Oh Tokyo, where do I start?! There is SO MUCH to do in this crazy big exciting city! You seriously do not want to miss out on this action. I just spent two glorious weeks exploring everything Tokyo has to offer (okay maybe not everything but a lot of it!). So I want to share with you my recommendations of the top 25 things to do in Tokyo!
Tokyo is a city of opposites. It’s a place where the ancient past is still visible everywhere with the temples and shrines and palaces, while the newest latest greatest trends in fashion, food, and technology are embraced as quickly as possible. It’s a place where spiritual and religious customs are honored, but where technology is king. It’s a place where everyone’s in a rush to see, do, and accomplish, but where nobody would dare rush their responsibility to be formal and polite and pause to genuflect to everyone that they talk to. Tokyo is unlike any city I’ve been to before and I totally loved it. Here are my top 25 things to do in Tokyo for you!
Best Things To Do in Tokyo
- Visit the Tokyo Tower
Shaped like the Eiffel Tower, but colored white and orange, the Tokyo Tower is an icon of the Tokyo skyline. Come snap a photo at its base or take a ride up to the viewing deck! It’s one of the things to do in Tokyo that you just can’t miss!
- Explore Tsukiji Fish Market
It’s the largest fish market in the world and you can’t miss it when you’re here. Come walk around the Tsukiji Fish Market in the mornings (best before 11, but not on Sundays or Wednesdays), looking at and sampling all the fresh fish offerings. If you’re crazy enough to try to see the Tuna Auction first thing in the morning, be warned that it may take a couple mornings to get the timing right. They only give out 120 tickets per morning and when I went, they were sold out before 3am for the 5:15am auction!
- Expel evil spirits at Nishiarai-Daishi Temple
This ancient temple is famous for its power to expel evil spirits. Head north of the city to this temple to see if it works for you too! This is one of the best things to do in Tokyo for your spiritual health.
- Try to master the subway!
I will say that I did eventually kinda get a hang of the subway system in Tokyo, but I would be totally lost without Google Maps to guide me! The subway system here is this confusing jumble of a bunch of different train systems on top of each other, criss-crossing and overlapping. The prices vary by train system and ride duration, you sometimes have to switch systems but sometimes they merge into one, and most of the train stations are as big and complex as Grand Central. All I have to say is, good luck!
- Eat at a standing restaurant
Of course in the capital city of efficiency, you’ll find all of these tiny restaurants that are standing room only to accommodate more diners! Give it a try, the food here is worth the standing time!
- Wear a face mask to fit in
Everyone wears a face mask when they’re sick, or trying not to get sick, or just plain paranoid. The polite thing to do when you have a sniffle is to wear one yourself. You can probably even get one for free at the pharmacies that hand them out to people passing by.
- Shop at Ameyoko market
Right near Ueno station, this market has literally everything you could ever want to buy. From shoes to golf clubs to fresh fish and knock-off purses, they sell it all at Ameyoko market!
- Play at an arcade
You’ll find huge arcades all around the city where you can play video game machines or try to win a toy with the claw machine. It’s a really popular pastime, and you’ll find even the most unexpected people there, like business men in suits playing anime games! It’s unexpected but a totally fun thing to do in Tokyo.
- Go to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony
This is one of the beautiful old traditions that’s upheld, the matcha tea ceremony. It’s an important part of Japanese culture, for peaceful relaxation, time with loved ones, and meditation. I wrote a whole post about it right here!
- Walk around Ueno Park
Ueno Park is like Central Park, a big open greenspace in the middle of the city, complete with museums and temples and walking paths and a lake. It’s a great place to spend the day!
- Marvel at the Shinjuku shopping area
Overwhelming lights and colors and music jump out from the shops in Shinjuku district as I walk through. Come for the shopping, or just for the spectacle. And don’t miss the Robot Restaurant, located right here!
- Eat sushi!
