Tokyo can never get boring—it has a plethora of bucket list worthy things to do and fun attractions to visit. While I was in Japan’s top city, I ate beef that was creatively shaped like a brain, served to me inside of my private jail cell by women dressed in pink nurses’ outfits. I drank my coffee next to a dozen felines at a quirky cat café, confirming my preference for dogs. And I found out exactly what all the buttons on the Japanese toilet do (enjoying some outcomes much more than others).
There are not many places that would provide such peculiar and cool forms of entertainment, but Tokyo is a city of many colorful facets; a mix of avant-garde and traditional. It is a town where the illuminated skyscrapers cohabitate with historic temples, unusual anime shops and cherry blossom lined streets. It is a cool destination where your itinerary can include attending a lively tuna auction hours before daybreak, nightlife that can include eating skewers of yakitori in the seedy Piss Alley or scrambling across one of the biggest intersections in the world with hundreds of others.
In other words the city is freaking fabulous and here are the best things to do in Tokyo:
1. Buy Some Vinyl at HMV Records
Tokyo is a paradise for Vinyl Lovers! They have more record shops than any other city in the world with new collections brought in every month. HMV Records is a huge store filled with Vinyl Records. We recommend you bring along plenty of cash because you will surely get lost amidst aisles of wonder records making you nostalgic and rekindling your passion for music. This vast second-hand record shop has plenty of items and genres for music lovers. They also have a handful of cassettes with a special corner for them along with CDs.
2. Experience TeamLab Borderless
It’s hard to explain TeamLab Borderless, you really have to experience it. The digital art museum is an immersive world where the artwork has no boundaries. There is no map or ‘right way to go’, you move freely from room to room of three-dimensional 10,000 square meter building exploring and discovering. You will find things like the Athletic Forest that helps you think of the world three-dimensionally and, the most instagrammed room, the forest of lamps where hundreds hang from the ceilings. Book your ticket here.
3. Watch Wrestling Practice at a Sumo Stable
You can’t fully understand the intensity of the sumo wrestling sport unless you are up close and personal at an intense morning practice session to witness the panting, grunting and dripping sweat. The practices at the sumo wrestling stable are not attractions created for tourists—the athletes are not putting on a show for you—they are in serious training and need to be shown respect while you are there.
Though there are over 40 training stables, most in the Ryogoku district, only a few accept visitors. The most common are Kasugano Beya, Takasago Beya and Musashigawa Beya. Make sure to call ahead to confirm that they will be having practice on the day you arrive! Or for an even easier option just book a Morning Sumo Training tour, or take a peek at this list of sumo related experience that you can quickly book online.
If you don’t speak Japanese seeing a practice on your own may be a little tricky (I went to Hakkaku Sumo Stable and needed a translator). But, it was worth the effort because seeing this Japanese tradition was definitely one of the Top 10 things I did in Tokyo!
4. See a Professional Sumo Match
Sumo is the world famous Japanese style wrestling match which began in ancient times as a ritual to entertain the Shinto deities. And after you’ve seen them practice at the sumo stable, witness the traditional sport live and in all its glory! During the tournament months (January, May and September) you can get tickets for each day of the 15-day tournaments, or just one. I highly recommend the ringside seats which is the closest seating available to the wrestling ring with cushions on the floor.
It’s possible to find a few seats available on tournament day, but it’s best to get them in advance. You can see upcoming tournaments and book tickets here.
5. Make a Stop at Meiji Shrine
The historical significance of the Meiji Shrine cannot be overstated. The shrine was made for the first emperor of modern Japan – Emperor Meiji. You enter this austere and mystical place through a 40-foot high tori gate and find yourself surrounded by a 200-acre park with a 100,000 trees. Wow!
The cleansing station has a communal water tank for purification of the hand and mouth before offering prayers. You can also write your wishes and tie them up to the prayer wall. The Meiji Jingu Treasure House is at the northern end of the shrine where you will find several personal belongings of the Emperor, as well as a beautiful Inner Garden with blooming flowers and a rustic well.
