Tokyo is the capital of Japan and one of the most glamorous cities in Asia. With its low crime rate, countless bars and restaurants, and numerous cultural and historical sites, it’s no wonder that it sees millions of tourists every year.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are coming and an even larger number of tourists is expected to visit this great city. Whether you live in Tokyo, plan to visit or live nearby, these top thirty things to do will surely pique your interest. How many have you tried?
A classic landmark that appears in almost every backdrop of the city, Tokyo Tower is a must-see for anyone who visits Tokyo. The tower is like a museum on the inside, with interesting information, a glass floor, and amazing views of Mt. Fuji.
Entry into Tokyo Tower’s main observatory is 900 yen for adults, 500 yen for children and 400 yen for children under four years old. You can get tickets on the day or buy them online and you can get group discounts. You can also pay extra to enter the special observatory (which is closed for renovations until summer 2017).
Tokyo Tower is open from 9:00am to 11:00pm (last admission 10:30pm) daily.
Though Tokyo is an enormous metropolis, nature is well-preserved. If you have time, make sure to visit Yoyogi Park (代々木公園), Ueno Park (上野公園) or Hibiya Park (日比谷公園). Yoyogi Park is my personal favorite; you can rent bicycles and the park is often host to exciting multinational festivals. If you love animals, Ueno Park is also home to the much-loved Ueno Zoo (上野動物園).
Japan’s tallest mountain is easily visible from various spots in Tokyo, including Tokyo Tower, Skytree and atop many of Tokyo’s huge buildings. Winter is the best time to do this, as Japanese skies are clear and blue in the colder season.
Skytree is the second tallest construction in the world at an impressive 634 meters (2080 feet) and is worth a visit. You can see breathtaking views of the city and explore several floors of this structure. At night, it lights up in several different colors.
Tokyo is home to a lot of temples and shrines, and these historical sites are worth a visit. Highly recommended is Sensoji Temple (浅草寺) in Asakusa (浅草). It has everything you could want in a Japanese temple: a beautiful structure, omikuji, and gift shops.
You can experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony in the heart of Tokyo. You’ll wear a kimono and learn how to make green tea the Japanese way.
There are several places you can do this. One is at the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum (春花園盆栽美術館) in Edogawa (江戸川), where you can choose whether to make tea, try on a kimono or a combo of both.
There are cat cafes all over Tokyo, where you can go to drink coffee and pet some house cats. There are several in Shibuya, such as Bar Neko (Bar猫) and MoCHA, as well as choices in Shinjuku, Chiyoda, and all over the city.
If you prefer dogs, there are dog cafes too, such as Dog Heart from Aquamarine in Yoyogi-Hachiman (代々木八幡), Shibuya.
If you love video games, anime, comic books, or all of the above, Akihabara might be the perfect place for you. Numerous shops in this district offer old and new games, tons of anime merchandise and figurines. They’re surprisingly cheap, too, compared to what you might find in your home country.
About ten minutes from Shibuya Station is Tsutaya O-Crest, a live bar where you can check out up-and-coming artists. They have live music almost every night of the week at affordable prices.
Bullet trains, or shinkansen (新幹線), are some of the fastest trains in the world. The E5 Series Shinkansen Hayabusa is the 7th fastest train in the world at 319.9kmph (198.8mph).
These futuristic-looking trains can get you to many places around Japan in no time at all. Stations, where you can see and ride bullet trains, include Shinjuku Station, Shinagawa (品川) Station and Tokyo Station.
Odaiba is a gorgeous part of the city on the harbor, home to the dazzling Rainbow Bridge, which was probably the inspiration of Nintendo’s Mario Kart level of the same name. You can even take a boat tour underneath the bridge at night, and enjoy the colorful brightness it has to offer.
A real Japanese-style drinking bar is pretty different to western bars. Cheap beer, sake, edamame beans, and all-you-can-drink deals make it an unforgettable experience (as long as you don’t drink too much!)
Festivals are held constantly in Japan, and it would be unusual to be in Tokyo when one isn’t happening. Depending on the season, you can join festivals that celebrate food, carrying small shrines, dancing, and more. Don’t miss one of Japan’s most fun cultures!
Ever wanted to walk into a cafe and have a cute girl dressed in a cosplay maid outfit greet you? Maid Cafes are considered a little strange, but it’s a family-friendly experience that features cute food, music, gifts, and photo shoots taken with the girls.
Late February until April is the typical time for sakura, or cherry blossoms, to bloom in Japan. Tokyo is no exception; there are various spots, such as parks, to view these flowers, eat, drink and enjoy time with friends. Since cherry blossoms aren’t around for long, the Japanese go crazy for them. Join the fun!
Love hotels are popular in Japan, and it’s a little surprising that they haven’t taken off as much in western countries. If you’re in Japan as a couple, why not try a love hotel? They’re affordable, available for a full night’s stay (STAY) or just a few hours (REST), and some hotels even feature costumes, toys, and more.
You can usually find love hotels close to clubs and bars. There are plenty in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Shin-Okubo (新大久保).
