At 13 years old I was extremely proud of my Sailor Moon Doll collection and the fact that I had just read my first manga series. Over the next few years my fascination for Japan and its culture escalated. Yes, I was the “strange” girl who had more of a desire to buy a rice ball from a Japanese convenience store than drink a coffee at a beautiful French Cafe. When I was at university I joined the Dance Dance Revolution Club in order to practice my skills so I could one day show them off at an arcade in Japan. By the way, that totally happened on this trip when I was at Taito Station.
Before I left for Japan I had last minute nerves thinking: “What if it’s not anything like I dreamed it would be? What if anime had clouded my mind and essentially glorified the place?” I’m here to tell you that I would move there tomorrow if I had the chance. The sights, the food, the people, everything, and everyone was spectacular! Yes, it was busy at times and sometimes the language barrier was frustrating, but I don’t think I’ve ever visited a place that has mesmerized me as much as Japan. I will admit, I only got to explore Tokyo on my ten-day adventure, but during that time-frame I was able to experience places that were so fantastic, my husband and I want to return to Japan as soon as possible!
A location that became our quick favorite was Shibuya, and it was for two reasons: One, it was one of the first places we visited after our 11 hour flight and only a few hours of sleep. Two, we came back to it multiple times throughout our stay because we just couldn’t get enough. Most people will recognize Shibuya for its collection of flashing billboards and its gigantic crosswalk. In addition to those iconic sights there are several other attractions that come to mind when recalling Shibuya.
Cat Cafe Mocha
Cat Cafe Mocha is an amazing place for cat lovers. There are several Cat Cafe Mocha’s around Tokyo and we chose to visit the one located in Shibuya. It was a furtastic experience! The cafe is technically a sky lounge, located high up in the building. Google Maps had us stopping in front of a different store which was confusing for us at first (We Americans are used to entering one store on one floor in one building). But we were at the right location and we boarded the elevator and rode up… and up… and up! The elevator door opened into a very inviting foyer and an employee with a friendly smile greeted us. She explained the rules of the cafe using an English flyer; however, she spoke excellent English as well. She explained that the cost of our visit would be based on the amount of time we spent inside. I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t an exact time limit. Once we had exchanged our shoes for slippers (I love how clean the Japanese keep their floors) and stored our bags in a locker, we were free to move about the multi-story cafe. Yes… there was more than one floor of cats!
Wow! The cats were so gorgeous and they had a variety of breeds, among them a munchkin and several “grumpy cats”. They were roaming and lounging all over the place, and it was obvious the animals were well looked after.
We borrowed a selection of toys and played with any willing feline. We didn’t end up purchasing it, but any guests are able to buy a cat treat in the shape of a lollipop for ¥500 and become the most popular human in the room!
Before our visit to the cafe we had no idea we would be treated to such magnificent views. The two rooms had gigantic windows and being so high up we had a spectacular view of the city. We spent about 50 minutes in the cafe and were charged a total of ¥2900, which translates to roughly $26-28 depending on the exchange rate (I always take off two zeros to translate the cost from yen to dollars).
Before leaving the foyer I noticed two small capsule vending machines (also known as gatchapon), each containing an assortment of buttons with the faces of the exact cats we had just spent time with. I spent ¥300 on a super cute button with the face of Umeboshi, one of their super-cute exotic shorthairs with a squashed face. I was ecstatic!
The only piece I haven’t discussed so far is the “cafe” portion. I hate to disappoint, but there wasn’t a barista serving up cute cat art lattes. Instead, they have two vending machines that dispense a variety of sodas and some coffees. You will be charged ¥350 a person for the all-you-can-drink beverages upon entering the actual cafe. Don’t let that fact discourage you though, because if you’re like me, you could forget the drink and just swoon over the cats. I mean, that’s the whole reason why you would chose this place over Starbucks, right?
