Chase Travels with SwatchXBAPE: 24 hours in Tokyo travel guide
We were invited by Swatch to go to Tokyo, Japan for the release of SwatchXBAPE: their new watch collection in collaboration with Japanese streetwear brand BAPE. After the official SwatchXBAPE release event, we took some time to discover the Japanese capital and its different neighbourhoods and compiled this 24 hours in Tokyo travel guide. Exploring Tokyo as a hip-hop head even becomes more exciting when bearing in mind the Japanese influences in today's Belgian hip-hop. Think of the aesthetic and lyrics of Rikky Rozay his latest video clip, Zwangere Guy his gig in Tokyo lately (and his shout-out to Japanese whiskey in "Wie is Guy?") and the manga aesthetics often present in (Belgian) emo rap, in general.
Article and pictures by Helena Verheye (yes, that's me eating a pizza in the header picture taken by Yanis Debit)
Of course, Tokyo can't be experienced fully in 24 hours only, so we spent a bit more time there. The reason for the title of this article is a local guide telling us that Tokyo works like a clock, with different neighbourhoods that are interesting at different times of the day. So what better way of writing a Tokyo travel guide than an article structured around the time stated on our SwatchXBAPE watches. Are you ready to kick of this 24 hours in Tokyo travel guide?
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE STARTING THE 24 HOURS IN TOKYO TRAVEL GUIDE
Tokyo metropolis isn't one big city but consists of different cities within one prefecture. The metro system is very efficient and lets you navigate the city easily. Staying in a capsule hotel is the most affordable sleeping option as a solo-traveller. There are many chains such as Nine Hours and First Cabin which have capsule hotels all around the city. Navigating your way through Tokyo will be the easiest by renting pocket wifi at the airport or at Shibuya Crossing and relying heavily on Google Maps.
9:11 - RAMEN FOR BREAKFAST
A good way to start your day in Tokyo is with some Japanese fluffy pancakes or with a bowl of ramen at the delicious Ichiran ramen chain which has locations all over the city. But we usually went to a supermarket to buy some fruits and an Onigiri (a Japanese rice ball covered in seaweed) for breakfast and ate it in a park. In case there's no park nearby, don't try to eat on the streets, because walking and eating at the same time are considered bad manners in Japan and older people might even comment on it. Same with smoking, by the way.
10:48 - DISCOVER THE MANGA AND ANIME INDUSTRY IN AKIHABARA
Akihabara is known as "electric tow" and is the centre of Japan's manga and anime industry. If you get there a bit before 11:00, you'll see many people queueing up and waiting until the arcade halls are opening to play the hugely popular Pachinko game. Next to game centres, you'll also find lots of cat cafés, maid cafés and electronic stores in Akihabara. In case you found something interesting, you can ask for a blessing of your newly bought electronics at the Kanda Myojin Shinto Shrine in Akihabara. After this, you can continue your way to the busy Ameyoko open-air market where you can find some cheap street food and souvenirs.
12:50 - A GLIMPSE OF TRADITIONAL TOKYO IN ASAKUSA
Whereas Akihabara is full of skyscrapers and neon lights, Asakusa lets you discover the more traditional side of Tokyo. Close to Asakusa Station, you'll see the Kaminari gate, which is the entrance to Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple which has become a symbol of Tokyo’s ancient past. Before reaching the temple, you'll have to go through the busy Nakamise-dōri, featuring more souvenirs and local street food, but this time more dessert-focused. After that, you can have a view at the Sky Tree Tower and the 'Golden Turd'.
14:30 - SHIBUYA: MEIJI JINGU AND HARAJUKU
The iconic Shibuya crossing has been featured in many movies and is a great place to capture on film the overwhelming feeling Tokyo sometimes might have. Meiji Shrine is one of the most important green spots in Tokyo and a good place to take a rest. The shrine was built a hundred years ago for Emperor Meiji who modernised and industrialised Japan in the 19th century. When going to the shrine you'll pass barrels of sake and wine who were left there as an offer to Emperor Meiji.
