No other way to put it, Tokyo is weird. It's strange. It's fascinating. There's never a dull moment. On the surface it seems like a regular city, all skyscrapers and busy streets, but below that facade lurks a deep sense of the bizarre and the surprising, from themed cafes to tiny retro gaming dives, niche bars and amazing little shops you'd never expect to find.
Think about it: restaurants themed like Alice in Wonderland, multi-story amusement arcades, capsule hotels, toilets which talk and even a shrine where you can get your gaming console blessed.
It’s one super cool city which people often mistake as being buttoned-down and all business. Nothing could be further from the truth. Across its 23 central city wards you’ll unearth a world of pure pleasure. Sure you could just tick the boxes and visit the shrines, popular hotspots, parks and shopping centres - but Tokyo is a city that rewards those who explore further, we’ve suggested a few curiosities for those who want to delve further …
Alice in an Old CastleView more 1
Super Potato Ikebukuro
Even if you don’t wish to purchase, you can usually play a few games of Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Bros. on the in-store systems.View more
There are both men’s and women’s clothes at Haikara, some old, some new. Prepare for some serious rummaging.View more
Jizake to Kisetsu Ryouri OkayanView more 4
LOCATION: Alice in an Old Castle
THINGS TO SEE AND DO: If you’ve ever wanted to plunge yourself into Wonderland, to tag along on one of Alice’s fantastic adventures, then Tokyo is the place for you. There are four Alice In Wonderland-themed restaurants in the city, the most spectacular of which might just be Alice in an Old Castle, a lavish eatery in Ikebukuro. The chandeliers are made of love hearts, the seats are lined with plush velvet, and playing-card guards stand watch over diners in this amazing fantasyland.
BEST CHOICE: It’s not just the décor that’s Alice-themed – you’ll find most of the dishes, and especially the desserts, as fantastic as your surroundings.
LOCATION: Super Potato Ikebukuro
THINGS TO SEE AND DO: If you believe that computer gaming peaked at Super Mario Bros, then this place is for you. If you miss your old Power Glove, then you need to pay this store a visit. In fact, if you enjoyed any sort of digital entertainment in the late 80s and early 90s, then Super Potato, a retro gaming store in Ikebukuro (there’s also a far busier outlet in Akihabara), is most definitely your new favourite place. They have everything here, from Sega Mega Drives to Super Nintendos to PlayStations, plus all the games and accessories – a unique throwback to Japan’s golden era of gaming.
BEST CHOICE: Even if you don’t wish to purchase, you can usually play a few games of Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Bros. on the in-store systems.
LOCATION: Haikara Higashi-Nakano
THINGS TO SEE AND DO: There’s a deep appreciation in Japan for old objects, for antiques and vintage clothes, for items that have history, that have been loved before and could be loved again. You can see this affection in the myriad vintage clothing stores that are spread throughout Tokyo, some of which sell high-end, designer items, while others cater to the more affordable end of the scale. Haikara, in Higashi Nakano, is one of the latter shops, with a collection of pre-loved goods at great prices. The key is to look for a long-forgotten classic. Search carefully and you’re sure to find plenty of gems.
BEST CHOICE: There are both men’s and women’s clothes at Haikara, some old, some new. Prepare for some serious rummaging.
LOCATION: Jizake to Kisetsu Ryouri Okayan
THINGS TO SEE AND DO: Tokyo “standing bars”, known to locals as tachinomi, are casual drinking dens where patrons stand at high tables to drink cheap drinks and eat affordable, tasty food. Though tachinomi have traditionally catered to working-class patrons looking to slug a few quick beers before catching the train home, a recent surge in popularity has paved the way for a new, innovative style, with some tachinomi focusing on craft beer, or French wine, or high-end food. Okayan, in Nakano, is one of the classics, a friendly, bustling place to grab a beer and meet new friends.
BEST CHOICE: Stick to the simple orders at Okayan: a large beer and a plate of sashimi will help you fit right in or if you want to go further, try the variety of grilled or stewed foods.