Mount Moiwa lookout point and take in more sights of the city, or even take a ski holiday at Moiwayama (only 20 minutes by car). Moiwayama is a unique ski area which can satisfy even the most novice skiers. Although they forbid snowboarding, you can opt for the sightseeing road course which is similar to snow trekking.
5. Mount Teine
As you may have guessed, Sapporo seems like the best place for a ski holiday or a day of fun in the snow. Mount Teine is another great example and a must-see if ever you feel like a winter holiday. Plus, this ski spot was also the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics!
6. Jozankei Onsen
What’s one to do in an idyllic Japanese city? Go for an onsen town trip, of course! Hop on a bus to Jozankei Onsen, whose waters were discovered in 1866, and now hosts dozens of ryokan (many for you to choose from), restaurants and shops catering to hot spring tourists.
Take a trip down memory lane, back to when Japan was still in its historical years at Kaitaku-mura. This spot shows what 19th century Hokkaido would have been like with its Victorian town halls, grand villas in traditional Japanese style, and more. What’s great is that you will be able to enter most of the buildings and take photos!
8. Okura-yama Ski Jump Stadium
The slope might have caught your attention, right? Rightfully so, this was another stop and facility which was used during the 1972 Winter Olympics, and is still used for numerous international competitions. You can bet the sight up there is breathtaking too!
9. Shikotsu-Tōya National Park
There are three separate parts in one park here from beautiful volcanic landscapes to crater lakes and hot springs. A highlight is Yotei, an extinct volcano, which is perfect for those wanting to make the four-hour climb to the three summit craters known as the Father, Mother and Little Cauldrons. Also worth seeing is the Nakayama Pass and crystal clear Lake Toya (a circular lake so warm it can’t freeze over even in the severest of winters), and Showa-Shinzan, a still-active volcano, which came into being only in 1945.
10. Asahiyama Memorial Park
The main reason why people visit this park is to get to the large tower that stands here and then look out over the rest of Sapporo. Located in the western extremity of Sapporo, it is surrounded by sculpted gardens with a large lawn, fountain, a terraced Italian flowerbed, French geometric garden and Chinese arbor…perfect for that date night, by the way!
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