Tokyo, Japan has been one of my DREAM destinations for so long. Between the rich culture, the incredible food scene, and the never-ending list things to do, it is no wonder this place is frequented by many.
Everywhere you look, its an assault to your senses. Tall technicolored buildings, beautiful parks and temples, traditional neighborhoods, and whacky cafes.
Even though our trip was scheduled months away, I scoured the internet (slightly obsessively) in order to put together a list of the most epic things to do in Tokyo. Honestly, after spending two weeks in the country, I can say it definitely lived up to its expectation and more. Never have I been so enthralled by a city before.
So regardless if you’re just looking for inspiration, or planning a trip for yourself, read up enjoy, and start dreaming of your own trip to Tokyo.
- Go on a Food Crawl
- Wander around Hamirikyu Gardens
- Eat Your Way Around Tsukiji Fish Market
- Visit Yoyogi Park
- Walk around Shinjuku
- Wander Around Harajuku
- Have a Sushi Kaiseki Meal
- Eat a Cheese Tart
- Observe the Busy Streets of Shibuya Crossing
- Go to the Robot Restaurant
- Enjoy the Tokyo Skyline
- Play Real Life Mario Cart
- Visit Sensoji Temple
- Watch Sumo Wrestlers Practice
- Go Ramen Hunting
- Visit the Statue of Liberty and Rainbow Bridge
- Have a Drink in Golden Gai
- Eat Yakitori and Wander around Omoide Yokocho
- Try Out a Cooking Class
- Stuff Your Face with Conveyer Belt Sushi
- Visit the Team Labs Digital Art Museum
- Sample Various Japanese Deserts
- See the Cherry Blossoms
- Where to Stay in Tokyo
Go on a Food Crawl
Admittedly, my love for Japan has a lot to do with food so it’s no surprise that Food Tours make it to the top of my list. Explore the best of Tokyo by going on a food and bar crawl with local guides around popular neighborhoods like Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Asakusa. In order to experience the best of the best, check out these guided tours in Tokyo by MagicalTrip.
Not only do they have awesome Food Tours, but they also have cultural, walking, and cycling tours as well. A few of our top picks that we are also itching to try are their karaoke night tour, Ryogoku sumo wrestling tours, and their Anime and Gaming Adventure Tour in Akihabara.
In our 4 years of travel, small local tours are definitely the best way to see a place. The local guides are able to provide so much insight and insider tips to the culture (and food), making it an unforgettable experience. Plus, the guides are all heaps of fun, really making you feel at home!
During our time in Tokyo, we went on a Shinjuku Bar Hopping Tour as well as a foodie tour around Akasaka. In both tours, we had a BLAST as we interacted with locals (and new found friends) all while learning about the local culture. This was a trip highlight and is something I highly recommend. Oh, and the food in every place we went to was SO GOOD.
Wander around Hamirikyu Gardens
If you want to surround yourself with nature, Hamarikyu Garden is the perfect place to sit back, relax, and enjoy nature. Located right in the middle of the city, we went to this park to walk off all the sushi that we ate from Tsukiji market. They had a couple of tea houses inside the park where you can order a cup of matcha paired with a sweet dessert.
Eat Your Way Around Tsukiji Fish Market
Although the inner Tsukiji Market closed last October, the outer market is still very much alive and bustling. If you’re feeling in the mood to eat (and you should always be while in this country), head to the outer market and gorge on the beautiful array of street food.
Everything from fresh blowtorched scallops, uni, to skewers of fresh seafood. This place is indeed foodie heaven. If you still want to experience the vibes of inner Tsukiji Market, they relocated and was renamed as Toyosu Market. The new market is set to have a viewing deck for tourists to watch the popular fish auction.
Visit Yoyogi Park
If you’re not a city person, the key to enjoying Tokyo is by taking breaks in their many parks, temples, and shrines. One of the most famous is Yoyogi Park in Shibuya. Sprawling with open lawns, picnic areas, and cycling paths, this park is really popular amongst the locals.
Apart from being a beautiful park, this place is also home to the popular Meiji Shrine which pays homage to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. If you’re looking to take a break, Yoyogi Park is the perfect place to sit back and take a breather.
Walk around Shinjuku
If you’ve ever been to New York, people liken Shinjuku to Time Square. It’s vibrant, bright, and busy! Known as the entertainment, shopping, and business district of Tokyo, walking around Shinjuku, especially at night is a must! There are so many things to look at and even if you’re not a big shopper, this area is a must.
Wander Around Harajuku
If you’re looking for a funky place to spend a day, Harajuku will not disappoint. Filled to the brim with everything weird and wacky, this place has a little bit of something for everyone. Head to the popular Takeshita Street where you can people watch and enjoy the many crazy and somewhat bizarre Japanese trends. From themed cafes, lolita garbed teens to fashion-forward boutique stores, this place honestly seems larger than life at times!
