TOKYO! what a trip. so much to see. so much to explore. overwhelming, but amazing. exactly why i wanted to go and try to find a bunch of spots to share with you. because you gottttta go. let’s dive in..

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

we took a 4 hour flight from hong kong to tokyo and arrived into the narita airport. the airport is pretty far from everything (about 1.5 hours) so we decided to take the to the sheraton hotel and then a 10 minute cab to our hotel. it was about $26 a person as opposed to an expensive cab ride ($150-200) but it’s up to you, really. i actually liked the bus ride, it was nice, easy to book as you exit customs, and runs every 30 mins or something fast like that.

i’m going to try to break down what we did by neighborhood because there is a LOT to see in tokyo, and everything is pretty spread out. my suggestion is to use google maps on your phone and computer to plan the trip. type in a place you want to go and hit the little “saved” star so you get a bunch of stars on your map and you know how to plan your day. you don’t want to be going all over the city if you can stick in one neighborhood in the daytime and another in the evening.

tip: we rented little wifi devices from  that gave us a signal throughout the whole trip. verizon didn’t have a good data plan for the places we were visiting. we got two for four people so the signal would be strong. honestly worked perfectly in hong kong, and almost perfectly in tokyo. would also highly suggest a for keeping that phone charged because maps takes up a loooot of battery.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest


natalie and i got in late and went straight to sleep but then met up with jen and jesse in the morning. it’s always fun to meet up with someone you know, somewhere new. it’s so exciting. the hotel we stayed in was the through . it was definitely one of the most unique hotel experiences i’ve had. there is only 18 rooms, and we were able to move around and see a bunch of them. some are very modern and minimalist and some are very wacky and themed (stuffed animal theme or ship theme! ha) the place kinda felt like an ace hotel, but in japan. i liked having my morning coffee in the lobby and the store on the 2nd floor is absolutely stunning (a must.) as far as location, i felt it was sort of out of the way from things we wanted to see and more chill and residential, but a great hotel regardless. and we did find a lot of cool stuff in the meguro neighboorhood that were worth checking out. there’s also a lot of vintage shopping here!

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest



the first neighborhood we went was daikanyama in shibuya. it feels like a very tranquil upscale neighborhood with gorgeous modern buildings and great wandering streets. we went to the which was probably the most gorgeous bookstore i’ve ever seen. levels and rooms filled with art books and endless inspiration, a cool coffee house, and surrounding unique stores. i could have spent a looooong time in there.

the sushi place we went to above was called and we all loved it. it was noooot easy to find, because it’s in a basement kind of. BUT if you go to , it’s right down the stairs. haha, you will find a lot that getting lost is pretty common and people don’t speak that much english we found. you just have to accept that getting lost is kinda normal. just learn a few japanese phrases before you go if you can. everyone is super nice! at the restaurant, you take your shoes off as you arrive, when they bring you sake they let you choose which design of cup you want off a platter (which i LOVED that little touch) they serve you an amazing under $15 meal with miso, sushi, rice and pickles. a great little spot.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

another thing i thought was cool was they have these white vending machines on the street everywhere. and even ones with beer and cup o’ sake! i don’t really see how they prevent the youngsters from getting into those, but pretty funny.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

next up, we walked about 10 minutes from lunch to a cat cafe called …

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

it was affordable and there were sooo many cute cats in there! felt like a surreal experience. luckily all four of us are cat lovers. you can pay for 30 mins or an hour, and you can feed them treats and almost all of them are so friendly and cuddly. look at this guy’s short legs!

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

a little note. i found the subway to be a bit more confusing here than other places i’ve been. (i’ve also heard it’s easy once you know it) we took mostly cabs to get around because we could split them four ways. this would have been pretty expensive if it was just two of us and i probably would have made more of an effort to sort out the subway. not trying to intimidate against it, that was just our experience with it. if you go the cab route, have cash and know that almost every cab drive spoke almost no english. we made sure to bring the business card to our hotel with the address on it, or always have the phone handy to show them on the map where we needed to go.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest


next up, a different part of shibuya called harajuku (near the more pink explosion street, but more on that soon) it felt very nice in that area, a lot of upscale stores. i really enjoyed wandering the little alley ways that were SO clean it was crazy. it kind of felt like a movie set and really reminded me of berlin in a lot of ways actually.

we stopped in which has a lot of kitchy toys for kids and then had dinner at the famous restaurant for tonkatsu (a japanese food which consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet) half of the group loved it, and the other half not so much. i liked it, but others complained it was a little too greasy for their taste. it’s definitely a fave in town though for many, so i would give it a shot. and it feels like you walk into the 60’s there too!

