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Big in Japan: Tokyo's top 5 easy-to-miss spots
From the manicured gardens of the Imperial Palace and the frozen tuna carcasses in Tsukiji's markets, to the neon lights of Shibuya and the street fashions of Harajuku, Tokyo really does seem to have it all.
Of course, while tourists are quick to check off Tokyo's top spots on their itinerary, there are plenty of other easy-to-miss spots that locals and resident ex-pats love to visit.
True, these destinations don't have as much historical grace or cultural pizzazz as others. However, they're still great places to soak up the ebb and flow of the city, and there is a good chance that you won't see too many other foreign tourists milling about.
So, without further adieu, here is a quick and concise list of Tokyo's top 5 easy-to-miss spots:
5) Shinjuku National Gardens (????, Shinjuku-gyoen) This sprawling parkland on the western edge of the Yamanote line is arguably Tokyo's best leafy retreat. If the weather is cooperating, grab a bento from the convenience store, and have yourself a picnic lunch under the shade of a sakura tree. When you're done, walk it off while contemplating the Zen-inspired beauty of this classic landscape garden.
Want to know which spots made it to the top of our list? Keep reading!
4) Shinjuku Isetan (新宿伊勢丹) The mother of all department stores, Isetan's Shinjuku flagship has one of Tokyo's best depachika (デパ地下) or basement floors. In case you're new to the whole Japanese department store experience, the depachika is where you can sample all manners of tasty Japanese delicacies. Pick up a few boxes of handmade Japanese sweets for your friends, or just gorge yourself on all the free samples!
3) Ameyoko (アメ横) The glitz and glamour of Ginza is justifiably famous, but you don't have to flash huge amounts cash to enjoy shopping in Tokyo. On the contrary, Ueno's Ameyoko Street is something of a dream destination for bargain hunters. Evoking images of pre-war Edo, Ameyoko is a bustling outdoor market where you can get equally good deals on tuna steaks and Nike running shoes.
2) Shimokitazawa (下北沢) Foreigners in Tokyo tend to stick to ex-pat enclaves such as Roppongi for their beer-soaked nightlife, though you don't have to follow the herd to get your drink on. If you want to be the only foreigner in the bar, then head to this trendy and up-and-coming hipster enclave just west of Shibuya. Shimokitazawa is famous for its tiny hole-in-the wall watering holes, a good number of which only have space for a handful of clients.
1) La Qua (ラクーア) This self-described 'super spa,' which is adjacent to the Tokyo Dome in Suidabashi, is an actual Japanese onsen (温泉) or hot spring. While central Tokyo isn't the first place you'd expect to find hot water bubbling up from the ground, La Qua actually pipes in thermally heated water from the bottom of Tokyo Bay.
You can soak your travel-worn bones in any of La Qua's luxurious indoor and outdoor baths, which should soften up your skin nicely for the shiatsu massage to follow. Finally, wind down your day on the relaxation floor, where you can drink mango smoothies, sooth your muscles by lying on hot stones, or just read the paper while sipping an herbal tea.
Did we miss anything? Of course we did!
Tokyo is the world's largest metropolis, so apologies if we left out your favorite destination. On that note, feel free to chime in with your own lists of easy-to-miss spots around Japan's capital...