How to Adventure in Tokyo Without a Plan
The one single thing all tourists should do when they visit Tokyo is to spend some time on an unplanned adventure. You will discover more food and culture in Tokyo than you thought possible.
We like the word adventure.
It conjures images like hiking through the dense jungle or free-climbing a steep rockface. Or diving the Great Barrier Reef.
Adventure is awesome. It’s what drives us.
We learn from our adventures. Develop new memories, experiences, and skills from the sights, sounds, and smells we discover on our adventures.
But planning a trip to Tokyo is hard; right?
What if we told you that after 24 years in Tokyo we’ve learned there is one simple thing you can do to have the most amazing adventures in Tokyo?
Where you’ll discover something unique and never have waste time planning it out.
Don’t Waste Time Planning
Don’t waste your precious time at that crazy tourist attraction. The ultra-busy, overcrowded places that — yes — are amazing — but will cost you your soul to enjoy.
Don’t try to find a step-by-step day trip plan. Don’t try to map out every step of your journey. Especially don’t try to schedule out every moment of the trip.
Not only do these things take a long time to set up, and you’re always going to feel like you could have done it better, but there will inevitably be a problem throwing off your plans.
And in a country where you probably can’t speak/read the language, you are almost guaranteed to run into problems with a strict plan.
So what should you do instead?
Three-Step Process for Amazing Unplanned Adventures in Tokyo
Here’s what you do. And the reason at first may not be apparent, but you’ll understand soon. By the way, this trick is when you’re already in Japan (so you don’t need to craft a plan right?).
Step 1. Pack a Bag
You’ll want a few basic essentials. Things like money, drinks, a hand towel… maybe a snack.
Pack light. You’re not going on a dangerous hike through arctic bear country.
You want things that will help you out in an urban setting and the current season.
Also, you want a bag so when you discover interesting things and make purchases you have somewhere to store them without becoming a burden.
Oh, and Japan recently passed some rules that force shops to charge you for plastic bags — bring an eco-bag that can roll up so you’re prepared.
Step 2. Get on the Nearest Train
It’s almost time for the adventure to begin. Actually, in some ways, this could be the starting line.
It’s a simple step. We need you to:
- Walk to the nearest train station and get on a train. Pretty much any train will suffice
- Ride for any random number of stops
- Get off the train
Step 3. Explore the Train Station Area
Now the true adventure begins. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. Every station will have something new for you to discover.
Sometimes It Will Be Fun; Sometimes It Will Be Absolutely Incredible
The streets around the train station range from dank, narrow alleys at the smallest stations, to remarkable atmosphere and character.
And they’re all different.
For example, get off at Nakano station and you’re greeted with a long corridor of shops under a brightly colored archway. At the end of this corridor is a geek mecca: The Broadway Mall — full of the most obscure collectibles.
Get off at Shibuya station and you’ll be lost in the labyrinth before figuring out how to even exit the station to find that famous Shibuya Crossing.
Or if you get off the train at Akishima station you’ll find packed back alleys outside one exit, and a nice shopping mall out the other exit (there’s a nice Harley Davidson store here too).
Ginza, Harajuku, Asakusa… Michelin star restaurants, tiny izakaya down packed, cramped alleys. Yoyogi Park, Senso-Ji Temple, Tsukiji Market (and now Toyosu Fish Market)… you will discover all sorts of amazing places.
Pick the Station; Enjoy the Experience Just the Same
Okay, maybe you’re the type of person where the idea of going to a random train station doesn’t seem like a great time. Maybe it even stresses you out a little.
That’s alright. Perhaps the following tactic can help. Because in the end, we’re trying not to over-plan the entire trip through and through.
From the comfort of your home, hotel, or Airbnb:
- Open Google Maps on your smartphone
- Locate the train station nearest you
- Find another station along the same track
- Go there
But don’t spend time researching what’s there. Just go there. Let the ambiance… the sights, sounds, and smells draw you in.
Let the adventure take you wherever it wants you to go.
The Best Part
The magical thing about this technique is no matter how long you’ve been in Tokyo there will be something new to discover.
Take us for instance. We’ve been in Tokyo since 1996.
We know, it sounds impossible for us too. Being in Tokyo 24+ years has been incredible and wow has the time flown by.
Even after all this time, there is one thing we can always count on — train stations.
We know that no matter what, and without planning, we can go out, hop on a train, and create new memories together.
That’s what we want for you.
Get out there — create new memories.