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Shinjuku Golden Gai | © Shiranai/Flickr

10 Best-Kept Secrets In Tokyo, Japan

Picture of Corlena Bailey
Corlena Bailey
Updated: 9 February 2017
The giant futuristic metropolis of Tokyo is Japan’s capital and receives countless visitors every year. Surprisingly, there are still some hidden attractions yet to be discovered by the crowds of tourists. Here is a list of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets.

Ohya Shobo Bookshop

Ohya Shobo bookshop is not very popular with tourists, as they specialize in books published during the Edo period. If you are a history buff or a lover of all things antique, this is the place for you. Ohya Shobo features a large collection of Japanese woodblock prints and illustrated books from the 18th and 19th centuries. Here you can easily lose yourself for hours with all the fascinating antique maps, artifacts and ancient books. The ukiyo-e woodblock prints, a traditional Japanese art form which depicted everyday life from the 17th to the 19th century, are an intriguing find.

Ohya Shobo, 1 Chome-1 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3291 0062

Bon

It is not always easy to find a vegetarian restaurant that prepares shojin ryori outside of the Zenkoji temple, but Bon has become an expert in cooking it just right. Not many tourists know about this restaurant and it is not the easiest place to find, but once you get there you won’t be disappointed. Attend by reservation only and come expecting to dine in traditional Japanese style with tables separated in different rooms floored with tatami mats. You can dine sitting on the floor with the table on your lap in some of the rooms.

Bon, Ryusen Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 338 72 0375

Yamachan

You will not find many tourists at this establishment which is always filled with locals. Yamachan is an all-you-can-drink premium sake bar located near Shinjuku. For a really low price you can drink as much sake as you like here. You can even bring some food with you, or you can leave in the middle of your drinking session and come back later to keep enjoying what this bar has to offer. The place has a simple decor resembling a classroom environment, with cheap wooden desks and chairs. The bar is self-service so come prepared to pour your own drink.

Yamachan, 1-12-10, 2F, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5315 4688

Yaki Imo

Yaki Imo is a rapidly fading street food treat that consists of baked sweet potatoes delicately cooked over a wood fire. Older Japanese generations still remember the pleasant sounds of yaki imo trucks and carts moving around with street vendors crying ‘yaki imo … yaki imo … yaki imo’. In Akihabara you can still find yakai imo vendors. Try this Japanese street food before the tradition dies out altogether.

Yaki imo, Akihabara, Taito, Tokyo, Japan

 

VIDEO FEATURE

What’s This Food?! – “The Yaki Imo man is to Japan, what the Mr. Softee is to the Unites States.” – A truly iconic Japanese street meal! / 2:34

Tokyo Free Guide

Tokyo Free Guide is a non-profit volunteer organization that began in 2004 with the aim of helping overseas visitors experience Japanese culture and customs. Their services are not yet well known but they’re worth looking into. You can rent a bicycle or go for a walking tour and request the services of Tokyo Free Guide free of charge. There are more than 350 volunteer guides who speak at least one language besides Japanese. The guides are knowledgeable, cheerful and helpful. They know everything from pop culture, anime and trendy shops to the national cuisine, culture and religion.

Jidayubori Park Old Farmhouse Garden

Located in Setagaya, Jidayubori Park Old Farmhouse Garden is a group of traditional farmhouses dating back to the Edo period. The farmhouses, as well as the plastered water houses, sheds and fire-fighting huts, were relocated to Jidayubori and reconstructed in the garden. The garden is overseen by a friendly elderly couple who lived in a farmhouse during the 20th century and can give detailed historical accounts of the farmhouses and traditional lifestyle. People usually find the place by accident on their way to the Seikado library and museum nearby. Tours of the garden are free.

Jidayubori Park Old Farmhouse Garden, 5-27-14 Kitami, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 3417 8492

Koizumi Bokujo Farm

Koizumi Bokujo Farm is the only livestock farm in all of Tokyo’s 23 wards. Koizumi Bokujo is located in the heart of Oizumi Gakuen and is operated by a family who took ownership in 1968. The farm is home to about 40 Holstein cows and covers about 2200 square meters. The farm is a thriving dairy business in the community and a place where children can visit to learn about nature. Visitors to the farm are given the opportunity to feed and milk the cows. You can also purchase delicious ice cream from the shop on the farm.

Koizumi Bokujo Farm, 2-7-16 Nerima, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3922 0087

Haunted Tokyo Tour

The Haunted Tokyo Tour doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, and it will prove to be one of the richest cultural experiences you will have in Tokyo. For those who don’t mind a good scare, you can chose one of six tours on the list – namely ghosts and goblins of old Tokyo, backstreets ghost walk, blood of samurai, demons of the red light district, graveyard mystery tour and custom of the day. The knowledgeable tour guides speak different languages and will not only introduce you to ghost stories but they will also take you to various off-the-beaten-path sites around the city.

Golden Gai

Golden Gai, in Shinjuku, is famous for both its architectural value and its vibrant nightlife, yet not many tourists seem to come here. You’ll find Golden Gai just a few minutes walk away from the east exit of Shinjuku Station. Golden Gai is a network of six narrow alleys connected by small passageways. There are more than 200 crudely built bars, clubs and restaurants that promise unforgettable entertainment and a variety of Japanese meals and drinks.

Golden Gai, Tokyo, Japan

One Coin Bar Champion

Hidden in the Golden Gai, One Coin Bar Champion is a favorite hang-out spot for locals offering non-stop Japanese karaoke. The bar is genuinely Japanese but it has an international feel. Local residents of various backgrounds come for the cheap drinks,the friendly atmosphere and the music, which can get very loud. The place is also a hotspot for smokers. One Coin do get international customers from time to time, but the place is still not as well known among tourists as other bars. Don’t miss out on this fun Japanese nightlife spot next time you visit Tokyo.

One Coin Bar Champion, Golden Gai, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5291 9333