6. Attend a Baseball Game
The game of baseball isn’t just one of America’s favorite pastime, the Japanese are passionate about it too. Things are just done a bit differently when you attend a baseball game in Japan, like waving umbrellas for home runs, snacking on edamame and having cheerleaders. Though the Yomiuri Giants at the Tokyo Dome draw larger crowds, you can also see the Tokyo Swallows play at the outdoor Jingu Stadium.
It may be possible to snag some tickets on the day of the game, but not guaranteed! So, if seeing a Japanese baseball game is high on your things to do list then buy tickets to a game online.
7. Go to Dinner at a Ninja Restaurant
At Ninja Shinjuku a small robot in the corner starts to speak to you as a sliding door opens and leads you down a narrow hallway. Shoji doors open and lead you to a small room where dinner is served. This is not the kitschy place where spry ninjas pop down from the ceiling and serve mediocre food, it’s more of a molecular gastronomy experience where smoke billows out of a box to uncover a beautifully executed salad and Kobe beef is served with a trio of unique dipping sauces.
Dessert was served inside a basement room, along with a “ninja show” which really was more like a magic show—impressive none the less. But what was even more impressive was the bonsai tree dessert whose branches needed to be trimmed with scissors in order to eaten and the base was a sweet crumb that looked just like dirt. Genius.
8. Go to the Intermediatheque Museum
The Intermediatheque (IMT) Museum is a psychedelic world of its own. Located in the Kitte Marunouchi building near the Tokyo Station, you’ll find yourself lost amidst the ancient wonders and treasures left behind for us by extinct civilizations. From early steam engines to Egyptian mummies, this kaleidoscopic wonderland has everything preserved and on display. Get inspired by the tribal art or see your kids’ faces light up by the wildlife specimens and the 19th century raconteurs of flora and fauna.
Allow yourself at least half a day to absorb the richness and literary brilliance of this place!
9. Play a Game of Pachinko
Pachinko is a Japanese arcade game where the object is to fire balls that will then fall through a maze of metal pins. Try to capture as many balls as possible into the center hole. If you walk through the Shinjuku district, you won’t be able to miss the Pachinko Parlors with their flashing neon and clinking of the balls. It can be an addictive, yet fun thing to do in Tokyo!
Understanding the game of Pachinko can be tricky without lessons or guidance from someone who knows the in-and-outs. You can book the Original Japanese Entertainment tour and you’ll get a half hour lesson along with playing time.
10. Spend the Night in the Hello Kitty Room
You don’t need to be a diehard Hello Kitty fan to enjoy this must see (and sleep in) room. Slink over to Shinjuku and spend the night in the fun Hello Kitty Room at Keio Plaza Hotel. The room is decked out in the cats signature decor and you can even get yourself breakfast with kitty shaped/stamped food.
11. Walk Across Shibuya Crossing
The iconic Shibuya Crossing is on most visitors “things to do in Tokyo” attraction itinerary because it is dubbed as the busiest intersection in the world, which means it won’t be difficult to find yourself there when it’s insanely packed. While crowds may not be something you wish for your everyday life, trust me, you’ll want participate in the organized chaos that ensues when hundreds of people walk across the intersection at once.
For a different perspective, watch the crossing from the 2nd-story window of the Starbucks on the North side or from the 47th floor of Shibuya Scramble Square building. For an even more unique bucket list experience, walk Shibuya crossing in a kimono. Don’t forget to check out the famous Hachiko Statue right between the intersection and Shibuya Station before you set on your way! And perhaps commit yourself to some window shopping at Shibuya’s massive record stores after?
12. Try Batto, the ‘Art of Swordsmanship’
Batto, the art of swordsmanship, is a discipline that very few have mastered, but at HiSUi Tokyo you will be one step closer as you take their comprehensive course with a real katana (a long, single-edged sword used by samurai). These techniques and swords were vital in order for the samurai to protect the community and reigning lords.
