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Top 20 Things to Do in Tokyo: Recommended Bucket List Experiences & More!

Top 20 Things to Do in Tokyo: Recommended Bucket List Experiences & More!

Date published: 13 November 2020
Last updated: 24 December 2020

No trip to Japan would be complete without enjoying some of these fun things to do in Tokyo!

More than just a political and financial hub, Tokyo is home to various aspects of culture, and its attraction lies in the mountain of choices available.

From ancient structures with long and illustrious histories, to modern art and pop culture right under your fingertips, there’s too many to count. Also, Tokyo is where various foods from all throughout the country are gathered. As such, be it sushi or ramen, you can taste the best cuisine that Japan has to offer the world in one place.

In this article, we’ve selected 20 of the best things to do in Tokyo that you absolutely have to experience at least once when you’re in town.

1. Experience the culture of an old izakaya restaurant

1. Experience the culture of an old izakaya restaurant
Image Credit: Photo AC

One of the best things to do in Tokyo when you visit: try experiencing an izakaya, a traditional Japanese restaurant, at least once.

For example, some of the izakaya alleys that bring you into a timeslip into Japan from 50 years can be found in Shinjuku and Shibuya.

A three-minute walk away from Shinjuku station is “Shinjuku Nishiguchi Omoide Yokochō”, an alley which sprang up after the second world war, and shadows of that time period continue to linger there to this day.

Moving on, “Nonbei Yokochō” in Shibuya is also about three-minutes from Shibuya station by foot, and is a deep spot for the retro izakaya restaurants squeezed together side-by-side.

  • The Nonbei Yokocho
    • Address 1-25-9, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0002
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Shibuya Station (JR Shonan Shinjuku Line / JR Yamanote Line / JR Saikyo Line / Tokyo Metro Ginza Line / Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line / Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line / Tokyu Toyoko Line / Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line / Keio Inokashira Line)
      1 minute on foot

2. Watch the national sport of Japan, Sumo wrestling

2. Watch the national sport of Japan, Sumo wrestling

Sumo wrestling is one of Japan’s traditional sports with over 1500 years of history. Seeing a match is one of the best things to do in Tokyo. Of the six main sumo wrestling tournaments held throughout Japan every year, the tournaments held in January, May, and September are held in Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Considered the holy ground of sumo, countless numbers of major matches are held here. You can get up close with the culture and techniques of sumo that have been handed down since ancient times.

It’s recommended to watch your first match while seated in “Masuseki” seats, where you can enjoy food while watching. If you intend to watch a match, it’s best to check the details beforehand.

3. Get up close and personal with digital art

3. Get up close and personal with digital art
© teamLab

Tokyo is also where the latest in art gathers. Amongst these are the digital art museums breaking boundaries, created by the art group teamLab, which have been incredibly popular since opening.

At “teamLab Borderless” in Odaiba, it aims to create a world without borders, where new art is created. Besides this, “teamLab Planets Tokyo DMM” in Toyosu is a space where the line between the art piece and the real world is blurred, for an immersive art experience.

  • MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM : teamLab Borderless
    森ビルデジタルアートミュージアム:エプソン チームラボボーダレス
    • Address Odaiba Palette Town, 1-3-8, Aomi, Edo-ku, Tokyo-to
    • Nearest Station Access: 5-minute walk from Tokyo Teleport station on the Rinkai line, 3-minute walk from Aomi station on the Yurikamome line
    • Business hours: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.(Until 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays)
      Closed on Tuesdays (open on Tuesdays if it’s a public holiday)
      Ticket prices: 3,200 yen for adults (with tax), 1,000 yen for middle school children and below (with tax), free for children below 4 years old

  • teamLab Planets TOKYO DMM
    チームラボプラネッツ TOKYO DMM
    • Address teamLab Planets TOKYO, 6-1-16 Toyosu, Koto-ku, Tokyo-to
    • Business hours:
      10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sundays
      Irregular holidays
      *Last entry 30 minutes before closing.
      *Operating hours may differ according to the seasons. Please check the homepage for more details.

