There’s no destination quite like Japan. With unique culture, amazing scenery, cosmopolitan cities, and welcoming people, this island nation often finds itself on the bucket list of travelers. Most of them will certainly visit Tokyo, the busy city between Tokyo Bay and Mount Fuji that has been central to Japan for centuries.
If you weren’t sure about Tokyo, it is definitely worth visiting on a Japan trip. One of its several international airports is likely where you will fly into anyway, and if not, bullet trains from across the archipelago will have you at the main station in a few hours at the most.
Tokyo is a center not only for business and transportation in Japan but also for Japanese culture and history. Some of the country’s oldest Buddhist temples are located among the city lights, as is the palace of the ruling Emperor. Plus, it would be a sin to not mention the incredible Tokyo food that you’ll find hard to depart from.
Many travelers wondering what to do in Tokyo in their limited time get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of places to go and things to see. I know the feeling – my first trip to Tokyo was a whopping 24 hours (out of a total of 48 in Japan).
We’ve put together the below guide of the most popular attractions in Tokyo and what you need to know about them. Whether it’s Japanese history, scenery, nightlife, or sushi you’re after, you will find it in Tokyo – read on to see where and how.
Tokyo Highlights Private Walking Tour is a walking tour of the city, which will take you to some of the best places in town. You can either book a half-day option or an all-day option with this tour, depending on how much time you have and how much you want to cover. You will travel around Tokyo by metro with your guide and learn about the history, culture and lifestyle of the city's people. The price depends on the number of people in your group, so check it out!
This private is customizable to suit your interests and needs: choose from a selection of recommended sights to create your ideal itinerary. Learn about Japanese royalty at the Imperial Palace, take a peaceful stroll at Shinjuku Gyoen, be amazed by the bustle at Shibuya Crossing, and much more. Get to know Tokyo one neighborhood at a time on this tour that’s ideal for first-time or repeat visitors to the city. Learn about Tokyo from your government-licensed guide
Feel the vibes of Asakusa and discover another side of Tokyo. This tour is perfect for tourists on a tight schedule who want to get the most out of their time in Asakusa. From sweets to savories, you will have an opportunity to try authentic local delicacies that are not found elsewhere in Japan. With a knowledgeable guide leading the way, you can expect to know more about this unique area than many locals do. Let us show you how it's done!
Table of Contents
- Best & Fun Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
- 1. Tokyo Skytree
- 2. See the Cherry Blossoms
- 3. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
- 4. Sensō-ji Temple
- 5. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
- 6. Imperial Palace
- 7. Ginza Shopping
- 8. Yoyogi Park
- 9. Mount Fuji
- 10. Tokyo Disneyland
- 11. Tokyo Tower
- 12. Take a Japanese Cooking Class
- 13. Meiji Shrine
- 14. Ueno Park & Zoo
- 15. Shibuya Crossing
- 16. See a Japanese Baseball Game
- 17. The National Art Center
- 18. Mori Art Museum
- 19. Ghibli Museum
- 20. Piss Alley
- 21. Ramen Street at Tokyo Station
- 22. Watch Some Sumo Wrestling
- 23. Rainbow Bridge
- 24. Participate in a Traditional Tea Ceremony
- 25. National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
- 26. National Museum of Nature and Science
- 27. Harajuku & Takeshita Street
- 28. Go-Kart Tour
- 29. Day Trip to Nara
- 30. Tsukiji Outer Market
- 31. Tokyo National Museum
- 32. Hamarikyu Gardens
- 33. Sanrio Puroland
- 34. Gotokuji Temple
- 35. Day Trip to Mount Mitake
- 36. Visit an Animal Café
- 37. Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park
- 38. Have a Beach Day
- What are the top Tokyo tourist attractions?
- Are there things to do in Tokyo with kids?
- What are the top free things to do in Tokyo?
- Most significant landmark – Mount Fuji
- Best park – Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
- Best free activity – Imperial Palace Easy Gardens
- Best activity for kids – Tokyo Disneyland
- Best activity for adults – Ginza Shopping Street
- Best food – Ramen Street at Tokyo Station
- Best nightlife – Shibuya
- Best all-around accommodation – Hyatt Regency Tokyo
Best & Fun Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
Before we get started, there’s one disclaimer: leave plenty of room in your suitcase to bring home copious amounts of Japanese snacks. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at what to see in Tokyo and the tours and experiences available for them.
1. Tokyo Skytree
Address: 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida City, Tokyo 131-0045, Japan
Let’s start with one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city: the Tokyo Skytree. It’s the world’s tallest freestanding broadcast tower and offers amazing views of the Tokyo skyline from its 360-degree observation deck.
Located in Sumida City, the Tokyo Skytree is just a short walk from the famous Sensō-ji Temple and the Asakusa area. It’s easy to combine these places into a day together, but even if that’s not your plan, the Skytree is easily reached via the train station of the same name.
The Tokyo Skytree is one of the great things to do in Tokyo for couples, as the view over the sparkling city lights, the zig-zagging network of streets, and the tranquil Sumida River are wonderfully breathtaking. There’s even a simple bar with seating facing the view at the top to enjoy green tea or Japanese beer.
I highly recommend a trip up the elevator at the Skytree, and I remember being in awe at just how high up you go and how breathtaking the view was, which you just can’t imagine from below. Don’t forget to buy an admission ticket in advance to avoid any lines. Tickets are also available with a 24-hour subway pass to help get you there.
