The 20 Best Things to Do in Tokyo

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The 20 Best Things to Do in Tokyo

Tokyo, the bustling capital of Japan, is a city where the ultramodern and the traditional coexist in a fascinating blend. From ancient temples to futuristic technology, sumptuous food, and vibrant pop culture, Tokyo offers a plethora of experiences that can cater to every type of traveler. Here are the 20 best things to do in Tokyo, each offering a unique window into the heart and soul of this dynamic city.

Visit the Sensō-ji Temple: Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensō-ji, is located in Asakusa. It is famous for its vibrant Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon), a giant red lantern, and Nakamise Street, lined with shops selling traditional Japanese souvenirs and snacks.

Explore the Shibuya Crossing: Experience the iconic scramble crossing outside Shibuya Station, one of the busiest in the world. The area is also a shopping and entertainment hub, buzzing with youthful energy.

Admire the View from Tokyo Tower: Inspired by the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower offers panoramic views of the city. At 333 meters, it’s a symbol of Japan’s post-war rebirth as a major economic power.

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Discover the Meiji Shrine: Nestled in a forested area, this Shinto shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It’s a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Stroll Through the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: This large park blends three types of gardens—Japanese traditional, French formal, and English landscape. It’s particularly stunning during cherry blossom season.

Immerse Yourself in Akihabara: Known as the mecca for anime and manga fans, Akihabara is filled with stores selling electronics, video games, and collectibles. Don’t miss exploring its maid cafés and themed shops.

Experience Tsukiji Outer Market: Although the inner wholesale market has moved to Toyosu, Tsukiji’s outer market still thrives with vendors selling fresh seafood, vegetables, and Japanese kitchenware.

Take a Sumida River Cruise: See Tokyo from a different perspective by taking a boat cruise along the Sumida River. Enjoy views of the city’s skyline and iconic landmarks.

Enjoy Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea: These two theme parks offer a magical experience with their unique attractions, parades, and shows, catering to both families and Disney enthusiasts.

Visit TeamLab Borderless: This innovative digital art museum in Odaiba offers an immersive experience with its interactive, projection-mapped artworks that blur the lines between art and technology.

Shop in Ginza: Tokyo’s most famous shopping district, Ginza, is home to luxury boutiques, cutting-edge fashion, and upscale dining, making it a must-visit for shopaholics.

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Explore the Imperial Palace: The primary residence of the Emperor of Japan, the Imperial Palace’s grounds are open to the public, offering a glimpse into the country’s royal heritage and meticulously maintained gardens.

Relax in Ueno Park: A spacious public park that features museums, a zoo, and during spring, an impressive display of cherry blossoms. It’s a popular spot for picnics and leisurely strolls.

Dive into the Nightlife in Roppongi: Known for its vibrant nightlife, Roppongi is filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants that cater to a diverse crowd, including expats and tourists.

Visit the Mori Art Museum: Located in Roppongi Hills, this contemporary art museum showcases modern art pieces and offers stunning views of the city from its observation deck.

Try Authentic Sushi: Tokyo is the best place to experience authentic Japanese sushi. Visit a high-end sushi restaurant or enjoy a more casual sushi train experience.

Attend a Sumo Wrestling Match: If you’re visiting during sumo tournament seasons, don’t miss the chance to watch a live sumo match at the Ryogoku Kokugikan.

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(Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)

Explore Harajuku: The heart of Japan’s youth culture and fashion, Harajuku is famous for its Takeshita Street, where you can find quirky shops, cafes, and street food.

Take a Trip to Odaiba: This man-made island in Tokyo Bay offers shopping, entertainment, and attractions like the futuristic Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) and the giant Gundam statue.

Experience a Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony: Participate in a tea ceremony to experience the art and tradition of Japanese tea, a quintessential part of Japan’s cultural heritage.

Tokyo’s endless offerings ensure that every visit can be as diverse and fulfilling as the city itself. Whether you’re soaking in the neon lights of the city’s skyscrapers or finding tranquility in a centuries-old garden, Tokyo promises an unforgettable experience that blends the past, present, and future in its unique tapestry.

Beyond the main attractions, Tokyo’s depth is found in its details and the lesser-known experiences that offer a more intimate look at its culture, people, and urban dynamics. Here are additional recommendations to enrich your Tokyo journey:

Explore the Art Islands from Tokyo: While not in Tokyo itself, a trip to Naoshima or Teshima islands to explore their contemporary art museums and installations is a popular excursion that can be initiated from Tokyo.

Visit the Tokyo National Museum: As Japan’s oldest and largest museum, it houses a comprehensive collection of art and archaeological artifacts from Japan and other Asian countries, providing deep insights into the region’s history and culture.

Wander through Yanaka: This neighborhood, which survived the bombings of World War II, offers a glimpse into Tokyo’s past with its traditional houses, small temples, and the famous Yanaka Cemetery.

Attend a Kabuki Performance: Experience traditional Japanese theatre with elaborate costumes and stylized performances at the Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginza.

Explore the Edo-Tokyo Museum: Learn about Tokyo’s historical transformation from the Edo period to the modern metropolis it is today through detailed models, interactive exhibits, and historical artifacts.

Discover the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: Often overlooked by tourists, the observation decks of this building offer some of the best panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond, completely free of charge.

Indulge in Ramen at a Specialty Shop: Tokyo boasts numerous ramen shops where you can savor different regional variations of this beloved noodle soup, from the rich tonkotsu broth to the soy-based shoyu ramen.

Take a Cooking Class: Participate in a cooking class to learn how to prepare traditional Japanese dishes, from sushi to tempura and bento boxes, providing both a cultural insight and a practical skill to take home.

Visit the Ghibli Museum: Dive into the magical world of Studio Ghibli, Japan’s renowned animation studio. The museum, located in Mitaka, showcases the art and animation of Hayao Miyazaki and other Ghibli films.

Go Vintage Shopping in Koenji: For those interested in vintage fashion, Koenji is a treasure trove of shops selling unique clothing, accessories, and vinyl records, reflecting Tokyo’s diverse subcultures.

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Enjoy Seasonal Festivals: Depending on when you visit, you can experience a variety of traditional festivals (matsuri), from the cherry blossom viewings in spring to the lively summer festivals with fireworks.

Relax at an Onsen: Experience the Japanese tradition of bathing in a hot spring. Tokyo has several onsen facilities where you can unwind after a day of exploring.

Hike Mount Takao: Just an hour away from central Tokyo, Mount Takao offers hiking trails, a monkey park, and stunning views of Mount Fuji on clear days, making it a great escape to nature.

Karaoke in Shinjuku: Join the locals in one of Tokyo’s favorite pastimes. Rent a private booth with friends and sing your heart out in one of Shinjuku’s many karaoke bars.

Explore Tokyo’s Coffee Scene: From traditional kissaten (Japanese-style coffee shops) to modern specialty coffee houses, Tokyo’s coffee scene is booming, offering a quiet respite and a chance to savor meticulously prepared brews.

Tokyo is a city of endless layers, waiting to be explored. Whether it’s your first visit or your tenth, there’s always something new to discover, a hidden alley to wander, or a new taste to savor. Its mix of high-tech wonders, historical depth, and cultural richness makes Tokyo not just a destination to visit but an experience to immerse yourself in, promising memories that last a lifetime.