I didn’t want to make this a food blog, but you can’t talk about Tokyo without mentioning the amazing food. Genki Sushi is at the top of my list for being the most delicious, cost efficient, and unique dining experience I’ve ever had.
Genki Sushi is a small sushi bar located next to Basket Ball Street (a couple blocks away from Shibuya Crossing). I first found this place online looking for conveyor belt sushi restaurants. This place takes the conveyor belt concept one step further, which makes all other sushi restaurant’s that I’ve visited in the past look like it’s from the Stone Age. Tables are wrapped around the entirety of the wall and in the center, with a number labeled above each spot. The hostess gave both of us a small notebook sized tracker which acted as an electronic receipt when it was time for us to check out. Like most places in Tokyo, restaurants are small, so we tried to be courteous to those sitting next to us as table space was limited. When we sat down we started to play with the tablets that were mounted in front of us. It didn’t take us long to notice the futuristic trays sliding along the wall, full of small sushi plates, stopping in front of their final destination.
Excited to see our own dishes whoosh towards us we quickly started adding dishes to our order, using an English menu option which was extremely convenient. Once I had stopped using the Boomerang app for all the dishes that flew by I got to dig into my cucumber roll and salmon-avocado dish that was quickly prepared and sent out to me. I still crave those two items to this day. Once I had washed it all down with my melon soda, and my husband was finished with his shrimp rolls, udon bowl, and generous sized Kirin beer, we were ready to pay.
Genki Sushi has a 45-minute time limit, which was completely understandable seeing the decent sized line that was forming outside. The insane part is that for the delicious food and drinks, and the overall memorable 45-minute experience, we only spent ¥1200 (About $11!) I will admit, we were not extremely hungry from the get-go. Comparing the price to sushi restaurants I’ve visited in the past though makes this place a steal. I don’t care if you hate sushi, this place is a must, even if it’s just for the experience. To squash any culinary concern the restaurant also prepares other food items like the before-mentioned udon (a type of thick noodle), chicken, and even French fries. My only regret is that we discovered this place the day before we left Japan. If we had known about its existence earlier, we probably would have eaten there several times. It was that good!
Just do it. I cannot express how much fun my husband and I had during our hour and half excursion through some of Tokyo’s best sites. To top it off I had booked a 7:00 PM night tour, so seeing the city lit up had us in awe. We did not actually start our tour in Shibuya, as I had originally booked it through the Shinagawa location, but they do have a departure point in Shibuya. Shibuya was our second drive through location, right after a lit up Tokyo Tower in Roppongi.
If you don’t know anything about MariCar, let me explain. First, it is no way shape or form related to the popular video game, Mario Kart (Wink). Second, you get to ride a go-kart around Tokyo dressed in a pop-culture onesie of your choosing. Unfortunately, the Pikachu onesie was not available at the time, so my second choice was of course Mario.
Before we departed the store we were given time to change into our costumes and add other accessories such as a Mario mustache, or in my case a Go-Pro. We then went over some safety features with the tour guides. The mechanics of the go-carts were simple and we were reminded of Japanese road laws. When we were ready to set off we powered up our go-karts, and were ready to take on the city. The cool thing about doing the night tour is the fact that the go-kart undercarriage is lit up, as well as the antenna.
The roads did get a bit bumpy at times and we had to make sure to look out for red lights and pedestrians, but overall the drive was quite simple and extremely enjoyable. The cost of the excursion was ¥8000 a person for the S-M Tokyo Tour. To book a tour with MariCar you can contact them through Facebook and ask any questions. Please note: In order to book a tour you will need your passport, drivers license, and an international driving permit. You MUST have an international driving permit before you book the tour, as they will ask for proof before your reservation is confirmed. My husband and I purchased ours through AAA. If you only have a couple days in Tokyo I would recommend MariCar as the #1 way to see the city!
Do you have any places in Shibuya that are a MUST? If so, please leave a comment and let me know! Have any questions about the places mentioned? I’d love to answer them!