Secret Tokyo

Think you know Tokyo? Think again – explore 50 hidden bars, shops, parks and more
Uncover the hidden side of Tokyo – including quite a few after-dark secrets
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Don’t get us wrong, we’re huge fans the big Tokyo museums, the essential sights and the city's best shops. But sometimes what you need is a bit of tranquility – a few hours somewhere where you’re guaranteed not to be whacked with a selfie stick. That’s why we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to Tokyo's unmissable secrets – a treasure trove of places that fly under the radar despite being totally brilliant. So take heed and get stuck into a less crowded day out, featuring everything from waterfalls to a museum dedicated to parasites.

Secret places to see

Things to do

That other dog statue

icon-location-pin Hongo

As all Tokyoites know, the statue of Tokyo's most famous pup is the ultimate meeting spot in Shibuya. But the city so loves dear Hachiko that one statue is simply not enough. Two years ago, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of his death, a new statue – funded by donations – was erected on the University of Tokyo campus next to Ueno Park.

Hachiko's owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, worked as a professor at the university and used to travel home to Shibuya Station every day where his loyal companion would wait for him every evening. After Ueno's death in 1925, legend has it that Hachiko continued to faithfully wait for him every day for another 10 years until his own death in 1935. Finally, the story has a happier ending as the new statue shows dog and master being reunited. And the whole of Tokyo collectively went 'ahhhh'.
Another Hachiko

Museums

Old bones and cutting-edge tech in the heart of the city

icon-location-pin Marunouchi

Jointly operated by Japan Post and the University of Tokyo, this multifaceted museum opened in 2013 inside the Kitte complex right by Tokyo Station but remains a niche spot despite its superb location. That's a real shame: the Intermediatheque is one of the city's rare free museums and displays the academic achievements of Japan's most celebrated educational institution, along with an extensive – and occasionally creepy – collection of zoological exhibits. So expect everything from taxidermy and skeletons to model ships and antique photography. Unlike many of the city's smaller museums, there's explanatory text in English.
Intermediatheque

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Gotokuji | Time Out Tokyo
Photo: Giantrabbit/Shutterstock
Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Go face to face with the cat army

icon-location-pin Setagaya
Setagaya's ‘cat temple’ is thought to be the origin of maneki neko, Japan’s famous ‘beckoning cat’ that serves as a symbol of good luck. Gotokuji may seem ordinary at first glance – until you see the army of cat figurines sitting in the corner next to the temple. These figurines are sold at the administration building and customarily returned to the shelf after wishes are granted. See how many hidden feline motifs you can spot across the site.
Gotokuji
Restaurants, Mexican

Upbeat street art meets tacos and tipples

icon-location-pin Yutenji

In addition to burritos and margaritas, visitors to Mexican joint Junkadelic in Nakameguro can look forward to a nice visual treat in the form of a mural by Sasu, one of Japan's finest street artists. Sasu is perhaps best known as one half of art project Hitotzuki, in which her symmetrical flowers are combined with husband Kami's flowing lines in murals that have beautified walls throughout Japan.

Sasu's distinctive flowers are inspired by her interest in symmetry and mandalas, and have been featured in exhibitions in Taipei, Hong Kong, Berlin and Los Angeles, not to mention the sides of Perrier bottles in a 2014 tie-up with the company. The mural outside Junkadelic, completed in 2009, is called 'To remain calm and passionate' or – as Sasu's blog has it – represents overcoming hard times and combining calmness and passion into a single ball of positive feelings. In short: keep calm, stay passionate, look at art and eat some tacos. A finer manifesto we have never heard.
Sasu street art

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Restaurants, Japanese

Goldfish games from the Edo era

icon-location-pin Hongo

It's like something out of a Miyazaki film: imagine a 350-year old goldfish farm, whose pools swarm with schools of fish in every shape, size and colour you can think of, complete with a charming little restaurant housed inside a timber-framed farmhouse. And no, goldfish is not on the menu at Kingyozaka, which sits out on a quiet Hongo street, a stone's throw from the University of Tokyo's main campus.