13. Get the View at Shibuya Sky
Make your way to the tall Shibuya Scramble Square building and climb to the 47th floor, to the Shibuya Sky. This rooftop observatory will get you a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the city. You can even see the chaos of the famous Shibuya Crossing from way up there.
14. Unleash Your Inner Anime Fan!
Japan is the birthplace of anime, the Japanese term for animation, so while you’re there make the most of it! If you’re an anime fan then there are so many shops that sell anime products, like Mandarake in Shibuya, as well as themed cafes (here are 8 good ones!) for you to explore. Even if you’re not a fan then it is still amazing to go and immerse yourself in the culture.
15. Stroll Through Yoyogi Park
Taking a walk through Yoyogi Park is a grand experience all on its own. You’ll be setting foot on the ground which represents the ancient facets of Japan, as it was once a site of military barracks, and even served as an Olympics Gymnasium in 1964. The park is divided in two parts by a wide road, one side of which is a dense forest area where people usually take their strolls and enjoy the natural beauty of the place, have picnics and barbecues. The latter has a stadium and an outdoor stage that hold exclusive events and food festivals.
16. Attend a Kabuki Theater Show
Kabuki is a unique form of Japanese theater where they combine song, mime, dance, costume design and elaborate makeup that is typically performed solely by men. At Kabuki-za you can buy Single Act tickets just to get an introduction to the style of theater, or opt for the whole show. It’s easy to get your tickets online here.
17. Get a Photo of the Giant Godzilla Head
Godzilla is thankfully not wreaking havoc on the streets of Tokyo anymore, but you can still see him peeking through the 8th floor of Hotel Gracery in the Toho Building. The Godzilla Head is a popular attraction in Shinjuku with its giant 39-foot reptilian head, piercing eyes and sharp pointy teeth! You can see him from the busy street 130-feet below, or take the elevator up to get a closer peek. Keep your eyes open for the new Godzilla Viewing Room coming in the Spring.
18. Learn About the History at Edo-Tokyo Museum
Edo is Tokyo’s old name, and the Edo-Tokyo Museum conserves the historical culture and traditions of the city. It almost felt as if I was approaching a UFO when walking towards the building, but then I learnt that the architecture was inspired by the old Tokyo warehouse raised on stilts—it has an ultramodern feel to it with a lot of character. During my 2-hour tour, I marveled at the handcrafted figurines with unique clothing and expressions, the massive cavern room, the replica of Nihonbashi Bridge, recreations of houses and transports of the ancient people, market areas and stage settings of theatrical performances. The place will be your guide to understanding how Tokyo evolved to be one of the most influential cities of the world.
19. Sing Karaoke
What to do in Tokyo for nightlife? Karaoke, of course. It is a big part of their culture and a huge attraction tourists as well as locals. Tokyo has plenty of fun (& sometimes weird) Karaoke bars where you can belt out a few tunes. One of the more well-known is Karaoke Kan, which was the location for Bill Murray’s singing session in the movie Lost in Translation. But, there are other clubs as well, and you can find some top ones here: 10 of the Best Bars in Tokyo for Karaoke and Other Weird Stuff.
20. See the Tokyo Tower at Night
The Tokyo Tower is the second tallest architectural wonder of Japan. Standing at a height of 1092 feet, the tower glimmers with lights and serves as one of the symbolic features of the city. It is a true marvel to see at the night time, especially because the illumination themes change according to seasons and occasions. You can see it from afar (here are the best place to do it) or you can also go up to the special observation deck and get a night time view of the city (book your ticket here). It is a sight you’ll never forget!
21. Get an Umbrella at Cool Magic SHU’s Umbrella Shop
A store solely dedicated to umbrellas? Yep, that’s exactly what Cool Magic Shu’s is. It may take you hours of perusing the aisles to find your perfectly designed rain protection, but it will be fun doing it!
