Beertje van Beers shares her top 3 things to do in Tokyo
Beertje van Beers is a famous writer and a TV host in Holland. She lives in Amsterdam with her American husband Justin and their daughter Tigerlily. Beertje is not only beautiful: she has a sense of humour and an amazing personality. She is an incredible mom and in her blog on The Mom she gives us a glimpse of her life as a mother of Tigerlily!
Things to do in Tokyo with your tween – our top 3
I will never forget the first time I visited Tokyo. From the food to the people to the buildings; this was Blade Runner meets Hello Kitty, the most exhilarating combination of kinky and kawaii (Japanese for all things ‘lovable’ and ‘cute’). I had discovered the perfect playground for all ages! Riding around Harajuku on my kawaii little bike, proudly wearing the all-black COMME des GARÇONS outfit I had spent my entire first modelling salary on, I decided that THIS was my happy place, and solemnly swore to one day bring my own children. You can imagine my excitement when, many years later, I finally got to take my daughter. Granted, Tigerlily, then 8 years old, had been raised on a steady diet of sushi and Ghibli movies, but would she love Tokyo as much I did? Well, the look of pure awe and delight on Tigerlily’s face during her first walk through Tokyo’s neon-lit streets said it all: from now on, this would be OUR happy place.
Tigerlily and I visited again last year, and I know I am completely biased, but I cannot think of a better destination for a city trip with your ‘tween’ or teen. Tokyo is safe, easy to get around, and has something on offer for everybody’s taste: from Shinto shrines to hedgehog cafés to 24-hour karaoke (dressed up as your favorite manga-character, of course!). Check out a few of our favorite things:
Shop, shop, shop!
Shopping, of course, is always fun, but Tokyo just has the best selection of weird and wonderful knick-knacks. And they don’t have to be that expensive! Make sure you visit Tokyu Hands, Tokyo’s largest household goods store packed with must-haves for your home and office. Think supercool lunchboxes for your tween or traditional bath salts for mama. Kiddy Land in Harajuku is a real Tokyo institution. When I lived in Japan in the early 90s, I remember them keeping the shop open for an entire night so Michael Jackson could drop some serious cash in there. Anyway, this is the place to get your Hello Kitty- or Rilakuma fix and stock up on collectible action figures. Oh, and they have a whole Ghibli-section! Totoro ear muffs, anyone? If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs like solar-powered lucky cats or animal-shaped face masks, look for one of Tokyo’s many ¥100 shops. Our favorite one is Daiso in Harajuku, a three-floor landmark on the legendary Takeshita-dori shopping street.
Slaying it, Samurai style
The Samurai Museum Tokyo is the place where educational meets sensational. (I really should be a slogan writer). A collection of stunning samurai armor and weapons -both originals and replicas that you are allowed to try on- an interactive demonstration and a super-informative guided tour in English; our visit to the Samurai Museum Tokyo had both me and Tigerlily spirited away to another, terribly exciting time.
Coffee with a fluffy friend
Since she could say ‘cat’, Tigerlily has been begging for a pet. Alas, thanks to mama’s allergies, that has been an impossible dream. Japan’s animal cafés are a great solution: Tiger gets her petting time while mama has coffee and watches from a safe distance, wearing one of those sexy surgical masks. Our favorite place is Owl Village in Harajuku where you can get up close and personal with these majestic, yet cuddly birds. The best part: I did not sneeze once!
(Note: Keeping nocturnal animals awake during daytime hours is never an ideal situation, but we were put somewhat at ease by the handlers’ obvious love for the owls and the fact that the birds get a lot of snooze breaks.)
One last tip: Plan ahead, but don’t plan too much! Tigerlily and I have the best adventures when we just wander around, exploring side streets, discovering local markets and festivals. Just make sure you download one of those clever apps that translate Japanese characters as you hover your phone above a text or sign (Google’s Word Lens is a good one). No more ‘lost in translation’!