When you’re in the mood for a cultural city break, Japan might not be on your immediate hot list unless you are a mega Hello Kitty fan. However if you look beyond the pink and fluffy, it is the perfect place for fashion, food, electronics and amazing architecture. It also the place to go for a free hug, but more of that later!
For the foodies, you won’t be spoilt for sushi, and the tallest freestanding tower in the world, The Tokyo Sky Tree restaurant is unforgettable. With five star cuisine, you are literally dining in the stars, and will probably rub shoulders with some local celebs too; at 345m high, you have a long way to work up an appetite in the lift, so go hungry! Or you’re not a fan of heights or don’t have a jumbo budget, watching bikini-clad women battle it out with steel clunkers at Robot Restaurant, might be more your bag.
For a themed café with the true Japanese insanity, the Kawaii Monster Café, designed by fashion legend Sebastian Masuda really should be on your must do list. Centrally located in the heart of Harajuku, it more about the atmosphere than the food, and the vibe is loud and hectic. The waitresses wear baby, dolly, candy, nasty or crazy uniforms- memorably nothing like the Spice Girls! And the menu contains dishes such as colourful ‘poisin parfait’ and ‘rainbow pasta’, so you will definitely have lots to Instagram.
Some activities are more “touristy” than others, but you will definitely find some locals at the 8bit Café. Housing original 80s video games, and toys you can get stuck in to Super Nintendo, Pacman or Donkey Kong whilst supping beer or spirits with the locals. Proving to be a playground for grown ups, it’s a late night den so you might be tempted to stay up past your bedtime!
You can’t even consider going to Japan without hitting the shops. Famed for quirky, unusual and downright outrageous designs, some of the classic and sophisticated brands have stores in the shopping district too. Just follow the waft of lithe cool kids who congregate around Ginza’s Dover Street Market. Like the concept store in London, it is a multi-brand department store teeming with one-off collaborations
But if you've spent enough and need to re-charge, head to the central Square near the Harajuka subway station. Sidestep the long haired weirdos rebelling against Japanese society to anyone who will listen, stop to admire up the flamboyant candy floss haired Harajuka Girls, and keep going until you find the kind folk with their hand drawn signs offering Free Hugs, and go and grab one!
How can you refuse the offer of a harmless hug in the madness of this hyper, crazy city? Just remember your camera!
By Sara Darling
Exposing the roads less trodden around the globe. 55Travels with the notion to encounter a more cultural and creative experience.