22. Use all the Buttons on a Japanese Toilet
I’m sure your asking yourself, “can a toilet really be worthy of a spot on your Tokyo Things to Do in Tokyo Bucket List“? Yes, in this case it can. A Japanese commode isn’t any ordinary potty, it’s like a spa for your private parts. Not only will your butt be warm with their seated heats, but they can also clean your derrière with a hot stream of water. Plus, many public restroom stalls will play the sounds of chirping birds to mask any other noises that may be happening! Luckily, you can experience these toilets at many restaurants, hotels and public attractions.
23. Visit the Red & White Cats at Gotokuji Temple
The Gotokuji Temple is a place that comes with a highly engaging, legendary tale of the maneki neko–the beckoning cats. They are believed to bring good luck and are a symbolic figure of the temple. The visitors make offerings and prayers in front of thousands of red and white cat statues. The kitties are all wearing a red collar with a hanging golden bell and a paw raised in the air to bring you good fortune! You’ll also find cat art in the neighborhood leading up to the temple—a treat for all the cat lovers out there.
24. Do a Kimono Fitting
Wearing a kimono is a large part of the Japanese culture. A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that is typically worn by women on special occasions. There are few places to be fitted for a kimono while traveling to Tokyo, but you can find a couple. My personal tour guide, Tomomi, offers private fittings in her home (this is my story about it: Do a Kimono Fitting in Tokyo, Japan), whereas you can book one of these two tours with Voyagin:
25. Visit the Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is the place of residence of Japan’s Imperial family. It has a beautiful park area surrounded by grand stone walls and moats in the center of Tokyo. The main Palace area is open only on the New Year’s Greeting Event on January 2nd and the Emperor’s Birthday on the 23rd of December, but the palace exterior grounds are open for public throughout the year. There are two bridges that can be viewed right from the Kokyo Gaien plaza that’s right out from the the palace and the Imperial Palace East Gardens are amongst the best places for a stroll.
26. Buy a Japanese Knife
Japanese knives are known to be some of the best in the world due to there keen edges, quality of steel and made-by-hand techniques. Being a restaurateur, I could not leave Tokyo without bringing one home with me! Though I bought mine at Masahisa, there are plenty of other reputable knife shops around town. You can try walking down Kappabashi Street, the kitchen district. Not only will you find plenty of knife shops, but you will also find every kitchen product imaginable, including plastic food samples used as window displays by many restaurants. For more help, read: How and Where to Buy Knives in Tokyo.
27. Walk Across the Rainbow Bridge
The iconic Rainbow Bridge of Japan got its name because in the month December it’s lit up like a rainbow. The suspension bridge has a pedestrian pathway on both its north and south ends. It is free to take a walk across and takes about 25 minutes on foot, but you can also go on a bicycle. The north route has breathtaking views of the Tokyo Tower along with stunning skyscrapers around Roppongi and Toranomon, Toyosu and the Shiodome area. The south route offers views of Odaiba as well as the neighboring islands and the Shinagawa area.
28. Relax at an Onsen
Relaxing in a hot springs bath, an onsen, is a top Japanese tradition that you don’t want to miss. There are plenty of them in Tokyo (you can see some of the best ones here), but Ooedo Onsen Monogatari is a popular one because it’s an onsen theme park where you can soak in one of their baths, get your fortune told and/or have a foot massage. There’s plenty of entertainment on the premises to keep you occupied for at least an afternoon.
29. Go to Tokyo Disneyland
Welcome to the happiest place in the world—Disneyland Tokyo edition! It is highly recommended that you spend at least 2 days here to enjoy all the wonderful attractions and food. There are several fun attractions unique to Tokyo Disneyland, like Dream Lights with a magical nighttime light parade (Minnie oh! Minnie!), the interactive Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek and Western River Railroad to name a few.