At lunchtime, locals settle in for the delicious and sizeable kaiseki sets, served on tableware decorated with colourful fish, lest you forgot where you are. Inside the restaurant, look for an old parchment hanging framed on one of the walls. It's ostensibly a list inscribed with the names of combatants in a wrestling tournament of old, but there's something fishy going on here.

These entrants are not sumo wrestlers but goldfish, ranked according to strength, agility and slipperiness – understandable for a Meiji-era document commemorating a championship for goldfish-scooping (kingyo sukui), the traditional game of dexterity in which participants try to scoop up evasive fishies using a flat dipper made of paper. If you don't have bigger fish to fry (sorry), try your hand at this ancient game after lunch. You can take your spoils home, but please don't try to cook them for dinner.
Kingyozaka

Museums

One man's ode to a high-flying hobby

icon-location-pin Nihonbashi

This uplifting museum is a cornucopia of kites, including Indonesian dried leaves, giant woodblock-print samurai and a huge styrofoam iron. The former owner of the first-floor restaurant (one of Tokyo’s earliest forays into Western-style dining) spent a lifetime collecting the 300-plus kites now layering the walls, packing display cases and crowding the ceiling. Don’t expect detailed explanations of the exhibits; this is more of a private hobby on public display – as often happens in Tokyo. The museum is not clearly marked – look for the long white sign on the building.
Kite Museum

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Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Tokyo's wet underbelly

icon-location-pin Saitama

Maybe it’s because the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are making a comeback, but there’s something thrilling about venturing into this world of tunnels. This massive surge tank, known as the ‘underground temple’, was completed in 2006 and is the world’s largest underground flood water diversion facility. It’s made up of five shafts approximately 70 metres high, which are connected by a 6.3km tunnel; a pressure-controlled water tank; and 59 huge pillars, which are linked to pumps that direct water into the Edo River.

It was built because the area around this structure collects water very easily, leading to flooding every time there’s heavy rain. Now, when the area floods, rainwater drains into the underground discharge channel and gets pumped up into the river. Because of its mysterious atmosphere, the structure is often used for music videos and photo shoots, and has become an unlikely tourist attraction as guided tours explain what happens when the worst happens. If your Japanese isn’t up to par, note that you’ll need to ask a Japanese-speaking friend to accompany you or make friends with somebody there – it’s a health and safety thing. Speaking of which... as you’d expect no visitors are allowed on days of heavy rain.
Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel

Museums

Parasite power

icon-location-pin Meguro

This unusual venture was opened in 1953 by Satoru Kamegai, a doctor whose practice was overwhelmed by patients afflicted by parasites (caused by the poor sanitary conditions that were widespread in post-war Japan). The museum displays some 300 samples of 45,000 parasites he collected, 20 of which were discovered by his foundation. The second floor has a display of an 8.8m (29ft) tapeworm taken from the body of a 40-year-old man, with a ribbon next to it showing you just how long 8.8m really is. Ugh. The shop sells parasites preserved in plastic keyrings: ideal gifts for the freeloaders in your life. Entrance is free, but the museum encourages donations.
Meguro Parasitological Museum

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Art

A pocket of serenity in the concrete jungle

icon-location-pin Aoyama

Besides housing a collection of over 7,400 artworks – including rare Shang and Zhou bronzes – Aoyama's Nezu Museum offers an escape from the city with its gorgeous Japanese garden. Hidden out of the back you'll find a hilly, lush hideout with Buddhist statues, Zen-style bamboo decorations and a modernist café that overlooks the greenery.
Nezu Museum Garden

Things to do, Walks and tours

Ancient cult site, modern-day chill spot

icon-location-pin Tama area

Sure, it’s way out in the middle of nowhere, a two-hour trip from Shinjuku, but this eerie limestone cavern is perfect for escaping Tokyo’s suffocating summer heat: the temperature inside is a steady 11 degrees Celsius. Around 800m deep, the caves were formed over millions of years and were once a centre for Japanese mountain cults – fittingly enough for an otherworldly realm far removed from the sleepy countryside up above. The paths inside the cave are well lit and clearly marked but often wet, so make sure to wear sturdy shoes. Bringing your own bento is also recommended as there are hardly any eateries in the area.
Nippara Limestone Cave

