Akihabara, Ueno, Asakusa
Chabara - Retail: Akihabara
[Open 11am-8pm daily.]
A stylish new retail venture from JR (the train company), Chabara is a sister store of the nearby under-the-tracks Aki-Oka crafts complex, showcasing local food products from around Japan. The retail section offers a vast selection of food and...
Tokyo Anime Center - Retail: Akihabara
[Open 11am-7pm. Closed Mondays.]
Tokyo Anime Center might be worth a quick look for hard-core anime fans on their way to one of the specialty shops in the neighborhood. Most of the small space here is devoted to selling souvenirs, character merchandise and T-shirts; there are also...
Mandarake Complex - Retail: Akihabara
[Open noon-8pm daily.]
A Mecca for manga maniacs, Mandarake carries a huge selection of toys, figurines and other collectibles as well as new and used comics.
Don Quijote - Retail: Akihabara
[Open 10am-5am daily.]
This late-night branch of the oddly eclectic discount store chain is spread over three very crowded floors, and stocks some electronic goods as well as clothing, shoes, cosmetics, and hundreds of other items.
Moff Rell - Rabbit cafe: Akihabara
[Open noon-9pm. Closed some Mondays.]
The rabbits seem friendlier and more outgoing than average at this small cafe. Perhaps it's a result of the cafe's policy of providing all visitors with a complimentary packet of rabbit snacks upon arrival. There are two small playrooms, with two...
Popondetta Akihabara - Retail: Akihabara
[Open noon-8:30pm. Closed 3rd Wed.]
The highlight of this model-railroad shop is a giant Tokyo-inspired track layout that takes up most of the second floor. Customers can rent one of several tracks by the hour, and either rent a model train here or bring their own.
Neko Jalala - Cat cafe: Akihabara
[Open 11am-7:30pm (LO) daily.]
JaLaLa distinguish themselves within the competitive cat-cafe world with their choice of exotic breeds such as Abyssinians and Maine Coons - seventeen in all, including some of the largest housecats we've ever encountered. The long-running shop...
Maach Ecute - Shopping complex: Akihabara
[Open 11am-9pm daily.]
This repurposed former train station (Manseibashi, last used in 1943) has been beautifully transformed into a niche shopping complex, housing a handful of upscale interior and design stores, cafes, restaurants and other shops. Part of the original...
Akiba Fukurou - Bird cafe: Akihabara
[Open 11am-8pm. Closed Tuesdays.]
This owl cafe in the center of Akihabara has a unique atmosphere - more like a theme-park attraction than an animal cafe. From the outside it looks like a repurposed downtown office, but inside it's a fantasy world of sleepy owls, crystal...
Forest of Owl - Bird cafe: Akihabara
[Open 2-11pm (Wed 5-11) daily.]
Although it just opened in May 2015, the cafe-bar "Forest of Owl" (Auru no Mori) is a game changer. Just pay the Y500 entrance fee and Y200 soft drink charge (a huge choice from a bank of vending machines), and you're set for an unlimited time with...
3331 Arts Chiyoda - Art gallery: Akihabara
[Open noon-7pm. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays.]
Once a junior high school, this unusual art complex is still furnished with blackboards in some of the former classrooms, which are now used as offices and galleries by more than two dozen artists. The first floor gallery space is the main...
Aki-Oka - Shopping complex: Akihabara
[Open 11am-7pm. Closed Wednesdays.]
Officially known as "2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan," this is a complex of galleries, boutiques and workshops for artisans of both traditional and modern crafts. Lined up under the JR railroad tracks are some two dozen shops selling (and often making...
Shitamachi Museum - Museum: Ueno
[Open 9:30am-4:30pm. Closed Mondays.]
To get a real hands-on grasp of what life must have been like back in the dark days before instant noodles, the Shitamachi Museum is the place to go. Shitamachi ("low city") is the name for the low-lying parts of town that Tokyo's hoi polloi once...
National Museum of Nature and Science - Museum: Ueno
[Open 9am-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
This is an outstanding natural history museum, with beautiful, curiosity-inspiring exhibits exploring the animal and plant kingdoms and the prehistoric world. It's also a real bargain - general admission to the vast permanent exhibition areas is...
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan - Notable building: Ueno
The magnificent main building of this concert hall was completed in 1961 and designed by the Japanese modernist architect Kunio Maekawa. Maekawa apprenticed with Le Corbusier in Paris from 1928-1930 before returning to Japan and starting his own...
National Museum of Western Art - Museum: Ueno
[Open 9:30am-5:30pm (Fri -8). Closed Mondays.]
This is the only building in Japan designed by renowned French architect Le Corbusier. The three-story reinforced-concrete structure was finished in 1959, based on detailed drawings by three Japanese apprentices of Le Corbusier's - Kunio Maekawa,...
Ueno Zoo - Zoo: Ueno
[Open 9am-5pm (tickets sold until 4pm). Closed Mondays.]
Perhaps best known for its beloved giant pandas, Ueno Zoo is home to more than 2600 animals from more than 450 species. Zoo highlights include a petting zoo, a small-mammal house with a nocturnal animal section, and a reptile and amphibian house...
Horyuji Gallery - Museum: Ueno
[Open 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm; Fri-8pm). Closed Mondays.]
The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures is part of Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park. It houses more than 300 historical artifacts, mainly from the seventh and eighth centuries, which were donated to the Imperial Household by Horyuji Temple in Nara in...
Ameyoko Center Market - Food market: Ueno
[Open 10am-8pm. Closed Wednesdays.]
