If You Have a Teenager Who is Hard to Please, Tokyo is the Perfect City to Awaken Their Senses!
Japan is one of our favourite countries in the world to visit and namely because it possesses a culture found nowhere else. The country ranges from being one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world to the most stoic and conservative people on the planet. Negativity and outlandish behaviour are frowned upon whilst utmost respect and adherence to rank dictate social behaviours. Some say this repressed culture has given birth to a generation of Japanese that disentangle themselves from expectations of conformity by participating in peculiar behaviour. But as expected, the Japanese never do anything by half measures. So those who break the mould do so in a fashion that shocks most of us yet it lends itself to what is now quintessentially Japanese. And there is no better place to witness this amazing culture with your teenager than in Tokyo itself.
As your children become adolescents and the dynamics for family holidays change, it’s important that you’re able to find destinations that will get your teenager excited about travel. In all of its quirkiness and peculiarities, Tokyo is a great place to explore with your them. Here are some suggestions on what you can do with them:
TOKYO FOR TEENAGERS TIP #1
Harajuku. An entire suburb of eye popping fashion and oddities. Here are some highlights:
- This is the infamous hangout for the notorious Harajuku girls although it would seem they are dwindling in numbers as they were getting too famous and therefore no longer as cool to be seen. But you should still be able to spot the occasional passer-by.
- Shopping at the multi-level emporium, Laforet. Go and check out the small boutiques of garish garments and eccentric fashion. Really doesn’t matter if you’re not into that sort of thing but at least have a good gawk at some pieces of clothing which you may not even know which part of the body its meant to go on!
- The best Daiso or 100 yen store is found here. Great shopping for everyone! I always manage to come out with a whole bunch of knickknacks I don’t need so I suggest making this the last stop to avoid having to carry too much shopping.
- Kiddyland is one of Tokyo’s best toy shops and even though your teenager may have passed this stage, you can’t help but be impressed by this 5 floor store. Well, I certainly still love it because it houses so interesting toys you can’t get anywhere else.
- If you’re into bespoke and vintage eyewear, head to basement store Solakzade.
- Theatre products is a shop that sells theatre fashion. Highly unlikely you may ever need a hat of thespian times with a quill, but you never know.
- Head to underground boutique Dog for some serious avant garde wear. Lady Gaga has known to sneak in for a quick shop.
- For the artistic, head to the MoMa Design store to pick up some unique gifts.
- When in Harajuku, you can’t pass up a fancy crepe with dribbles of raspberry sauce and dollops of whipped cream.
TOKYO FOR TEENAGERS TIP #2
Kimono & Tea Ceremony. If your teenager is a traditionalist at heart, you can partake in a kimono and tea ceremony. There are many tea houses that run these classes in Tokyo but we do recommend the one at the bonsai museum. The kimono experience will take about 45 minutes and if you have a teenage daughter she will experience being dressed in a beautiful long-sleeved Furisode kimono whilst the tea ceremony is about 60 minutes. Enjoy this experience with magnificent views and tranquillity of the of the bonsai garden. A great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo.
TOKYO FOR TEENAGERS TIP #3
Isetan Food Hall. The basement food hall of Tokyo’s department store Isetan, is the most exquisite collection of food I have ever come across. The food hall covers an array of cuisines but displayed in the most enticing and lip-smacking way possible. They honestly look too beautiful to eat. It has a fresh fruit section where I came across USD$64 for a box of grapes and USD$250 for a SQUARE watermelon. Why anyone would want a square watermelon is beyond me but the point is, it’s so mind boggling! Oh let’s not forget the luxurious chocolate store which has a doorman in pristinely pressed tails and servers who wear bright white gloves. Isetan boasts a rooftop garden so I’d indulge in some of its offerings and head up to enjoy a bit of open air space.