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Travel

Tokyo's humble answer to Niagara Falls

icon-location-pin Tama area

Literally ‘big waterfall’, Ootaki is the largest of the three waterfalls that dominate the hiking trail leading to Mt Otake. Drive all the way up to Unazawa Enchi (the entrance to the trail, located just past the America Camp Village) and from there it’s a 70-minute round-trip on foot to see all three waterfalls. Climb the rocks to get as close to the falls as you can and enjoy a picnic under the splashing water.
Okutama Ootaki

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Where the flowers are always in season

icon-location-pin Mukojima

Constructed in the early decades of the 19th century, when Edo town culture began to flourish, this lush flower garden features a wealth of plum trees, flowering plants and impressive bushes, ensuring a year-round display of colour. The ume trees are at their best in February and March, while the hydrangeas bloom in late June and July. Many wild birds and insects also make their home here in summer, when the garden can feel almost tropical. The small shop on the premises sells refreshments like amazake and ramune soda.
Mukojima Hyakkaen

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Shopping

Smell the roses before a night of clubbing

icon-location-pin Roppongi

Oases of calm exist even in the centre of sleaze that is Roppongi. Step away from the noise and bright lights into this small garden where roses burst into bloom in summer. The night-time views of Tokyo Tower are romantic, but occasionally get obscured by the necks of heavy-duty construction cranes below.
Roppongi Hills Rose Garden

Travel

Your own piece of paradise

icon-location-pin Yokosuka

You don’t have to be rich to have an island all to yourself. Simply pay ¥70,000 to rent out Sarushima, an island in Tokyo Bay, and you can feel like a celebrity. Unfortunately this service is only available during the weekends and holidays from December to February, though you can still visit the island for only ¥200 all year round. After you’ve spent some time sunbathing on the beach, take a tour around the island, which has been known to remind people of the scenery from Studio Ghibli’s anime masterpiece Castle in the Sky. On your way back home on the boat, don’t forget to enjoy the breathtaking sunset views.
Saru Island

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shibuya stickers

Stick it to the man

Like most other things in this super-dense city, street art in Tokyo takes place on a small scale. The giant murals and tags you see in other major urban centres are largely absent, but that doesn't mean Tokyo doesn't have its own rich street art culture. For proof, head to Shibuya, where virtually every available surface is plastered with stickers.

To start your tour, walk up the pedestrianised Center Gai and turn down any random alleyway. Shibuya gets plenty of international sticker traffic from the likes of Shepard Fairey and B.N.E., but the local talent is just as good. Case in point: 281_Anti Nuke, a father and activist whose post-Fukushima stickers often feature a young girl seeking cover from radioactive rain, and pro-nuclear power prime minister Shinzo Abe kowtowing to the nuclear industry.

Not every Tokyo street artist is as overtly polical as 281, but all of Shibuya's playful, irreverent and often beautifully designed street art belies the tired notion that there's no speaking back to power in Japan. Transfers may not seem the most potent way of 'sticking it to the man' but hey, people have been arrested for defacing political posters in the past.
Shibuya stickers

Museums

Master the history of two very different vices

icon-location-pin Oshiage

The tenuous rationale for this unique museum's pairing of themes is that both were once government monopoly commodities. Tobacco gets the most exposure, with much of the space devoted to the history, manufacture and culture of the killer leaf. Look out for the rotating special exhibitions, too – these can be real pieces of work.
Tobacco & Salt Museum

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Things to do

Our favourite green oasis

icon-location-pin Setagaya

Just southwest of bustling central Tokyo, Todoroki Valley is a thing of beauty. Approximately one kilometre in length, it's a green and plush towpath that starts from Todoroki Station, goes beneath Kampachi-dori and stretches all the way to Todoroki Children's Park. Never crowded, the valley is popular with students from Tokyo City University, as well as the occasional office worker looking for a bit of solitude with which to enjoy their lunchtime bento. The tolling of the Todoroki Fudo Temple bell adds to its beatific, restful nature; when the weather is good, there are few more refreshing spots in the capital.
Todoroki Valley

Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Travel to Turkey without leaving Tokyo

icon-location-pin Yoyogi-Uehara

The largest mosque in Japan is closer than you think – in Yoyogi Uehara, to be exact. At Tokyo Camii (also known as Tokyo Mosque), you'll also find the Turkish Cultural Center, which, as you may have guessed, is a good starting point for an introduction to Islam and Turkish culture. It's generally open to the public, and non-Muslims are welcome to visit. Just be careful not to disturb the people praying in the worship area. Women also need to cover their hair and avoid showing excess skin. Call ahead to book a guided tour in English for groups of five or more.
Tokyo Camii

The best secret eats

Nightlife

Homeliest Friday night hangout in town

icon-location-pin Nakameguro

Wander away from the bright lights of Nakameguro Station and into the neighbourhood's residential streets to find this secret izakaya, which looks just like your average old Japanese house from the outside. Step in through the unmarked door and the scene changes – you've entered a welcoming, brightly lit space where the casual and friendly staff shuffle about while patrons enjoy beers and better-than-average Japanese pub staples like tamagoyaki and potato salad. After a few sips, you'll start feeling as relaxed as when drinking at home.
Ao Corner

Restaurants

Fancy a side of boar balls?

icon-location-pin Shinjuku

At this hole-in-the-wall spot – whose name, by the way, translates as 'morning wood' – they serve up such delights as grilled salamander, snake liquor and raw pig testicles. The talkative master will tell you all about the 'product', which is supposed to be great for, uh, stamina. Note that the opening hours are relatively subjective – go after 3pm or so and you'll usually be safe though.
Asadachi

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Shopping, Specialist food and drink

Where to meet a real 'cheese whisperer'

icon-location-pin Kiyosumi

This natural cheese store located near Kiyosumi Park in Koto ward specialises in cheese from Hokkaido. The cheese concierge, also known as the 'cheese whisperer', not only helps you pick out the perfect kind of cheese, but is also highly knowledgable about the production process. Learn about the art of crafting cheese while you navigate through the 200-plus kinds of cheese on offer. Be sure to check out the ice cream machine in the corner too.
Cheese no Koe

Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Sake and snacks straight from the late '80s

icon-location-pin Ginza

With a tagline like 'the place to appreciate the taste', you'd think this hideout bar in Ginza offered slightly more sophisticated edibles. Not that there's anything wrong with Hajime's offbeat izakaya grub – it's just that it's severely overshadowed by the unique post-Bubble era décor, centred on a hypnotically glowing square counter.
Hajime

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Restaurants, Hot pot

Be cool, eat guts

icon-location-pin Shinjuku-Sanchome

You’ll have to navigate your way through the bar-filled streets of Shinjuku-Sanchome to find this hot pot and grilled giblet specialist, marked only with a small sign on the wall. Once you spot it, head up the stairs: you’ll come across an ordinary bar entrance and a refrigerator door. Enter through the latter and find yourself in a retro hideout where the best thing on the menu is Horumon Nabe, a steaming mixture of pork offal, cabbage and tofu. Sounds simple, tastes incredible, gets addictive fast.
Horumon Nabe Morioka Goro

Bars and pubs, Pubs

Where the Big Easy meets Bass Pale Ale

icon-location-pin Asakusa

It's the British pub chain everybody loves to loathe, but even the most ardent Hub haters may be forced to revise their opinion after a trip to this Asakusa branch. Forget Little England: the model here is New Orleans, with live jazz, swing and dixieland performances every night (and a cover charge of up to ¥2,500 per person). Music aside, you can expect the usual staples – including fish and chips, beef stew and the quaffable Hub Ale – plus a few Asakusa-only innovations such as gumbo and a ‘New Orleans mojito’ made with Southern Comfort.
Hub Asakusa

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Ikejiri-Ohashi Coffee Town | Time Out Tokyo

