Crazy Tokyo Experiences
Evolving post – more to come!
We came to Japan for the specific goal of diving into the country’s legendary craziness. We had visions of pouty Lolitas posing in front of multi-story video screens, robots performing the Nutcracker, warehouse-scale electronic sushi emporiums, and Gozilla peeking over a skyscraper down upon the city’s legendary street culture. Did we find it? Absolutely, it’s everything we ever dreamt of and more.
In coming days, we will be building the ultimate list of quirky, crazy, weird, wild and wonderful activities, a sort of must-do menu of kitschy Tokyo delights. Hai, dozo!
Buy a bonnet for your cat
Yes, a thousand articles have been written about Japan’s vending machines, and we have read most of them. But it still caught us totally off guard when we spotted a machine that sold cat bonnets and dog hats. Literally anything you can imagine – deodorant, sushi, kegs of beer, dildos, umbrellas, pizza, transformers, Smarts – is being sold in vending machines. Go, discover, and report back in our comment section. Lead picture.
Grab a drink (or something else)
Japan’s thematic cafes and pubs are legendary (and sometimes quite bizarre). You can sip coffee while playing with a cat, an owl, a macaw or a hedgehog. You can take your cappuccino while chatting to a woman dressed up like a French maid or a man dressed like a Korean pop star. You can sip a beer as women frolic in lingerie or just before a man soaps you up with his body. When it comes to thematic cafe and pub options, Japanese seem to have few limits.
Explore the world of creepy-cute
Cute is a major concept in Tokyo. “Kawaii” things range from giant inflatable ducks to whale-sized reclining cat statues. Similarly, creepy is a big seller. You never have a problem finding a mask of melting human flesh. But our favorite Tokyo twist was “creepy-cute.” For example, a Christina Aguilera voodoo doll with a skull and crossbones dress and David Bowie eyes… which seem to stare into your soul!!!
Take a day trip to a theme park based on plants
What other country would have an entire theme park based on plants? Hitachi Seaside Park, located 130 km northeast of Tokyo, is world famous for its extraordinary floral events. We managed to catch one of their most amazing spectacles, the kochia fields transitioning from green to crimson. Insane, it felt like we were on another planet. Check out their floral event calendar and their bloom calendar to find out what’s next.
Eat the world’s craziest crepes
“I’ll have the crepe with strawberries, whipped cream, red bean, green tea ice cream, and cheesecake, please.” Yes, that was actually my order. They loaded everything onto the crepe, smooshed it all together and rolled the entire thing into a cone. Delicious. We guarantee you that no place on earth makes weirder/better crepes than Japan.
Have your head bitten by a good-luck lion
If you attend a Japanese festival or a temple event, keep your eyes peeled for a good-luck lion roaming the crowds. Letting the lion bite your head brings good fortune. As an added bonus, it’s especially fun to watch babies and toddlers screaming their lungs out as their parents stuff their heads into the lion’s mouth.
Stroll down Godzilla Street
Tokyo just wouldn’t be Tokyo without Japan’s favorite lizard. Luckily, you can head down to Godzilla Street in Shinjuku to snap a shot of him peeking out from behind the Toho Cinemas. Fire not included.
Learn that Japanese aren’t quite as straight(laced) as you think
Japan boasts the largest open gay scene in Asia. But it can be a bit bewildering to outsiders. This is a country where there is an entire industry of cartoon gay porn designed specifically for straight women! What?!
Stand under a monstrous spider
Move over Shelob and Aragog, Roppongi Hills is all about Maman, the epic 30-foot spider statue by artist Louise Bourgeois. From beneath her giant legs, you can stare up at the monolithic Mori Tower.
Devour a giant rainbow cotton candy
We couldn’t believe our eyes the first time we saw a giant rainbow cotton candy floating down the street in Harajuku. Whoa!!! Like a modern day Hansel and Glätzel (German pun intended), we followed the rainbow trail back to its source, the Totti Candy Factory. And just as in the fairytale, there was a witch lurking in the shadows, who screamed at me for blocking the entrance for .0001 seconds while I snapped a picture. Be warned, one of these fabulous sugar monsters will set you back $9!!!
Spend the night in a capsule hotel (a.k.a. pornographic coffin hotel)
It’s on every cool traveler’s must-do list when visiting Japan, spending a night in a Japanese capsule hotel. You can choose between an authentic capsule hotel designed for Japanese, or more tourist-oriented establishments. We made the mistake of going local. Although the facilities were great, what they don’t tell you is that capsule hotels are where all the Japanese salary men go to watch porn (very freaky porn) away from their wives. Not exactly a quiet night.