See Related: Best Girls Trip Destinations Around the World
2. See the Cherry Blossoms
If you are going to be in Japan for cherry blossom season, then you absolutely must take at least one afternoon to enjoy the colorful blooms. This annual event starts in late March and can last until early May in some parts of the country, and with Tokyo being in the central part, its cherry trees tend to bloom in the earlier part of that range.
Enjoying cherry blossom season is so special in Japanese culture that there’s even a word for it: hanami, meaning viewing the cherry blossoms or having a picnic or party among them. And while Tokyo is very much urbanized and a concrete jungle nowadays, there are still plenty of places where these pink flowers flourish among green spaces in the city.
One of the most popular spots to see some sakura is Chigorigafuchi Park, alongside the moat of the Imperial Palace. Here, you can rent a boat and row your way through the peaceful blossoms. Others include Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which we’ll cover individually later as well.
Many tourists like to center their entire trip around seeing the cherry blossoms. If you are one of them, then it’s worth considering booking a cherry blossom tour to make sure you make the most of your experience. You’ll also probably enjoy a trip to Mt. Fuji, where there are even more cherry blossoms – more on that later.
3. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Address: 2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan
Can’t get enough of the Tokyo skyline, or want to see it for free? The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has not one observation deck but two, without any admission ticket required.
Both the north and south observatories of this government building offer panoramic views over different parts of the city at over 600 feet in height. The Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, and snow-capped Mount Fuji are some of the landmarks you can make out from the top.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is in the heart of Shinjuku, a popular district for food, nightlife, shopping, and several other major attractions on our list. Since you’ll likely find yourself nearby at some point, one of the observatories is certainly worth visiting.
Some of Tokyo’s best hotels are in Shinjuku and are very close to this popular attraction. I particularly like the Hyatt Regency Tokyo, which is directly connected to the government building, as well as its subway station, and steps from all the fun of Shinjuku.
See Related: What to Buy in Japan: Souvenirs to Take Home
4. Sensō-ji Temple
Address: 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
One of the top things to do in Tokyo for any tourist is to admire the Sensō-ji Buddhist Temple. Dating back to the year 645, this is Tokyo’s oldest temple and a particularly sacred one.
Sadly, most of the original temple was destroyed during World War II, but it has been reconstructed as it was. It is one of the world’s most visited religious sites, bringing more than 30 million people per year through its main gates.
The experience begins on your walk through the historic Asakusa neighborhood to the temple, where the streets are lined with shops and traditional street food stands. Everything is delicious, but my top tip is to try to find some green tea ice cream to enjoy while you stroll through.
Eventually, you will reach the main gates, where a giant red lantern hangs. This place gets extremely crowded as everyone stops to take pictures. Once you are through it, you will see the main Buddhist temple and its majestic five-story pagoda, which are even more photogenic.
You can go inside the main temple, but keep in mind that no photos are allowed. To get the full historical and cultural history of this amazing place and neighborhood, consider an Asakusa guided tour. Even better would be to stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, such as the Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu, at the steps of the temple.
5. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
There is no shortage of Japanese gardens in the city despite its urbanization, and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is definitely one of the best. This is also one of the great cheap things to do in Tokyo for those on a budget.
The gardens are quite historic, having been home originally to a large estate that changed hands a few times among prominent families who always maintained gardens. Unfortunately, the area was one of the casualties of World War II bombings, and it was mostly destroyed. After the devastation, the Japanese government restored the space into gardens with more than 20,000 trees.
Today, there are three distinct styles in the gardens: French Formal, English Landscape, and Japanese traditional. Chrysanthemums, roses, cacti, and other flowers are just some of the flora found both in greenhouses and outside. Tranquil lakes and streams criss-cross the park and make for peaceful walking in this escape from the city.
As mentioned, these Japanese gardens are great during the cherry blossom period, with more than 1,000 cherry trees. Garden lovers might consider a private tour of the space to get the full experience.
6. Imperial Palace
Address: 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-8111, Japan
Among the skyscrapers and city lights of downtown Tokyo is its Imperial Palace, just blocks from Tokyo Station. It’s complete with a moat and various gardens and is the official residence of the Emperor of Japan and some of the Imperial Family.
Japan is the only monarchy in the modern world that refers to its head of state as “Emperor,” but just like the United Kingdom and other monarchies, the position is mostly ceremonial and symbolic, leaving the elected government to run the country. However, the Emperor is highly regarded and an important symbol to the Japanese people, who continues to reside in the palace.
The Imperial Palace is built on an ancient site that was once much larger than its current state and was formerly called Edo Castle. While much has changed over its 550-year history, some of the original castle’s ruins are still visible in the East Gardens today.
Visitors can tour the East Gardens for free year-round, but most of the Imperial Palace is off-limits to the public. There is a short tour offered by the palace staff that visits a small portion of the private grounds without going inside any buildings. Book an Imperial Palace and Meiji Shrine tour to make the most of your visit.
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7. Ginza Shopping
One of the top things to do in Tokyo for adults is shopping, and for just about anything. A good place to start is Ginza, a glamorous, high-end district known for its large department stores and small boutiques where people from all over the world come to shop.
The streets of Ginza are comparable to Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles or Fifth Avenue in New York but much larger. The neighborhood is located just blocks from Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace. On weekend afternoons, the main shopping street of Chuo Dori closes to vehicles and becomes fully pedestrianized, which attracts a lively crowd.
