Tokyo is a great mix of the modern and old worlds, and the dazzling lights, fast pace, and high-tech everything astounds visitors from all over the world. Japan’s capital mingles old, historic structures with shiny new multi-story buildings, coming together to create a unique architectural skyline.
While it’s crowded with more than 13 million residents, you can always find activities and attractions to experience the culture and take part in some of the most integrated technology anywhere. While you stay in Tokyo, you’ll be able to see all the best of what the city offers, including these 20 things to do.
1. Sensoji Temple
To view some truly ancient architecture, visit the Sensoji Temple, which marks one of the oldest religious spots in the city. The once Buddhist temple feels calm and serene, yet it was almost completely destroyed in previous wars. This ambiguity only adds to the dazzling mix that makes Tokyo so special to locals and visitors alike. Now, it is independent and stands magnificently above the shops leading up to its doors. Visitors can see the many phases of Tokyo by visiting the Sensoji Temple.
The island of Odaiba is a high-energy spot to shop and very popular with tourists and families. The area was built on reclaimed land and appears to sprout from the water. Among amusement park rides, restaurants, and theaters, the island features a mall with more than 150 shops. The entire area rises out of the water and lights up with a rainbow of colors at night, making it look more like an amusement park than a shopping centre. Plus, there’s a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
3. Snoopy Museum
Enjoy the first international museum dedicated to everyone’s favorite beagle. You can see original drawings for the comic strip “Peanuts” and also several of creator Charles M. Schulz’s collectibles and rare memorabilia. Visit the supersized gift shop for exclusive puppy merchandise and grab a bite to eat at Cafe Blanket. Don’t miss (how can you?) the gigantic Snoopy in one of the exhibits areas. Perfect for a selfie.
4. Find the Hottest Fashions
Visitors into designer clothes can purchase the trendiest buys at a local chain. Buy all of the latest Japanese designer labels from NAOTO Laforet Harajuku. At these stores, you’ll find the newest styles and the hottest designers in Tokyo. These are the looks we often see on high-fashion models–the trends that only the most fashion-forward dare to wear. Even if it’s not your particular style, it can be fun to browse through the wild styles.
5. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Near downtown is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The large park spreads across nearly 150 acres and features English, French, and Japanese style gardens. With thousands of trees, especially cherry trees, along with greenhouses galore, the garden helps visitors and Tokyo locals escape and find a bit of greenery. Often called the most beautiful park in Tokyo, it features bridges over reflective water and wide open spaces, which is a rarity in Tokyo.
6. Shibuya Crossing
If you want to experience the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, then Shibuya Crossing is a must-do (Watch this video for shock and awe). This famous crossing is one of the busiest worldwide. When the traffic lights turn red, tons of people from every direction spend the next few minutes walking through the crossing in organized chaos. You have to try out being amidst the crowds at least once because it’s fun to be a part of it or even watch.
7. Tokyo Tower
The Tokyo Tower is the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower and 9 feet (13 meters) taller than its model, the Eiffel Tower. There are two observation decks: One about 500 feet from the ground and can be accessed by elevator or stairs (Get those 600 steps in!) and another about 800 feet high with great views of the city.
8. Sushi or ramen
If you are going to Tokyo, you should definitely eat ramen or sushi… on a conveyor belt! Just saunter up to the countertop, grab a seat and choose from the sushi pieces as they pass you on the conveyor belt. Don’t put your meal back on the belt. That’s a big no-no, so be sure you know what you want. Prices are usually color-coded by plate, and a color-coded menu is usually nearby for help. If food by conveyor belts isn’t your thing, then you can always go for Japanese meals served floating on water.
9. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
Disney has transported its magic into Asia with dual attractions: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. You can experience the same thrills – Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean – but there are some subtle differences for Tokyo visitors. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is the world’s first trackless ride. You literally ride in a honey pot too. Plus, there’s a large glass canopy that protects Main Street from Tokyo’s sometimes rainy climate.
DisneySea is made up of seven themed sections and is inspired by neighboring Tokyo Bay (think Epcot Center). From Venetian gondolas to an Indiana Jones ride, DisneySea is considered by one as Disney’s best theme park anywhere.
10. Japanese tea ceremony
Ever wanted to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony? Surrounded by bonsai trees, cherry blossoms and koi pons, the Happo-en Japanese Garden offers visitors an opportunity to learn proper etiquette for serving and drinking tea, plus you get to munch on delicious Japanese sweets in an ancient Muan tea house.
