To kick off my 30s in the most me way, I decided to venture solo 14.5 hours across the world to my favourite destination: Japan. After my trip to Tokyo back in 2018, I vowed to return as soon as I possibly could, but due to obvious world events, that took a little longer than I hoped! One thing led to another, and four years later, I found myself heading off on a 2.5-week stint across Japan with Tokyo as my first and last stop.
My favourite thing about Japan, in general, is the hospitality; locals are very friendly and welcoming and will usually go the extra mile to help you if you’re ever in need of some guidance despite language barriers. I also love that there’s always something to see and do in Tokyo, whether you’re into the art scene, café hopping, tech, pop culture, vintage shopping and much more. There’s truly something for everyone.
Here is my Out of Office guide to Tokyo…
I stayed in two hotels during my 2.5-week stay in Tokyo.
Onsen Ryokan Yuen Shinjuku: Perfectly situated in the quiet back streets of Shinjuku, this hotel offers a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of the busy city.
All Day Place Shibuya: Right around the corner from Shibuya’s main hub, you won’t be missing out on anything staying here. The rooms are on the smaller side, so keep that in mind if you like a lot of space. My favourite aspect of this hotel is the joint restaurant and café. (The restaurant serves a mean pizza.) If you opt for breakfast, you can enjoy the yummiest morning menu there as well, and the café at the bottom of the hotel serves very nice cakes, teas and coffees. Shibuya train station, Miyashita Park (the shopping complex) and the infamous Hachiko Statue are just a few things that are a few hundred yards away.
I visited during December, so my main priority was to keep warm and feel comfortable. A long wool coat, thermals, boots and trainers were my typical go-tos. You’ll come to find that even during the coldest months women still gravitate to skirts and dresses in Tokyo, but I made sure to layer up as much as possible. For the evening, there isn’t a particular dress code for most places, but you may find certain restaurants have requirements for how to dress.
I was very intentional when it came to what I packed. I opted for knitwear in wool for extra warmth, including jumpers, a knitted midi dress and a versatile, long coat. I decided to purchase lots of thermal wear from Uniqlo once I arrived, too, as it’s cheaper there!
I alternated between my long coat and a shorter aviator-style coat during my stay to add some variation to my looks. It’s definitely tricky packing for a trip during winter because you don’t want to use up all your suitcase space with outerwear, so creating a mini capsule wardrobe with pieces that can be used for a lot of looks is the best way to go. I also brought my ACNE Studios Musubi bag along with me, as it holds all my essentials and adds a nice pop of colour to my daily outfits. Plus, wearing it crossbody at all times made life so much easier.
When it came to footwear, I was prepared to walk a lot, so a pair of super-comfortable trainers was an absolute must! I wore my trusty Converse x Rick Owens high-top sneakers most days and occasionally opted for my knee-high leather boots from Vagabond to switch things up a little.
It’s worth noting that Japan does chain restaurants very well. Some of my favourites are Ichiran for some very tasty ramen, Coco Curry for a satisfying curry meal and Uobei for conveyor-belt sushi. Plus, you’ll most definitely find yourself in a 7/11 convenience store more times than you’d like to admit because the food there is just too good. There are so many types of food to try but so little time! Ramen, gyoza, mochi, anything with matcha green tea in it, conveyor-belt sushi, tempura and Wagyu beef are just a few things you should try.
Some of my absolute favourites can be found below…
Natsumezaka Coffee: Located in the quiet streets of Shinjuku, this coffee shop had very friendly service and delicious cakes!
About Life Coffee Brewers: Located in Shibuya right under an all-day-place hotel and serving as the perfect pit stop for some small treats and caffeine, it opens up as a bar in the evening.
Afuri: For delicious ramen, come here.
Harajuku Gyozaro: I loved this restaurant for gyoza-set menus, but be prepared to queue for a bit day and night, as it’s popular!
Tokyo is a modern, fast-paced city that wholeheartedly embraces its traditional roots. You see it all from tranquil Japanese gardens and historic temples to talking robots and shopping districts purely dedicated to anime and gaming culture. Below, you’ll find my top recommendations for what to do.
Viewing Points: For 360° sky-high views of the city, Shibuya Scramble Square is incredible, especially just before sunset. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has a free observation deck for tourists too.
Shopping: Shopping in Japan is a culture in itself! You should definitely keep that in mind when it comes to your luggage allowances. You don’t want to leave this city empty-handed, even if it means buying another suitcase for the trip home like me.
Shibuya is a major shopping hub that has pretty much every kind of store you may be looking for. From high street to luxury to concept stores and independent boutiques in the backstreets of Harajuku, you can easily spend a few days shopping around.
Ginza is another big shopping district, where you’ll find a lot of well-known luxury stores and shopping malls.
Hama-rikyu Gardens: This is one of my favourite spots in Tokyo. A gorgeous garden in the midst of the city skyscrapers, it’s the perfect place to unwind and take a second to just appreciate your surroundings. I highly recommend visiting the tea house for some matcha green tea and traditional Japanese desserts.
Neighbourhoods to Visit: One of my favourite neighbourhoods has to be Shimokitazawa. It is a haven for those who love to shop vintage. You will find plenty of cute spots to eat here too.
A new discovery for me is Kagurazaka. It’s a fashionable shopping and dining neighbourhood perfect for people-watching and having a chill day.
A Day Trip to Kawaguchiko: The skies are typically very blue and clear during winter, so it’s the best time to plan a trip to get closer views of the mighty Mount Fuji. I would highly recommend spending a day or two around Kawaguchiko or any other neighbouring towns for a change of scenery and, of course, major views of Fuji.
Carrying cash is still a big thing in Japan, so be sure to have some notes and coins on you at all times! My biggest tip? Be prepared to walk a lot. You’ll want to bring the most comfortable shoes you own.