Must Not Moon Yasukuni

Japan has never been high on my list of places to travel to, mostly because nothing I’ve ever seen or heard about it has ever really appealed to me. Everything I’ve seen of its cities in the movies looks dystopic and ugly and makes me want to hide in a corner, and the bizarro Japanese quirks that seem to fascinate the rest of the world usually just annoy me. I also have a larger political problem with Japan’s shifty stance on its wartime atrocities, which is probably the main reason my feelings about Japan have always been decidedly chilly.

And yet, I am going to Tokyo next week. Never underestimate the ability of a free hotel stay to triumph over my principles!

Alec’s there on work, so I’ll be exploring on my own the vast majority of our time there. If anyone has tips about how a non-Japanese speaker with a decent but not excellent sense of direction can best enjoy exploring Tokyo (and nearby places like Nikko, Kamakura or Hakone) alone in the depths of winter, please share. I’ve done a fair bit of reading up, but I’d be especially interested in hearing about any particular places, activities or meals that people found especially memorable, or anything that people would not recommend. So far, my plan A is to do totally cool edgy shit, transcending language and cultural barriers and finding a new enlightened understanding of this nation I have so long disdained. My plan B is to spend 7 days in Daiso, which would also be bliss.


  1. quickly get a ghibli museum ticket from JTB, its worth it

    if u go yasakuni bring a small camera since no photos are allowed inside the museum and a DSLR is too obvious

    the cat cafe at ikebukuro tokyu hands might be fun if u like cats

  2. If there’s really nothing else to do, why not just hang out at the hotel bar until Alec finishes work. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet an aging movie star who happens to be in Tokyo at the same time filming a whiskey ad. Perhaps even explore Tokyo together after that.

  3. quitacet: Cat cafe? I’m so there. Do you have any other details about it, in case I can’t find it in my guidebooks/Google? Yes, will be getting a Studio Ghibli museum ticket, but must I really do it now or can I wait till I get there and buy from Lawson? Yasukuni – I may or may not go to the shrine (which I believe is free) out of interest, kind of like visiting the manhole that opens down into Hitler’s bunker in Berlin, but I will not pay money to enter the museum.

  4. Bah.. I wanna go to Japan. Me!

    Of course I’d probably waste the entire holiday in Hey! Arcade in Akihabara. They have an entire floor with nothing but shmups! An entire floor!

  5. Look out for mini Oreo chocolates. I have no idea who makes them or where you can buy them from, but I know they’re from Japan. I don’t even like Oreos but the chocolates – they are heavenly. In fact, Japanese chocolates in general are great.

    But that definitely won’t take up much of your time, so don’t think I’ve been of much help there!

  6. Check out this website

    I used it a lot when I was living in Tokyo for a while. I found it more useful than Lonely Planet. The rest of the guides tend to be in Japanese and unless you have a decent command of the language are a bit of lost cause.

  7. James: We had to google “shmups” to find out what it meant. Alec thinks you just used it on purpose to prove what an otaku you are.

    Dominique: Random indeed, but a useful idea for stuff to bring back for the office! I usually spend a while racking my brains as to what people will like, but this sounds foolproof.

    ll: Hey, thanks! Had a quick look, unfortunately there don’t seem to be any good gigs/club nights on the week I’m there, but it will be very handy for checking up on the various small exhibitions in the museums and galleries.

  8. You forgot the bit about endlessly lounging around the room in my panties.

    I guffawed in the middle of the British Library’s Reading Rooms.

    (Thank you.)

  9. I didn’t forget about them panties! I just didn’t want to disrespect Alec by having thoughts about his wife in a pair of undergarments.

    You know, pink in colour.

    A little transparent.

    With a dash of badonka-donk-donk.

    I’m a classy guy, yes I am.

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