What do you do if you have friends/family visiting Tokyo and you want to show them some Japanese “omotenashi” but you work and can only secure one day off?
I have used the following itinerary time and time again to give my guests a full, exciting day – it has never failed to please. The sights may be touristy, but the magic ingredient is YOU, the “cool” insider. Your anecdotes, tips, and tricks along the way will take this itinerary to the next level. Your guests will not only remember all the sights, but they will be forever grateful to their awesome host!
Start at Tsukiji Fish Market for brunch
Guests will love seeing huge pieces of frozen tuna being sawed into small pieces, shopping at souvenir stands, and boasting about how they survived dodging the zipping turret trucks.
The “Cool” Factor: When choosing a restaurant, scoff at the longest lines and head to a sushi restaurant with the shortest wait, nonchalantly telling your guests, “It’s all good here.” Every time I come back to Tsukiji, I eat at a different place, and I have loved every one I’ve tried. Have some amazing sushi and beer (for breakfast!) and continue on your itinerary like a champ.
Walk south-west along Shin-Ohashi Dori to get to Hama Rikyu.
This Japanese garden is gorgeous and I never get tired of meandering around here. The grounds are extremely well kept and is great year round. The major draw is the vast duck pond that brings serenity to a busy cityscape.
Head to the rear of the gardens, where you can board a ferry (about 800 Yen), which will take you along the famous Sumida River to the historic Asakusa . Guests will love this scenic ride where they can sit back and and take in the city from afar.
The “Cool” Factor: You won’t get tired of this ride because – well, who doesn’t love a boat tour? Plus you get to look really sexy with the wind blowing through your hair while you impress your guests by pointing out sites like the Rainbow Bridge, Asahi Beer Tower, and the questionable-looking building that is actually a torch.
Now, you have arrived at Asakusa. I know what you’re thinking. “I have to go to Asakusa again?!” Let me remind you that this is for your guests and your focus is Omotenashi! Second, I will mention soft serve ice cream, a point I will return to in a little bit.
Stop by the Tourist Information Center
A uniquely asymmetrical building with great views from their top floor. Then, brace yourself as you head back down and brave the crowded, traditional-style shopping alley towards Senso-ji. Yes, these souvenir stands are great for guests, but what’s in it for you? I return to my statement about soft serve ice cream.
The “Cool” Factor: You can find EVERY flavor of ice cream here. Show how adventurous you are by ordering a unique flavor like black sesame or purple yam. You can order a new flavor every time you have to come back here. I know it’s something I look forward to!
More “Cool” Tricks: Show guests the proper way to pray when you reach the temple. Throw a coin, bow twice, clap twice, pray, and bow to finish. Your guests will love this cultural experience and you will forever be their “cool friend” who lives in Japan!
Become the “SMOOTH Insider”: Is your guest a “special someone”? Throw a 5 Yen coin into the offering box. Explain that 5 Yen is “Go-en” which also means “Good Relations”, symbolizing your wish to grow closer to him or her. Smooth!
What next? From here, I usually escort my guests back towards the area where they are staying and choose activities and dinner from there. Karaoke, arcade games, more shopping, or just walking around their neighborhood and helping them get better acquainted with all of the sights, sounds, and smells of Tokyo.
Your day is done, you say good night, and you have the satisfaction that you left a great impression of not only yourself, “cool” insider, but also of cool Tokyo!