You’ll find shopping of all kinds here, ranging from luxury outlets like Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Dior to independent Japanese boutiques. There are also massive department stores like Matsuya, where you can get groceries, sushi, pastries, clothing, toys, and more. Don’t forget to stop at Uniqlo, one of Japan’s most successful clothing brands.
You’ll find great shopping all over Tokyo, but Ginza is a place not to miss for shopaholics. If this is your type of thing, consider a Ginza exploration tour with a local guide.
8. Yoyogi Park
Address: 2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0052, Japan
If you’re looking for another escape from the concrete jungle, Yoyogi Park is one of the most popular choices for Tokyo locals. It is conveniently located next to the major Harajuku Station and the Meiji Shrine, making them easily combined on a visit to the area.
The park has a fair bit of history, being the site of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a former barracks for the US military, and where the first successful powered flight in Japan took off from. Today, it’s a peaceful green space with various lakes and hills, as well as plenty of cherry trees. This is another popular place for enjoying the sakura season.
Yoyogi Park is especially exciting on Sundays when all kinds of interesting musicians and performers come out. Japanese rock music, martial artists, and all kinds of other street performers can be seen practicing in the park.
This is a great place to see what real, local life is like in Tokyo. To see more of that, including this area, consider a local life tour with a guide to show you all the secrets of this corner of Tokyo.
9. Mount Fuji
While there are plenty of things to do in Tokyo, many tourists like to get out of the city for a day. A natural destination is Mt. Fuji, a symbol of Japan recognized worldwide and just two hours southwest of Tokyo city.
This is Japan’s highest point at more than 12,000 feet, and the sacred mountain is an active volcano. While it’s visible from several points in Tokyo, it’s even better to see up-close at its feet the Japanese countryside. The popular gateway town to the mountain is Gotemba, which has a railway station.
Numerous paths are available to hike to Fuji’s summit, and many are beginner-friendly. Hiking season lasts from July to September. The cold months turn Fuji into a winter wonderland, where activities like skiing and snowboarding are available at two winter resorts. Spring brings the beautiful blossoms that we’ve already mentioned several times.
Most visitors prefer to take a day tour to Mount Fuji from Tokyo, so they don’t need to worry about driving or taking trains. There are plenty of these available, but I recommend one that includes a visit to Lake Kawaguchi or Ashi, like this bus tour.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Japan & Top Things to Do
10. Tokyo Disneyland
Address: 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba 279-0031, Japan
If you’ve read my other articles, you know that there was no way I wasn’t going to mention the world’s happiest amusement park. That’s right, there are two Disney parks right on Tokyo Bay, around 30 minutes from the city center by train.
Tokyo Disneyland is the main park where you’ll find the Cinderella Castle, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and all the other staples of Disney. Tokyo also has DisneySea, another park with ocean-themed rides and attractions from movies like Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid.
Both parks are just as great as you imagine. It’s very fun to see your favorite characters speaking Japanese alongside English on their respective rides and see the shops on Main Street selling Japan-specific apparel. Even if you are visiting in the winter, don’t skip Disneyland on the count of the weather – the Christmas celebration here is spectacular.
Be sure to buy your entry ticket online in advance, which can even include a transfer if you aren’t staying at a Disney resort. Besides those, there is also the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay directly outside the park, which has convenient access and upscale amenities.
11. Tokyo Tower
Address: 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato City, Tokyo 105-0011, Japan
Did you know that there is an Eiffel Tower-look alike in central Tokyo? In fact, the Tokyo Tower was designed based on the famous Parisian landmark. It’s a nearly 1,100-foot communications tower in the Minato City neighborhood and has become a local icon.
The functional purpose of the Tokyo Tower was to provide antenna space for television and radio broadcasters after the postwar economic boom of Japan. Its Eiffel Tower design allows it to withstand earthquakes and bad storms, and it is painted in orange and white to comply with aviation rules.
But, the tower has developed a touristic purpose as well. There are two observation decks, one at around 490 feet and another at 819 feet, with panoramic views above the city. There’s also a visitor center called FootTown (i.e., at the feet) under the tower with restaurants, shopping, a small amusement park, and elevators to the tower.
Don’t forget to buy an admission ticket in advance to avoid wasting time in line. After your visit, I recommend going across the street to the small park on the hill below. It has beautiful maple trees and a small waterfall that are often overlooked.
12. Take a Japanese Cooking Class
Besides the rich history, fascinating culture, and natural beauty of Japan, you should be very excited about the delicious food you’ll be having on your trip. Healthy, fresh, and simple, it seems like everyone likes Japanese food. So, why not take a cooking class to see how it’s really done, and take home a new skill?
There are countless Japanese cooking class experiences available in Tokyo. Of course, an all-time favorite is sushi, and rightfully so – as you’ll see, there’s nothing like having sushi in Japan. In this sushi-making class, you’ll learn how to cook the perfect sushi rice, and how to use it to make delightful Nigiri, Inari, and three different types of rolls.
Japanese cuisine goes way beyond sushi. You can also learn to make ramen and gyoza (also known as dumplings) in this supermarket tour and class, where you’ll also learn how to get the perfect ingredients. Once you try the real thing, you may never be able to look at instant noodles the same again.
Don’t forget about one of the crown jewels of Japanese cuisine – Wagyu beef. This kaiseki ryouri (haute cuisine) class will show you exactly how to prepare this delicate cut, along with other traditional vegetables and dishes, while you enjoy delicacies like green tea and sake.