Japan is a collection of islands with plenty of volcanoes, therefore, the Japanese people (and monkeys!) have been enjoying hot springs, or onsen, for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. In Tokyo, there are plenty of places to try artificial hot springs any time of year.
So long as your body isn’t covered in tattoos and you don’t mind being naked around strangers, why not try out a relaxing Japanese hot spring during your visit?
Although there are plenty of great places to shop in Tokyo, such as Shinjuku, Ikebukuro (池袋) and Ueno (上野), Takeshita Street in Harajuku is a great place to visit if you love fashions that are cute, unusual, and sometimes odd. Unique clothing, shoes, and jewelry are available at reasonable prices in this popular, and often crowded, street.
Karaoke is a long-standing Japanese tradition. It is a classic after-party location, a date activity, and a way for stressed businesspersons to scream away their frustrations. Singing karaoke in Japan isn’t about being a great performer – it’s about having fun!
There are so many karaoke places in Tokyo that they’re hard to miss. Big Echo (ビッグエコー), Karaoke No Tetsujin (カラオケの鉄人), and Karaoke-kan (カラオケ館 – Japanese only) are just a few of the companies available. They (usually) offer all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink deals, western songs, and private rooms for your group only.
Tokyo has so many museums that it would be impossible to explore all of them in one trip. Popular choices include the Japanese Sword Museum (刀剣博物館), Edo Tokyo Museum (東京都江戸東京博物館), and the Tokyo Trick Art Museum (東京トリックアート迷宮館). If you’re a fan of pop culture, you’ll be delighted to know that there is also a Studio Ghibli Museum (ジブリ美術館) and a Snoopy Museum (スヌーピーミュージアム)!
Speaking of pop culture, are you a fan of Pokemon? If you are, it would surely be a crime to miss the Pokemon Center, which sells all kinds of Pokemon-themed merchandise, including stationery, kitchen utensils, and cuddly toys.
One of these shops is in Sunshine City Alpa in Ikebukuro, known as Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo (ポケモンセンターメガトウキョー), and there is another near Tokyo Skytree, the Pokemon Center Skytree Town (ポケモンセンタースカイツリータウン).
Capsule hotels are unique because your room is barely bigger than a coffin; they are often used by businessmen who missed the last train home. Despite their small size, capsule hotels are often well-equipped with a TV, massage facilities, saunas and hot springs. Give one a try for a unique experience.
If you don’t mind getting up early, hop on a train to Tsukiji (築地) to check out how the Japanese fisheries prepare one of Japan’s staple foods. You can even buy deliciously fresh fish and make your own sushi!
Another classic culture of Japan, flower arrangement, or ikebana (生花), is a therapeutic activity you can learn to do in Tokyo. Schools that offer classes in English include the Ohara School of Ikebana (小原流) in Minato (港区), the Sogestu School of Ikebana (草月流) in Akasaka, and Yanasen (谷根千) in Sendagi (千駄木).
Just outside Shibuya Station is an enormous crossing, known as Shibuya Crossing or the ‘Scramble’, where as many as a quarter of a million people are said to cross each day. Sometimes YouTube personalities, film crews and even busking artists can be seen around this popular location. Don’t visit if you hate crowds!
If you’re looking for a great night out in Japan, Tokyo has plenty to offer. Popular districts like Shibuya, Roppongi and Shinjuku have some great clubs with different themes. Shinjuku also has a lot of gay bars and clubs.
Popular nightclubs include ODEON in Roppongi, Womb and VISION in Shibuya, ageHa in Shinkiba and Key Club and Tokyo Loose in Shinjuku. Just remember that trains stop at around midnight depending on the line (Subway lines tend to stop earlier), and avoid ‘girl bars’, as they can get extortionate.
An affordable activity in the heart of Tokyo is visiting the Imperial Palace, the home of the Japanese royal family. You can enjoy a leisurely walk around the palace for free, or go inside for a fee. This beautiful structure is an impressive 3.41 square kilometers (1.32 square miles) and is well worth a visit.
The center of Tokyo’s answer to Disneyland which, by the way, is another great thing to do but as it is technically in Chiba (千葉), it didn’t make this list. Tokyo Dome City is in Hakusan (白山), Bunkyo (文京), and features several restaurants, a small department store, an arcade, a roller coaster, a ferris wheel, and a water slide.
The roller coaster was shut down a few years ago due to an accident, but now it’s fully operational again!
See a kabuki show in Tokyo. English translation is (usually) available. These colorful shows involving dancing and acting from an all-male cast are an awe-inspiring display featuring classic Japanese tales and folklore.
Sumo is one of Japan’s most popular sports, and depending on the season, it is possible to see a live sumo match for a reasonable price in Tokyo.
With this list of 30 great things to do in this vibrant city, you’ll never be bored in Tokyo. Whether you’re here for the cultural experiences, family-friendly museums, nightlife or otaku culture, there is bound to be something you’ll enjoy during your visit. What are you waiting for? Go and explore Japan’s biggest metropolis!