Watch some sport in Tokyo

Watch some sport in Tokyo

If you plan to visit Tokyo and fancy taking in some sports while you're there, then you're in luck. This city is a true feast for the fan of physical activities and competitive games. Here you will find professional teams in baseball, football and sumo, plus all kinds of other thrilling events. Here's a guide to the biggest sporting attractions in the Japanese capital.


America's Pastime is just as popular in Japan as it is Stateside, so it is little surprise to find Tokyo is a hub for baseball. In fact, the Japanese are so crazy about baseball that even the high-school playoff matches that take place every year regularly bring in millions of viewers.

Tokyo is home to two pro baseball teams: the Yakult Swallows and the Yomiuri Giants. The Swallows play at Meiji-Jingu Stadium in Shinjuku, and have a richly decorated history, having taken home 5 Japan Series championships (though none in the last 13 years). Their accomplishments are, however, entirely dwarfed by their city rivals, the Giants. From their base at the 46,000 capacity Tokyo Dome in Bunkyo, the Giants have notched up 22 Japan Series titles, the most recent of which they took home in 2012.

Tickets for both teams go on sale roughly two weeks before match day and can be picked up from outlets across the city.


Though not quite as avidly followed as baseball, football has risen in the last twenty years or so to become one of Japan's favourite games. Its national championship, the J-League, is the most successful soccer leagues in Asia, with huge crowds and many of the continent's best players.

A number of football teams play their home games in the capital, most prominent amongst them FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy. Though they have never won the J-League itself, FC Tokyo have twice won the J-League Cup and once won the Emperor's Cup back in 2011. If you fancy watching the beautiful game in Tokyo, then pop down to their Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu. Tokyo Verdy also play their home games at this ground, though they are currently plying their trade in the nation's second tier, after relegation in 2008. Prior to that, however, they were one of Japan's most famous and decorated teams, with 2 J-League titles, 3 J-League Cups and 2 Emperor's Cups below their belts.

The season runs from March to December and tickets can be purchased all over Tokyo.


For a truly traditional Japanese sporting experience, the curious traveller should try Sumo wrestling. Though the exact story of its origins is sketchy, Sumo has been around for about 1,500 years. If you've never seen it before, it involves two huge men, usually well above 6 feet and 20 stone, aiming to shove each other out of a small, sand covered ring. To the untrained eye this might seem awfully simplistic but, in reality, it is a game of intense skill, razor sharp timing and quick ingenuity as well as brute force.

There are over 48 sumo holds in all, involving shoves, trips, slaps, throws and carries and, though most matches won't last longer than half a minute, they often feature a dizzying combination of moves.

You can check out Sumo at the Kokugikan, in Sumid-ku in January, May or September. During each of those months, Tokyo hosts 15 day tournaments and cheap, unreserved tickets are usually available at the stadium. For the best seats, however, you will either need to book long in advance or know somebody with connections.

A walk on the weird side in Tokyo

A walk on the weird side in Tokyo

The Japanese capital offers no end of options for the visitor in search of the weird and wonderful. In fact, there might be no other city on the planet that has quite so many out there bars, restaurants, clubs and cafes. Here is a few of our favourites.

Vowz Bar

Vowz would be a pretty normal bar if it wasn't for the fact that every member of staff is a Buddhist monk. No, not a barman dressed up as a Buddhist monk or an actor portraying a Buddhist monk. An actual, 100% certified disciple of Buddhism. They are pretty talkative too, so, if you fancy learning about spirituality while relaxing with a beer, get on down to Vowz Bar.

Shinjuku 8bit Café

Retro gaming fiends will find themselves in heaven at this off-beat Shinjuku spot, where customers button bash on late 80s/ early 90s classics such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Brothers and Shinobi while DJs spin class game music and everybody drinks heavily. It's one of those kitsch, ultra-hipster ideas that seems so obvious you can't believe it hasn't been tried before. A table costs 4.50 and, for that, you get unlimited games. The crowd is not nearly as nerdy as you might imagine, as old school games are a pretty mainstream obsession in Japan.


If you like something a little different when you head out for dinner, then Kagaya might be just the thing for you. Described by some visitors as ‘the world's weirdest restaurant', it is run by owner Mark Kagaya, who has a, shall we say, interesting way to interact with the clientele. Mark is not the kind of owner who likes to sit in the back office counting the money but rather, believes in taking a hands on approach to the business. Most nights he is out on the floor taking his diners' orders using his huge collection of glove puppets, before delivering the food dressed in one of his many fancy dress costumes. Believe us, this description does not even halfway do justice to how strange it gets.

Mr Kanso

If you thought London's breakfast cereal café was the world's most strange single-food eatery, then you have not yet been to Tokyo's Mr Kanso. Here customers can choose from shelves stocked to bursting with what must be the world's largest and most varied collection of tinned food. From Spam to tuna to walrus curry and beyond, you can find just about any foodstuff on the planet stuffed into a little metal box and eat it right there on the premises.


Drinking and guns really don't mix, yet nobody told the owners of HollowPoint, Tokyo's only shooting range/pub. Customers can order a drink at the bar, hire an air gun and blast away at a selection of targets in a specially designed gallery. It's a lot safer than it sounds – after all, there are no real guns on the premises – and, if you like weaponry, a pretty fun night out.