4. Go to a restaurant with the only performance of its kind in Japan

4. Go to a restaurant with the only performance of its kind in Japan

Japan's unique pop culture has drawn eyes from all over the world in recent years. At "Kawaii Monster Café Harajuku", where you can experience it first hand, you can enjoy visually-impactful food items.

The Art Director, Masuda Sebastian, designed the shop interior to spread "Harajuku Kawaii Culture" to the world, turning Harajuku's colorful and crazy streets into visual art, such as monsters.

5. Feel the history of Japan raise at a temple

5. Feel the history of Japan raise at a temple

Buddhism in Japan has a long history, and there are numerous temples as a result. Many of them are structures with hundreds of years of history.

Amongst these temples, one temple you have to visit while in Tokyo is "Sensoji", in Asakusa. Built in 628, it is the oldest temple in Tokyo, and it's a great spot to enjoy the culture of Edo in the surrounding area.

From the symbol of Asakusa, the Kaminarimon gate, the path, or "Sando", which leads to the temple has numerous food and souvenir shops lined up, and it's an enjoyable place where you can see many things while walking.

  • Senso-ji Temple
    • Address 2-3-1, Asakusa, Taitou-ku, Tokyo, 111-0032
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line / Toei Asakusa Line / Tobu Isesaki Line (Tobu Sky Tree Line) / Tsukuba Express)
      5 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 03-3842-0181

6. Feel the mystical atmosphere when you go to a shrine

6. Feel the mystical atmosphere when you go to a shrine
Image credit: Photo AC

Similar to the Buddhist temples, there are also numerous Shinto shrines with hundreds of years of history. One of these is one of the most important even amongst the famous shrines of Tokyo, "Meiji Jingū", which is right next to Harajuku.

A shrine where the deified Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken are enshrined, the grounds stretch over 700,000 square meters, and has a lush forest with over 100,000 trees offered from all over the country, where you can enjoy all four seasons surrounded by nature.

During Hatsumōde, the first shrine visit of the year from Janaury 1st to 3rd, the shrine typically welcomes the largest number of people every year in Japan, with over 3 million worshippers coming to visit.

7. Challenge yourself to a training experience at a temple stay

7. Challenge yourself to a training experience at a temple stay
1: Seeing Musashi Mitake Shrine and the temple village in the distance / 2: Waterfall training / 3: If the weather is good, you can see the Bōsō peninsula and Enoshima from this room / 4: An example of a dinner of salt-grilled river fish and konjac / 5: A hot bath in a tub made of cypress wood

"Shukubō" is the practice for worshippers of shrines or monks visiting temples to stay within the grounds, and now, an increasing number of regular holiday-goers, including foreign visitors, are allowed to stay as well.

One draw of Shukubō is the chance to experience the duties and training of the worshippers and monks, and to try Zazen, a type of meditation. In Tokyo, Musashi Mitake Shrine on Mt. Mitake in Ōme-shi has a temple village with about 20 temple stay experiences on offer.

Amongst these, the stay at "Komadori Sanso" offers a waterfall training experience too, and the splendid views are a great draw as well.

  • Komadori Sanso
    駒鳥山荘
    • Address 155, Mitakesan, Ōme-shi, Tokyo-to, 198-0175
    • Nearest Station Access: From Mitake station on the JR Ōme line, take the Nishi Tokyo Bus for 10 minutes, and alight at the final stop at Takimoto station, then take the cable car for 6 minutes from Takimoto station, then alight at Mitakesan station and walk for 15 minutes
    • Phone Number 0428-78-8472

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

8. Peer down at the Shibuya Scramble Crossing

8. Peer down at the Shibuya Scramble Crossing

Right in front of the Shibuya Scramble Crossing is the shopping mall, "Magnet by Shibuya109".

At the "Mag’s Park” on the roof of the building is the observatory “Crossing View,” a hole-in-the-wall spot where you can get a dynamic view of the scramble crossing.

A photography service, “Crossing Photo,” where you can get photos taken from a high angle with the scramble crossing as your backdrop is available too (1,000 yen; temporarily unavailable as of October 2020), and we recommend making great memories using this service.