TOKYO FOR TEENAGERS TIP #4
Akihabara. A pilgrimage to Akihabara is a must. Akihabara is the home of Japan’s Otaku culture of manga and anime as well as a paradise for retro-gamers. Even if your teenager is not interested in this aspect of Japanese culture, they will still be fascinated by what it has to offer. Here you’ll be able to find comic books, figurines, posters and collectables. Don’t plan your day trip there. Just meander down the main strip and wander into shops that may interest you and if you have time head towards the back shops. Akihabara also attracts a subculture of geeks both local and international and just watching their exuberance in discovering a rare find is worth the trip.
TOKYO FOR TEENAGERS TIP #5
Shinjuku Station. Shinjuku train station is the busiest train station in the world. Get your teenager to be in charge of navigating this juggernaut of a place and have some fun with it. In 2007, Shinjuku station was entered in the Guinness World Book of Records boasting 3.64 million commuters in ONE DAY! This station has 36 platforms and over 200 exits. Finding the right platform is the easy part. Working out which exit gets you to where you need to go is the challenging part!
And one of our favourite things to do is to stand right in the middle of the station at the busiest time of the day. We love the feeling of hundreds and thousands of commuters whizzing past us in the most cohesive and robotic fashion. It is also fascinating that despite the immense crowd, the Japanese are still able to move in a humble and fluid manner.
Here is a comprehensive guide of how to Navigate Japan’s Train System by Footsteps of a Dreamer.
TOKYO FOR TEENAGERS TIP #6
The Grossest Museum Ever. If you have a teenager who loves anything grotesque, head to the Meguro Parasitological Museum, the only parasite museum in the world. Well, why on earth would you need more than one? This museum houses hundreds of jars of preserved parasite specimens. You will be able to find how leeches attach themselves to the eyelids of sea turtles or what a prey mantis infected with horsehair worm looks like. Perhaps the most gruesome thing would be its centrepiece exhibit of an 8.8m-long tapeworm found in the body of a 40-year-old Yokohama man. Just typing this is making me gag. But hey….things we do for our kids.
TOKYO FOR TEENAGERS TIP #7
Sumo Wrestling. Quintessentially Japanese and a sport of its original kind. This Japanese style wrestling is a long standing traditional sport with no weight divisions. This means that sometimes wrestlers are faced with opponents of greater strength and girth. Therefore the obsession to gain as much weight as possible makes the sport even more fascinating. The aim of the sport is to simply get their opponent to step outside of the ring or to get a part of their body (except the soles of their feet) to touch the ground. Hence some matches only last a few seconds. Tokyo hosts 3 x 15 day tournaments in the months of January, May and September. They are very popular with the locals so be sure to try and get tickets as soon as you can. What an experience!
TOKYO FOR TEENAGERS TIP #8
Weird Café Culture. The politically correct have mentioned time and time again that we shouldn’t be saying the Japanese are strange. Just because what they deem normal is peculiar to us, doesn’t mean they are in fact “weird”. I’m sorry but on this occasion I beg to differ. Check out some of the cafes below you can take your teenager and tell me honestly you think they are perfectly normal. In saying that……they are also crazy cool!
- Feline Fixture. Tokyo holds the largest number of cat cafes in the world with 39 locations for you to select from. If you want to hang out on your laptop, sip on a Japanese drink and just listen to cats purr all day, this is the perfect spot for you!
- Zauo Shinjuku: Fishing Restaurant. This is a restaurant where you literally catch your fish and then have the chef prepare it to your liking. If you’re like me and fishing isn’t your forte, make sure you order something else to eat because it could take a while! Hah!
- Owl Cafes. Yes, you read that right. There are a few owl cafés in Tokyo where you can sip a hot beverage whilst you watch, pat and stroke owls perched on a stand on your table. These owls have grown up around humans and therefore not predatory although you should still exercise caution in terms of sudden movements and flash photography.
- Others. Robots. Maids. Cuddles. Sorry kiddos but too rude to mention and for adults only.
Tokyo is a mind field of activities and attractions of all kinds. And we have purposely chosen not to list the obvious things to do, which I’m sure will most likely be on your itinerary anyway. We just wanted to provide with a few out of the ordinary experiences which you could share with your teenager to break away from the usual highlights. And to create some hilarious and crazy memories! Enjoy!
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