With an atmosphere reminiscent of the bustling food markets of Hong Kong and Thailand, the basement of this old commercial building is filled with small shops specializing in ingredients from China, Korea, Southeast Asia and South Asia. You'll find...
Neko Maru Cafe Ueno - Cat cafe: Ueno
[Open 11am-10pm daily.]
There are twenty-six feline residents - several of them rescue cats from a local shelter - at this conveniently located cafe just around the corner from Ueno station. The playroom is furnished with climbing trees, lots of empty boxes to explore,...
SCAI the Bathhouse - Art gallery: Taito-ku
[Open noon-7pm. Closed Sun, Mon.]
Occupying a renovated 200-year-old bathhouse, this cutting-edge gallery represents some of Japan's best-known contemporary artists. The space itself is fairly small, so it's best to combine a visit here with other sights in the neighborhood. Also...
Calligraphy Museum - Museum: Uguisudani
[Open 9:30am-4:30pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Mondays.]
Although it's called a Calligraphy museum, the collection here focuses mainly on the early history of the Chinese (and later Japanese) written language through its use in inscriptions on ancient Chinese jade, bronze and ceramic objects. There are...
Asakusa Pier - Boat pier: Asakusa
Boats to Hinode Pier via Hamarikyu on the Sumida River Line. 40/35 min. travel time. Boats run once or twice an hour 10am-5:10pm or later. Boats to Toyosu via Odaiba Seaside Park on the Asakusa Odaiba Direct Line. 70/50 min. travel time. Boat...
Sensoji Temple - Temple: Asakusa
Dating back to A.D. 628, this is Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple and also its most popular. Leading from the main gate is a long pedestrian walk lined with nearly 100 bustling little stands selling souvenirs and crafts. This is one of the rare...
Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center - Event space: Asakusa
[Open 9am-8pm (rooftop and cafe -10pm) daily.]
Rising from a relatively narrow (326-square-meter) plot, the seven-story structure is fashioned as a series of irregular horizontal planes stacked precariously on top of each other, with several of the levels bounded by distinctive-looking walls of...
Amuse Museum - Museum: Asakusa
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
Established in 2009, this rather specialized ethnological museum focuses on unique textiles, graphics and product designs with a traditional Japanese aesthetic. One highlight is Chuzaburo Tanaka's massive collection of "boro" patchwork-style...
Bar Six - Bar: Asakusa
[Open 6pm-2am. Closed Mondays.]
Located at the top of the very cultural Amuse Museum, Bar Six offers a nice evening view of the illuminated pagoda and temple buildings of nearby Sensoji Temple. Weather permitting, the outdoor terrace seats offer...
Monta - Cat cafe: Asakusa
[Open 11am-8pm (last entry 7:30pm). Closed Tuesdays.]
This cat cafe in the heart of tourist-filled Asakusa has a limited number of cats - eight at last count - but the staff seem to be good at keeping them engaged with various cat toys and other entertainment. The playroom is nicely furnished with...
Nekoen - Cat cafe: Asakusa
[Open 11am-9pm. Closed Tuesdays.]
It isn't the biggest or the most populous cat cafe in town, but the vivacious and outgoing proprietor helps make Nekoen (Cat Park) a comfortable spot to hang out for an hour. And it doesn't hurt that they serve alcohol, so you can treat the place...
Don Quijote - Retail: Asakusa
[Open 24 hours a day.]
Fun late-night shopping for bargains and novelty items at this larger-than-average branch of the popular discount retailer.
Tori no Iru Cafe - Bird cafe: Asakusa
[Open 1-8pm daily.]
The emphasis is on hands-on interaction with dozens of lively birds at this basement cafe in touristy Asakusa. The cafe offers two very different experiences: a quiet moment with ten sleepy owls, and absolute bedlam with a flock of noisy,...
Forest of Owl - Bird cafe: Asakusa
[Open 10am-9pm daily.]
Following the trend of diversifying the population of animal cafes, Forest of Owls features meerkats, snakes, parrots and other small animals in addition to owls. Because of the cafe's setup, though, with just one big room where some of the owls...
Drum Museum - Museum: Asakusa
[Open 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays.]
By far the noisiest museum we've been to in Tokyo, Asakusa's Drum Museum is also one of the most interactive. Hundreds of percussion instruments of all shapes and sizes are on display here, many of them waiting to be banged on by visitors - just...
Kamata Knife Shop - Knife shop: Asakusa
[Open 10am-6pm (Sun 12:30-5:30pm). Open every day.]
Patronized by both professional chefs and home cooks, Kamata uses traditional methods to craft their knives, offering more than 800 different items for sale. It's also a good place to buy whetstones, which make nice gifts for any chefs in your...
Kappabashi Market - Retail: Asakusa
[most shops 10am-6pm; some closed Sundays.]
Tsukiji fish market may be the first destination for foodies visiting Tokyo, and a department store basement food floor is also an essential stop, but one often-neglected attraction is the restaurant-supply district of Kappabashi. Famous for its...
Dengama - Retail: Asakusa
[Open 10am-7pm daily.]
Located at the entrance to the Kappabashi shopping district on the corner of Asakusa-dori and Kappabashi-dori, this two-story shop offers an impressive selection of tableware in all price ranges. Upstairs you'll find artisanal pottery from all over...
Maizuru - Retail: Asakusa
[Open 9am-6pm daily.]
Although the custom is not as popular as it once was, some restaurants in Japan still show off plastic food models in their display windows to entice passersby. Maizuru is where they buy them. You can purchase realistic-looking plastic...