Last month I went on a trip to an incredible city I have always wanted to visit, Tokyo. When my sister and I were younger we were obsessed with anime. From Pokemon, Sailor Moon, to every Studio Ghibli movie ever made. YUP, nerds I know. But there was something so magical about the way the stories were told that really pulled you from reality. Japan embraces that same dreamlike escapism in many aspects of life. Our little brother is now 13 and followed his sisters on the anime train! He was actually the one that really pushed for this family trip. We all happily obliged- my mom, sister, brother, and brother-in-law. Of course the reason I wanted to go as an adult was to see and wear the wild fashion! Lucky for me, my family is full of creatives and helped me snap cool photos along the way. My sister's husband, Sean, is also a videographer @39north.productions and got some amazing footage from our trip! Which is why it took me a month to get thus post up haha.
So as you may have imagined all the Tokyo rumors you have ever heard are true, it is a fascinating futuristic land with unique quirks up the wazoo! From the hot vending machines and amazing street food to the cat latte art and squirting toilets (AMAZING BTW). I could write for days about all the strangely wonderful things that make this city so special, but let me just show you :) Below I have my guide on where to go, what to eat, and where to get THE SHOT!
Okay yes the title of this post is Tokyo Takeover, but the very first place I’m sharing is an entirely different city haha. I only stayed here for a little over a day to explore before catching a flight, but got to see some really cool stuff. The shrine you see below is the Namba Yasaka Shrine. Easily one of the most awe inspiring locations of this trip! The photos don’t do justice. Osaka is the second biggest city and known for it’s foodie scene. I explored a cute little neighborhood called Nakazakicho tucked under the subway. It had a bunch of cute vintage shops and cafes scattered in between traditional buildings left intact after the war. It was saddening to hear how many of Japan’s traditional architecture and shrines were destroyed so it was good to see the few left in Osaka.
Yes like the Gwen Stephani song. This is a neighborhood in Tokyo known for it’s funky and eclectic fashion. It is overwhelming in the best way. While there were certainly many funky and colorfully dressed Japanese girls there wasn’t quite as much as you’d expect. The fashion trend in Tokyo right now is super loose and simple pieces and neutral color palettes - I certainly missed the memo on my personal trek to embody Japanese style on my trip as you will see haha.
Harajuku is massive and offers so many different types of businesses and areas, Takeshita Street being the most famous. It’s a tourist trap no doubt, but one you cannot miss! It is packed with people and colors galore, bright stores and cafes selling massive cotton candy and rainbow grilled cheese. If you turn right from there you are brought to a giant mall and an area filled with big fancy retailers. You can skip all that but don’t miss the Kawaii Monster Cafe! That place is wild and a seriously good time. It looks like a theme park and will blow your mind.
Past Takeshita and into the alleys is where you really want to go. Much of Japan’s best retail and food are located in alleyways! That’s where you can find Reissue, the coffee shop known for their amazing latte art. Not only are they perfect for a photo op, but they taste damn good! I recommend the honey latte with 3D cats, all you have to do is show them a photo and they can remake anything! They can even do portraits. My little brother showed them an image of the RIPNDIP middle finger cat and they replicated it perfectly, LOL.
This area is full all the Kawaii, which means 'cute' in Japanese, places. Eddy’s Ice Cream is a must for tasty photogenic snack #2! There are also light bulb drinks and so many more. As you roam deeper you can find the hip local stores and cafes. Pastries are a way of life in Japan and the cafe simply titled, “Bread, Espresso &” is a great place to get your gluten on!
When you are tired from all the commotion you can seek peace and quiet inside Harajuku’s own Yoyogi Park. A gorgeous public park that stretches for miles. You can literally get lost in it…..we actually did haha. There are temples and trees as far as the eye can see!
This is the heart of Tokyo. Home of the largest intersection in the world! Crossing the intersection is literally a tourist must. It will blow your mind. I ventured here mostly in the evening to go out and get dinner so I didn’t get the opportunity to snap many photos! But you can’t miss this bustling and exciting area, it’s the Tokyo people talk about. We had dinner at Ichiran, a famous ramen spot where you first order through a vending machine and then they bring it to you through a secret door in front of your seat! It was an experience. Another super fun stop is Wired Tokyo, it's a bar and bookstore! We had so much fun sipping on cocktails while flipping through magazines and books. It was a perfect little escape right above the wild intersection!