11. Sumo wresting
Sumo wrestling is yet another part of its ancient history, and today is Japan’s national sport. In Ryōgoku, a Tokyo neighborhood entirely dedicated to the sport, including an indoor sumo stadium (Ryōgoku Kokugikan) where you can buy tickets for tournaments. However, tournaments are only held in January, May and September. Don’t understand the sport? It’s pretty easy. A wrestler loses if he exits the ring first or touches the ground with any part of his body besides the soles of his feet.
12. Vending machines
They. Are. Everywhere. And you can’t help but stop and look because they sell everything. Soft Drinks? Check. Cigarettes? Check… These are the obvious ones. How about Buddhist charms, women’s underwear, 24-hours eggs, self-freezing Coke bottles, surgical masks, mineral ice cubes. Think we’re done? Nope… Smart Cars, fishing bait, fermented soy beans, an all-Pringles vending machine, reading glasses and more. So much more.
13. Meiji Shrine
Visitors looking for a traditional Japanese wedding may be in luck if they pay a visit to the Meiji Shrine. The shrine, especially on weekends, is home to many weddings. Surrounded by trees and greenery, it was originally built in honor of Emperor Meiji, who brought Japan into the modern world a century ago. The weddings here often feature traditional gowns and elaborate clothing. But visitors should be careful not to take photographs or smoke too close to the shrine, as both are disrespectful and prohibited.
14. Ghibli Museum
This small museum was designed by Master animator Miyazaki Hayao, whose Studio Ghibli produced Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Inside the Ghibli Museum (pronounced ‘jiburi’) are a series of rooms with design from every piece of Hayao animation. There’s strict no-photos allowed policy inside the museum, but the rooftop and outside are incredibly Instagram-worthy. Access is strictly limited – only 200 admissions per day for overseas visitors, so tickets must be purchased in advance.
15. Robot Restaurant
Located in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district is the most unique 1-hour cabaret show you will ever see – full of bold neon colors, LED lights and large snail-shaped plush chairs. And that’s just in the waiting room. When you finally take your seat, the Robot Restaurant treats to a spectacular show of dancing 8-foot-tall robots, scantily-clad women and a loud soundtrack of Broadway musicals and techo music. It’s light on food and heavy on smiles.
16. Tokyo Dome City
This amusement park is located in central Tokyo and part of a larger complex that includes a baseball stadium, a natural hot spring spa, shops and restaurants. More than 20 types of attractions for kids and adults include Thunder Dolphi, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the city and Big-O, the world’s largest center less ferris wheel.
Anime plays a big role in Japanese culture, so even for someone not interested in the phenomenon, it would be interesting to check out some anime shops. In many cases, anime characters represented the attitudes of young people growing up in Japan. Akihabara’s the anime centre of Japan, and the place to learn more about its history or even buy some memorabilia. Located in central Tokyo, it’s packed with electronic stores among the anime shops.
18. Todoroki Valley
Todoroki Valley is only a 20-minute train ride from central Tokyo but is a wonderful hidden gem to discover while on vacation. With bamboo trees, secluded shrines and waterfalls, it’s more of an unkept wonder than a manicured park. You can walk the entire 1.2 kilmeters (3/4 mile) on a beautiful path along the Yazawa River. Bring a book or find food before you arrive and let the sounds of nature whisk you away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The singing trend took Japan by storm in the 1980s, and it’s still holding strong. In Tokyo these days, it normally requires a set fee for some drinks and a whole lot of karaoke. And unlike in many other countries where karaoke means serenading an entire pub, often times Japanese karaoke is done in a private room, singing to the group of friends once arrived with. The only catch for tourists is that not all of the songs are in English, so if you don’t know Japanese, you may be in trouble. English speakers can head to Roppongi’s Fiesta International Karaoke Bar because it offers a wide selection of songs in English, which is sometimes a bit of a rarity at Tokyo’s karaoke bars. Map the International bar.
20. Pasona O2
Located under an office building in central Tokyo is a unique farm that occupies 10,000 square feet in six separate rooms. Pasona O2 was created to spark interest in Tokyo dwellers for farming in urban environments. The crops don’t received direct sunlight, so energy-efficient LEDs are installed to do the job. It’s free admission, and there’s a cafe where you can drink coffee with a great view of the farm’s spectacular vegetables.