Eat sushi under an Italian sunset… at noon
In a city full of over-the-top kitsch, one of our favorite discoveries was the Venus Fort mall in Daiba. The entire interior is laid out like an Italian city with rambling cobbled streets, city squares complete with fountains, arched city gates and sunset skies 24/7. It’s surprisingly extensive. If that’s not enough, check out the classic car collection displayed on city streets inspired by Route 66. Too cool!
Watch a Pink Hello Kitty Noh Performance
It’s ancient, it’s traditional… it’s Hello Kitty?! Keep your eyes peeled in Yoyogi Park and Harajuku for one of the weirdest street performances in the city, a modern take on the traditional art of Noh with a few gloriously kitschy twists. Completely decked out in pink, Hello Kitty on his cheek and shoulder, crying flowers and rhinestones, this is six centuries of Japanese art in one costume.
Find the mysterious Eye of Shinjuku
To truly appreciate the scale of Shinjuku Station, we challenge you to locate the surreal Eye of Shinjuku. Head for the station and start asking passers-by about the mysterious piece of art. After winding your way through subterranean malls, department store food halls and endless rivers of people, the reward for your efforts is a local’s view of the station and – with luck and perseverance – a photo of the psychedelic eye itself.
Pay $10 for an individually packaged grape the size of an egg
I know what you are thinking right now: Where can I find a $10 individually packaged grape the size of a chicken egg? Well, we found a nice selection in the fruit section on the food floor of the Isetan department store in Shinjuku. Yes, we make it a point to scan the fruit section of virtually every department store we encounter in Tokyo. What we find (as well as the prices) would blow your mind!
Look at yourself in the mirror(s)
Mirror, mirror on the wall… and ceiling… and basically everywhere. If you just need a place to kick back and take in your own beauty (or you love architecture), don’t miss the dazzling mirrored entrance at the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku. But if you are there for a quick selfie, you might have to fight off a few hundred fellow Instagrammers.
Soak up the local color
Get out on the street and find the essence of Tokyo. Just stop and look at the people around you. What are they wearing? Did a woman just walk by wearing enormous black ram’s horns? Yep. What are their dogs wearing? Is that Chihuahua decked out in Channel? Of course.
Visit the Statue of Liberty
A lot of people know that Tokyo has its own version of the Eiffel Tower called Tokyo Tower, but did you know that they also have a Statue of Liberty? (I’m telling you, those things just keep popping up everywhere.) Yes, the Statue is strategically located in Daiba behind the Aqua City Mall and it’s backed by the Rainbow Bridge to give it an especially New York vibe.
Mutate your face
There are entire floors of machines specifically catering to Japanese women, which allow them to mutate their face into strange shapes with huge distorted anime eyes. Or they can alter their full body, transforming their figure into the Japanese version of Barbie with huge boobs and stick thin legs. Yes, now you too can turn your body dysmorphia into a wallet-sized photo.
Try a frozen beer… or three
Actually, one is probably enough. We had seen frozen beers in several restaurants, and curiosity got the better of us, so we eventually gave in and ordered one. We can’t say we loved it, but it is definitely a blog-worthy Tokyo experience. Despite the name, our frozen beer wasn’t totally frozen, just the swirly foam head.
Go shoe shopping
Seriously, where else can you find platforms with teddy bears or kitty cats. Oh, so cute! Need some Pokemon pumps… you got it. Gundam or Yoda sneakers… got it. Sexy steel stilettos for your next yakuza event… got it. I am sure that EVEN Italy can’t match the shoe awesomeness of Tokyo.
Hang out with the Harajuku Kids
Dive into the parallel universe known as Harajuku, the ultimate Tokyo destination for youth culture and fashion. This is Tokyo’s most colorful people watching location. The epicenter is Takeshita Doori, but branch out into the side streets to discover the most cutting edge trends.
Talk to a robot
There are literally thousands of robots in Tokyo thrilling visitors and attempting (and I emphasize attempting) to provide customer service. Striking up a conversation in Japanese is much easier, but there are a few that speak English and Chinese.
Hunt for exotic Kit Kats
KitKats are serious business in Japan. There are hundreds of specialized flavors from sake to rum raisin to green tea to wasabi. Hunting regional KitKat specialties has become something of a dedicated sport here. Google Japanese KitKats and you’ll discover tons of forum posts discussing the best locations to find them.