You can book admission tickets and transfers here. Also consider splurging a little by staying at the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel which is at a short walk from the theme park and comes with many perks.
30. Visit 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT
If you are a fan of unique design then stopping at the 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT is a must! This contemporary design exhibition hall is the brain child of fashion designer Issey Miyake and architect Tadao Ando. It’s located in Tokyo’s midtown, an upscale section in the Roppongi area of the city.
The beauty of this places starts with the exterior architecture and moves about through the different gallery spaces. The artwork changes with some of the themes being things like “Secret Source of Inspiration: Designers’ Hidden Sketches and Mockups” and “Chocolate” that focused on the unique social attributes related to chocolate.
During my visit they had a beautiful chair exhibit, each designed by current and former members of the Japan Design Committee. The best part was that you were encouraged to sit in them all!
31. Visit the Meguro Parasitological Museum
The Meguro Parasitological Museum is one of a kind, and the only one in existence that displays the weirdly fascinating collection from the world of parasites! It is a unique experience that you’ll carry with you all your life, although if parasites make you feel squeamish, you may need to cover your eyes because the skin crawling museum has parasites from all facets of life on display in hundreds of jars. Even though it sounds gross, you’re bound to be intrigued by its bizarreness, and it may even end up being top of your favorite thing to do in Tokyo!
32. Go to a Maid Cafe
Maid cafés are all the buzz in Japan! They are fun cosplay restaurants where waitresses are dressed up as working maids to serve the customers as a master in a private home rather than as a café patron. The key word is “iyashi” that translates into “to be soothed”.
Your quintessential Victorian maid fantasy will come to life with spa like services, scrumptious food along with relaxing classical music while you are enveloped by verdurous greenery! There are numerous maid cafés in Tokyo (you can see some of the top ones here), each offering a unique service with the cutest undertones like chanting “moe moe kyun” to make your drinks taste better or writing over your food with ketchup! It is definitely something to look out for.
If you don’t want to navigate a maid cafe on your own, you can book one of these tours with Voyagin: Akihabara Tour with Your Own Personal Maid! or Enjoy Maid Cafe Maidreamin in Akihabara.
33. Go to a Cat Cafe
Tokyo is filled with weird things to do and going to a cat cafe ranks really high on that list. Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku is an attraction that gives you the opportunity to play with unique feline breeds while drinking a cup of coffee. So odd that it’s definitely worth a spot on your things to do in Tokyo bucket list itinerary. If you prefer, you can also play with cute hedgehogs in Roppongi!
34. Dine in a Jail Cell
Most people would avoid (at all costs) dining in a jail cell, but Alcatraz ER will give you an offbeat dining experience of a lifetime. This restaurant is designed as a jail and each cell or prison represents a dining area for a group. Staff that are well dressed in nurse uniforms tend to the call of the bang of a metal rod against the cells bars.
Brave diners (like myself!) will nosh on things like blue curry served in a urine tin or drink cocktails out of dummy’s head. Can you ever imagine eating sausage in the shape of bowel movement; well this place has more quirkiness to offer than you can imagine. A must have nightlife experience for your Tokyo itinerary even you prefer not to visit again.
35. Go to Yasukuni Shrine
The Yasukuni Shrine is the most interesting and possibly the most controversial place in Japan. Founded in 1869, this place is said to hold 2.5 million shrines! It was made in honor of the men who lost their lives in the Boshin War and has expanded to include war martyrs since then.
The entrance of the shrine is made from a massive gray metal Daicihi Torii standing at a height of 72 feet and giving it an eerie feel. The arch then gets smaller with a Daini Torii which is the second shrine gate, and the Shinmon gate which leads into the area of shrine. The Chumon Torrii then leads into the main hall. Photography isn’t allowed but there is a lot to take in with rich cultural significance and a war museum.