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13. Meiji Shrine
Address: 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan
Adjacent to the popular Yoyogi Park is another one of the city’s most tranquil places, Meiji Shrine. This Shinto shrine is one of the most popular in all of Japan, as it’s dedicated to Emperor Meiji, who ruled the Empire of Japan during a time of transformation into a world power.
Emperor Meiji’s reign was between 1862 and 1912, and the shrine was dedicated just a few years after his death. People from all over Japan dedicated materials and labor to its construction, with supplies coming from every prefecture. While much was destroyed during World War II, its 170 acres have been restored.
The grounds consist of more than 120,000 trees and 365 species donated by people all over the country. The Meiji Jingu Museum is a recently-opened building near the Harajuku Station entrance to the shrine, where visitors can see some of the belongings of Emperor Meiji and the treasures of his rule. Deeper into the grounds, the environment becomes serene and tranquil and a very spiritual spot for Shinto people.
As the Shinjuku neighborhood contains many top attractions, such as the Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, this is another great place to base your stay in Tokyo. To save money, and try an authentically-Japanese type of accommodation, consider a capsule hotel such as the Capsule Hotel Anshin Oyado Shinjuku. It’s far from a luxury resort, and your “room” is truly a capsule, but it is a cool experience to try while here.
14. Ueno Park & Zoo
Address: 9-83 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-8711, Japan
Another great park in Tokyo is Ueno Park, which is also home to Japan’s oldest zoo. They are just west of the Asakusa neighborhood and are reachable directly via Ueno Station.
Ueno Park is home to many walking paths, a lake with boat rentals, and several Shinto and Buddhist sites. It’s also where several of Tokyo’s best museums can be found, including the National Museum of Nature and Science, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the National Museum of Western Art. We’ll elaborate more on some later in their own sections.
The Ueno Zoo has a wide variety of habitats, including pandas, gorillas, kangaroos, and more. There are over 2,600 animals and 400 species housed here, and there is a petting area great for kids. A five-story pagoda towers above the animals and makes for great photography as well.
The zoo is wonderfully inexpensive, so don’t hesitate to buy a ticket even if you just want to have a quick look before or after some of the nearby attractions. The Ueno neighborhood is a good place to find some more traditional accommodations, like this guesthouse, if you want to save money and avoid expensive Tokyo hotels.
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15. Shibuya Crossing
Believe it or not, one of the most famous icons of Tokyo is a crosswalk! Shibuya Crossing is just outside of the Shibuya Station and is a central point in this busy business district of Tokyo comparable to Times Square.
The complicated intersection is busy not only with vehicle traffic turning in every direction but also with pedestrians who scramble once the light turns red. You can cross the street in every direction, including diagonally, and it fills with people systematically when it becomes the pedestrians’ turn.
In fact, tourists and locals will even stop in the center to take some quick selfies in the iconic spot – but be observant of the crossing clock, as rules are followed strictly in Japan! You will probably be tempted to cross the famous streets more than once.
When you’ve had all your crossing fun, stop by the Hachikō Memorial Statue on the same block to pay tribute to the world’s most loyal dog. The dog, an Akita, would walk to Shibuya Station every day to wait for his owner to return home from work. One day, his owner suffered a fatal medical problem and didn’t come home – but that didn’t stop the dog, who continued to wait every day for the rest of his life.
16. See a Japanese Baseball Game
Did you know that “America’s favorite pastime” is one of Japan’s, too? Baseball is very popular in Japan, and they have a professional league called Nippon Professional Baseball, or the NPB.
The history of baseball in Japan dates back nearly 100 years, and they have sent some of the MLB’s best players to the US. There are twelve professional teams in Japan based all around the country, including two in Tokyo, and the season runs from late March to October, which is the prime travel season for Japan.
Tokyo’s teams are the Yomiuri Giants and the Yakult Swallows, the former being where New York Yankees MVP Hideki Matsui started. You can see a game and even get a pre-start introduction to Japanese baseball history, audience chants, and how locals enjoy the sport from the stands. They include tickets to a game, and the experience for the Giants is available here, and the Yakult Swallows available here.
The Swallows play at the Meiji Jingu Stadium in Shinjuku, next to the Nihon Seinenkan Hotel. The Giants play at the Tokyo Dome in Bunkyo City, next to the Tokyo Dome Hotel. Both are excellent places to stay and very convenient for catching a game.
17. The National Art Center
Address: 7 Chome-22-2 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo 106-8558, Japan
Want to see some of the most interesting art exhibitions in Tokyo? The National Art Center is the place to go, as they always have something new to see – in fact, it’s an “empty museum” with no permanent displays!
The point of this museum is to constantly display rotating exhibitions from all over Japan and the rest of the world. That’s why many art lovers who have been to Tokyo before will often find themselves back again to see what the curators have put together for the current exhibitions.
It wouldn’t be very useful to tell you about what they have right now, as it will change in a few weeks. One of their most popular past exhibitions was one on Monet, and a late 2022 one will be on the art of Japanese design.
Admission into the museum itself is free, but the special exhibitions usually require a ticket, which varies in price. The museum also often hosts workshops and education programs led by a diverse set of instructors on many topics. You can check out what exactly is happening at the National Art Center during your trip on their website.
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18. Mori Art Museum
Address: Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Another great place to view art in Tokyo is the Mori Art Museum, also in the Roppongi neighborhood. Founded by the real estate developer Minoru Mori, who designed the building, this museum primarily features contemporary art of Japanese and East Asian origins.