Every caffeine addict's favourite 'hood

Ikejiri-Ohashi, a residential area located only a station away from Shibuya, is blessed with some seriously trendy coffee shops. Here's where you'll find Good People Good Coffee, which was chosen as Time Out Tokyo's Best Coffee Shop of 2015, as well as Danish-owned café P.N.B. Coffee, which opened last year, and Jam Stand Coffee. All are excellent.
Ikejiri-Ohashi Coffee Town

Restaurants, Cafés

The city's funkiest treehouse café

icon-location-pin Hiroo

Hidden behind a handsome old tree – complete with treehouse – the Fleur Universelle flower shop makes quite an impression before you've even stepped inside. The first two floors are dedicated to the important business of hawking flora – but, much like Aoyama Flower Market and its in-house tea shop, this place isn't content to leave it there. Head upstairs and you'll find Les Grands Arbres (The Big Trees), a wood-decked café space serving focaccia sandwiches, deli salads and some rather good muffins. However the best seats in the house – assuming that it isn't the peak of summer, at least – are to be found on the rooftop terrace. You can bring your dog, too.
Les Grands Arbres

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Bars and pubs

The tasty terrace up high

icon-location-pin Marunouchi

Where do Marunouchi's office-working hordes go to start the weekend? They head for this seventh-floor spot inside the Shin-Marunouchi building, home to a free-flowing melange of affordable restaurants and bars, including Mediterranean eatery Rigoletto and casual noodle shop Sobakichi. The biggest draw is the expansive outdoor terrace, which can be used for al fresco drinking and dining – just buy eats and tipples at any of the restaurants and bring them outside. It stays open until 4am (until 11pm on Sundays) and sees exhibitions plus DJ gigs on most Thursday and Friday nights. Note that bringing your own food and drinks isn't allowed.
Marunouchi House

Restaurants, Grills

The gourmet grill to rule them all

icon-location-pin Marunouchi

In the mood for meat? Several big-name steakhouses and teppanyaki joints call Marunouchi home, but none of them combine quality, value and views quite like Ukai. Overlooking Marunouchi Brick Square and its many terrace cafés, this gourmet grill is accessed discreetly through a stone-covered entrance and serves up the finest wagyu cuts, Iberico pork and seafood as part of prix fixe meals. Starting from around ¥4,000, the lunch deals are particularly good value.
Grill Ukai

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Restaurants, Tea rooms

The takeout matcha master

icon-location-pin Marunouchi

Founded in Kyoto in 1717, this 300-year-old purveyor of fine tea makes every effort to maintain consistently delicious flavours throughout the year. Ippodo’s Marunouchi outpost is your one-stop shop for all things green tea, and even houses a fully equipped tea room fit for serious sipping. We also love their matcha takeout service: around ¥500 gets you a to-go cup of wonderfully rich, aromatic tea, available in both hot and iced form and sure to power you up for a stroll in the Imperial gardens or a long shinkansen ride.
Ippodo Marunouchi

Bars and pubs, Craft beer pubs

Brews and curry on the waterfront

icon-location-pin Chuo

Craft beer, Indian grub and the calmly flowing Sumida River: defying Tokyo's lack of proper waterfront cafés and bars, Mile Post Cafe offers a rare trifecta of treats. Although the windowside seats are nice, the terrace is where the real magic happens. Head over after nightfall and admire the lit-up Skytree and nearby Eitaibashi while nibbling on the funky 'pub-style' curries and cheese-filled samosas. The edibles can be washed down with 10 varieties of mainly domestic brews – our visit saw contributions from Fujizakura Heights, Minoh and Shiga Kogen on tap, plus a few quirkier options that included a Johana Tropical Pink from Toyama. Although the location isn't ideal for a weekday lunch, Mile Post sure makes a decent case for itself in other ways: between 11.30am and 5pm, all curries come with unlimited amounts of naan and rice.
Mile Post Cafe

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Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Zesty boozing in literary surrounds

icon-location-pin Shinjuku

A mixture of shochu, club soda and lemon juice, the humble lemon sour (the Japanese kind, not the cocktail base) isn't the kind of drink one would think merits a specialist bar. One would have to change one's mind, however, after a visit to the Open Book, which opened on Shinjuku's Golden Gai this spring. Upon entering, your eyes are sure to fixate on the massive back wall, covered with books all the way up to the ceiling.

