This is Japan, where you have to expect the unusual. So, it is not that surprising that there is a shop that sells ice creams in ox tongue, octopus and snake eggs flavours. Ice Cream City, a store in the theme park Namco Namjatown, offers interesting and outlandish concoctions. You do have the option of sticking to mango, butterscotch or vanilla, but we recommend the matcha (green tea) flavour.
Twenty six floors above Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, in L Tower, are the world’s swankiest toilets. This is where Toto, the world’s largest plumbing manufacturer, has its flagship room, in which it showcases its latest innovations in toilet and bath technology. You will find, among other things, temperature-controlled toilet seats and an automatic bidet nozzle that gently cleans you with warm water post the job and then dries you with air, thus not wasting any paper. All the toilets have plenty of buttons you can play with. A word of warning: do not set a toilet to wash you and then get up before it does. Water will spill everywhere. We all learn from our mistakes. Another interesting innovation is the toilet lids that lift automatically as you approach them. An insider says that soon Toto will release an app on your phone that will be able to flush your toilet for you.
Nishi-Shinjuku, 03 3345 1010
If you’ve watched samurais in Japanese movies and wished you could fight like them, you have to try one of ShidoJuku’s swordfighting workshops. The instructors will teach you how to fight like a samurai, or how to pretend to, at least. At the end of the class, you get to dress like a samurai and take photographs, which should make everyone on your Facebook friends list real jealous.
Setagaya-ku, 03 6379 7491,
If you are a fan of the grotesque, you may want to make a pitstop at the Meguro Parasitological museum, the world’s only parasite museum. Founded by a doctor named Kamegai Satoru, who, reportedly, treated several people who were afflicted by parasites, the museum showcases samples of parasites. The main attraction is an 8.8-metre-long tapeworm taken from the body of a 40-year-old man. If you find that odd museums are your thing, you should also save half a day for the Salt and Tobacco museum in Shibuya.
Meguro-ku, 03 3716 1264
Boobs and Bullets
The bento box in Robot Restaurant, set in a basement in Kabukicho, Shinjuku’s red light district, is not great. But, you don’t go there for the food. You go there to watch bikini-clad women sit on robots and do mock battle with each other while J-pop blares in the background. The shows last an hour and feature some of the strangest antics you will see, as the scantily clad staff tackle various massive robots, including a neon tank and enormous female borgs. Locals think this 150-million-dollar venture is an utterly bonkers tourist trap, but you will always find a cheering crowd inside.
Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, 03 3200 5500,
Cat lounges are a part of popular culture in Japan. There are also owl cafés, squirrel gardens and penguin bars. But, we recommend the rabbit cafés, where you can enjoy a cup of tea while petting and playing with furry little bunnies. There are quite a few rabbit cafés in Tokyo. Some double up as pet shops, so you can take home a rabbit if you form a connection with it, while others just have rabbits hopping around you while you eat.
The conveyor belts at kaiten sushi restaurants, while once a modern marvel, are now old hat. The latest innovation in sushi restaurants can be found at Uobei, where diners place their orders via a multi-language touch screen and are served their sushi by a high-speed chute that delivers food into their plates. Each item costs just Rs 120 or so. And, of course, there’s no one to tip.
Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, 03 3462 0241,
The Hentai Palace
The Akihabara district is famous for electronics, but it is also home to a number of pornography shops. You will find, in particular, plenty of hentai (cartoon and manga porn). The biggest sex shop in the area is M’s, which has seven storeys full of inappropriate goodies. The higher up you go, the more risque the offerings get. One floor is full of middle-aged men rummaging through discount bins of naughty comic books. If you’re willing to let the staff take a photograph of you wearing one of their sexy costumes, you get a 20 per cent discount on anything you buy. Among the most popular products at M’s are their high-tech blow-up dolls.
Chiyoda-ku, Akihabara, 03 3252 6166,
Sleeping In A box
Do you remember that episode of Seinfeld in which Cosmo Kramer has his Japanese guests sleep in a chest of drawers? That scene is, of course, based on Japan’s capsule hotels, or kapuseruhoteru, which you will find near every major train terminus in Tokyo. Instead of a room, you get a two-metre long, one-and-a-half-metre wide cubicle to sleep in. However, contrary to what you may imagine, the capsules are actually quite comfortable and don’t feel claustrophobic. Most come with a television (with pay-per-view Japanese porn, obviously) and a WiFi connection. There are even capsule hotels with themes, such as the sci-fi-themed Nine Hours hotel in Kyoto. If you’re looking for a cheap place to spend a night, or just a different experience, you should try spending a night in a capsule.
Make Your Own Beer
A few hours’ drive north of Tokyo, in Ibaraki, is the Kiuchi Brewery, one of Japan’s biggest and best-known microbreweries. Apart from trying their great brews, you can also make your own beer in their Brew on Premises facility. You can measure your malts, pick your hops, and mash and mill with the guidance of Kiuchi’s brewers. The brewery takes over the final fermentation process and bottling, and gives you bottles complete with customised labels.
Technicolour Harajuku Dreams
The lure of Harajuku district, known as the centre of Japanese youth culture and fashion, is as much the various kinds of clothes shops as the people who go to them. You will see young girls wearing poodle skirts, pretending to be sexy lolitas; ‘gyaru’ girls, with their bleached hair, heavy make-up and fake eyelashes; people dressed as their favourite movie or comic-book hero; and many more interesting characters. All these young people are there as much to be seen as to shop. In terms of the shopping itself, you will find everything from the big international fashion brands to small boutiques offering the latest in Japanese street fashion. Walk towards the eastern alleys and you will see some of Tokyo’s best street art. It is best to visit Harajuku on a Sunday, as that is when students come out in their most daring costumes.