Its collection has amassed over 400 pieces over the years and includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and videos. There are also frequent rotating exhibitions with a wide range of themes, also stemming from Japan and the region.
The Mori Art Museum also hosts courses and workshops for artists to learn, including the possibility of following them online. Don’t forget to also check out their rooftop Skydeck and indoor panoramic view – another benefit of being located in one of the most prominent skyscrapers in Tokyo!
19. Ghibli Museum
Address: 1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0013, Japan
Animation fans will surely recognize Ghibli Studios as a pop culture staple. This famous studio that created Totoro and Spirited Away is based right here in Tokyo, and the Ghibli Museum is where you can see all of their work showcased.
The Ghibli Museum is an interesting experience, combining features of a children’s museum, a fine arts museum, and technology displays. The studio director, Hayao Miyazaki, designed the whole thing himself, basing it as he would for one of his storyboards. The result is a unique building that is as entertaining as one of his films.
An entire floor is dedicated to all things Totoro. Guests also get to see a replica of an animation studio and see the process of creating a film. A theater shows some short films from the studio, and visitors are permitted to see one per visit.
Besides all of the exhibits, there is also a rooftop garden, gift shop, and café at the Ghibli Museum. It’s very important to purchase tickets in advance, as it’s the only way to get them, and they are competitive to get. They go on sale on the tenth day of every month for reservations during the following month, which must be strictly followed.
True manga and animé lovers will have plenty to do and see in Tokyo, including the Ghibli Museum. Since there is so much, consider booking a specialized guide to take you to all of the best places and give you some fan insight.
20. Piss Alley
Address: 1 Chome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan
Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? Actually, for visitors who want to see a piece of Tokyo’s real local history that has turned into a trendy place to have a good time, a trip to Piss Alley is a great choice.
More formally known as Omoide Yokochou, this small side street just steps from Shinjuku Station is very narrow, with shops, bars, and street food stalls packed in tightly. This is very different from the bright and modern Tokyo that most visitors imagine, and it is a local hotspot different from other attractions.
That is what makes it fun, though, as this is a piece of the real Tokyo. This historic alley came about during Japan’s years of war and prohibition when people were poor and had to come here to drink in secret and eat cheap street food. As there were no public bathrooms, the drinkers used the street instead; hence, the name.
For some tasty and still-cheap food and great Japanese beer and cocktails, take a stroll down this fun street one evening. Don’t leave Japan without trying some yakiniku (Japanese barbecue) or some of Piss Alley’s strange foods from animals and insects you wouldn’t expect to be eating.
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21. Ramen Street at Tokyo Station
Address: 1 Chome−9−1 Floor B1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, Tokyo, Japan
If you’re eager to eat Tokyo’s finest ramen, then Ramen Street is the place to be. The “street” is actually a hallway of the underground shopping and restaurant metropolis beneath Tokyo Station, and it’s so well known that it’s even visible on Google Maps.
Ramen Street is made up of eight different famous ramen shops. Most people are familiar with ramen as a cheap, simple meal, but few tourists realize that when done properly, it can be some of the best Japanese food of your trip. If it’s your first time in Japan, you won’t believe how wide the varieties there are.
All of the eight shops on Ramen Street offer their own specialties, and you will find signs indicating their most popular menu items. English is displayed alongside Japanese so that you know the flavors and intensity of what you are ordering. Some even allow you to choose the firmness of your noodles on a scale of one to five.
Ramen fanatics might do well with a ramen-tasting tour with a local expert who can show you even more secret spots to get the best bowls in Tokyo. Just be sure you are saving some meals for other Japanese food, like sushi!
22. Watch Some Sumo Wrestling
While baseball is good fun, sports fans will also enjoy seeing real sumo wrestling, which is simply called sumo in Japan. It’s a national sport and has professional participants, and preserves some ancient traditions from Japanese history.
Sumo means “striking one another” in Japanese, and that’s a good way to describe it. Opponents try to push each other out of the circular ring or throw, shove, or otherwise wrestle the other to the ground so that anything besides the soles of the feet makes contact. It’s a form of modern martial arts, yet it has been practiced for hundreds of years.
Tokyo has three grand sumo tournaments, or honbasho, each year in January, May, and September. They take place over several days, and spectators can see giant competitors of all levels fighting in the ring. It’s very exciting and, of course, much more authentic than the wrestling you’ve probably seen at home.
Even better than going straight to a tournament, however, would be to visit a sumo stable and watch their morning practice with a local guide. You’ll get much more insight into this fascinating sport and a unique glimpse into sumo that just a handful of visitors will ever see.
23. Rainbow Bridge
Address: 3 Chome-33-19 Kaigan, Minato City, Tokyo 108-0022, Japan
One of the nicest places to enjoy the sparkling city lights of Tokyo is on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. This double-decker suspension bridge connects Tokyo proper to some islands in Tokyo Bay and becomes very beautiful at night when it’s colorfully illuminated.
The wires of the bridge are lined with lamps that shine red, green, and white on them, while the base towers are lit in shades of blue. They are completely powered by solar energy that is captured during the day. It adds some wonderful color to the already-sparkling city in the background.
Many tourists like to cross the bridge on foot, as you can also get some great daytime views on its walkways. From the north side, you get a panoramic view of the Tokyo Bay waterfront, and the Tokyo Tower is visible. The south side has views all the way to Mount Fuji.
