Top things to do/ see in Tokyo.
Travellers- for those of you yet to experience the sheer joy and overwhelming mayhem that is Tokyo this is the list of things you must see, do and experience. I have personally done every single one of these items, and can assure you that doing some (if not all) of these will give you a diverse and true experience of Tokyo.
(Note: There’s no particular order to this list- all are important and interesting)
- Enjoy the neon night lights of Tokyo. Whether it be the walkways of Shinjuku or Shibuya you must walk around these suburbs at night. The lights give it an incredible atmosphere!
2. Visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum. This fantastic museum documents the history of the city, from it’s ancient roots as the city ‘Edo’ though to the modern technology capital that we now know as Tokyo. The museum is filled with fascinating displays and memorabilia- especially detailed architecture models of how the city use to look. Also the building itself is an architectural gem that must not be missed. Note: There is a free guide service available in different languages, where a local guide will take you around the museum giving you additional information.
Cost: Adult 600Y
3. Rest in Yoyogi Park. In such a heavily built up city it’s wonderful to find a peaceful green space to enjoy. People flock to the park on the weekends for picnics, sport games and dance rehearsals. Note: Many people come here on Sundays searching for teenagers dressed up in the latest Harajuku fashions.
4. Play arcade games. You will find arcade parlours (some multiple stories high) in most areas of Tokyo. Lower levels of the parlours have coin operated games with crazy prizes such as lollies, ritz crackers or anime models up for grabs. These game arcades are usually bustling with young Japanese gamers and are very noisy. A fun way to spend an afternoon (and a great place to hang out when you need to avoid the heat/cold
5. Visit an Onsen (a hot spring) or Sento (a bathing house). Local bathing houses are usually found within each suburb allowing locals to soak in hot water. There are some that are more like amusement parks then local joints, but they are still a lot of fun. Bathing in Japan requires you to bathe naked (yes naked!). For those of you on the shy side (I too fall into this category) the first time you bathe will be a terrifying experience, but I found it to be incredible liberating. Give it a go! My favourite experience was at Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari.
6. Wander through Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens. These gardens are a must see for any nature lover. Although there is a small admission fee it is still worth a look to admire the formal japanese gardens, french style gardens and the famous fern/orchid house. I enjoyed a lovely picnic there one day.
Note: closed on mondays.
7. Stroll down Omotosando road. Considered the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo this famous street is filled with the big fashion houses amongst trendy Japanese boutiques. There are also some great coffees shops hidden in the lane ways.
8. Go see a Kabuki Show. A traditional theatre from Japan. I went to the National Kabuki centre. Tickets can either be purchased online or a small amount are sold on the day of the performance. The National Kabuki centre has english translating headphones so that you can follow along. I went to see an ‘Introduction to Kabuki’ show which had a lesson in the style and conventions, and then a performance followed.
9. Enjoy lunch at a department store. Most suburbs will have a fancy department store in them, with many connected to the train station exits. These department stores are usually filled with expensive designer wares, but in the basements (or top floors) there are fantastic food departments filled with amazing yummy items. Ranging from french breads, beautiful desserts, deli meats, sushi to local dishes, there is something here to cater for every taste bud. Note: at the end of the day prices are slashed to clear stock. I’m talking 100Yen for packets of gourmet sushi. You will have to hang around and scramble for bargains, but it does make a fun adventure to get a delicious economical meal. I can suggest Isetan and Takashimaya both in Shinjuku, and Mitsukoshi in Ginza.
10. Visit the old Imperial Castle. Visitors can enjoy the surrounding views of the castle, including the well recognised bridge. Tours of the castle gardens can be booked online, but you must do this well in advance as spots book up.
11. Go shopping in Shibuya. This are has everything you could ever want to purchase- electronics, the latest fashions. Most visitors flock here to walk across the famous pedestrian crossing outside Shibuya station. The best location to photograph this is from the Starbucks cafe that is across from the station (the other side of the crossing looking towards the station exit).
12. Go shopping for electronics or manga items in Akihabra. A cultural mecca for Otaku (devoted fan) of anime and manga with streets filled with department stores specialising in comic books, dvds and figurines. Alongside these department stores are towering electronic malls featuring the latest electronic gadgets. Akihabra is also a great place to experience Maid Cafes and Manga cafes.
13. Light insence sticks at Senso-joi temple. Read more about this temple on a previous post.
14. Walk through forests to reach Meiji temple. Read more about this temple on a previous post.
15. Explore culture and nature Ueno Park. This park is truly a one-stop-shop for Tokyo tourism. The park is famous for being home to a wide range of high quality museums including the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the Tokyo National Museum and the National Science Museum. There are many temples in the park including Kiyomizu Kannon Temple where visitors wishing for children and healthy babies often visit. Families will often visit the park for walks, to visit the Ueno Zoo or to stroll around the Shinobazu pond.
Hint: This is the best area in Tokyo to witness cherry blossoms.
16. Park with your cash in Ginza. The most esteemed area for shopping and entertainment in Tokyo. This area is filled with department stores and luxury brands.
17. Get lost in the transport system. Tokyo has one of the most complicated yet efficient transport systems in the world. The easiest way to negotiate it is to get a PASMO or Suica card which are re-loadable with credit, grab a map of both the Tokyo Metro and the JR lines (Tokyo’s two key systems) and don’t be in a rush.
18. Eat, Eat and Eat. Tokyo is one of the best places in the world to eat. It is now home to the most amount of Michelin starred restaurants, but the cheap eats are delicious! Tokyo is jam packed with restaurants open for business, so you will always be able to find the cuisine you are after even in the early hours of the morning. If could can afford it I’d highly recommend eating at one of the high end joints, simply to enjoy the artistry that Japanese chefs deliver in their food. Portion sizes in Japan may be small, but every morsel of food will have been carefully prepared and presented. However, if your budget cant stretch that far there are plenty of local eateries, department store food halls and reputable food chains to enjoy.
19. Find a seat in the bar in Golden Gai. Hidden amongst bustling Shinjuku are six tiny alleys (thin enough so that no car can fit down them) is the famous Golden Gai bar district. The area is filled with slightly ramshackle tiny bars fitting only a few patrons each. The area has a shady past as a well know area for prostitution and the favourite drinking area of the Yakuza (the Japanese mafia), however the area is now very safe- even at night- and is now filled with artsy types. Many of the bars are locals only, or introduction only, but many warmly welcome visitors.
20. Enjoy a cocktail at Park Royal Hotel- Lost in Translation style. (Note: this is something I have yet to do, but is top of my list for next time). Movie lovers will recognise the bar and it’s beautiful view from the film Lost in Translation. The bar is open to the public, but does have an expensive booking fee for those wishing to drink there after 7pm. Jazz bands often play here at night.
I hope you can find something in this list to tempt and intrigue you. I’d love to here suggestions of your top places to see in Tokyo.
Be safe. Be smart. Be good. x