Once in a Lifetime: Essential Tokyo Experiences

By: Katie Manning

January 14, 2013

A trip to the capital of all things quirky never disappoints us on the once-in-a-lifetime front. These Tokyo experiences not only ensure that we take the best of Japanese culture home with us, but also stories that we’re bragging about to anyone who’ll listen.

Akihabara Culture Café Schatzkiste

Akihabara Culture Cafe Schatzkiste | Tokyo

Victorian Maids at Schatzkiste, an anime-inspired maid café © Schatzkiste café

Subculture lovers must head to a manga or anime-inspired maid café while in Tokyo where the “˜okatu’ fantasies are fulfilled in the form of waiting staff dressed as fictitious characters. We prefer a gentle intro, with tea poured by ladies dressed in Victorian maid outfits at Schatzkiste in Akihabara, aka Electric Town – a global mecca for manga, anime and gaming “˜otaku’ geeks. This is a quintessential Tokyo experience not to be missed.

6-11-2 Hasegawa Building 1F, Soto-Kanda, Shiyoda-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 3235 0580, Open: daily, noon-10pm. Closed first Tuesday of every month.

Summer Sonic

Summer Sonic | Tokyo

Revellers at Summer Sonic © Summer Sonic

When we’re in Tokyo come summer, we always want to check out the newest mix of local music along with the cream of international music acts in the shaded indoors away from the Tokyo heat. For some sea breeze, we suggest the beach stage or the arena for the bigger than house rock bands. This year’s dates have been announced and the event is set to take place on the weekend of the 10th and 11th August 2013, be sure to book tickets ahead.

Makuhari Messe, Chiba Prefecture, Every summer.

Haunted Tokyo Tours

Haunted Tokyo Tours

A Haunted Tour of Tokyo © Haunted Tokyo Tours

Plunge into Tokyo’s darker history – see the haunting places of Edo ghosts and yokai (shape-shifting goblins), not to mention the grizzly historical crime scenes as you are led through one of the city’s most haunted areas via old streets, temples, slums and graveyards. The walk lasts 2-3 hours and as well as learning all about Toyko’s ghost culture, you’ll see parts of the city that you can be sure are firmly off the tourist track.

Downtown Tokyo, Check website for tour days and times.

Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Oedo Onsen Monogatari | Tokyo

Odeo Onsen Monogatari © JNTO

This spa is modelled on a public bathing house from the time that the city was called “Edo”; there’s even a recreation of a traditional street from this era on the sprawling site. Our favourite thing to do is to slip into a kimono and enjoy multiple hot soaks, massages, sushi, and, for the brave, have your feet nibbled smooth in a fishpond. This is the only onsen (hot springs) theme park in Tokyo and the waters in some of the hot baths are fed from natural springs that are 1,400 metres underground. The onsen is open all night and there are open-air baths, so you can relax and stargaze in the hot water whenever you like.

2-57 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 5500 1126, Open: daily, 11am-9am (last entry 7am).

Tokyo Sushi Academy

Tokyo Sushi Academy

A class at the Tokyo Sushi Academy © SushiSchool

Impress your dinner party guests back home with some superlative fish cutting, rice pressing and sushi serving skills picked up at the capital’s premier sushi school. The classes here are great because they teach you to make perfect sushi rolls and all manner of other delicious treats, and while Tokyo Sushi Academy is home to a raft of professional courses, classes for beginners are also available. This is our perfect souvenir from the city and an experience you hopefully won’t forget in a hurry.

West Bldg 4F, 8-2-5 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 3362 1755,


Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning

Categories: Our Places