One Tokyo guide I read said, “Skip Shibuya, Shinjuku is less crazy and more cool.” I think get what they meant. It was Shibuya vibes on a slightly smaller scale, a little nicer, but still filled with all the excitement. It felt slightly less touristy and a little more western. Much of the city is built around the subways, you will find fancy stores and restaurants right at the subway station! There is an area called Mosaic Alley that basically looked like Santa Monica.
As amazing as the street food is, I was very excited to stumble upon a vegan friendly spot that looked like it was plucked straight from LA! Mr. Farmer is a super nice spot with locally sourced organic food. It’s not super easy to be vegetarian in Tokyo (especially when you’re the only one in the group) so this was the perfect place to grab a killer veggie burger. This was also a great area to grab sushi pescatarian, standing self-corrected haha. Japan has sushi that can cost pennies or hundreds of dollars. We wanted to try a nice mid level spot where we could sit down and relax. Tsukijitamazushi was perfect. Nice ambiance, cool views, and great sushi! The city is crazy condensed so most places are located in malls, don’t let this scare you, it's normal in Tokyo! Next to the endless sky scrapers they have the most gorgeous parks, Shinjuku Gyo-en is a must see in this area.
At nighttime Shinjuku really comes to life! The photos you see of Tokyo with lights and signs filling the streets, that’s Shinjuku. It is also home to the world famous Robot Restaurant. Located about eight flights underground in the most insane arena. Dancers and performers do a full act with gigantic robotic machines and it will blow your mind. This was easily my favorite part of the trip!
This is the hipster hood of Tokyo! A few stops outside the city and all of the sudden you’re in the most adorable neighborhood with alleys and alleys of coffee shops, vintage stores, and local boutiques. The area appeared super mellow and slow but as you go deeper into the center of this neighborhood it becomes a frenzy of young Japanese trendsetters shopping with fervor. We started off with lattes per usual at Usual. A super cute spot with a beautiful patio to people watch. Then onto the vintage shops, they are literally everywhere and people are obsessed. My boyfriend, Phillip, requested I get him a vintage Japanese tee, but I literally could not find any vintage Japanese items anywhere! They love American vintage and pay a pretty penny for it. New business idea haha?! Nevertheless I couldn’t help but grab a few pieces!
In Japan literally all the food is good, people said it but I didn’t believe it. We ate at so many random little places, you cannot go wrong. But yes sometimes you just want a little taste of home and Village Vanguard Diner was just that. Super tasty gastro pub with some healthy options too! Across the street be sure to get a taiyaki for dessert. These little fished shaped waffles filled with oozy goodness were to die for.
So amidst all the shopping and eating I needed another pick me up… Or really just an excuse to try another coffee shop lol. Bear Pound Coffee is for serious espresso snobs. The owner, Tanaka, is native to Japan but lived in New York for years perfecting the coffee game. He brought it back to Shimo-Kitazawa and people are obsessed. I had a really great latte and sat on the bench outside to do some more people watching in this amazing area.
Video game and anime lovers this is your neighborhood! My sister, brother, and brother-in-law are still very much in this world so they had to see it all. I had fun looking like a cartoon in this super fun overall outfit we carry in the Dazey Lady Shop! It was pretty fascinating to see all the super fans, they even have a name for them, Otaku! We ventured into 11 floor gift and action figure shops, six floors of arcades, and more. At the Sega arcade one whole floor was dedicated to claw machines and looked SO COOL! As my brother was wasting all his money I took the time to do a photoshoot haha. On another floor there were rows and rows of old school video game machines, each with a player at them who was VERY into it. Up near the top was the 'women’s floor' dedicated to cosplay and photo booths. A line of ladies waited to pick out their costume and do hair and makeup for their photos. It was mind blowing and if there wasn’t such a long ass line I would have done it myself haha. Even if you’re not into video game culture, this whole area is a sight to see.