Rainy days spoil our travel plans, no doubt. Only if weather forecasts are accurate by the time we book tickets — a long 90-day window — so our trips are often at the mercy of the elements, especially with climate change bringing in unstable weather patterns of late.
But it doesn’t mean a rainy day in Japan means spending the whole day in a swanky shopping mall, negotiate the streets armed with umbrella-like everyone else or stuck in a Starbucks outlet watching the day go by. There are things we can do to make an otherwise rainy day meaningful.
Sing at Fiesta Karaoke Bar (Roppongi)
Fiesta International Karaoke Bar in Roppongi is an ideal karaoke hangout for English speakers. It offers over 10,000 English songs from Beatles to Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears to Beyonce. Karaoke bars are usually cheaper during the daytime than in the evenings when they are more in demand.
The ¥3,500 ($30.75) per person charge includes three drinks and free karaoke until the shop closes.
Direction: From Roppongi Station (Hibiya Line) exit 3, make a left and walk about 3 minutes towards Roppongi Hills. We are on the basement floor of the building next to the Azabu Police Station. From Roppongi Station (Hibiya Line) exit 1a, make a right, and we are the second building
Address: 6-2-35 B1 Roppongi 662 building
Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 19:00-2:00 Friday – Saturday 19:00-3:00
Mori Art Museum (Roppongi)
Museums aren’t intended to be visited only during rainy days. But if it is not part of your itinerary, they might serve as a reliable backup. Mori Art Museum is at the 53rd of the 54-story Roppongi Hills Mori Tower in Roppongi. The museum does not exhibit a permanent collection but rather temporary exhibitions of works by contemporary artists.
Address: Mori Tower 52F-53F, 6-10-1 Roppongi
Opening hours: 10 AM–10 PM
Direction: Roppongi Station (Hibiya, Oedo lines), Exit 1
109 Department Store (Shibuya)
This department store with more than one hundred shops on ten floors, located just across the street from Shibuya Station. The rounded tower is one of the most famous symbols of Shibuya. This establishment competes against the Seibu Department Store chain, has its name taken from Japanese words to (10) and kyu (9). This experience is ideal for fashionable women caught on a gloomy day. Perhaps 109’s bounty can transform a rainy day into a blessing in disguise.
Address: 2 Chome-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0043
Opening hours: 10 AM–9 PM
National Film Center
The National Film Center, part of the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, hosts daily screenings and has an excellent little gallery tour. A glance shows most will have English subtitles or dialogue. But seeing a movie in Czech with Japanese subtitles, or Finnish with English subtitles and spoken Japanese narration, would be pretty cool in itself.
Address: 3-7-6 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0031
1-minute walk from exit 1, Kyobashi station, Subway Ginza Line (G-10)
1-minute walk from exit A4, Takaracho station, Subway Asakusa Line (A-12)
10 minutes walk from Yaesu south exit, Tokyo station, JR Line
Opening hours: 10 AM – 5 PM
Experience Japanese Sento or Onsen
Onsen refers to Japanese bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. Sento is a bit different as it does not use natural spring water. Sento is not just a place where people use to go to wash their body, but also to relax and to socialize. Most of them use, however, regular tap water, sometimes adding extra ingredients to the bath (most often: aromatic herbs). Spa LaQua and Seta Onsen are some of the places to go for a relaxing dip.
Address: 1 Chome-1-1 Kasuga, Tokyo
Opening hours: 11:00 AM to 9:00 AM the next morning
Fee: ¥2,634 (+¥324 during holidays and weekends)
Get Views From Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Shinjuku)
If you happen to be in Shinjuku area, why not take the chance of making a rainy day view of Tokyo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. At 202 meters high, it offers excellent (if not obstructed by the elements) aspects of the sprawling metropolis.
Address: 2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Direction: Tokyo Metro Nishi-Shinjuku Station (M07). Take the passageway to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings.
Explore the Shopping Malls
Even when you’re not into shopping (Tokyo has an excellent variety of shopping venues though it is relatively an expensive place), exploring the malls can be a rewarding experience on a rainy day.
VenusFort in Odaiba offers not only things you’ll always find in a shopping mall, but the atmosphere itself is like in a fantasyland. Among the most amazing attractions is located above, as its artificial sun generates an aura of a beautiful day and set to rise and set every 30 minutes — a must-visit for a relaxing mall experience.
1-3-15 Aomi, Koto-Ku, Tokyo 135-0064
Direction: Aomi Station, Yurikamome Line or Tokyo Teleport Station, Rinkai Line
Opening hours: 11:00am-9:00pm
Watch Films at TOHO Cinemas (Roppongi)
A usual remedy to rainy day blues is a good film and popcorn. In Tokyo, there are plenty of cinemas to go to. One of them is the Toho Cinema, from the same outfit that created the popular Godzilla character. Its Roppongi Hills location houses a nine-screen complex featuring very comfy seats.
Address: 6-10-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku Tokyo
Direction: Roppongi Station (Hibiya line), exit 1C; (Oedo line), exit 3
As expected, most, if not all, of these experiences require spending. If you’re unwilling to divert your original plan, bring that bright umbrella out and explore the neighborhood parks, streets, and people. You’ll never know you’re able to kill time quicker than you think.