If there were ever a place where you would never run out of things to do, it would be Tokyo. From its futuristic landscapes to its impressive cherry blossoms that line street after street, Japan’s capital and the most visited city is one of splendor and awe. If you’re visiting the country, you can’t not go to Tokyo.
But there’s one problem—with so much to do, where do you start?
The first thing we would say is to make sure you’ve booked a substantial amount of time when visiting the city. The sheer vastness and history of Tokyo are staggering, so it’s recommended that you spend at least a couple of weeks at a minimum exploring it—there is simply no point in heading there for a short break. Your stay wouldn’t even touch the surfaces of the incredible scenes, sights, smells, tastes and experiences that this mega-city has to offer.
What’s fascinating about Tokyo, is that is has managed to capture the fast-paced, futuristic, ultra-modern technologies that give the city that vibrant neon aesthetic. At the same time, it has kept its historic and traditional buildings and way of life in place.
Let’s face it, where else can you walk past a breathtaking skyscraper and the next minute visit a sacred temple nestled in the grounds of a beautiful garden from hundreds of years ago? It sounds like it could never make sense, right? But it does.
Tokyo is so forward-thinking that it has something for residents and visitors of every age and background to enjoy. It encapsulates both historical and futuristic elements, making it one of the most famous and vibrant cities in the world.
If you are planning on making a trip to Japan’s beloved city and wondering what to do in Tokyo, then make sure you read on. Our comprehensive guide will provide you with an insight into the many things you can enjoy in the city — but beware. Make sure you embark with a game plan.
A city so big can be overwhelming at times, so it’s always good to do your research before and have some sort of idea of what you want to do and where you want to go. You may get a bit lost along the way, but that’s just part of Tokyo’s charm.
So, without further ado, here is a comprehensive guide, so you can start planning your Tokyo trip.
See the Beauty of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Let’s start with nature and the outdoors, shall we?
Traditional Japanese gardens are famous all around the world. Dating back to 600 A.D, when the first gardens were sculpted and introduced to Japan, these magical reserves capture the essence of the country’s rich history.
The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the most beautiful traditional gardens in Tokyo, and it also has a twist – the park is traditionally Japanese but with a uniquely French aesthetic.
Shinjuku Gyoen was formerly an imperial garden, but after World War II it became a national garden, ensuring the plot of land will always remain perfectly maintained.
It’s the perfect place for viewing the traditional cherry blossoms, during the peak season of spring. This spacious garden has enough acreage for families, couples, friends and groups to roam freely. Perfect for sitting back, relaxing and picnicking amongst the beautiful traditional landscape, this national garden will not disappoint.
What’s more, the garden possesses 144 acres. If you feel like a solitary stroll, there’s plenty of space to enjoy and feel free.
Amongst the magnificent views, there are stunning landmarks, too. The Taiwan Pavilion is a sight to behold. It’s a modest building donated by the Japanese people in Taiwan to commemorate the marriage of Hirohito, the then Crown Prince. It perches elegantly upon a serene pond, and during cherry blossom season, it is an explosive burst of color and a sight to behold.
If you’re an outdoor lover wondering what to do in Tokyo that gives you an experience of Japanese tradition and landscape, this national park is a must-see.
Watch a Sumo Wrestling Practice
Probably one of the most recognizable and exciting Japanese sports, when in Tokyo, make sure you get to see the traditional sumo wrestler in person.
Let’s just say it will be an experience you never forget.
The intensity and pure seriousness of the sport are hard to capture until you are up close and personal with a wrestler. Many Tokyo visitors who want to catch the sumo wrestlers in action tend to go to the morning practice sessions, where they get to experience the pure grit of the sport. At the practice sessions, you’ll get to see the grunting, panting and sweating of the Japanese sumo wrestlers in all their glory.
Oh, did we forget to mention seeing the training sessions is free? It’s one of the perks of visiting the beya (stables).
