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Highlights of Bucket List Event’s Tokyo Visit
Travel Advice for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Nataliya and Toby at the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku.

Kon’nichiwa friends!

Two of your Bucket List Events guides have returned after a combined six weeks in Tokyo with some fun and informative information to pass along to our Olympic enthusiasts. After defeating the jet lag, Nataliya and Toby sat down to discuss their observations of Tokyo. Here is some of their travel advice for the Tokyo Olympics.


What’s your favorite neighborhood in Tokyo?

Highlights of Bucket List Event's Tokyo Visit - Spring 2019

View of Tokyo Bay from the top of Tokyo Tower

Nataliya:

The area that got my attention the most is the Roppongi district. Very vibrant atmosphere and a district where things are happening. Here you can find restaurants that offer both international and Japanese cuisine. You will find yourself walking through small alleys and climbing up to the 7th floor, just to discover a lively Japanese restaurant has been one of my most favorite parts. During the day you can wonder around, do some shopping and explore great foods. A must do in the area is visiting the Tokyo Tower. Getting to the top deck and enjoying the VIP experience – Very Impressive Panorama should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is a great 360 degrees view of Tokyo, as well as a sneak peak of mount Fuji on a clear day. Roppongi at night has it all. Wine and Jazz bars, pubs and cocktail bars, craft breweries. Every corner has its own unique signature. The district will not let you down whether you decide to explore during the day or night.

Shinjuku at night

Toby:

While I loved the personality of Shibuya and Harajiku, I really felt like I was in Tokyo in Shinjuku. It’s massive and bright, which is what I have always pictured when envisioning Tokyo. This single neighborhood boasts a bigger population than St. Louis. It’s intimidating at first, especially when every side street is crowded – but you feel the energy everywhere. It’s contagious. 


What has surprised you the most about Tokyo?

Flowers in Yoyogi Park

Nataliya:

One of my biggest surprises were the parks in the city. 5.7 square meters of park space per capita. The parks are also a place where a lot of events and festivals take place. My favorite of all is Yoyogi Park. In early mornings, you can join group work outs, yoga classes, dancing classes, jogging etc. Later in the afternoon the park turns into a great hang out spot for the people living in Tokyo. Having a picnic on a sunny day is a popular activity amongst everyone. Every weekend the park offers different events: music, cultural and food festivals.

Toby:

How organized the city is, especially regarding public transportation. This massive city feels like it’s always busy, yet everyone walks (and doesn’t run) from line to line and patiently forms lines in anticipation of their train. Sure, the trains get super crowded at peak hours, but no one is more aggressive or louder than they need to be. Everyone is very respectful of their fellow passengers.


Which Olympic venue did you enjoy visiting the most?

Judo Championships at Nippon

Nataliya:

As I mentioned earlier, one of the things that surprised me about Tokyo were the parks. The Nippon Budokan is the venue where the judo competitions will take place. It is located in a beautiful Kitonamuro Park. On the other side of the park is also the Imperial Palace, which is a must visit while in Tokyo.

Our team was invited to watch the oldest judo championships that gathers the best judoist from schools of Japan. This is also a time, when they open the gardens in the park, to honor the emperor. A member of the emperor’s family always visits the championship.

The venue is easily accessible on the metro line, and is less than 5min walk from the Kudanshita metro station.

Inside the Tokyo Aquatics Centre

Toby:

A lot of the venues are still under construction, but you can see the forming of traditional Tokyo architecture, which is awesome. I love the history surrounding National Stadium since it also hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics, but it was the swimming and diving center that drew my attention. The layout invites a very intimate setting for next Summer, especially with the limiting seating. Also, one of the more convenient venue locations as it’s just a 10 minute walk from Shin-kiba Station.


What’s the best meal you’ve had in Tokyo?

Nataliya:

All things food. One of the best things about traveling to different places, is having the chance to experience the local cuisine. Tokyo is a great place for food lovers. One of the traditional dishes that I would recommend is the okonomiyaki. It is great for both meat lovers and vegetarians. A mixture of cabbage, carrots, meats (or sea food) and eggs. It is always freshly made, grilled and all mixed together. Usually topped up with spring onion and mayonnaise. Most restaurant prepare it for you, however they always have the option of “do it yourself” which can be a great experience and a lot of fun, when you are sitting around with a few friends, enjoying some Kirin beers and preparing your own meal.

Toby:

I’m a seafood fan and have loved the different varieties of shrimp (Shout out to Private Benjamin “Bubba” Buford).  My favorite version has been shrimp tempura, which I have luckily found on most menus. Every restaurant has their own special sauce for dipping, and all have deserved standing ovations. I am excited about having this to eat all the time during the Olympics.


What’s the most unique thing you’ve seen in Tokyo?

Travel Advice for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Sanja Matsuri Festival

Nataliya:

The most unique experience that I had in Tokyo was visiting the Sanja Matsuri Festival in the Asakusa district. It is a great way to experience some of the traditional Japanese culture. They estimated that 2 million spectators enjoyed the energetic “mikoshi jousting”. People from different districts were dressed up in traditional outfits with different colors representing their area. The “mikoshi” that they carry is incredibly heavy, however this a way for them to express their power and strength.

Travel Advice for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Pet meerkats in the park

Toby:

I would say the sheer obsession with pets of all kinds around the city, especially in the parks, is the most unique thing I’ve seen. Strollers with multiple dogs, cats on leashes, and a family of pet meerkats (in costume) scampering around the grass of Yoyogi Park off leash. We’ve passed restaurants where you eat after petting otters and Capybaras, which is not to be confused with the Teacup Poodle Cafe down the street. You’ll smile a few times each day due to animals, I guarantee it.


Which local tradition have you taken to the most?

Travel Advice for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Nataliya:

I am a sweet tooth myself, so the ice cream scene here is something that I have loved. Barely you will find simply offered two scoops of ice cream. Every store is trying to come up with cute and unique designs when serving great ice creams. And on a hot day in July, I am sure this will be a great refreshment as well.

Travel Advice for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Toby:

My wife will appreciate me picking up this tradition, but this city is obsessed with staying hydrated. Every street corner has a reasonably priced vending machine with all kinds of options to keep you hydrated throughout the day. This will be incredibly important for Summer in Tokyo where the temperatures will be high, and so will your daily step count numbers. Also, there are clean restrooms all over the city, especially in the train stations. I think that’s important to mention as well when considering drinking water all day.


Best advice for someone traveling to Tokyo for the first time?

The line was out the door at the dog petting restaurant

Nataliya:

Tokyo is an incredible city, that is unique on its own way, and cannot be compared to any other place that I have traveled to. It is a place that cannot be described, but experienced. It offers everything and anything, which can be overwhelming sometimes. Restaurants and bars are small and compact. They usually accommodate between 5 -15 people at a time. This is the reason why you may notice people waiting in line outside, waiting to be seated.

Travel Advice for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Toby:

The size of the city is incredibly deceiving. The city is even bigger than you think it is. Be prepared for really long travel times no matter where you are in the city. I’ve been absolutely amazed at how quickly the hours fly by on the train, even when only traveling a neighborhood or two away. Landmarks that look just short walk once you get off the train are actually an honest 45 minutes away. I strongly encourage everyone to leave at least 45-60 minutes of wiggle room when planning their days during the Olympics.

 

Comments Leave a Comment

Love the pictures of the ice cream and mere cats! Counting the days!

Toby and Natalyia, THANK YOU so much for your highlights! I enjoyed reading your highlights and insights and look forward to more! See you in Tokyo!! Gay Wilson, Cheyenne, WY

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