  • MAGNET by SHIBUYA109(CROSSING VIEW)
    MAGNET by SHIBUYA109(展望台「CROSSING VIEW」)
    • Address 1-23-10, Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
    • Nearest Station Access: 1 minute-minute walk from Shibuya station on the Tokyu-Toyoko line, Toen-Toshi line, Tokyo Metro Ginza, Hanzomon, and Fukutoshin lines, and Keio Inokashira line
    • Phone Number 03-3477-5111
    • Business hours: 12:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.(Last entry at 4:00 p.m.)*Opens from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. as Shibuya Beer Terrace
      Closed on January 1st
      Entry fee: 300 yen (with tax)

9. Go shopping at the birthplace of the latest trends, Harajuku

9. Go shopping at the birthplace of the latest trends, Harajuku

Be it fashion or gourmet food, Harajuku, at the forefront of trends, is a place where shops in trend and fashionable people gather in droves.

Shopping malls are dotted throughout the street, drawing your eyes everywhere. Amongst these is the well-known beauty and cosmetics website in Japan, “@cosme,” with its physical shop, “@cosme Tokyo,” which has over 200 brands and 20,000 products available, and is an enjoyable place to just take a look around too.

  • @cosme TOKYO
    @cosme TOKYO
    • Address 東京都渋谷区神宮前1-14-27
    • Nearest Station Access: 1-minute walk from Meiji Jingū-mae (Harajuku) station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line and Fukutoshin line, or 1-minute walk from Harajuku station on the JR Yamanote line
    • Business hours: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
      Irregular holidays

10. Enjoy fresh seafood while watching Toyosu Market auctions play out

10. Enjoy fresh seafood while watching Toyosu Market auctions play out

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy fresh seafood in Tokyo, Toyosu and Tsukiji are the places to go. In 2018, the wholesale market was moved from Tsukiji to Toyosu.

Now, auctions for tuna and wholesale of fish are conducted in Toyosu. In addition to this, the restaurants and shops within Tsukiji's market area were also moved to Toyosu.

Right now, the area outside the market area of Tsukiji continues to operate the same way to this day, with numerous restaurants continuing to serve up fresh seafood. Be it enjoying the atmosphere of times foregone, or watching the auctions at Toyosu, you can pick the location that aligns with your goals.

Recommended restaurants in Tsukiji that accept online reservations

11. Satisfy yourself with all-you-can-eat grilled wagyu beef

11. Satisfy yourself with all-you-can-eat grilled wagyu beef

For those who wish to enjoy Japan’s famed wagyu beef to their heart’s content, all-you-can-eat grilled wagyu beef is the answer.

At Wagyu Tabehodai Nikuen Ueno, you can enjoy over 85 dishes for 3,980 yen (without tax), including wagyu beef, choosing only the foods that you like. From premium short rib to wagyu loin and premium beef tongue, you can enjoy premium wagyu beef at reasonable prices, and it’s a shop that has become the talk of town.

  • Wagyu Tabehodai Nikuen Ueno
    焼肉 肉縁 上野店
    • Address 2-3-10, Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
    • Nearest Station Access: 4-minute walk from Ueno station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza line and Hibiya line
    • Phone Number 050-5456-1143
    • Business hours: 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. (Until 12:00 a.m. on Sundays)
      Open daily

Other recommended wagyu beef restaurants

12. Enjoy authentic sushi at reasonable prices

12. Enjoy authentic sushi at reasonable prices

Sushi, which was first created during the Edo period, has become one of Japan’s most famous dishes loved all over the world.

In Tokyo, there are old shops that offer only counter seats and belt sushi, as well as all-you-can-eat restaurants, amongst a wide variety of shops available, and it can be a pain trying to decide which shop to try out.

For example, “Sushi Sakaba Fujiyama” in Akihabara has a popular all-you-can-eat extra-large sushi buffet with impressive sushi topped with 20-centimeter-long slices of fish. Including bluefin tuna and salmon, there are over 50 types of fish available for the 2,999 yen (without tax) buffet, and its reasonable price makes it extremely popular.