Just be aware that the athletes at the training sessions aren’t putting on a show for you. Make sure that you respect their sport and don’t disrupt the training sessions. Sumo is a sport taken very seriously in Japan. Any visitor who attends a session and doesn’t show the wrestlers respect can expect not to be there for very long.
The Ryogoku district is the place to go if you want to catch a sumo wrestler in action. There are over 40 training stables in the area. Only some stables accept visitors, however, including the Takasago Beya, Musashigawa Beya and the Kasugana Beya.
If you are in the area or want to witness a sumo wrestling session, be sure to call ahead. A quick confirmation is all you need to ensure that a practice is taking place and whether they are allowing visitors into the vicinity.
You also can search online to book a Morning Sumo Training tour. If you want to immerse yourself in the sport experience further, there are also lots of other sumo-related experience outings that you can book online, too.
Enjoy the Games at a Sumo Match
So, since you’ve watched the wrestlers in practice, why not head to a professional sumo match?
Sumo is a sport with so much history behind it. It began in ancient times as a ritual to entertain the Japanese Gods, otherwise known as Shinto deities.
These days, the sport has become famous worldwide. However, not many people know the origins and traditions behind the wrestling matches. Not to worry though—even if you aren’t aware of where the sport originated, going to watch a game in real life is an experience you will never forget.
The practices take place at the sumo stables, but the real matches are in exciting wrestling rings that you can witness first hand.
Tickets are available through the official Nihon Sumo Kyokai. The tournament months are January, May and September, and the competitions span over 15 days. You can grab tickets for each day of the tournaments or experience just one day of action.
If you want to experience the matches in the most exciting way possible, make sure to book ringside seats. They are the closest seating areas to the ring, with comfy cushions placed on the floor.
These seats will have you so close to the ring that you can see the sweat glisten from the sumo wrestler’s forehead, smell the action, and taste the wrestler’s hunger to win.
Attend a Baseball Game
While we’re on the subject of sport, another top event for what to do in Tokyo is to watch a baseball game in Tokyo will be just up your street.
You may be thinking, baseball? Isn’t that so quintessentially American?
Well, don’t be fooled. The Japanese are avid baseballers and are incredibly passionate about the sport, too.
Even when you attend a baseball game in Tokyo, you can guarantee it will be a lot different from what you might have experienced in America.
Cue waving umbrellas for home runs, watching cheerleaders perform routines at half time, and munching on edamame (Japanese soybeans).
The Yomiuri Giants typically draw in the biggest crowds at their games, where they usually play at the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome. However, if you want a more intimate experience, you can always head to the outdoor Jingu Stadium to watch the Tokyo Swallows.
Explore the Tokyo National Museum
The oldest museum in Japan, the Tokyo National has been displaying Japanese art from around 1872.
Not only is the oldest museum in Tokyo, but it is also one of the city’s oldest parks open to the public.
The park, named Ueno, is over one hundred acres and is home to over one thousand cherry blossom trees. Not only that, but it is also home to temples, ponds and ancient shrines. You could spend a whole day wandering the grounds and checking out the museum.
The museum holds one of the largest collections of Japanese art, and at any one time, it can only show a minuscule amount of what they have stored away in their vaults. For every single piece of art to be on display (out of the staggering 110,000 artifacts), the museum rotates its showings regularly throughout the five exhibition buildings.
The Tokyo National Museum isn’t just a space for traditional Japanese art, either. Enter its walls, and you will find national treasures such as ancient samurai swords, intricately detailed kimonos, and ancient Buddha sculptures, to name a few.
If you want to get the full experience and learn more about the history of the building and its artifacts, book a tour of the museum.
Discover the Weird World of the Yayoi Kusama Museum
Here’s another museum for you – albeit a little more avant-garde than the previous one.
Even if you don’t know the name Yayoi Kusama, you are sure to recognize some of her work.