Chances are, this isn’t like the sushi you have at home. With far more emphasis on perfect large slabs of raw fish, this is a far cry from the sushi rolls I eat in America. But it’s delicious and super fresh, and you’ve got to give it a try! There are loads of good sushi restaurants in the Tsukiji district.
- See an exhibit at National Art Center Tokyo
This massive space can host lots of different art exhibits at once. I went to see the Miyake Issey clothing art exhibit here and it was really cool!
- Visit the hedgehog café!
Tokyo has cat cafés, dog cafés, rabbit and owl and snake cafés, but now they also have a hedgehog café! Take your pick of which animal you prefer to play with! Since the hedgehog café is the newest in this theme of animal cafés, I stopped in to give it a try. The café is called Harry, it’s really close to the Roppongi subway station, and it costs ~$10 per half hour.
- Explore Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
This big beautiful park is a retreat from the busy city streets. Here you’ll find lots of cherry blossom trees, traditional tea houses, and Japanese tea gardens! It’s one of the absolute prettiest things to do in Tokyo!
- Visit the Roppongi district
Roppongi is the chic upscale international district, great for shopping and nightlife! Get your fix of international shops, restaurants, and culture in this foreigner’s enclave.
- Try matcha everything
Matcha is ground green tea leaves, and the Japanese love it! It was originally (and still is!) used in traditional Japanese tea ceremony to make green tea. And now it is used to make matcha ice cream, matcha cappuccino, matcha oreos, matcha kit-kats, and everything else matcha that you can think of! Try as much as you can!
- Visit the Meiji Jingu shrine
Surrounded by a forest of towering trees in the middle of Tokyo’s towering skyscrapers is the Meiji Jingu shrine. It’s a Shinto shrine dedicated Emperor Meiji and his wife, and if you’re lucky you may see a wedding procession pass through on your visit (I saw two!).
- Shop in the Ginza district
My favorite shopping district is Ginza, a long stretch of stores on a street shut down to cars on the weekend. Find every major Japanese brand here, and some international ones too (though the Japanese have less of a preference for western brands).
- Eat at a ramen shop
The ramen shops in Tokyo are excellent, nothing like the ramen pouches we buy at American grocery stores! Try the hole-in-the-wall ramen shops where they don’t speak English and you have to place your order in a vending machine and no phones or cameras are allowed. It’s the authentic experience and definitely one of the best things to do in Tokyo!
- Check out the artisan shops in Kamiyamacho
When you get overwhelmed by all the major shopping areas and big brand names and crazy markets, take a visit to the small independent artisan shops in the Kamiyamacho distrct. I had such a hard time not buying everything there!
- Walk in the Shibuya Scramble
This is the famously crowded and crazy intersection in Tokyo, where hundreds of people cross the street and cross paths every two minutes! It’s sheer madness and you totally need to walk through it once or twice to experience it. Then go up to the second floor of the Starbucks to get a higher viewing point of the craziness below!
- Have a spiritual moment at Asakusa Temple
The oldest Buddhist temple in existence, you have to visit Asakusa Temple! Come have a spiritual moment and leave your prayer here. There’s also a great stretch of shops where you can buy snacks and souvenirs, and sample Japanese treats!
- Stay at a capsule hotel
The capsule hotel scene is very hot in Tokyo right now! It’s modeled after a first class cabin in an airplane…small but luxurious accommodations. It’s an upgrade on a hostel, but still cheaper than a hotel. And it’s really a cool experience, I would recommend it!
- Join the anime madness in Akihabara
When you think of Japanese anime culture, this is the heart of it, in Akihabara! Come check out the anime and manga, shop for the electronics, go to an anime maid show, take a spin in a Maricar, and play in the arcades! This is for sure on the things to do in Tokyo that you can’t miss!
That’s a pretty hefty list for you, and these top 25 things to do in Tokyo should definitely keep you busy! I hope you enjoy Tokyo as much as I did, and I hope these recommendations help. Have you been to Tokyo? What did you like to do there? What would you add to this list of things to do in Tokyo?
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