Mr Tanaka, the owner, is a grandchild of the late Komimasa Tanaka, a Naoki Award-winning author and translator, who is unsurprisingly well-represented in the Open Book's library. The unique collection can be freely browsed while sipping on one of the bartender's signature sour mixtures. He uses a double-chamber Randall filter to bring out the zesty best of the lemons while mixing them with power-packed shochu and homemade lemon syrup, resulting in a harmony of sweetness, sourness and crispness. If you're feeling peckish, order the Curry Toast to go with the booze. We now know there's a different – almost literary – side to the simple drink usually relegated to the bottom of nomihodai option lists all over town.
The Open Book

Restaurants, Ramen

Pig out on pork-covered noodles

icon-location-pin Hatagaya

It looks just like your average neighbourhood noodle joint, but Hatagaya's Taketora is far from ordinary: their clear, crisp and additive-free soup is made with broth drawn from pork, chicken, kombu and 'flying fish' (ago) – a unique concoction in itself – while the menu lists one of the most aesthetically shocking bowls of ramen in all of Tokyo. The Oban Chashumen comes covered entirely with chashu pork, so you'll have to dig through a wall of meat before even reaching the noodles. Good thing the slices are actually far less greasy than they look – but you still need to be quite the carnivore to finish this big boy.
Taketora

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Restaurants, Sushi

The garish lord of raw fish

icon-location-pin Kita-Senju

Right by Kita-Senju station is an alleyway full of bars with flashing neon signs and a building that used to operate as a love hotel but has now been occupied by sushi and ramen restaurants, watering holes and hostess bars. One great option is Sushi King, which serves reasonably priced sushi at the counter, costing around ¥100-¥500 a pop.
Sushi King

Restaurants, Japanese

The city's fastest pancake purveyor

icon-location-pin Okachimachi

Located next to the 100-plus-year-old wagashi shop Usagiya, this café serves meal sets with custom-made plates and cups that are specially created for each item on the menu. The main draw here is their dorayaki 'pancake' set, which – incredibly – is only served for 10 minutes a day from 9am to 9.10am. They also serve kakigori made from their homemade shaved ice that's chilled for 48 hours. Try the kakigori with red beans and honey spiked with junmai sake.
Usagiya Café

Essentially secret experiences

Travel, Tourist Information Centre

A tour guide from the future

icon-location-pin Odaiba

Odaiba's Aqua City shopping complex might not be worth visiting if it wasn't for this rather ordinary-looking tourist info desk, manned by a robotic guide proficient in three languages. Chihira Junco, produced by electronics giant Toshiba, is a bona fide android who can point you to Odaiba's wildest sights – or just the local Statue of Liberty replica – in English, Japanese or Chinese. She even performs songs together with ApriPetit, a much smaller fellow robot also stationed at the info desk, and looks almost human when viewed from afar. Junco definitely wouldn't pass the Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner, used to tell androids and humans apart in Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic, but she's just about the best Japanese technology can come up with right now.
Android at Odaiba Tourist Information Centre

convenience store dj

Drinks, doughnuts, DJs

This convenience store also holds a monthly DJ event that's open to all those who can work out where it is. The event originally started when Yuichi Kishino wanted to create a space where neighbours could mingle with each other – and it draws a pretty eclectic crowd. The event costs ¥2,000 (including unlimited soft drinks and 4 cups of alcohol) and there's an underground 'chill space' at which you can take a break from dancing and get something to eat. The exact location is a closely guarded secret but clues are posted on the organiser's twitter account (@kishinoyuichi) in Japanese. We are sworn to secrecy, but we can tell you it's a store covered in records located near the Sumida River. It's worth finding if you can.
Convenience store DJ

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Things to do, Cultural centres