She’s the Japanese artist behind the world-famous Infinity Mirrors. If you are in Tokyo and an avid contemporary art lover, be sure to check out the Yayoi Kusama Museum.
Located in a suburban area of Shinjuku, the museum building amasses five stories filled to the brim with the artist’s work, dating back from the 1960s. From the outside, the smooth white building looks quite slim and unassuming. However, when you enter its walls, the museum bursts into life with an explosion of contemporary, engaging, and thought-provoking pieces.
What’s more, is there is a new installation of the breakthrough 1965 Infinity Room, which in recent years has taken Instagram by storm. Thousands of visitors have flocked to different exhibitions around the world to see the sensation.
From avant-garde sculptures to her iconic polka-dot paintings, the museum is a haven for adoring fans of Kusama’s work. If you are an art lover wondering what to do in Tokyo, this museum dedicated entirely to the artist is a bucket list attraction.
One thing to note is that the Yayoi Kusama museum allows only an overall daily number of 200 visitors. They restricted the number of guests after receiving worldwide attention and entirely too many visitors arriving for the museum to handle at once. So, if you are planning on taking a trip, be sure to book the museum in advance, so you’re not disappointed.
We also recommend showing up early. You can explore the surrounding Shinjuku district, which is a vibrant hub, filled with clubs, neon-lit karaoke rooms, fancy hotels, bars, restaurants, theaters and buzzing student nightlife.
Visit Picturesque Nakameguro
We might as well carry on with the artsy recommendations. A trip to the residential district of Nakameguro is definitely up there.
This place is one of the top spots to see the picturesque cherry blossoms when they are in season. Hanami (flower-viewing) is a national pastime, and you can experience this Japanese wonder at Nakameguro.
If you fancy staying in the district a bit longer though, you won’t be disappointed.
The district possesses charming streets and welcoming residents, with an exciting and quirky array of independent cafes, boutiques and craft shops.
If you’re after a break from the hustle and bustle of the buzzing central Tokyo life, the laid-back alternative vibe of Nakameguro might very well be for you.
The Meguro river runs through Nakameguro’s center, and in spring, the sakura trees that line the river’s edges are bursting with cherry blossoms.
After you’ve taken in the beauty of the cherry blossoms and glistening canal-like river, head off to the narrow streets that branch off in all directions. You will find an abundance of cutesy cafes and boutiques, perfect for a spot of lunch and a cup of ocha (tea).
Try Crafting at Origami Kaikan
Everyone knows that Japan is famous for origami. But do you know its heritage and why it has become such a staple of Japanese culture?
It all started with the invention of paper in China around 105 A.D. In the sixth century, monks brought it to Japan. Back in those days, a handmade paper was a luxury item that was only available to few (imagine that!). The folding of paper was strictly for ceremonial purposes, most often for religious ceremonies.
By the Edo period, however (1603-1868), origami had become more accessible and recreational and wasn’t just for ceremonial purposes. It became a new form of art, with it still being prevalent in Japan today.
If you are interested in this form of Japanese art, we recommend you head to Origami Kaikan. It’s a small gallery and shop dedicated to making and promoting this traditional art.
The different floors devote different aspects to the art of origami. The first floor is a shop that displays some origami, and the second is a full gallery, where visitors can admire the art. The fourth floor is a workshop where guests can take classes to learn the Japanese craft – you can take your creations home along with the satisfaction of knowing that you have indulged in a traditional part of Japanese culture.
If crafting is high on your list of items for what to do in Tokyo, Origami Kaikan is a can’t-miss opportunity. The staff recommends that you book in advance, though, as classes can become full very quickly.
See the Senso-Ji Temple
Although Kyoto, the old capital of Japan, is probably more famous for its number of temples than Tokyo, the Senso-Ji temple is a much loved favorite worldwide.
Situated at the end of a shopping street, one would not expect to stumble across such grandeur and beauty, but the reality is, that you do.