The walkways are only open until the early evening, so plan your visit properly. The best place to view the Rainbow Bridge is from Odaiba Seaside Park, which offers a Brooklyn Bridge Park-type view of it.
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24. Participate in a Traditional Tea Ceremony
Japan is full of fascinating traditions that have run deep in its culture for thousands of years. One way to get an interesting glimpse into some of this tradition and culture is by attending a traditional tea ceremony, or sadō.
While it may seem very ceremonial and formal, a tea ceremony is actually just “having tea” for Japanese people most of the time. They do it with friends, family, colleagues, or whoever else wants to have tea, but there can be formal versions of it if appropriate. So, don’t feel like you are intruding if you decide to join one with traditionally-dressed locals in a special room.
The ceremony is all about the preparation and serving of matcha, or powdered green tea. It often takes place in a specific tea room decorated with hanging scrolls, flowers, and floor mats for seating. The host will likely wear a kimono, and you may be offered one, too. Light snacks like pastries are usually served.
You can book a tea ceremony with an English-speaking instructor who can lead you through the process and show you how to recreate it at home. There are also versions available led by a geisha, or female performing artist, who can sing, dance, and make the ceremony even more exciting.
25. National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
Address: 2 Chome-3-6 Aomi, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0064, Japan
If you nerd out about technology, science, and the natural world, you’ll definitely want to visit the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. This futuristic museum is located on the Odaiba waterfront and has several attractions that can’t be found anywhere else.
Visitors go on a journey to see the world’s technological progress. Exhibits reach as far back as a rock core that records what is believed to be the meteorite impact that ended the dinosaurs’ time on Earth. But, the museum is mostly focused on the knowledge we have now and where we’re headed in the future.
A collection of live seismometers displays real-time detections from across Japan, indicating the constant vibration of the earth under the islands and the occasional earthquakes felt around them. There’s also the Geo-Cosmos, a giant globe made of high-resolution screens that display real-time weather, ocean temperatures, and natural and human features of the world.
One of the all-time favorites at the museum is Asimo, a robot built by Honda that walks on two legs and is capable of recognizing poses, gestures, movement, and objects, allowing it to interact with humans. Don’t forget to check their website to see what special exhibitions will be on during your trip, as they are usually outstanding.
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26. National Museum of Nature and Science
Address: 7-20 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-8718, Japan
Similar to the above is the National Museum of Nature and Science, the most visited museum in Japan. It’s located in the northeast corner of Ueno Park, next to the National Museum of Western Art.
This museum is all about the natural world and humans’ interaction with it. One of the first things that greet you outside of the museum is a giant, life-size sculpture of a Blue Whale, the largest mammal on Earth. On the other side of the building is an old steam engine, one of humanity’s most important engineering successes in (relatively) recent history.
Inside the museum, you’ll see exhibits on inhabitants of the earth ranging from dinosaur skeletons to recently-extinct animals. There are also meteorites, moon rocks, and historic Japanese telescopes, as well as various spacecraft from Japan.
If you liked the story from above about Hachikō, the world’s most loyal dog who waited for his person at Shibuya Station for years after his death, you’d be pleased to know that there’s a whole exhibit dedicated to him here. AvGeeks will also appreciate the various aerospace exhibits, including multiple Zero fighter jets.
27. Harajuku & Takeshita Street
If you’re looking to get a real sense of Tokyo and the people who live there, you must explore Harajuku and Takeshita Street. Harajuku is a district within Shibuya known for its young and lively atmosphere, with street art and fashion.
Takeshita Street is the main shopping street in the Harajuku area. Here, you’ll find everything from high fashion to cosplay costumes and vintage clothing stores. If you’re one for non-traditional souvenirs and mementos, an outfit from here can remind you of your time in Tokyo for years to come. You can easily access the famous street directly from Harajuku Station.
Beyond shopping, Harajuku is known for its Instagram-worthy cafes and restaurants. Stop by Totti Candy Factory for its famous rainbow cotton candy that will be bigger than your head! If that’s too much sugar for you, Gonpachi is a great alternative where you can enjoy affordable hand-rolled sushi and more.
Before leaving Harajuku, don’t forget to take a photo at a Purikura photo booth. These photo booths will make you look super kawaii, and the photos will make for a great souvenir.
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28. Go-Kart Tour
I’m sure you’ve seen those awesome photos and videos of people dressed up as their favorite characters while in go-karts on the streets of Tokyo. This tour, among many others like it, will allow you to experience the magic of this fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience!
It might be hard to believe, but it’s a common sight in Tokyo – tourists are literally dressed as Mario Kart characters and driving on the open roads, alongside taxis and locals, in their little go-karts. If you played these games as a kid, then it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring the experience to real life.
This go-kart tour will take you through some of Tokyo’s most lively districts, including Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Harajuku. You can do it with or without dressing up as your favorite character. As you kart through these iconic districts, the tour team will be snapping photos of you so you can completely enjoy the moment.
If this sounds like fun to you, don’t forget to get your International Driver’s License before your trip, which is absolutely required to drive in Japan (even go-karts). It’s not complicated or expensive, and you’ll find all of the instructions on the AAA website. They issue the license, and you can do it in-store if they have an office near you.
29. Day Trip to Nara
Tokyo is amazing, but if you’re coming all the way to Japan, it’s worth getting out of the city for part of your trip. If I only had one day to do this, my destination of choice would definitely be Nara.
