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[Tokyo] First time in Tokyo...what can I not afford to miss?

Sorry, I know this is similar to the previous post but still slightly different. I'm going to Tokyo in two weeks with no pre-planning done yet at all. It will be my first trip to Asia, and I can't wait to eat my way through it.

I have 8 days in Tokyo. What can I not afford to miss? Am interested in a range of prices--will be meeting a friend who is traveling so have to keep it cheap sometimes, but not all of the time.

Any suggestions would be really appreciated. I'm interested in activities, restaurants, snacks, food tours, cooking classes, everything! I've been looking for tours and cooking classes and haven't found much yet.

Also, any tips for getting by without a word of Japanese would be great.

Thanks and I can't wait to go!

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  1. You can take Soba making classes in Tsukiji that apparently seem to be pretty good.

    http://soba.specialist.co.jp/

    1. Big things to eat when I go are okonomiyaki, fantastic tonkatsu, and ramen, ramen and RAMEN.
      Both trips to Tokyo, I got sushi only once, and it was with a group of old friends when we first got into town. We were so exhausted from jet-lag, I barely remember a thing we ate!

      On a side-note: depending on where you are staying, check your hotel's lobby for English-speaking day tours. In 2001, there was a company doing a day tour of major sights, then a shabu-shabu dinner afterwards. About $150 per person, back then. They also offered some with a tea-ceremony, and a few hours of Kabuki theatre.

      Have fun!

      1. Be sure to check out Tokyu Hands - the greatest and most bizarre shopping experience EVER...

        5 Replies
        1. re: jbyoga

          Ohyes, EVERYTHING in Ikebukuro is pretty magical to me, and Tokyu Hands is a must-visit. If you get to Ikebukuro and wants info on great places for Chow, just holla!!

          1. re: Honeychan

            There are many branches of Tokyu Hands. The main shop is in Shibuya...I think most in Japan would replace your word "magical" with "sleazy" as a characterization of Ikebukuro...

            1. re: Silverjay

              It seems that Ikebukuro is having a sort of renaissance recently, at least from the limited sources I've read.

              My friends stayed there a few weeks ago and I didn't find it too sleazy at all, although the ratio of blue/pink hair to black hair was the highest I've seen in Tokyo yet.

              1. re: Silverjay

                ..eh, I'm sure it's nicer now. Good departments stores and a unique character to say the least...

              2. re: Silverjay

                Silverjay, you've just made it that much more appealing.

          2. a few of my musts:
            - depachika (see related threads) for seemingly silly but delicious things like tonkatsu sandwiches and mochi
            - tsukiji because it's soon to be demolished (again, search for threads - loads about this has been covered)
            - random standing-only ramen stores at train stations (for the fun of it - buy a ticket, get your food at the window and eat standing)

            1. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I think I'm going to spend my trip focusing on ramen. Have yet to get a guidebook/map or book accommodations for my trip (leaving on Thursday) so I'm a little nervous, but the thought of all of that ramen is certainly comforting.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Lina

                Don't have time to post a full review of anything yet, but have been having an amazing time. Even the food I've gotten at 7-11 (don't ask) has been amazing. Had some awesome Korean soondubu too, which is my all time favorite. I'm completely in heaven. To the ramen museum tomorrow and tsukiji on Tuesday.

                1. re: Lina

                  I'm so jealous! I miss Japan! Hey - At 7-11 there is a KILLER green tea ice cream! It is little green tea balls and comes in a small box. The best ice cream I have EVER had! Another unique treat is the green tea ice cream/red bean 'sundae' at Ben n' Jerrys or Baskin - Robins (can't remember which...)

                  1. re: jbyoga

                    Baskin Robbins, unfortunately we don't have a Ben'n'Jerrys here :(

                    Enjoy the museum, I suggest the small bowls so you can sample a few if you're lucky.