Emily: Have you always wanted to visit Japan? You can get there for a fraction of the cost with a few credit card sign-up bonuses!
My boyfriend and I recently flew from Austin to Japan for ~$200 round trip in Business Class. And for 3 weeks of lodging (including some fancy hotels), I spent ~$450!
Japan is a beautiful country with LOTS to see and do, from high-rise skyscrapers to old temples to hot springs. I loved Tokyo for its energetic neighborhoods, shopping, and delicious restaurants.
Wherever you go, you’re sure to have an amazing time! In this series, I’ll go into detail about where I stayed in Tokyo, what to do, and some of my favorite restaurants, and show you how you can do it, too!
How to Stay in Tokyo for Free Trip Report Index:
- Part 1 – Introduction and Planning
- Part 2 – Our $200 Business Class Flights to Japan
- Part 3 – Grand Hyatt Tokyo Hotel Review
- Part 4 – What to Do in Tokyo
- Part 5 – Where to Shop in Tokyo
- Part 6 – Why Tokyo is the Culinary Capital of the World
- Part 7 – Day Trip From Tokyo – Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort & Spa Review
- Part 8 – Day Trip From Tokyo – What to Do in Hakone
- Part 9 – Day Trip From Tokyo – Where to Eat in Hakone
What to Do in Tokyo
Tokyo is a vibrant city with lots of things to do. Ideally, you’d have at least 7 to 10 days there!
We only had 5 jam-packed days to explore, and wished we had more time. Because you’ll never get bored in Tokyo!
Some of my favorite activities in Tokyo included exploring the neighborhoods at night with friends, visiting Yoyogi Park, driving a real-life Mario Kart around the city (you read that right!), and taking a cooking class.
Whatever you do, make sure to use a rewards card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
My personal favorites are the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred, because they earn 2 to 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining. And you tend to spend a lot in these categories when you’re on vacation!
1. Explore Tokyo’s Neighborhoods With Friends
Walking around Tokyo’s eclectic neighborhoods was the highlight of our trip there. We kicked off each fun-filled night by meeting for dinner and drinks with Alfy’s high school friend who lives in Tokyo.
We’d buy cheap alcoholic drinks at a convenience store before strolling the streets. I loved saving money by avoiding the expensive bars AND getting to see the city at once. Plus, buying drinks was an adventure in and of itself!
One evening we stopped by Tokyo’s popular Albatross Bar & Gallery. It’s a cozy spot with a bohemian vibe and beautiful rooftop views. And the drinks weren’t priced too high either!
I’ll have a more lengthy review of Albatross and other restaurants in the next post of this series. So keep an eye out! 🙂
After that, we continued our neighborhood walk.
We made sure to take time for boy band pics…
…and to admire the gorgeous street art.
We even stopped at an arcade to play games!
After a jam session with yours truly on drums, we each tried a round in the batting cage. For those of you who might not know, I am not very good at sports. But I still had a blast!
Outside of a bar/restaurant on our walk, we saw some interesting advertisements for paid evening “hosts.” You can hire them to keep you company, tell stories and jokes, perform magic tricks, sing karaoke, and of course, pour you drinks!
I think it’d be fun to bring my girlfriends back to try one evening. Because it sounds like an unforgettable, fun experience!
As we continued, we saw another interesting ad, only this one was for cat space tours and cats with lollipops. They sure love cats in Japan!
Check out this YouTube video to see what Cat Space Tours are all about. You can thank me later. 😉
2. Visit Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi Park is like New York’s Central Park. It’s huge, and a welcome break from the concrete jungle of Tokyo.
You can find peaceful nature walks, old temples, break-dancers of all ages, and different kinds of artists and musicians. It’s a great place to have a picnic and just hang out!
From the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, we took a 15-minute metro ride to the park, and were greeted with a huge arch.
I loved walking through the lush green forests.
The fresh air felt so good!
We passed some musicians…
…and lots of people breakdancing, many of which were children! Some of the kids were better than the adults, and had great rhythm.