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

the toys we got in kiddyland, we showcased them at the restaurant. those little characters are so funny.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest


when you think of tokyo, bright lights, neon, tons of people comes to mind, yes? this was shinjuku. we heard that was quite the experience and WAS IT EVER. we were advised not to eat dinner here, just to go for the show. one of the more expensive things we did on the trip ($80 i think), but it was seriously worth it. i found so much joy in the jewel covered walls and gold seashell chairs, and neon lights and weird ass costumes. it’s definitely touristy but it doesn’t even matter. the show is down in the basement and honestly hard to even describe. but i kinda think it’s better to just go without knowing too much like we did! more fun that way. SO memorable. (read more on it )

also i heard that the themed bars (bob marley etc) of near there are amazing, sadly we didn’t make it. i heard it’s soooo cool, next time!

a town this wild could easy be perceived as unsafe, but i felt SO safe the whole trip. probably more than anywhere i’ve been. AND a lot of people said tokyo was crazy expensive. maybe i am used to LA prices because it seemed not nearly as expensive as LA.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

see what i mean?! totally nuts. after that full first day we were completelllly exhausted.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest


the next morning we had breakfast in our lobby at the and then headed to harajuku street. within minutes i found this bright purple fuzzy hat and fit right in…

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

i was on the hunt for those gorgeous cotton candy wonderlands. seriously have you ever seen prettier ones?! head to ! a very fun area to walk around in and shop for unique things. an hour or so is all you need.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

a very short walk from harajuku street was our next perfect lunch spot. a soba noodle spot called  again, a little hard to find, it’s up the elevator in a corporate looking building but actually has a nice tree view and a lovely interior. get one of the specials with the tempura and a cold beer and BE VERY HAPPY. loved that spot.

tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest
tokyo travel guide 1 | designlovefest

we wandered around ginza a little bit that afternoon, but didn’t see anything to put on your radar. and that night we went to this crazy restaurant, , that you either have to get there super early (before 7pm) or make a reservation (we waited about 45 mins. but just walk to 7/11 around the corner and get one of their delicious rice balls and a beer and wait!) you crawl underneath this secret door (childhood dream come true) to get in and the restaurant is kinda loud and dark and feels like you walked into the past or a movie. the service was slooooow but the food we got was amazing and they didn’t speak english but we made it work. i think we were just starving so we weren’t able to fully enjoy it, but that place definitely stood out in my mind.

the next day we took a 2 hour train to kyoto, which was magical. more on that very soon. and then i have a bunch more places from tokyo i want to tell you about, stay tuned!

photos by designlovefest, see my recent trip to hong kong and colombia too!


Add your own

    Nikki says:

    Looks like such an incredible trip, you guys killed it!

    Amy says:

    Hey this is great. Thanks for the post. we loved Tokyo! A few tips that worked really well for us when we went a about two years ago:
    – we mapped where we wanted to go before the trip and then tweaked in the evenings before bed. We rented portable wifi hotspot. It was super easy to pick up / drop off at the airport and worked perfectly with our phones. Lots of data was included in the pack (and no roaming) so we were able to use the maps app to navigate. It made things SO much more simple. In Japan street addresses aren’t sequential (your specific street number is assigned based on when you get a permit from the city) and they use a block system to navigate that’s completely different- so you cldnt use an address to figure out where you are- the way you wld at home. Also a lot of the best shops are buried in unexpected buildings and have no signs or store fronts at street level. So we loved this solution. It saved so much time.
    -also we used the high speed train go get from the airport to our hotel in Tokyo which was awesome and easy
    – we also downloaded a bunch of translation apps that helped us communicate in Japanese and figure out signs when we needed too
    – also golden gai is SUPER cool! Must see.
    – we also loved Four Seasons bar – from lost in translation. Sounds touristy but it was SO good! Breath taking views of he city. Great at night.
    – also the exchange rate is awesome right now so it’s a perfect time to see Japan for much cheaper than its been in past!

    jaclyn says:

    Yes to the pocket wi-fi – it was so great to have on my most recent trip. Definitely a game changer, especially in Asia!
    Having google translate and google transportation maps was priceless when exploring the further areas of Tokyo and Kyoto.

    jaclyn says:

    I loved following along with your trip on Instagram. I agree that it’s not as expensive as some make it out to be.

    We didn’t have much trouble with language at all really but I do know a few simple greetings so maybe the locals were just more confident to try and work with us through the language barrier.

    I have to say, the Tokyo subway is actually very very simple to use…maybe you’re just not used to subway systems in general?

    Also, I hope you got to experience some of the historical sites in Japan and not just the shopping sites and restaurants. It seems like you only touched the (superficial) surface of what Japan is really all about.

    Oo this just cements that fact that I want to visit Japan so bad!
    Jabeen x

    Sarah says:

    I’ve never been to Tokyo, but it’s definitely up there on my bucket list! I love all of your photos and travel tips! I’ll have to reference back to this post once we finally book our trip:)

    XO – Sarah

    Lee Ten Hoeve says:

    Can you please tell me where the knit sequin hat is from? It is the cutest!

    bri says:

    i think she got it at the flea market :/ sorry!

