Top 15 things to do in Tokyo, Japan
The island nation of Japan is a hub for cultural and technological innovation. In the middle of it all lies the electrifying city of Tokyo. Here old meets new in an amalgamation of traditions and technology.
Visitors to Tokyo are thrust into a sensory overload of colors, sights, and sounds in these bustling streets. The futuristic architecture is juxtaposed by tranquil parks and green spaces, allowing for some much-needed breathing space. The city’s heart beats at 1000b/pm and you need to scramble to keep up.
All of this comes at a price of course. Tokyo has a reputation for draining your pockets dry if you are not careful. But that is no reason to avoid this magical metropolis. There are plenty of spectacular things to see and do for free to counterbalance the futuristic prices at other attractions.
Tokyo is the world’s largest city. It is also the city with the highest number of vending machines per capita. Around every corner (and there are many) this methodical city offers new and exciting things to do for travelers from all walks of life.
Shibuya Crossing: See World’s Wildest Intersection
When going on holiday, one thinks of museums, restaurants, and monuments as particular places of interest. An intersection is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. But in Tokyo, an intersection becomes a thing of beauty.
Excited tourists fill all corners of this famous crossing and wait with bated breath for the little green man to tell them it’s their turn to scramble. Nearly half a million people jolt across the road daily here at Shibuya, the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection.
This 5-way crossing is located in one of Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhoods. Even though there is a constant scramble it truly comes alive at night. Like most of the city, it is illuminated in every direction by neon lights showing the way to all the hottest spots in Tokyo.
Toyosu Fish Market: Taste Fresh Seafood
One of the most treasured gifts that Japan has brought into the modern world is the culinary art of Sushi. At Toyosu fish market fish lovers can revel in some of the best sushi Tokyo has to offer after witnessing the world-famous tuna auction at the wholesale market.
Toyosu market was previously known as the Tsukiji market but has relocated in recent years. It is still worth a visit to both locations as the former marketplace still homes to hundreds of traditional sushi restaurants, smaller fish and grocery shops, and kitchenware stores. The new fish market has a clinical atmosphere with observation decks to witness the high stakes tuna auction. This is worlds away from the more authentic setting you can experience at the original Tsukiji market location.
Tokyo Tower: Get a Bird’s Eye View
Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Seattle has its Space Needle, and Tokyo has the bright red Tokyo Tower. At 332m tall, it was once the tallest structure in Japan. It is now overshadowed by the equally popular Tokyo Skytree but remains an iconic landmark in the heart of the city.
Whether you want to brave the heights or keep your feet firmly placed on the ground, the tower is spectacular from all vantage points. During the day, its bright colors catch your eye between the grey skyscrapers, and on a clear day, it offers a view as far as to mount Fuji. At night, it lights up and dazzles proudly in the Tokyo skyline.
MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM — teamLab Borderless
teamLab Borderless is another world first in Tokyo. It is a digital art museum that combines art, technology, and science to create a one-of-a-kind immersive experience. The museum has ever-changing landscapes that swallow you in and allows you to become one with the art. This museum offers tons of fun for the whole family and encourages visitors to let your inhibitions go and your imagination run wild.
If you traveled to Tokyo and did not take a picture in the Forest of Resonating Lamps, did you even visit Tokyo?
You can’t buy tickets at the museum: Get teamLab Borderless Ticket in advance
Visit Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Sensoji Temple is Japan’s oldest temple and dates back centuries to ancient times. It is one of the free things you can do in Tokyo but the experience is truly priceless. Visitors are greeted by a gigantic red lantern as they enter through the main gates, and lead into the shopping street. Here you can enjoy temple shaped cakes and other traditional treats and shop for a few souvenirs.
The temple itself is grand in stature with authentic Buddhist trimmings. Many visitors come here to practice their faith so photos are not allowed in most areas. That is the perfect time to soak in the majesty of this ancient building and its surroundings.
Odaiba: Enjoy Entertainment in Tokyo Bay
Even though all of Tokyo is jam-packed with things to see and do, Odaiba is at the heart of it all. It is an artificial island in Tokyo bay that offers limitless shopping and entertainment. Here you will find the MORI Building, the Fuji Television Building, Aqua City, the Statue of Liberty, the Palette Town Ferris Wheel, and a long list of other sights and activities.
After enjoying the spectacular sunset from the island, you can feast your eyes on the illuminated Tokyo skyline with the Rainbow Bridge in the foreground. DiverCity Tokyo Plaza also offers 7 stories of shopping and entertainment. Outside the plaza is the massive Gundam robot statue that comes alive with performances all day and light shows at night time.
Odaiba can easily turn into an all-day adventure so make sure to allocate enough time to enjoy all it has to offer!
See Cherry Blossoms at Japanese Gardens (Rikugien, Shinjuku Gyoen)
For a couple of weeks in the spring-time, Tokyo is transformed into a fairytale city as it gets dusted in pink and white cherry blossoms. Thousands of Cherry blossom trees start bursting with color in late March. Tokyo has around 6000 parks scattered all around the city but two of them have gained special notoriety for their spectacular Cherry Blossom displays and landscaping features.
