Only in Tokyo can you encounter a wealth of fascinating obsessions found nowhere else in the world. Feel the tingle of eating blowfish, check out Tokyo’s youth dressed up as comic-book characters and head back in time to Edo Tokyo ryokan hotels with this guide to the city’s unique experiences.

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    Explore Yanesen

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    Be transported back to pre-war Tokyo amid the sliding wooden doors of old ryokan, historical bathhouses and vintage pawnshops in the neighborhoods of Yanaka, Sendagi and Nezu (collectively Yanesen). Located in Tokyo’s far north-east, these peaceful, cobblestone districts escaped bombing in the Second World War and remain home to artisans and craftsmen.

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    2

    Eat fugu (blowfish)

    A meal of fugu (blowfish) will leave the lips tingling from the neurotoxins found in the glands of Japan’s most dangerous delicacy. An evening at Izakaya Fugutake restaurant showcases fugu in myriad tasty ways. Sample it in broth, marinated, as sushi or even infused in sake (rice wine).

    Location: 3-4-6 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0045, Japan

    Phone: +81 3-5443-0329

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    3

    Toyosu Fish Market

    Watch the famous tuna auction

    Toyosu Fish Market opened in 2019 and replaced the 100-year-old Tsukiji Market. Visiting the fish market offers a glimpse into a unique part of Japanese culture: the famous tuna auction. Watching serious pounds of giant tuna being auctioned off at 5 am and then treating yourself to some fresh sushi for breakfast is an unforgettable experience.

    There are two places that the public can watch the auction – from the lower deck or the upper deck. To access the lower deck, you need to apply a few weeks in advance and wait to see if you win a ticket via a lottery system. However, the upper deck doesn’t require a booking; you need to before 5.30 am and get in line. The auction runs from 5.30 am to 6.30 am.

    Location: 6 Chome-6-1 Toyosu, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0061, Japan

    Phone: +81 335-208-205

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    4

    Sumo action at Arashio-Beya

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    • Unusual

    Enjoy ringside seats as enormous sumo wrestlers fight, staggering around an earthen ring in loincloths during morning practice. Afterwards, eat steaming bowls of chankonabe (a stew of chicken, fish, tofu and vegetables) with the wrestlers and their oyaka (master). Arashio-Beya’s half-day program through H.I.S. Experience offers an insight into life in beya (sumo stables).

    Location: 2 Chome-47-2 Nihonbashihamacho, Chūō-ku, Tokyo 103-0007, Japan

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +81 3-3666-7646

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    5

    Electric Town

    Walk through Japan’s Electric Town in Akihabara for a look at whole streets of shops filled with the latest cameras, mobile phones and digital technology. It’s heaven for tech-lovers as you play with walking, talking robots or try game consoles not found anywhere else in the world.

    Location: 1 Chome-12 Akihabara, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 110-0006, Japan

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    6

    Meikyunokuni No Alice cosplay cafe

    Gothic vampire waiters, coffin tables and dishes oozing ‘blood’; tea party cocktails, dishes saying 'Eat Me”, psychedelic art and playing card coasters; Vampire Café and Alice in Wonderland Café in Ginza take themed dining to imaginative new heights.

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    7

    Center for Arts and Wellness

    Breathe in heady, mysterious scents and experience the peace and calm of the rhythmic ritual of kodo (incense ceremony). Small charcoal censers burning sandalwood, and frankincense, are passed around in this ‘game’ – have a go at the Center for Arts and Wellness.

    Location: 301, 3-20-15, Tsurumaki, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-0016, Japan

    Phone: +81 3-5450-8522

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    8

    Comic-book heroes and cartoon characters

    See Tokyo’s youth dressed in full character with brightly colored wigs, capes and gloves at Harajuku’s Jingu Bridge on Sunday afternoons. You might spot life-size, well-known characters such as Sailor Moon, Chibi Chibi or Hello Kitty at the annual Tokyo International Anime Fair in March.

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    Espace pachinko parlor in Shinjuku

    Whirring noises, flashing lights and amusement park music: it’s all on offer at Tokyo’s numerous Pachinko parlors, vast arcades packed with people playing Japan’s version of a pinball machine. Visit Espace in Shinjuku for a true Pachinko experience spread over five floors.

    Location: 1 Chome Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

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    10

    Where to watch sumo training in Tokyo

    If you are interested in seeing some sumo training, you can visit several sumo stables where the wrestlers live and train together under strict regimes. Practice is usually quite early in the day from around 6am until 11am. Advance inquiry is a must.  
    Tamanoi-beya: A 10-minute walk from Nippori Toneri Liner Nishiarai Taishinishi Station (Contact: info@tamanoi.com)
    Chiganoura-beya:  Around 5 minutes by car from Tokyo subway or Tobu Line Asakusa Stations (Tel: +81 (0) 3-38742663)
    Arashio-beya: A 1-minute walk from Tokyo Subway Hamacho Station (Tel: +81 (0) 3-36667646)

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