36. See a Show at the Robot Restaurant
From the moment you enter The Robot Restaurant lounge to the time you depart, you will feel like you are diving into the colors of neon that bounce off the mirrors. There are dramatic fights between bikini clad girls riding atop robots, the sound of the cast playing the charismatic drums and visitors are given a glow-stick to cheer during all the action.
This place is more dedicated to a flashy show than on food, but you can order a sushi bento box or caramel popcorn to dine on while you are entertained. Plus, flowing beer and a few drinks are available, but the core attraction is the captivating chaos of the show.
Though you can buy tickets at the door, you can get them at a discount by booking in advanced at Voyagin.
37. Indulge in a Massive Matcha Dessert
Offbeat food in Tokyo is not limited to main meals, but extends to sweet desserts too, and some of the most popular is made from matcha, a green tea. Desserts like ice-cream, mousse, cream, jelly and many more variations are available. But, I say if you are going to do it go big! I ordered this this quadruple layered matcha gateaux chocolate parfait that was topped with an entire piece of cake! Yes, I ate the whole thing! No shame.
The most popular hot spots serving these delectable and divine tasting desserts are Kinozen, Marunouchi Café, Nana’s Green Tea (that’s where I ate) and many more.
38. Attend a Tuna Auction
You will need to wake up really early for a chance to go to the famous tuna auction at Tsukiji Fish Market (folks start lining up before 4am). But, it will be worth getting an insiders view of the buyers checking the fish quality and bidding for their prize one. After, explore Tsukiji’s inner and outer market where you can watch them expertly cut the large tunas they just purchased.
You can go on your own or book a tour:
39. Participate in a Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony
Happo-en Japanese Garden sits in Shirokanedai district of Tokyo and is an exquisite example of natural beauty with its ancient bonsai, koi pond and blanket of cherry blossoms in the Springtime. Not only is it a beautiful representation of a Japanese garden, but you can schedule to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony where you will be drinking Matcha in their wooden Muan tea house.
40. Bar Hop in Golden Gai
What’s a trip to Tokyo without a little nightlife? Golden Gai is a neighborhood in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo that squeezes in over 200 miniature bars into a network of six narrow alleys, made only for pedestrians. Enjoy the unique Japanese nightlife by bar hopping in the section of town where most of the drinking holes only seat 8-12 people total. Ready to go? Get the location here or just book a Kabukicho and Shinjuku Golden Gai Night Tour.
Want to read more about bar hopping in Golden Gai? See this article—Shinjuku Nightlife: A Guide to Tokyo’s Best Golden Gai Bars.
41. Learn to Make Classic Japanese Ramen at Chagohan
You can eat ramen all over the city, but how about learning to make it? At Chagohan you can learn this skill (and dine on it afterwards!).
FYI: This isn’t the only ramen cooking class, there are re plenty of others and you can see a list at Cookly.
42. Eat at the Kill Bill Inspiration Restaurant
Gonpachi restaurant, in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, is known as being the inspiration for the fight scene from the Kill Bill movie and it’s easy to spot the similarities. Not only can you enjoy the interior design, but you can also indulge in a bowl of Soba.
43. Make Your Own Matcha at the Urasando Garden Mini-Mall
The Urasando Garden is a collection of shops within a traditional Japanese–style house giving you the ultimate kick of nostalgia as soon as you enter. It gets its name from its unique location at the back street of Omotesando, hence the name Urasando meaning “ura” – back and “omote” – front.
There are many fun things to do and shops to explore, but what makes the best visit is being able to make your own matcha. You can choose your own cup and blend your own matcha alongside houjicha-flavored chocolate and cream filled breads!
44. Eat Chankonabe (Sumo Wrestlers Stew)
Chankonabe is the nutritious stew that sumo wrestlers eat daily as part of their bulking up diet. It is a hearty dish that is relatively healthy, low in fat, high in protein and filled with tons of veggies. There are many Chankonabe restaurants in Tokyo, conveniently located close to the sumo stables where the wrestlers practice and live. But, Yoshiba is the most unique because it is located in an old sumo stable with a sumo dohyo (ring) right in the center of the dining room (this is where I had my chankonabe experience in Tokyo).
