Best things to do in Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan’s capital city, is a world-leading metropolis. Overflowing with history, culture, modernity, and tradition, Tokyo effortlessly combines the old and new, creating an enthralling experience for every visitor. Here, we explore the best things to do in Tokyo, including some hidden gems, to help you optimize your trip to this captivating city.

1. Embrace Traditional Japanese Art Forms

Tokyo was known as Edo until 1868 and has grown from a humble castle town to becoming the heart of Japan’s political, cultural, and social landscape. The city is distinctly characterized by its dedication to traditional arts and art forms.

1.1 Kabuki-za Theatre

Start your journey into Tokyo’s traditional arts by visiting the Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginza. Here, you can immerse yourself in the world of Kabuki, a classical Japanese dance-drama known for its stylish and elaborate makeup worn by the performers.

1.2 Edo-Tokyo Museum

For a deeper dive into Tokyo’s history, make your way to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. It is one of Japan’s oldest and most impressive museums, housing over 7,000 artifacts that trace the city’s evolution from the Edo period to the present day.

2. Dive into Akihabara’s Pop Culture

Experience Tokyo’s pop culture in the Akihabara district, a paradise for otaku, or die-hard pop culture fans. Akihabara is a hotbed of manga, anime, and electronics stores. It’s a sensory overload and cultural immersion that’s fun, quirky, and unique to Tokyo.

2.1 Retro Game Camp and Super Potato Retro-kan

If you’re a gaming enthusiast, you’ll love the Retro Game Camp and Super Potato Retro-kan. These stores are brimming with old-school video game treasures.

2.2 Cosplay Cafes

For a uniquely Japanese experience, check out the cosplay cafes. These thematic cafes offer visitors the chance to interact with staff dressed in anime or video game character costumes.

3. Taste the Pacific at Tokyo’s Fish Markets

Tokyo is often regarded as ‘Japan’s Kitchen’ due to its vibrant and diverse food scene. The city’s fish markets are a testament to this culinary prowess, offering a taste of the Pacific that’s fresh, flavorful, and unforgettable.

3.1 Tsukiji Fish Market

Though the fish selling operations shifted to the Toyosu Market in 2018, Tsukiji’s Outer Market remains active and is a must-visit. Here, you’ll find a variety of seafood and produce, along with street-food stalls selling delicious treats like seared tuna and uni sandwiches.

3.2 Toyosu Fish Market

At Toyosu, the largest wholesale fish market in the world, you can savor fresh sushi at various sushi bars, witness live fish auctions, and tour a large green space on the rooftop for panoramic city views.

4. Discover the Serenity of Tokyo’s Gardens

Despite its bustling city streets, Tokyo is home to a number of tranquil gardens. These green spaces offer a peaceful retreat from the city’s fast pace and are ideal for relaxation and reflection.

4.1 Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen is a spacious city park that features three types of gardens: a French Formal Garden, an English Landscape Garden, and a traditional Japanese Garden. With beautifully maintained lawns and landmarks like the Taiwan Pavilion, Shinjuku Gyoen is a sight to behold.

4.2 Hamarikyu Gardens

Next, visit the Hamarikyu Gardens, a landscape garden next to Shiodome. The garden, once the property of a feudal lord, offers a peaceful escape from Tokyo’s bustling city life.

5. Explore Tokyo’s Neighborhoods

Tokyo’s neighborhoods each have a unique charm and character that contribute to the city’s diverse and vibrant personality. From shopping districts to historical areas, these neighborhoods are worth exploring.

5.1 Shibuya

Shibuya is a popular district known for its shopping, dining, and entertainment options. It’s particularly popular among younger generations and is home to the famous Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world.

5.2 Shinjuku

Shinjuku, the area around Japan’s busiest station, is a bustling district known for its shopping, dining, nightlife, and entertainment options. The district is also home to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which offers free observations decks for panoramic city views.

5.3 Harajuku

Harajuku is the center of teenage fashion and cosplay culture in Tokyo. Whether you’re shopping for unique clothing or looking to try quirky foods like colorful cotton candy, Harajuku is the place to be.

6. Experience Tokyo’s Nightlife

Tokyo’s nightlife is as vibrant and diverse as the city itself. From swanky bars to traditional pubs, the city offers a range of options for nighttime entertainment.

6.1 Golden Gai

Located in Shinjuku, Golden Gai is a network of narrow streets lined with hundreds of small bars. Despite its compact size, the area offers a diverse range of drinking establishments, from dive bars to sophisticated lounges.

6.2 New York Bar

For a taste of luxury, head to the New York Bar located on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt. Here, you can enjoy a range of cocktails while listening to live jazz music and taking in breathtaking city views.

7. Visit Tokyo’s Museums

Tokyo is home to numerous museums that cater to a variety of interests. Whether you’re into art, history, science, or technology, there’s a museum for you in Tokyo.

7.1 Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum is one of Japan’s most prestigious museums. It houses over 116,000 pieces of art and artifacts that cover the longest recorded history of Japan. Here, you can see relics such as samurai armor, delicate pottery, and beautiful kimonos.

7.2 Yayoi Kusama Museum

The Yayoi Kusama Museum is dedicated to the works of the avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama. The museum showcases Kusama’s larger-than-life installations, including her “infinity room” series, which has become an Instagram sensation.

8. Take a Trip to Odaiba

Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay known for its futuristic architecture and attractions. Here, you can enjoy shopping, dining, and entertainment, all in one place.

8.1 Odaiba Seaside Park

The Odaiba Seaside Park offers stunning views of the Rainbow Bridge and the Tokyo skyline. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beach, have a picnic, or even try your hand at a variety of water sports.

8.2 Palette Town

Palette Town is a large shopping and entertainment complex in Odaiba. It features a variety of attractions, including the VenusFort shopping mall, the Mega Web car theme park, and the Palette Town Ferris wheel, one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels.

9. Visit Tokyo’s Temples and Shrines

Tokyo’s temples and shrines offer a glimpse into the city’s spiritual side. These sacred sites are not just places of worship but also offer insight into Japan’s customs and traditions.

9.1 Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple, located in the Asakusa district, is Tokyo’s oldest and most significant Buddhist temple. The temple grounds are always bustling with activity, making it a vibrant and energetic place to visit.

9.2 Meiji Shrine

The Meiji Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The shrine is nestled within a beautiful forest and is a peaceful retreat from the bustling city.

10. Shop ‘Til You Drop

Tokyo is a shopper’s paradise. From high-end fashion to quirky souvenirs, the city offers a wide range of shopping experiences.

10 Ginza

Ginza is Japan’s premier shopping district. Here, you can find a variety of high-end boutiques, department stores, and flagship stores of famous brands.