I even saw some women and girls dancing.
You can see the breakdancers every Sunday.
They were amazing, and the crowds were going wild!
3. Real-Life Mario Kart in Tokyo
Ever dreamed of wearing Mario and Luigi costumes and go-carting around Tokyo? Here’s your chance!
I would have loved to speed through Tokyo with MariCAR, but we didn’t get our international driver’s licenses in time. But our friends did it and loved every moment of it.
Here’s what Christina had to say about her experience go-carting in Tokyo with MariCAR:
“Is there anything I can say about real life Mario Kart in Tokyo that hasn’t already been said? Probably not. It’s thrilling. It’s exciting. It’s a one-of-a-kind adventure. And it’ll end up being one of the highlights of your trip to Japan.
My husband and I loved it so much, we ended up doing it twice!
There are a few companies that offer this experience, but we went with MariCAR both times. We made our reservations directly through the company. They offer 3 courses: two 2-hour courses and one 3-hour course.
There are two prices listed on their website for each course, and there’s an ~$9 difference between both prices. The cheaper price is the price you’ll pay if you promise to write a review or tell all of your friends about your experience. And that’s not hard to do, you won’t be able to stop talking about it!
The first time we went, we took my father and did the 2-hour Tokyo Tour (Course A), which took us through Shinagawa, Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, and Shibuya.
When we arrived, we picked out our costumes and got a quick lesson on the go-cart functions and road safety. MariCAR provides a leader and a caboose to help ensure your safety on the roads and to keep your group together.
You literally drive on through the city alongside cars, taxis, and buses!
We took two breaks during our tour, one at Tokyo Tower and another in Shibuya. These stops allow for potty breaks, snack time, and photo ops.
During your tour, the staff will take photos of you at stoplights and landmarks along the way, and will email them to you once you’re back at the shop. In addition to the photos taken by the staff, you’ll have your picture taken a hundred times by bystanders!
It’s a weird feeling at first, but you almost start to feel like a celebrity. Part of the fun is getting into character and indulging them!
We took our second tour with a couple of friends and our three children.
MariCAR added a tuk tuk to their fleet to accommodate those who want the experience, but that don’t want to or can’t drive (a brilliant idea!). And this time, we opted for the 3-hour Tokyo Tour (Course C).
This one was similar to our first tour, but with two additional destinations, Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba. I highly recommend this course over the other one.
Driving on Rainbow Bridge was such an adrenaline rush and the views of Tokyo are amazing from Odaiba! The rest of the tour was like our first one, still impressive, especially stopping at Shibuya Crossing.
Just be aware, if this is something you want to try during your trip to Tokyo, you must obtain your international driver’s license before coming to Japan. If you have a US driver’s license, you can get an international one through either AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance.
Real-life Mario Karting through the streets of Tokyo is truly amazing. It’s one of those “only in Japan” type of experiences that you should not pass up during your trip to Japan!”
4. Cooking Class
Japanese food is delicious, and Japanese chefs take their art very seriously. You can take a class to learn how to cook authentic Japanese food, meet people, and learn more about Japanese culture in the process.
We went to a cooking class in Osaka and met another fun couple that we went out with after the class.
If you want to take a cooking class in Tokyo, check out Mayuko’s Little Kitchen Japanese Cooking Class. It gets excellent ratings on TripAdvisor. And it’s a great way to meet other travelers, and a fantastic way to learn more about the Japanese food culture!
5. Airbnb Experiences
If you want to get to know some locals, consider trying out an Airbnb “Experience.” It’s a new service from Airbnb that connects locals to tourists to do fun things!
So far, Experiences seem to be limited to major cities, like Tokyo and Paris. Have you tried an Airbnb Experience?
You could even consider trying one of Airbnb’s “Experiences,” for another chance to more connect with locals.
Have you been to Tokyo? If you have any more recommendations for things to see and do there, please share them with everyone in the comments below!