One of the best things to do in Harajuku is people watch so go ahead and find a crazy cafe to sit down and watch this fascinating world unfold around you. If you’re looking for a popular lunchtime spot, Harajuku Gyozaro for some gyozas is a super popular (and cheap) spot to go to! Eating some crepes is a must as well while in the area.
Have a Sushi Kaiseki Meal
While there are heaps of delicious sushi everywhere in Japan, having a nice sit down meal is part of the entire experience. During our stay at the Hyatt Regency, we ate in their Japanese restaurant, Miyako. Having only 14 seats in the entire place, as soon as you enter, you get top-notch professional service.
We decided to go for a lunchtime kaiseki meal which consisted of 14 or so nigiri, handpicked for us by the sushi chef, using whatever fresh fish came in that day. Dish after dish we were wowed by the simplicity and freshness of the ingredients.
The best part about the experience was watching the chef create these dishes right in front of our eyes. After seeing them at work, I am truly convinced that sushi making is a craft and an art form! If you fancy going for a kaiseki meal while in Tokyo, we recommend going for lunch as it is usually cheaper than dinner. The set meals start off at around $50 per person and was 100% worth every bite!
Eat a Cheese Tart
If you’ve never had a Japanese cheese tart, do yourself a favor and try out these little cups of deliciousness. In Tokyo (and all over the country), there are two main brands, Baked Cheese Tart or Pablo. Both are delicious but we do prefer Baked as they usually come fresh out of the oven. The first time we tried these, we went back for seconds, as soon as we took our first bite!
Observe the Busy Streets of Shibuya Crossing
If you want to get a feel of Tokyo and its hustle and bustle, head to the famous Shibuya Crossing otherwise known as the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble Crossing. If you want to get a good view of this busy intersection, head to the Starbucks in Tsutaya or Estacion Cafe in Excel Hotel Tokyu catch a bird’s eye view of this place.
If you want to catch this scene in all its glory, head here in the late evening in order to catch a glimpse of all the technicolored lights and people. It is really one of the most iconic sights in all of Tokyo.
If you’re in the area, drop by the famous statue of Hatchiko, Japan’s famous loyal dog. If you don’t know who that is, I recommend you watch the film (don’t forget the tissues!).
Go to the Robot Restaurant
As mentioned, Japan is known for the weird and wacky which is why it is no surprise that one of their top attractions is the famous robot restaurant. If you close your eyes and imagine what a robot restaurant would look like, chances are, you will see it during the show.
Bright lights, elaborate dances, robots, lasers…you know, the works. The entire experience is a sensory overload…but in a good way. I mean, who doesn’t love robots? We do recommend that you save your appetite for somewhere else as the restaurant is popular for the show and not necessarily the food.
Enjoy the Tokyo Skyline
As you would in any busy metropolis, enjoying the incredible view of the skyline is a must. Tokyo, naturally is no exception. While gazing out into this incredible view, the Tokyo Skytree (the tallest building in Tokyo) stands out amongst it all. They have an observation deck on the 350th floor giving you access to one of the most vibrant skylines imaginable.
If you want to save some money (and steer clear of the crowds), you can also head to the 52nd floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building located in Shinjuku. This is an awesome alternative for those that don’t want to spend money.
Play Real Life Mario Cart
Although we personally didn’t get to do this due to lack of time, one of the most outrageously fun things you can do in Tokyo is rent go-karts and drive around the city, Mario Cart style! This usually includes a briefing, plus costume rentals so you can paint the town red with your crew. If this is something you’re interested in, you can make reservations here.
Visit Sensoji Temple
Located in the beautiful area of Asakusa, Sensō-ji temple is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple and is visited by many. I advice heading here either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. We made the mistake of visiting mid-day and although it was impressive, there were too many people for our liking!
Watch Sumo Wrestlers Practice
Another big part of Japanese culture is sumo wrestling. You can immerse yourself in this cultural activity by either watching them practice or if you’re lucky, watch them compete in a tournament. These shows or even the practice rounds come high in demand so make sure you book and reserve to avoid disappointment.
Sumo wrestling tournaments happen in the following months:
- January- Tokyo
- March- Osaka
- May- Tokyo
- July- Nagoya
- September- Tokyo
- November- Fukuoka
It truly is a fascinating sport to watch! If you’re not there during the tournament times, watch them practice during their morning Keiko practice. This can fill up easily so I recommend you make use of tours similar to that of Magical Tours to reserve a spot.
Go Ramen Hunting
Naturally, one cannot go to Tokyo without hunting the best Ramen joins. Being someone who is obsessed with Ramen, there are tons of options to choose from. Whilst ordering can be a bit difficult as you have to order using machines, for the most part, you can always count on the food to be delicious.
If you’re willing to wait, there are also a few Michelin Starred ramen joints like Tsuta Ramen and Nakiryu, offering you the chance to like a king…for around $15 max. The waiting time for some of these places can take up to two hours but if you’re willing to wait, it is so worth it!