Stars, monks and comedy

icon-location-pin Tateishi

If it wasn't for the faux-Nasa space shuttle on the outer wall, you'd probably have a hard time finding this planetarium, hidden away far out in the wilds of Katsushika-ku. The Gingaza is located inside a Buddhist temple, making it the first of its kind in Japan (and most likely the world). Essentially a one-man show run by starstruck monk Kasuga, the planetarium features a different programme every month, with the show narrated live by Kasuga himself and a female assistant who offer up plenty of informative tidbits and comedic value. The problem is getting a seat – reservations are taken only on specified booking days and even then if it is overbooked a lottery system is employed to decide who gets to come in. For those lucky few, however, the experience is unmissable.
Gingaza (Galaxy) Planetarium

Health and beauty, Saunas and baths

Where to soak in a black bath

icon-location-pin Kamata

Located in a quiet residential area south of Kamata Station, in between the Tokaido and Keikyu railway lines, this wonderfully old-school bathhouse looks ordinary from the outside, but is actually one of the finest soaking establishments in the area and is renowned for its dark-as-night onsen water.

Advertised as a ‘super sento’ – a fancier version of your average neighbourhood bathhouse – Kamata Onsen first opened its doors way back in 1937. It has stood the test of time despite being damaged in World War II and undergoing numerous other trials, and was completely renovated 30 years ago. Its speciality kuroyu baths get their distinctive colour from humic acid, an organic substance found in the groundwater under Ota and further south in Kawasaki, and are dark enough for your hand to disappear from sight only 3cm beneath the surface. These baths are said to have the power to heal sore knees and backs, as well as improving your blood circulation and smoothing out your skin.

When you’re done soaking in the healing liquid, head over to the lounge for nibbles, karaoke and even, if you’re lucky, a gig – Kamata Onsen hosts three or four performance nights every year, inviting local musicians and artists to strut their stuff. If you’re looking to join their ranks, order some booze and start at the karaoke booth, where ¥1,000 gets you 15 songs (11 on Sundays): fellow bathers may well join you for an impromptu sing-along session.

Kamata Onsen is open year-round and entrance is a mere ¥460 (children aged 6-12 ¥180, younger free). If you’ve left your towel at home, go for the ¥1,000 Tebura set, which also includes amenities and even a yukata on top of entry to the baths.
Ota-ku, black hot springs

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Bars and pubs

A wonderful world of vibrators

icon-location-pin Shibuya

Observant visitors to Shibuya's Wild One sex shop may notice the stairs right next to the store entrance, but few actually wander all the way up to the third floor, where there's a genitalia-shaped doorway. Beyond the phallic portal lies a unique watering hole which welcomes patrons with a colourful, seemingly endless collection of dildos in all shapes and sizes. The staff are on hand to help pick out the perfect one for you and yours. The place is tiny and entrance is strict – there's a ¥3,000 cover charge that gets you 90 minutes of access and two drink tickets, and all-male parties aren't allowed as the owners want to discourage stag-do sniggering.
The Vibe Bar Wild One

After-dark secrets

Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Buzz your way up to the night view

icon-location-pin Ebisu

Press the intercom at the front entrance of one of the posh buildings overlooking Ebisu Park and you’ll gain entrance to an elevator that’ll take you up to Deva, a stylish hideout bar with plum views of the entire Shibuya area. In business since the late ‘90s, the spot is especially nice for date nights and other special occasions, and the (relatively) fair prices add to the attraction. Note that there’s a ¥500 cover charge every night.
Deva

Shopping, Bakeries

Where to sweeten up your evening

icon-location-pin Kichijoji

NYC-born Doughnut Plant has been churning out delicious doughnuts since 1994, and first set foot in Tokyo a full decade ago. Known for offerings like crème brûlée doughnuts and jelly-filled squares, the Plant caters to serious sugar-lovers, and is unafraid to go its own way in terms of flavours and business models. Take this Kichijoji shop: open only between 8pm and 1am, it sells three kinds of doughnuts, namely vanilla bean, chocolate and organic sugar, in addition to the curious 'doughnut bread'. Recommended if you want to start your night out with a sweet treat.
Doughnut Plant Kichijoji Central Kitchen

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Attractions, Ships and boats

See the beauty in heavy industry

icon-location-pin Yokohama

Discover the beauty in factories. No, really. You may not think a cruise through an industrial zone would warrant any attention, but come night-time, the cranes, power plants and factories are illuminated like a 'castle of lights' which your boat weaves through down mysterious, narrow canals.
Factory night view cruise