  • Sushi Sakaba Fujiyama Akihabara main shop
    すし酒場 フジヤマ 秋葉原本店
    • Address 1-20 Kanda Sakumacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
    • Nearest Station Access: 1-minute walk from JR Akihabara station
    • Phone Number 03-4446-9886
    • Business hours: 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
      Open daily

Other recommended Ginza restaurants

13. Admire the night view of Tokyo from Tokyo Tower

13. Admire the night view of Tokyo from Tokyo Tower

Be it international or Japanese visitors, Tokyo Tower is frequented by numerous sightseers, and it’s not just the view from Tokyo from up in the sky, but the illuminations inside that change with the seasons which make visiting the observatory deck especially enjoyable.

In September 2019, renovations on the 150-meter-tall main deck were completed. The window glass and sashes, along with the observation floor, were completely renewed. From buying original goods at the souvenir shops, to enjoying live music at “CLUB333” on the first floor of the main deck, there are now more ways to have fun there.

14. See over the whole of Tokyo from the Skytree

14. See over the whole of Tokyo from the Skytree

The newest landmark in Tokyo is the Tokyo Skytree. Standing at 634 meters tall, as of March 2016, it was the tallest free-standing radio tower in the world, and has everything from observation decks that allow you to gaze over Tokyo, to restaurants and souvenir shops.

On clear days, you can see up to 75 kilometers away, allowing you to see Mount Fuji as well. On top of this, the view of the streets of Tokyo painted red at sunset, and the night views are highly recommended.

15. Experience a maid café in Akihabara

15. Experience a maid café in Akihabara

Popular even worldwide, is one of the tenets of Japanese pop culture, the maid café. From greetings of “Welcome home, master, lady,” to the cute outfits and performances by the staff full of smiles, the food menu has a wide variety of dishes too!

Amongst all these maid cafés, “@Home Café Akihabara” is recommended for first-timers who want to try it out. The staff have all received training in English, making it great for foreign visitors.

  • @Home Cafe Akihabara
    @ほぉ~むカフェ秋葉原本店
    • Address Mitsuwa Bldg. 3F to 7F, 1-11-4, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
    • Nearest Station 3-minute walk from JR Akihabara Station
    • Phone Number 03-5207-9779
    • Opening hours: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Open from 10:00a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays)
      Open daily

16. Eat ramen exclusive to Tokyo

16. Eat ramen exclusive to Tokyo

At the crossroads of Japan is Tokyo station, and connected to the Yaesu underground central exit is “Tokyo Ramen Street,” a gourmet spot where numerous ramen shops are gathered.

The area became popular as it allows you to enjoy ramen from popular ramen shops while in transit. This gourmet street has everything from fish and pork-based broth to ramen and tsukemen, or dipping noodles, with different types of noodles, soups, and toppings, to ramen that uses vegetables exclusively, and the wide lineup available is staggering.

As there are exclusive dishes that you can only enjoy here, it’s a great place to have your first bowl of ramen in Tokyo.

  • Tokyo Ramen Street
    • Address The Tokyo Station first Avenue the first floor of the basement south street, 1-9-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-0005
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Tokyo Station (Tokaido Shinkansen Line / Hokkaido Shinkansen Line / Tohoku Shinkansen Line / Akita Shinkansen Line / Yamagata Shinkansen Line / Joetsu Shinkansen Line / Hokuriku Shinkansen Line / JR Tokaido Main Line / JR Yokosuka Line / JR Sobu Main Line / JR Sobu Main Line (Rapid) / JR Keihin-Tohoku Line / JR Yamanote Line / JR Chuo Main Line / JR Keiyo Line / JR Ueno Tokyo Line / Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line)
      1 minute on foot
    • Phone Number 03-3210-0077

17. Stay in a hotel where you can see a beautiful night view of the capital

17. Stay in a hotel where you can see a beautiful night view of the capital

To enjoy your holiday in Tokyo, you’ll want to choose the best hotels too. It goes without saying that you’ll want a place near the station, with beautiful night views of the city.