Visit the Statue of Liberty and Rainbow Bridge
Fun fact…there is a Statue of Liberty in Tokyo called the Odaiba Statue of Liberty. Although it is much smaller compared to the one in New York, it still is pretty impressive, especially when you admire it together with the stunning Rainbow Bridge in the background. The statue is located near Odaiba-kaihinkoen Station and provides a dramatic photograph in the night time.
Have a Drink in Golden Gai
If you want a taste of Tokyo, head on over to Shinjuku’s famous Golden Gai which is a collection of over 180 restaurants and bars. These establishments are usually tiny (think 5-8 people) which adds to the overall appeal of the place. Bar or restaurant hop between the many different places and experience a slice of Tokyo’s nightlife.
Eat Yakitori and Wander around Omoide Yokocho
Before heading to Golden Gai, wander around the iconic tiny alleys in Omoide Yokocho where you can enjoy simple yakitori meals and cold beer. Locals usually come here after work to eat and drink so expect a lot of people.
Try Out a Cooking Class
If you love food, a cooking class while in Japan is considered as a MUST. Although we didn’t get to do any in Tokyo, we did do one in Kyoto so the entire experience is still very much recommended. If this is something you’re interested in, check out these cooking classes in Japan.
Stuff Your Face with Conveyer Belt Sushi
Although there are loads of high-end sushi restaurants, going to a local conveyor belt style sushi is a must at least for the experience of it. During our time in Japan, conveyor belt sushi was our go-to breakfast. While having raw fish first thing in the morning sounds odd, we loved it! We recommend this one in Shinjuku area. We usually use google maps to find one near our location and scour through the reviews to see if its any good.
Visit the Team Labs Digital Art Museum
This place was one of the highlights of our trip! Even if you’re not a museum person, a trip to this place is a must. Home to one of the coolest light exhibits I’ve ever seen, teamLab Borderless is an interactive space where you can immerse yourself in various light exhibits. This place is HUGE so definitely a lot an entire afternoon or morning.
The place has different areas and themed rooms. Be warned though that there are tons of people all trying to get that perfect Instagram shot (us included).
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Sample Various Japanese Deserts
One of the best things to do in Tokyo is to walk around and sample various street food. If you have a sweet tooth, you will LOVE walking around everywhere as you see various types of sweet treats. From strawberry topped chocolate filled mochi balls to Macha flavored ice cream to sweet crepes, the list is endless. Bottom line, try them all!
See the Cherry Blossoms
Year after year, thousands of tourists flock to Japan during Cherry Blossom or Hanami Season in order to witness the beautiful display of pink flowers. While in Tokyo, despite being a busy metropolitan city, there is no shortage of places to enjoy the stunning flowers bloom.
A few places we recommend are Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno Park which have thousands of trees blooming during the right season. Most of the time, the cherry blossoms bloom late March/April which is why you would need to plan and book hotels ahead of time as it really is a busy season.
Where to Stay in Tokyo
Tokyo is a HUGE city. Despite their super-efficient metro system, getting from one neighborhood to the next can be time-consuming which is why we recommend you choose your hotels wisely. We stayed in three locations while we were in Tokyo and can recommend them all as they all have good connections to the Metro and JR lines.
The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon
As we landed in Tokyo, we first stayed in The Gate Hotel in Asakusa. As soon as you land in Narita International Airport, you can get an airport train heading straight to Asakusa Station. This was super convenient as we were exhausted from our flight. The rooms here are nicely decorated and pretty spacious for Japan’s standards.
Although we landed quite late, we were eager to check the rooftop bar of the hotel. They have a hotel bar as well as a private rooftop for guests which had the perfect view of the Tokyo Sky Tree. We sat outside in the deck close to the space heaters and stared up at the beautiful skyline.
It was honestly the perfect welcome to the city! What we loved the most about staying in this hotel was the location and their breakfast brunch. The neighborhood of Asakusa was very local with lots of restaurants, temples, and local parks. It wasn’t overly touristy which we also loved. As for the breakfast, I don’t need to say much about it as it has been voted as the No.1 breakfast spot in Tokyo in 2018…plus, I don’t think anything can beat that breakfast view (check out the image below)
Hyatt Regency Tokyo
If you want to stay in the heart of all the action, we can recommend the Hyatt Regency located in Shinjuku. Conveniently located in the bustling center, we decided to stay here as we wanted to be close to a lot of the main attractions and bars.
The hotel itself is huge, boasting of six different restaurants as well as a private bar and patisserie. The rooms here are HUGE, giving you a fantastic view of the city. It was pouring cats and dogs on our last day in the hotel which is why we decided to stay in and make use of their fantastic spa facilities and gym. They also offer two types of meals in the morning, a traditional Japanese breakfast or a more traditional Western buffet.
Hopefully, this list has given you some travel inspiration and ideas for your trip to Tokyo. While I know I have only scratched the surface with this list (Tokyo is one of those cities where it’s impossible to run out of things to do!), I hope you enjoyed it none the less.
Whatever you do, enjoy the sights, take in as much of the culture as you can, and lastly, eat and try every dish you see- trust me, you can’t go wrong with these three tips!
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