In Shibuya, you can also find the Harajuku district, where the famous 90s subculture originated. The Harajuku sub-culture encompassed many diverse styles such as punk, Lolita, goth and kawaii styles. Urahara or ura-Harajuku, which means 'the hidden Harajuku', is an area in the backstreets of Harajuku which in the 90s was home to the vintage shop 'Nowhere'. This shop was owned by Jun Takahashi and Nigo and was the first place where fashion brands 'Undercover' and 'BAPE' were sold.
Nowadays the area has been taken over by big retail brands such as Uniqlo. The Harajuku trend seems to be over all together now and with a few exceptions on a Sunday afternoon, norm core has taken over the Harajuku streets and Takeshita street. Word goes that Shimokitazawa is the new place to be for alternative fashion!
16:43 - SHIBUYA: OMOTESANDO, CENTRE OF FASHION
It's pretty well known that in the 1980s, Japanese culture has had a big impact on Belgian fashion designers such as the Antwerp Six and on honorary member Martin Margiela especially, who was strongly inspired by Comme des Garcons (Rei Kawakubo) and Yohji Yamamoto. Before this, Kenzo Takada and Issey Miyake had already been making waves in Paris.
Next to Harajuku lies Omotesando, the official fashion centre of Tokyo with a lot of high fashion and street fashion stores. In Omotesando, European luxury brands attract renowned architects in an everlasting battle for the best designed flagship store. The back alleys of Omotesando are way more interesting because that's where you'll find some interesting second hand and vintage stores. Interesting Japanese streetwear brands or stores to check out are Ambush, BAL, Suicoke, the FAKE store, Maison Kitsuné and the BAPE store. Next to the United Nations University campus, you can also find a farmers market featuring fresh vegetables, vegan food and vintage clothing.
18:19 - DINNER AT AN IZAKAYA
Time for dinner! If you want to go a bit further, you could go to a gastro-pub or izakaya such as Shirubee in Shimokitazawa or join the business people at Yurakucho. This last neighbourhood lies below the railway lines near Yurakucho Station and features some of Tokyo’s most interesting traditional izakaya. If you want to stay a bit closer you could go to Omoide Yokocho, a narrow street featuring about 60 small eateries serving ramen, soba and yakitori. Most restaurants open around 5pm.
Another option is Golden Gai, a former black market, hosting 200 bars which are more drink- than food related. Some good-to-knows: in some izakaya's smoking inside is possible. Tipping is not done and might even be considered rude. Table charge is a thing, but they might give you free starters in return.
20:01 - DOMMUNE, TEAMLAB OR ONSEN
After indulging in Japanese food you could go to Dommune, a Boilerroom-like daily live stream preceded by a talk which 50 people a night can attend. Another option is Teamlab planets if you want to get some great Instagram-worthy shots, or if you don't have tattoo's, you could try out a traditional onsen or communal bath.
23:26 - PARTYING IN SHIBUYA, SHINJUKU OR ROPPONGI
Until 1960, Asakusa was the most popular spot for nightlife, now its Shinjuku, Shibuya and Roppongi. So during the years, Tokyo nightlife moved west, leaving Asakusa as a ghost town until tourist brought it back the life. If you still have some energy left, Tokyo offers some great places to party, although rather expensive. Some suggestions if you're into techno and appreciate a good sound-system are Vent and Womb in Shibuya. Tokyo during the night is something else and you'll probably witness several 'Shibuya Meltdowns'.
Another option is to party like a local and sing your heart out at a karaoke place in Shinjuku or Roppongi. If you get off at Shinjuku station, mind the exit Google maps tells you to take, because this station is one of the busiest in the world and you easily get lost in the crowd.
05:00: WHEW, METRO STARTS RUNNING AGAIN
Time to go back to the capsule and enjoy some well-deserved sleep! We hope you enjoyed this 24 hours in Tokyo travel guide.
The SwatchXBAPE watches were pre-released in Tokyo on the 1st of June and are released globally on June 15. The Global Watch is available worldwide in both the online as physical Swatch stores. The city watches (Tokyo, Bern, London, Paris and NY) are only available online and are limited to 1993 pieces each. You can buy the Global Watch and register for the city watches here.