Shinjuku Gyoen is an expansive park that features Japanese, English, and French gardens and also has a greenhouse displaying various tropical foliage. After being destroyed in WW2, they have rebuilt it with rolling green lawns around a lake and beautifully intricate Japanese landscaping art. Rikugien has been said to be the most beautiful Japanese garden in the world. The park is over 300 years old and has spectacular displays of color all year round. At night, the trees are also lit up and transform the landscape even further.
Stroll Along Nakameguro Canal
The Nakameguro neighborhood is one of Tokyo’s many trendy treasures. Here you can stroll along the iconic Nakameguro Canal (aka Meguro River) and enjoy a host of quirky boutiques and trendy coffee shops and restaurants. In spring-time, the perfumes and colors of the cherry trees transform the canal into a storybook river with their overhanging branches creating a pink and white canopy.
The neighborhood is vibrant and fashionable but still has a cozy spirit. It is ideal for picturesque Sunday strolls where you can enjoy a pot of tea and leisurely browse the many interesting shops along the river banks.
Eat Wagyu Beef- Mouthwatering Marbled Meat
There are a few “first times” in your life that you will remember, and eating Wagyu for the first time is one of them. It does not get much more authentically Japanese than eating the most expensive meat in the world. The word “Wagyu” translates to “Japanese cow” and this highly coveted meat has gained legendary status.
The tender slices melt in your mouth like butter and explode with flavor. Countless restaurants are serving this delicacy at various price points. You could also splurge and dine at one of the city’s 230 Michelin Star restaurants.
Experience a VR (Virtual Reality) World
In a high-tech city like Tokyo, you would remiss if you did not take advantage of the latest in technology entertainment. VR gaming is taking the world by storm and in Tokyo, you have your pick of VR Worlds to choose from.
You and your friends can work together to fight Zombies or fly sky high by being shot out of a canon. If you still have some fight left in you after that you can rid a house of a few ghosts and attend Ninja school. These indoor amusement parks are a must-visit attraction in this futuristic city.
My Favorate VR World: VR ZONE SHINJUKU VR
Have Fun in Tokyo Disneyland
Disneyland is truly the happiest place on earth, no matter where in the world you visit it. It is high up on many people’s list of things to do in Tokyo, and rightfully so. This was the first Disney theme park outside of the USA and features 7 different enchanting worlds. There is another companion park, DisneySEA, with a spectacular nautical theme. DisneySEA is also the 4th most visited theme park in the world!
A trip to Disneyland would not be complete without a proper helping of theme park food. Disneyland Tokyo has an entire restaurant dedicated to Mickey-shaped waffles and the popcorn at this park is legendary!
I book ticket in advanced here: Tokyo Disneyland Discount Tickets
Explore the World of Studio Ghibli Movies in Ghibli Museum
Studio Ghibli has been pivotal in thrusting Japanese animation films into the mainstream with feature-length films like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. The museum was designed by the director of many of their most famous works, Hayao Miyazaki. Instead of being met with quiet halls of glass display cases, this museum whisks you away into the whimsical world of Ghibli films.
Visitors are treated to multiple themed rooms with interactive exhibits. You can learn more about the inner workings of animation and explore the fantasy worlds that the studio has dreamed up. They have also created 8 exclusive short-films that are shown at the on-site theater.
You need to get tickets in advance: This is the easiest way
Gaze upon Mount Fuji From Kawaguchiko
Mount Fuji is a monumental icon of Japan. Just a short bus ride to one of the mountain’s 5 lakes allows you to gaze upon it from spectacular vantage points. Lake Kawaguchiko highlights the splendor of this majestic mountain by framing your views with cherry blossoms, lavender or autumn leaves year-round.
There are also many activities to keep you busy while soaking in the views. You can soak away your worries at an onsen, visit an art museum, or have the ride of your life at a record-breaking theme park.
Mount Fuji and its surrounding areas are a cultural and spiritual symbol not only for the people of Japan but most notably for people who practice Shinto. This religion originated in Japan centuries ago and is still observed by nearly 3 million people today. Visiting a Shinto shrine in this area is also a good way to learn more about this nature-based faith.
Read on: Lake Kawaguchiko Travel Guide
Visit the Great Buddha
Tokyo’s own Daibutsu (giant Buddha) is a little-known treasure in the Itabashi ward. Its home is the Jorenji Temple where it sits at 13m tall. Weighing in at 32 tons, it is Japan’s 3rd largest bronze Buddha statue.
The lush green surroundings infuse the area with a sense of calm and serenity. Visitors can take a much-needed breather from the buzz of the city amongst the lush gardens.
Enjoy the Beautiful Nature and Hot Springs in Hakone
Hakone is a town about 2 hours west of Tokyo. This mountainous area also offers exquisite views of Mount Fuji but is best known for its abundance of hot springs. Onsens are hot-springs formed due to major volcanic activity around Japan and have incredible healing and relaxing properties. You can choose to spend the night at one of the bathhouses or ryokan or pay as a day visitor to enjoy one of the many onsens available.
There are altogether 12 natural hot springs that deliver water to a multitude of onsens that are easily accessible by the public. If this still does not whet your appetite, there are also many opportunities to soak up nature. Over and above the hiking trails, there is also a glorious wetland botanical garden and a cable car that lets you take in the vastness of the mountain slopes from the very top of the hills.
I traveled around Hakone with Hakone Freepass which allows me to ride to 8 transportation systems hassle free