Bars and pubs

The travelling master of spirits and smokes

If you ever happen to spot a lightly worn-down white cart stacked full of alcohol on your nightly adventures, be sure to stop by for a drink: in a city full of curious watering holes, Twillo is one of the most eccentric. Serving a snappy selection of beer, wine, spirits, cocktails and Cuban cigars out of his truck, the owner is on a never-ending journey around Tokyo, always setting up shop somewhere in the city around 10pm and staying put until the following morning. The only way to find him is through Twitter, where he reveals his location for the day. A recent accident saw the operator break his leg, but that hasn't stalled his quest – the truck is immobile for the time being, though.
Twillo

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Attractions, Sightseeing

Skip Tokyo Tower, see Tokyo Tower

icon-location-pin Hamamatsucho

Although the out-of-the-way location ensures that it’s not as popular as its competitors, this observatory on the 40th floor of Hamamatsucho’s World Trade Center building still offers beautiful panoramic views of nearby Tokyo Tower, the Bay area and Odaiba.
World Trade Center Building

Secret shopping

Shopping, Music and entertainment

Fishy pastries at the record store

icon-location-pin Gotanda

Some come for the secondhand vinyl and CDs, while others are drawn by Da Capo’s taiyaki, a fish-shaped pastry filled with sweet bean paste. When you’re done digging for musical finds, bite into the faux fish’s head first – there’s a surprise flavour hidden in the tail.
Da Capo

Shopping

Fashion frenzy

icon-location-pin Koenji

Kita-Kore is Koenji’s most chaotic collection of alternative clothing stores. You’ll find unique brands like Hayatochiri, Southpaw, Garter and Ilil, as well as the office of contemporary artist collective Chim-Pom, which turns into a shop called Kane-Zanmai on weekends.
Kita-Kore Building

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Shopping, Designer

No cheese, but plenty of hipster action

icon-location-pin Shibuya

Meguro’s supremely laidback Son of the Cheese, with its round skateboarding pool and camping van, has become a favourite haunt for many local creatives. With their eponymous clothing brand winning fans across Japan, the folks behind Son of the Cheese opened a new ‘play space’ at Shibuya’s Namikibashi. In addition to a shop, the quirky spot boasts a sandwich joint and an invitation-only bar, while also exhibiting and selling pieces by artists who’ve worked closely with the brand’s designers. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya, this one’s on track to become the Namikibashi area’s hottest secret spot.
Son of the Cheese

Shopping, Shoes

A wacky world of secondhand stuff

icon-location-pin Daikanyama

The name says it all – artist Ken Kagami's chamber of curiosa is hidden inside an apartment building on a Daikanyama back street and filled with secondhand clothing, old books and weird knickknacks assembled by the man himself. Fans of Kagami's quirky sense of humour will have a field day here.
Strange Store

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Vintage & Import Select Rose | Time Out Tokyo
Photo by Kisa Toyoshima
Shopping, Vintage shops

After hours fashion finds

Tokyoites are notorious for working late, so you'll never have a hard time finding a restaurant or grocery store operating until the wee small hours (or around the clock, for that matter). Shopping for new styles, on the other hand, isn't as straightforward for night owls: clerks at your average vintage store will clock out at 9pm at the latest, leaving you woefully underdressed for that last-minute Friday club night. To help you avoid such misfortunes, we've put together a list of top secondhand stores that stay open until the last train or later. Concentrated in the Shibuya-Meguro-Sangenjaya triangle, these top shops draw the city’s fashionistas like moths to a flame.
Late-night vintage stores
Shopping, Music and entertainment

Cassette tapes live on in Nakameguro

icon-location-pin Nakameguro

Tokyo is well known for its vibrant record store scene, but finding a shop specialising in good old cassette tapes might surprise even the most hardcore of collectors. Waltz stocks a whopping 3,000 tapes amassed one-by-one by the owner, plus an extensive selection of vinyl, VHS tapes, vintage mags and boomboxes. They’ll even let you try before you buy.
Waltz

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