If you’re interested in booking a tour instead of navigate somewhere to each chankonabe here are a couple highly rate ones:
45. Drink a Cat Coffee at Oshiage Nyanko
Are you a cat person who loves coffee? This quaint little café boasts stuff dreams are made of! Tucked away in a tiny pocket-sized treasure cove, this hidden gem is located near the Tokyo Sky Tree. You will be amazed at the wonderful 3D latte art of “Oshiage Nyanko”. Although the café isn’t that prominent, it is so famous that you can easily find it.
46. Take a Sushi Making Class
If you are a sushi lover, what better thing to do in Tokyo than learn how to make it? I got a personal sushi lesson with Tokyo Tours with Tomomi, where we first paid a visit to Tsukiji Fish Market to pick up some fresh tuna for our meal and went to her private home to assemble. Viator also offers a fabulous Sushi Making and Tsukiji Fish Market tour. The best part is when you are rewarded by getting to eat your efforts. Afterwards you can wash it all down with sake by booking a sake tasting.
You can find many more sushi making options at Cookly.
47. Go to a Ping-Pong Restaurant
Tokyo is filled with quirky dining options and The Rally Table is one of them. It’s ‘Game On’ at this restaurant where table tennis is the centerpiece of the room. So pop on in, order yourself a plate of the ping pong curry and play a game or two. FYI: It gets pretty lively at night, but during lunch it’s mostly business men so you’ll have a better chance at playing a game.
48. Eat at a Yakiniku Restaurant
This bucket list activity is for all the carnivores out there. At a Yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant in Tokyo you will be barbecuing your choice of raw grub on your own table top grill. If you choose to have your dining experience at the highly rated Yakiniku Jumbo Shirogane, you will be indulging in A5 Kuroge Wagyu, the highest rank of Japanese beef. Or you can try some of Tokyo’s other tasty yakiniku restaurants.
49. Explore the Ghibli Museum
If you have seen Spirited Away, and loved it, then the Ghibli Museum absolutely needs to be visited by you! The creator of the movies, Hayao Miyazaki, also had a hand in creating the visuals of this museum, helping make it one of the most visually stunning museums in the world. Even if it’s just for a moment, you’ll have landed right in the middle of one of his movies!
50. Eat Grilled Salamander (and other delicious stuff) in Piss Alley
Piss Alley, also known as Omoide Yokocho (or Memory Lane), is best described as the restaurant version of Golden Gai, a section that squeezes in over 200 miniature bars into a network of six narrow alleys. Piss Alley is a small area filled with quaint yakitori restaurants, and a few drinking holes, most with just a handful of seats.
If you are an adventurous eater head over to Asadachi, a name that translates to Morning Wood, where you will get the privilege of tasting Grilled Salamander. Yes! Salamander! Maybe not the best food in the world, but visitors who love to challenge their eating habits visit this restaurant for the most bizarre meal. Here you can also try pig testicles, frog shasimi, raw pig testicles and snake liquor. Yum!
51. Stay in a Capsule Hotel
These pint-sized pods have become popular for those that want something trendy, easy and economical. There are several all around Tokyo, but one of the top ones is Capsule Net Omotenashi.
52. Get Your Meal From a Vending Machine
You heard right — eat a meal from a vending machine! One of Japan’s greatest inventions, definitely not only limited to being found in Tokyo, are the vending machines at just about every corner. You can barely walk a block in Tokyo without passing by a half dozen vending machines. Though most are filled with an array of beverages, many will have food products that can easily make a meal. The list includes special items like flying fish soup, eggs, hot dogs, hamburgers, sushi, ramen and so on. My afternoon lunch of warm corn soup was surprisingly tasty!
