Our first stop in Japan was Tokyo, and what better way to throw yourself into a new culture than the Robot Restaurant in the Red Light District. This is something you just have to see... It's a show of giant robots and people in costumes on top of them, with crazy lights and tiny fireworks and loud music. The works. It's quite strange honestly, but was a perfect introduction to Tokyo nightlife! It was about $85 USD so a little on the pricey side, but for a 90 minute show we were not disappointed.
We spent our days in Tokyo wandering the different districts. Depending on where you get off the train, the atmospheres are incredibly different. From the hushed sounds of Ginza to the crowded and chaotic Harajuku, each district gives a new perspective of Tokyo. We checked out Asakusa first, considered the "old Tokyo" district, it's famous for the Senso-ji Temple. It has a huge lantern at the entrance, and don't miss the spot where you can make a wish by shaking a metal box and grabbing the chopstick that comes out of it. The chopstick has a little number on it that corresponds to tiny drawers with numbers on them. Open the drawer and find your fortune! Asakusa is also full of street food, and I tried some sweet potato tempura and red bean hot cakes that were both amazing.
Harajuku was my personal favorite district. If you love the quirky and goth side to Tokyo fashion, this is the spot for you! Take a walk down Takeshita Street, and find the famous Kawaii desserts, like rainbow ice cream stacked stall or boba tea. Check out the Tokyo Plaza Omotesando, a mall with an entrance full of geometric mirrors designed by the award winning architect Hiroshi Nakamura.
For a different shopping experience than Haraujuku, try Shibuya and Ginza for higher end items. Shibuya is a great place for delicious dining and the go-to spot for nightlife. It's also famous for the Shibuya "Scramble" Crossing, the most heavily trafficked crosswalk in the world, located in front of the Shibuya Station.
If you're into anime and tech culture, check out Ikebukuro and Akihabara Districts.
Stop by a Pachinko place, Japanese casinos that are literally everywhere! I don't think you can win anything over $20, but they are fun to go into at least once to see them.
While I didn't get a chance to visit Hakone, if you have the time, seeing Mt. Fuji is definitely something I wish I had done in Japan. It could be a day trip, or a quick escape to the onsens after experiencing the bustling city of Tokyo.
We stayed at Sakura Hotel Hatagaya. It was pretty standard but affordable for Tokyo, and was only two stops away from Shinjuku. It was located in a more residential area, so if you are looking for nightlife nearby I wouldn't recommend staying in Hatagaya. But if you like peace and quiet but still want to be close to the train station, this is a great spot. They also offered complimentary breakfast which was a nice bonus when we wanted to wake up early and grab a quick bite before we headed out for the day.
Everywhere you go in Tokyo you can find excellent food. From ramen to conveyer belt sushi, Izakayas (traditional Japanese pubs) are on every corner and serve amazing food.
And when you are exhausted and just need a snack, the 7/11 rice balls never failed me! Try the mustard seed or the salmon flavors.
The Suica Card is essentially a metro card that works in Tokyo and Kyoto. You can purchase a Suica card at any train station and add funds whenever it runs low. I also had the 21 Day Japanese Rail Pass, which was expensive but worth it if you want to see more than just Kyoto and Tokyo. The Japanese Rail Pass must be purchased in advance in your country, you can't buy it once you are already in Japan. So I recommend estimating how much you will spend on transportation and planning out the destinations you want to see to decide if it's right for you!