Nakameguro Ping Pong Lounge

If you want to simultaneously pile on and burn off the pounds during an evening's boozing, then the Nakameguro Ping Pong Lounge is a good bet. Here beer and ping pong go hand in hand, with customers taking it in turns on the numerous tables between rounds.

How to eat in a Japanese restaurant

How to eat in a Japanese restaurant

How to eat in a Japanese restaurant and not offend anybody

We all know that Japan is a country that takes manners, politeness and courtesy very seriously. Though visitors are expected to make the occasional faux pas, breaking the rules of civility frequently is very bad form. If you are in Japan on business, this becomes even more of an issue as so much will depend on your ability to build a strong, respectful relationship with the people you meet.

One potential minefield for the green gaijin is the dinner table. Ensuring you behave yourself correctly when the time comes to eat could be the difference between an unpleasant atmosphere and a successful trip. Here are the essential dos and don'ts for not making a fool of yourself in a Japanese restaurant.

If you want to really show that you know how to behave yourself in Japan, then put your palms together and say "Itadakimasu" at the beginning of the meal. This simple gesture will show your hosts that you respect and appreciate their hospitality. When the meal is over, put your palms together again and say "Gochiso sama deshita."

One of the main reasons that so many Westerners have trouble with chopsticks is that they use them incorrectly. If you are served food such as rice in or noodles in a small bowl or on a small plate, lift it from the table closer to your mouth. You will find the sticks easier to use from this position. For large dishes, however, leave them on the table. If you still can't hack it, just ask for a knife and fork – nobody will be offended and you'll enjoy your meal better.

On the subject of chopsticks, it is considered extremely rude to point at anything – be it a person or an inanimate object – with your sticks.

There are certain bodily functions that the Japanese believe should be kept private. Blowing your nose and burping are absolute no-nos in any public space but are considered particularly rude when others are eating. Also, if you need to use a toothpick, make sure you keep your mouth covered at all times – nobody wants to see your teeth being cleaned.

When booze is on the menu, be careful not to seem too eager to get stuck in. Ensure everybody's glass has been filled before you put yours to your lips. Chances are there will be a toast before the table drinks. "Kampai" is the word for cheers in Japan. You can say "Cheers" if you prefer but, under no circumstances, say "Chin-Chin". It has a very different meaning in Japan than it does in the west and, trust us, it's not something you want to bring up at a business meeting.

If you finish what's in your glass, it will be taken as a sign that you are finished drinking for the meal. If you want a refill, leave a small amount and somebody will refresh it for you.

When it's time for sushi, be careful with the soy sauce. Never pour it directly on your sashimi, instead pouring it into the small dish provided and then dipping your fish into it. Do not pour more than you intend to use – the Japanese hate wasteful eating habits.

A night of karaoke in Tokyo

A night of karaoke in Tokyo

Everybody knows how popular karaoke bars are in Japan so, if you are looking for a good night out in Tokyo it is well worth stopping into one. Thought, traditionally, the locals like to book private rooms where only their friends can watch them sing their favourite hits while their own waiter delivers refreshments, there are also some wilder, western-style joints available for those that want to strut their stuff on stage.

Chief amongst them is Smash Hits on Hiroo Shotengai. Here the, often very drunk, audience sits in stadium style seating around the singers, while they belt out their favourite tunes to rapturous applause. The catalogue of songs on offer is very much well known and English and it is very popular with both ex-pats and locals alike.

Another popular variation on traditional karaoke in Tokyo is offered at Gigabar in Minami-Aoyama, where you can get on stage with a live backing band to rock out a classic number. You don't have to be the front man either, as they'll let you play guitar, bass or drums too. If you're worried about a live band limiting the choices, don't be. These guys can knock out note perfect renditions of over 200 well-known tunes, including hits by Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Beatles and more. As you can imagine, it's very much geared towards rock, so if you're the long hair and leather trouser type you'll be in heaven.

Jan Ken Pon is another venue that mixes live music with karaoke. Nestled in the heart of the busy Ebisu neighbourhood, it features an excellent cover band whose sets are interspersed with performances by the clientele. We recommend getting there in the late evening, as it sometimes takes a while to get going.

If you fancy a step into a uniquely Japanese world, then Lovenet in Roppongi could be what you are after. Like the traditional bars, customers get to choose their own private room in which to sing and drink, though these rooms are quite unlike anything you'll find elsewhere. For example, in the Aqua Suite you and your party get to sing from the comfort of your very own Jacuzzi. In the Heaven Suite, you'll find a hypnotic room with crystals beneath the glass floor. This all comes at a serious cost, however – it's about 220 pounds for the hot tub room, and that's one of the cheaper options.

Of course, you could always just go for the more traditional, laid back and, generally, less expensive option and drop into an old-school private booth bar. The most famous is probably Shindax, which is notably more comfortable, larger and more inviting than the average karaoke spot. You can get a suite for up to 40 people and the pricing is pretty competitive.

One last tip for movie fans: if you fell in love with Tokyo after watching Sofia Coppolla's Lost in Translation and fancy recreating some of its most famous scenes, then you'll want to take a trip to Karaoke Kan on Udagawa-cho. It's the bar in which Bill Murray performed More Than This in the movie.