Right next to Tokyo Station is Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo, located on the top eleven floors of the 37-story-tall skyscraper “Marunouchi Trust Tower Honkan,” and because of its height, you can see the gorgeous scenery. The guestrooms have large windows, allowing you to enjoy a dynamic view.

  • Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo
    • Address Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi Trust Tower Main, 1-8-3 Marunouchi,, Tokyo-to, 100-8283
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Tokyo Station (Tokaido Shinkansen Line / Hokkaido Shinkansen Line / Tohoku Shinkansen Line / Akita Shinkansen Line / Yamagata Shinkansen Line / Joetsu Shinkansen Line / Hokuriku Shinkansen Line / JR Tokaido Main Line / JR Yokosuka Line / JR Sobu Main Line / JR Sobu Main Line (Rapid) / JR Keihin-Tohoku Line / JR Yamanote Line / JR Chuo Main Line / JR Keiyo Line / JR Ueno Tokyo Line / Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line)
      5 minutes on foot

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

18. Challenge yourself to trying matcha sweets, since you’re in Japan

18. Challenge yourself to trying matcha sweets, since you’re in Japan

Matcha is a traditional flavor that the Japanese have always loved. In recent years, its popularity has spread to other countries as well. In particular, the light bitterness and sweetness make for a perfect match in matcha sweets. People who have tried it find themselves captivated by the flavor of the matcha.

For example, “Suzukien Asakusa Main Shop” has its signature ice cream, the “matcha gelato,” where you can choose the matcha flavor's thickness from seven levels. Claimed to be the thickest matcha ice cream in the world is No. 7, and reviewers have described it as having an unforgettable taste.

  • Suzukien x Nanaya Collaboration Shop
    壽々喜園 ×ななやコラボショップ
    • Address 3-4-3, Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
    • Nearest Station 7-minute walk from Asakusa station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Toei Asakusa line, Tobu Isezaki line (Tokyo Skytree line), and Tsukuba Express
    • Phone Number 03-3871-0311
    • Business hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (except for over New Year)
      Closed on the third Wednesday of every month

19. Buy anime goods from the otaku spot, Ikebukuro

19. Buy anime goods from the otaku spot, Ikebukuro

When speaking of the two main spots for otaku in Tokyo, there is Akihabara in the east, and Ikebukuro in the west. In Ikebukuro, near the landmark “Sunshine City,” the surrounding area is full of shops with anime, cosplay, and doujinshi targeted at those of the female persuasion, earning it the nickname “Otome Road,” which translates to “Princess Road.”

Amongst these shops is “Surugaya Ikebukuro Otome-kan Supported by Meikido,” where around 130,000 new and used goods and doujinshi are on sale. Rare and limited items often make an appearance there too, and it’s recommended to make a stop there along the way.

  • Surugaya Ikebukuro Otome-kan supported by Meikido
    駿河屋池袋乙女館 supported by 明輝堂
    • Address 1-30-12, Higashi-ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
    • Nearest Station 6-minute walk from JR Ikebukuro Station
    • Phone Number 03-5956-0551
    • Business hours: 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
      Open daily

20. Enjoy strolling around the streets and shopping at Ginza

20. Enjoy strolling around the streets and shopping at Ginza

In the Ginza area, popular even amongst foreign visitors, are not just high-end shops, but reasonably-priced brands such as Uniqlo and GU, and it’s a street with plenty of shopping available. From 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. from October to March) on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, the central street is closed to traffic, turning it into a “pedestrian’s paradise.”

While enjoying this unique aspect of Japanese culture, you can buy popular souvenirs at “Ginza Six,” and enjoy bargain shopping at “Lotte Duty Free Ginza Store” at the entrance to “Tokyu Plaza Ginza.”

  • GINZA SIX
    GINZA SIX
    • Address 6-10-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
    • Nearest Station 2-minute walk from the Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Marunouchi line, and Hibiya line
    • Phone Number 03-6891-3390
    • Business hours: Shops from10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., restaurants from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
      Closed irregularly

*This article is a re-compilation of past articles.
*Due to Covid-19, operating hours and services available may be affected. For the latest information, please check the official websites.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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