Nara is a small town southwest of Tokyo that is close to the cities of Kyoto and Osaka, making it a great place to add if you’ve already planned on visiting one of those. You can be in either of them in about two hours on a Shinkansen train from Tokyo, and then it’s another 45 minutes on a regional train to Nara.
Nara is a peaceful, typical Japanese town with lovely parks, nature trails, and temples. But the big reason that people come here is its population of wonderfully friendly deer! In Nara Park, an open space in the center of town, you’ll find hundreds of these peaceful animals roaming free, including disturbing traffic at times.
They don’t have the slightest fear of people and are very photogenic. Vendors sell basic deer cookies all around the park. The deer will actually “bow” to you in true Japanese tradition to ask for a cookie.
30. Tsukiji Outer Market
Address: 4 Chome-16 2 Tsukiji, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
When visiting Japan, it’s important to immerse yourself in the amazing and diverse cuisine that the country has to offer. Though the Tsukiji Fish Market has moved locations, the Tsukiji Outer Market remains in the same place and is known as Tokyo’s “Food Town.” The market originally started as a wholesale market, but nowadays, you can find vendors selling ready-to-eat meals and various home goods.
The best way to experience the Tsukiji Outer Market is by joining a walking tour like this one. This particular walking tour will take you through the entire market while you learn about Japan’s rich culinary traditions. At the end of the tour, you’ll be transported to a cooking studio where you’ll get to learn how to make sushi rolls, miso soup, and a Japanese omelet first-hand from a chef.
Though the main reason to visit Tsukiji Outer Market is the food, there are many vendors that offer awesome kitchenware, tableware, and even clothes. Plan to spend at least an hour or two browsing the various stalls. Some things that should be noted is that bartering in this market is not customary and it’s very much appreciated to ask before you take pictures of any stalls or products.
31. Tokyo National Museum
Address: 13-9 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-8712, Japan
Located within Ueno Park, the Tokyo National Museum is an art museum operated by the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage. It’s one of the most important museums in the whole country, containing much of its most precious art and national treasures.
While other museums may specialize in areas such as Western art or Meiji-era culture, the TNM encompasses all of Japanese culture. This includes paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, and other artifacts. Some exhibits go a bit further with items from other parts of Asia, including items from the Silk Road.
One particularly beloved exhibition is that of the Hōryū-ji Treasures. Hōryū-ji is a Buddhist temple in the Nara Prefecture and is one of the Seven Great Temples. It’s also considered to be the oldest wooden building in the world and historically held a lot of Buddhist art treasures, which were given to the museum for preservation and display. The more than 300 pieces are a true time capsule back to 6th and 7th-century Japan.
There are also frequent special exhibitions on display at the TNM, usually following their Asian culture theme. Visitors can go to the Research and Information Center to see some basic displays and learn more about the collections free of charge.
32. Hamarikyu Gardens
Address: 1-1 Hamarikyuteien, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0046, Japan
The Hamarikyu Gardens is a place that’s both beautifully manicured and historically significant. The site is where the Tokugawa family, who ruled Japan during the Edo period for more than 200 years, had a villa.
The land changed purposes several times after the villa burned down in the 18th century, eventually being home to the guesthouse of the Japanese government for official foreign visits. After the air raids of World War II, the space was repurposed as Japanese gardens. They retain their seawater moat and cultural traditions even today.
Plenty of trails and green space surround the tidal ponds within the gardens, making for a peaceful place to relax. The flower gardens contain plants and flowers for every season. At certain times of the year, visitors can see martial arts and falconry performed here – ancient traditions that would have taken place on the property centuries ago.
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33. Sanrio Puroland
Address: 1 Chome-31 Ochiai, Tama, Tokyo 206-8588, Japan
This one is for all the Hello Kitty fans out there. You won’t want to miss the ultimate Sanrio surprise – Sanrio Puroland! This indoor theme park allows visitors to meet their favorite Sanrio universe characters, including Hello Kitty, Gudetama, Badtz-Maru, and Pochacco.
The theme park consists of four floors and includes rides, a food court, theaters, and character meet and greets. The Sanrio Character Boat Ride is reminiscent of It’s A Small World as you tour the land of kawaii Sanrio characters both classic and new. The Kawaii Kabuki theater show combines your favorite characters with traditional Japanese performing arts.
Make sure you bring your appetite, as Sanrio Puroland offers a wide array of delicious foods. These will be the cutest plates of curry and ramen you’ve ever seen. The restaurants throughout the theme park also offer seasonal and holiday plates and drinks, so there’s always something new and exciting to try.
Continue your experience by booking one of the Hello Kitty-themed rooms at the Asakusa Tobu Hotel. There are two themed rooms that can each accommodate up to four guests. It’s a must if you’re a big Hello Kitty fan.
34. Gotokuji Temple
Address: 2 Chome-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya City, Tokyo 154-0021, Japan
While there are beautiful temples scattered throughout Tokyo, Gotokuji is a special one. It’s another very old and historic one, dating back to 1680 and surviving the bombings of World War II that claimed so many of the others. But there’s even more to love about this temple.
Gotokuji is sometimes known as “the cat temple.” No, you won’t find furry friends running around the grounds – at least not real ones. Instead, a part of this temple is filled with thousands of the famous Maneki-neko, also known as waving cat figurines common in Asian restaurants and shops all over the world.
