Ah, Tokyo. It’s where most people arrive in (and leave) Japan. If you take a bullet train, your trip might start and/or end at Tokyo Station itself.
This station’s more than a place to change lines. It’s the coolest, most crowded maze you’ve ever seen. Wander around inside and you’ll find shops, restaurants, cafes, convenience stores, and tourist attractions.
And, hopefully, at least one way out.
A big draw near the Yaesu Central exit is ‘Tokyo Eki Ichibangai’: First Avenue Tokyo Station.
‘Ichibangai’ means ‘First Street’, or avenue, or whatever you like walking along. It’s officially known as ‘First Avenue’ in English.
A different way to try shopping channels
Some TV channels have their own shops. You watch their shows, they want your money. Not as in-your-face as an NHK rep at the front door.
TBS, Fuji TV, TV Tokyo, TV Asahi, and Nippon TV are represented on First Avenue. Oh, and NHK has one as well. Looks like too many people hide when their doorbell rings.
Merch on offer includes t-shirts, phone accessories, anime figurines, and loads more. Some of the TV show tie-ins are pretty strange. Swing by the TBS Store for kitchen sponges, or pick up decorative Dragonball plates from Fuji TV’s shelves. Only in Japan. At least you know you’re buying something unique.
Those shops are on the Tokyo Character Street. Along with stores for popular anime shows AiKatsu, One Piece, Pretty Cure, and – of course – Pokémon. If you see a uniformed Pikachu waddling your way, run.
As much kawaii as you can fit in your suitcase
First Avenue is a great place to grab souvenirs and goodies. After all, your train out of Tokyo Station might be bound for the airport.
No Japanese shopping trip is complete without Hello Kitty. It may as well be enshrined in law. Thou must buy something Kitty-related – and let’s be honest, that isn’t hard to do. The shop’s on Tokyo Character Street where it definitely belongs. Just like Miffy, the Moomins, Studio Ghibli, Snoopy, and Rilakkuma.
There’s also a high chance you’ll fall in love with a massive plushie at the Capybara-san shop. It shouldn’t be too hard to buy it a passport and an extra seat on the plane…
Anyone who didn’t have time to check out Kiddy Land in Harajuku can pop into the mini K-Spot store instead. It focuses on trendy anime and the latest Japanese fashions.
Japan-style eats in the heart of Tokyo (station)
Being a tourist is hard work. Hungry yet? There are 2 main food zones: Tokyo Ramen Street and ‘Nippon Gurume Kaidou’ (Japan Gourmet Highway).
On Tokyo Ramen Street, you always know what you’re getting. (Big hint: ramen.) Take your pick from 8 noodle shops. Then you’ve got to find the end of the queue. Lines can sometimes be longer than the noodles, so time your visit carefully.
There’s more variety around Nippon Gurume Kaidou. But not much more – it’s made up of just 4 restaurants. Sushi, yakiniku (grilled meat), dim sum, and ebi tempura (deep-fried prawns). This highway’s more of a pit-stop for your next meal.
Got room for dessert? Stagger over to the even smaller Tokyo Okashi Land. ‘Okashi’ means ‘candy’ or ‘sweets’. Don’t confuse it with ‘okashii’ (strange) or you’ll get some really weird looks.
The 3 big Japanese snack brands have shops there: Glico, Calbee, and Morinaga. Go for Calbee’s potato chips with ice cream and chocolate sauce, or chomp on some Glico roasted almonds. You might not find them anywhere else.
A mini Tokyo adventure without going outside
Whatever you’re hungry for, First Avenue makes an… interesting… Japanese shopping and dining experience. If you only ever buy from Japan online, the area’s a must-do if you visit the country for real.