5 non-touristy treasures in Tokyo

Tokyo is beloved. Tourists who have visited the city, have heaped lavish praise on it. There’s a ton of literature out there on what to do, see and eat in the Japanese capital. I had for many years wanted to visit Tokyo and I was not disappointed.

My first impression of Tokyo was that it is a retro city – one that is enshrined in the 1980s. Not a bad thing. I love the 80s – the shining, shimmering futuristic version of it. From the pavements to the architecture, everything felt like a throwback this vintage era. As I write this post, Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Ride On Time” is playing on my Macbook. Yes, I am still reminiscing about my holiday.

As I mentioned earlier, Tokyo has been reviewed to death – the food, the toilets, Shibuya scramble etc etc. There’s so much to do in this city. What I want to share, thus, the lesser known (and FREE) things that you might want to check out while in this bustling capital.

1. Ad Museum Tokyo

This museum run by Dentsu tells the story of Advertising in Japan. From its genesis in the Edo period to present time. For professionals in the industry, this museum is an eye opener, a mind-f**k, if you will. There are interactive installations and panels throughout, telling the story of Japan’s evolving culture and how the prominent advertising play into people’s lifestyles and shape society.

2. Tower Records

CDs are not dead. They are hiding in Shibuya.

We were so thrilled to see this Transformer of a building on our way to the Shibuya scramble. Decided that we had to do an extended stopover to walk to aisles of CD shelves. Tower Records was pretty busy with young people browsing K-pop and sipping coffee at the cafe, while the middle-age folks gathered at the upper floors of genres like ‘City Pop’ and western imports. I’d imagine CD sales must still be pretty alright.

3. Reiyukai Shakaden Temple

Spotted this beautiful building on the way to Tokyo Tower, and it hit me that this temple was featured in the MV of will.i.am’s 2013 song, #thatPOWER. The starship-like complex is home to followers of Shakyamuni Buddhism, a branch of Buddhism.

4. Yasukuni Shrine

Outer gate entrance to the infamous shrine

Visits by Japanese prime ministers to the Yasukuni Shrine often get into the news, because of the protests from its foreign neighbours. The shrine houses World War II Class ‘A’ criminals, but they’ve been deified in Japan. Due to the wartime sensitivities, this shrine will probably not be known as an ‘attraction’ per se, however, that makes it non-touristy and yet notable enough for the curious.

5. Rainbow bridge at Odaiba

The view from Aqua City mall

I cannot emphasise how stunning this view is. There is also a mini-replica of the Statue of Liberty alongside Aqua mall.

Honorable mentions: Gundam Exhibition at Diver City mall, also at Odaiba. There is a giant Gundam robot stationed outside Diver City. For fans of Gundam and anime, the exhibition floor inside the mall is totally worth your time.

Bonus: Cheap and Awesome Eats

We had some of the best Tempura ever in these restaurants: Sayama Soba (next to Nishi-Shinjuku train station) & Tempura Tendon Tenya. The latter has numerous outlets throughout Tokyo. We visited the one at Tokyo Station and were blown away by the food. Just go try it.

Here’s more of Tokyo from our July 2019 trip:

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