One legend claims to be the story behind the waving cats. In the 17th century, a poor monk who lived at the temple with his cat was taking cover from a rain storm. A traveling samurai lord was nearby and took cover from the storm under a big tree when he saw the cat waving its paw at him, beckoning him to come closer.
When the lord went to the cat to investigate, lightning struck the tree, which surely would have killed him if he were still under it. He was convinced that the cat saved his life and became a patron of the temple in honor of it.
Today, the Maneki-neko are symbols to bring good luck, and you’ll find thousands of them left by visitors in the small temple in front of the main pagoda. You can get one for yourself from a nearby shop to bring home or to leave with the others.
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35. Day Trip to Mount Mitake
When you’re tired of the buildings and busy atmosphere of Tokyo, a great place to escape into the mountains is Chichibu Tama Kai National Park to the city’s east. The park is massive, at nearly 500 square miles, and while you won’t see it all, Mount Mitake is a great section to focus on.
Access to the mountain is conveniently on the rail line from Tokyo, taking about 1.5 hours to Mitake Station. The train will drop you at a small village beside the gorges of the Tama River. While it’s beautiful there, you’ll want to take the shuttle bus from the station to the cable car up the mountain.
After a short cable car ride toward the top, you’ll have plenty of hiking trails to choose from, most of which are perfectly suitable for beginners. Mount Mitake is full of ancient Shinto shrines, beautiful viewpoints, and serene waterfalls.
There are two Japanese-traditional hotels near the peak of Mount Mitake: Nobori and Shukubo Komadori-Sanso. Both have the beautiful architecture and decorations of a ryokan, and you can enjoy the ancient tradition of onsen at both as well if you choose to make Mount Mitake more than a day trip.
36. Visit an Animal Café
While the phenomenon of animal cafés is slowly making its way to other parts of the world, Japan is way ahead in this area. You can find all kinds of these cafés in Tokyo, and if you’re unfamiliar, they are essentially coffee shops with resident animals to pet and enjoy the company of.
The concept started with cat cafés, which are all over the city. One favorite is Tamari no Oshiro Cat Café, which is decorated as a cat “kingdom” and has around 19 resident felines available for attention.
But Tokyo doesn’t stop at cats. There’s the Harajuku Mame-Shiba Café, home to some of Japan’s favorite dog breed, the Mame Shiba Inu. There’s the ChikuChiku café, where hedgehogs will join you for a drink.
Not exotic enough for you? There are also snake cafés, capybara cafés, and miniature pig cafés. Basically, if you are an animal person and a coffee or tea drinker, you’ll be in heaven in Tokyo.
37. Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park
Address: 3 Chome-1 Tokai, Ota City, Tokyo 143-0001, Japan
In addition to its extravagant fashion, huge shopping districts, interesting cafes, and architectural wonders, Tokyo is also known for its appreciation of its surrounding natural beauty and wildlife. The Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park serves as a wonderful place to take in the natural wonder of the city.
Over 200 species of birds can be found throughout the year in the park. Rangers from the Wild Bird Society of Japan can provide you with more information about the birds you see in the park, along with the history of the area.
The Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park also makes a fantastic spot for picnics or just to take a break between other exciting Tokyo attractions. Throughout the park, you can find well-maintained benches and tables to relax at.
The admission fee for an adult is 300 yen ($2 USD), 150 yen for those over 65 and children over 12, and free for children under 12. The park is open every day except Mondays and holidays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, closing half an hour earlier during the winter months.
38. Have a Beach Day
Tokyo may be known for its skyscrapers and busy streets, but that doesn’t mean the beach isn’t within reach. Let’s not forget that Japan is an island country, and there are quite a few fantastic stretches of shoreline within easy reach of the city.
In fact, there’s one within the city limits: Odaiba Beach. This artificial cove is just next to the Rainbow Bridge, but it isn’t always open for swimming. It’s nice to see the Tokyo skyline in the distance, but for more picturesque beaches, you’ll need to jump on a train (or into a car).
Many of the region’s best beaches are along the Chiba peninsula, which forms the other side of Tokyo Bay. Onjuku Beach is one with a wide, sandy shoreline where surfing and paddle boarding are popular, with rentals available. It’s just a 1.5-hour ride on a direct train from Tokyo.
You can also head south of the city to places like Atami Sun Beach, which takes less than an hour to reach on a Shinkansen train. This resort area has a beautiful sandy bay that’s popular for swimming and relaxing. There are often fireworks nearby on summer nights as well.
What are the top Tokyo tourist attractions?
While there are a ton of amazing places to visit in Tokyo, the shortest of trips should definitely include a walk through Ginza, the Shibuya Crossing, and Sensō-ji Temple. The Tokyo Skytree is one of the best spots for views, and you also do not want to skip any meals so as to not miss out on the delicious food in Tokyo.
Are there things to do in Tokyo with kids?
There are plenty of Tokyo attractions that are great for kids! We’d say the number one is Tokyo Disneyland, where all of your favorite characters and rides can be found. Kids also love going to places like the Ueno Zoo, seeing a Japanese baseball game, or seeing a real-life Sumo Wrestling match.
What are the top free things to do in Tokyo?
Some of the best things to see in Tokyo are free, believe it or not. The Tokyo Tower can be viewed for nothing from the street just beside it, while the famous Shibuya Crossing is just a crosswalk that you definitely don’t need to pay for. Exploring neighborhoods like Ginza, Shinjuku, and Takeshita doesn’t cost anything, either.