    Jane says:

    Did you guys try learning/memorizing any Japanese phrases, or do you hope everyone just speaks English….? It’s funny…haha when non Americans come to the us, they usually know some English but you can tell Americans think people should cater to them when they are very obvious tourists in other countries, Many Europeans and Asians are multilingual they probably spoke English but didn’t want to attempt it with people that were drunk/laughing/videotaping them.and ditto to the subway comment. The subway system is very convenient and easy but I guess not if you expect the maps and stuff to all be in English.

    bri says:

    yes, we did memorize some phrases, like i said in the post. also, i don’t expect people to know english at all, but i did find it surprising that we encountered a lot of people that didn’t. you are taking it the wrong way completely. this is something i would like to know if i was visiting a new place. i had the best time in japan, it was beautiful and lovely, the people were friendly, i felt safe, the culture is amazing. but i am also trying to give a few helpful tips for people who have questions about traveling there. you are picking only the negative things in the post and highlighting them and that hurts my feelings honestly. hoping you can see my side as well here.

    Camille says:

    Yes!! I leave for Seoul/Kyoto/Tokyo in 2 weeks. This is so helpful and making me super excited!!

    such great tip about ‘starring’ google maps!! looks amazing and oh so beautiful!

    Sonia says:

    My husband and I are travelling to Japan next Friday and I am SO glad that you posted this when you did. I have already made note of your restaurant recommendations!! Will you be posting your Kyoto highlights in the next few days?
    –Love your work!!

    Kylie Garner says:

    Looks like one of those great trips! I love all the photos.

    Amy V says:

    Love Tokyo! Some great recs, will keep as a reference for whenever I manage to make it back there 🙂
    I went out alone for the first 5 days, and had an absolute blast. Looking back, I’m not sure how I navigated the subway system but I had a lot of help from friendly locals who, even if they don’t speak English, if you can point to a place name they will show you the right platform or more likely walk you there!
    Like you say, I’ve never felt so safe in a city. Something else of note on the subway – you can just pay for the cheapest ticket if you’re not sure of the price, and when you get to the other end go to the kiosk with your ticket and pay the difference 🙂

    I cannot wait to visit. The photos your group posted have been amazing. My four year old is even excited to visit Japan. ^_^

    I saw a video of those dancers that are strung up with lights and perform in the dark! Did you see them at the show? Seems like it would a surreal experience to see.

    I could spend ages in Kinokuniya so that bookstore would be worth a trip itself. Thank you for sharing your tips!

    Ara says:

    Thank you for posting this. My husband and I will go to Seoul/tokyo/kyoto in a month! I looooooove your friend’s happy face bag, do you remember where she got it? I have 2 daughters and They loved it so much, they want to get something like that as gym bags. Thanks again!

    Liane says:


    Love this guide, thanks for sharing. I’ve just spend 6 days in Tokyo alone and completely agree I feel really safe and it’s quite easy to get around even with only a few Japanese words up my sleeve. Looks like you’ve had a great time and it’s been great following along your Instagram. Especially love the vintage kimono 💕

    Catherine says:

    Ahh such a dreamy trip! I love Tokyo and I agree that it’s very reasonable – my boyfriend and I went last year and found most things to be cheaper/the same price as London.

    I have a blog post with lots of practical tips for visiting Japan here: and links to my neighbourhood tours too 🙂 Can’t wait to go back!

    Oh, I loved this post! So many great photos. Tokyo is on my bucketlist <3


    Susie says:

    Thanks for the tips! Going to Tokyo in October!

    Emily Katz says:

    Looks like it was a fun trip! So crazy to bump into you guys at Tokyu Hands!

    Anonymous says:

    Oh my god the smiley face bag. I need this in my life! Excited for the shopping in tokyo.

    sheila says:

    Tokyo is one of my favourite places in the world!
    I really love traveling on the Tokyo subway. Makes me feel like I’m a local when I jump off at shibuya and meet friends at the Hachiko statue near the scramble crossing. If you return and want to give the subway another chance I have a few tips. Buy a passimo or suica (suica is watermelon – so cute) card – load with funds and tap as you enter and exit (like London’s oyster) you can also use it at some vending machines and stores. The machines to buy and reload have English options. Also download a subway app and then you just type in your start and end stations and it works out options for you. I think Tokyo subway is harder than London/Paris/NewYork. But it’s fun to experience.
    The street in Harajuku is called Takeshita Dori – I didn’t try the cotton candy (called fairy floss in Australia) but I always grab a crepe! Also check out the Hello Sandwich blog – she used to work for vogue in Australia but now lives in Tokyo and she also has a great guide book organised by neighbourhood.

    sheila says:

    Oh! And one of the best things I did on a recent trip was visit display/model homes. They have gorgeous designs on a small footprint. The traditional shines through in the modern. My Japanese wasn’t enough for this so I took a Japanese friend with me. And some other things you should try if you haven’t already – purikura photo booth – karaoke booth – hedgehog cafe.

    miki says:

    Hello. I just found really beautiful page by a chance. I am Japanese and glad to see you seem enjoy trip in Japan. I want recommend some nice places in tokyo. Hope visit Japan again someday!:-)

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