53. Go to an Owl Café
Oh, what a hoot! Ever thought of having an eye staring contest with an owl? Here in Tokyo, everything is possible! One minute you are strolling through parks the next you have an owl named Peanut perched on your arm! These quirky cafés (here are 7 to choose from) are almost always packed with customers, and you need to be very careful around the majestic owls. No flash photography or sudden movements allowed!
54. Sleep in a Ryokan
For a unique cultural experience stay at a ryokan, an old-school Japanese inn typically with tatami-matted rooms, low tables, and communal baths. Ryokan Sawanoya will give you this traditional feeling or opt for the updated Andon Ryokan.
55. Discover Sensoji Temple
Another historically significant spot in the middle of Tokyo, Sensoji Temple is the oldest religious site in all of Tokyo. Not only that, but is one of the more gorgeous temples to visit, based on its exterior. Right after visiting the temple, check out the shops by Nakamise Dori, on your way back to the station.
. . .
Truth be told, there is far more to see and do in Tokyo that could ever be written down in a post, unless you want to read pages and pages worth of bullet point suggestions. But these are some amazing activities to get started from, especially if you’ve only got a few days to yourself to explore the city. And after you’ve gone once, you’ll find yourself wanting to go back, again and again, and there will always be more to see. That’s really half the fun of it! So, what are you still waiting for? Time to book your plane tickets and go!
Essential Tips for Visiting Tokyo
Getting There: Narita and Haneda International Airport are both major hubs but most international flights will land at Narita Airport. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. Although Haneda International Airport is located closer to central Tokyo, there are fewer transportation options from the airport to central Tokyo. There are plenty of public transportation options from Narita International Airport to the city center. From Narita International Airport, you can take the a taxi, bus, the JR Narita Express, or the Keisei Skyliner. From Haneda International Airport, you can take a Keikyu Taxi, the Keikyu Limousine Bus, the Keikyu Line and JR Yamanote Line, or the Tokyo Monorail and JR Yamanote Line.
Where to Stay in Tokyo: With so many wards in Tokyo, choosing a hotel location can be mind-boggling. But, if you want to be where the action is, Shinjuku or Shibuya may be the best district to stay for your first visit; both are conveniently located with easy access to shop-ping, restaurants, nightlife, and public transport. Plus, they look like the Tokyo you typically see on television with bustling streets, towering skyscrapers, and flashy neon lights. In Shinjuku the JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom is just a three-minute walk from the south exit of Shinjuku station. For a more budget-friendly gem try Tokyu Stay that has locations throughout the city including Shinjuku and Shibuya.
If you want to venture to other wards, the Tokyo Station Hotel is conveniently located in the heart of the city and right above the Tokyo JR station.If you want to avoid the bustle of the city, head off the beaten path to the original boutique hotel, Claska. The Daiwa Roynet Hotel Shimbashi (moderate) or Act Hotel Roppongi (moderate) are great choices in the Minato Ward district. For a less expensive option, try the Book and Bed Tokyo Asakusa, a unique hostel experience. Or try the ICI Hotel Kanda by Relief if you’re looking for a less expensive, traditional hotel. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Prince Park Tower Tokyo, or the Hilton Tokyo Hotel. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in Tokyo can be a bit of a challenge and parking fees can be expensive, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. Taxis are available all over the city. Although Uber is available in Tokyo, it is not commonly used. Download the JapanTaxi app prior to your trip to hail a taxi right from your device. Tokyo also has a great subway and train system that is easy to use. You can buy a pass in advance and have it delivered to your hotel. Be sure to download Hyperdia, an app that helps you navigate Tokyo’s subway and train system. Additionally, most of the top attractions can be accessed with the 24-hour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus.
Best Tours in Tokyo: You can find some of the top tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some of the top ones:
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
Universal Adapter: Your American plugged equipment will need an adapter. I use the Celtic Universal Adapter, which has brought me around the world with no problems.
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