Boasting the second tallest pagoda in Japan, the Senso-Ji temple attracts tourists and Japanese visitors alike. If you visit the temple, make sure you stand close to the large cauldron at the front of the building. Local customs suggest the incense burned inside can provide good health.
Along with it being Tokyo’s oldest temple, the ancient Buddhist building is also one of the most significant.
Senso-Ji was once part of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, meaning the temple was part of an ancient Buddhist school founded in the year 806 by a monk named Saicho. After World War II, it became independent and public for locals and tourists to enjoy.
Just next to the temple is a newly renovated five-story pagoda, named the Asakusa Shinto Shrine, along with many shops that sell traditional Buddhist and Japanese goods, situated on the street titled Nakamise-dori.
The Senso-Ji itself is a devotee of the Kannon Bosatsu, the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion. It draws in over 30 million visitors annually and is the most popular and widely visited spiritual site in the world.
Even if you’re not as interested in the Japanese culture and history, there’s no denying that the beauty and visuals of the temple are enough to make you want to visit.
Sing Your Heart Out at Karaoke Bars
Let’s talk about the Tokyo nightlife.
You simply can’t visit the city without enjoying its neon fringed Karaoke bars.
After becoming popular and solidifying itself in Japanese social culture back in the late seventies and early eighties, karaoke has taken Japan by storm. There’s no better city to let loose and sing your heart out than Tokyo.
We have included three of Tokyo’s much-loved karaoke bars. If you’re looking for some silly Saturday night fun to add to your itinerary of what to do in Tokyo, then be sure to head to these haunts.
If you know of Karaoke Kan, it’s probably because you remember it from the 2003 film Lost in Translation, when Bill Murray sang his heart out in the bar.
This place is where you go if you love novelty, famous tourist haunts, and having a few too many drinks.
The karaoke rooms for groups of ten or more are entirely over the top, lined with disco lights, luminous paint, and a booming sound system. The rooms can get so loud, that you’ll need those extra drinks to keep from fainting after your friend crucifies a version of Total Eclipse of the Heart.
The rooms that accommodate smaller groups are perhaps a little less elaborate, but still encapsulate the karaoke tackiness that tourists love, with leather benches and massive televisions hung to the wall. They include quirky intercom systems where you can order food and drinks—you can even order tambourines to go with your questionable versions of Beatles tracks.
The outside gives you a taste of a typical Tokyo karaoke bar. The building is skinny and tall with floors sectioned off for different singing suites.
Be prepared to get drunk and fed for cheap, too. The food menu has a limited fare, serving pizzas and french fries. However, visitors worldwide don’t seem to mind. The food and drink are so cheap and boozy that you can expect to have a hilarious night on a budget.
The Karaoke Kan is one of the best karaoke bars for travelers, too. The staff is fun, friendly, and knows how to handle their international travelers. The bar is in Shibuya, also – a special ward in Tokyo known for its commercial and entertainment areas.
Big Echo Karaoke
This karaoke bar isn’t an independent one; it is part of the popular karaoke chain Ginza.
It is probably one of the most westernized bars in the list we have chosen, but it always provides a hit from thousands of international tourists.
From its Hello Kitty room to other themed suites that suit every demographic, Big Echo Karaoke can accommodate singing couples right through to groups of 20.
If you’re visiting on a weekday, you’ll notice the inebriated rich workmen roaming the booths looking for singing partners or other forms of company. On weekends, you’ll run into crowds of loud and raucous stag and hen parties.
It’s a well-known fact that karaoke bars go hand in hand with alcohol-fueled parties. With the all you can drink deals flying around, there’s no doubt that you’ll leave Big Echo walking in a less-than straight line.
It’s a novelty night out, but what we will say is that the Japanese karaoke bar scenes know how to party and have fun.
For some people, it’s a bucket list item and something you’ll probably end up doing more than once.
What to do in Tokyo that’s swanky? Well, this posh place is where you go if you have a little bit more money to spend and want to experience your not-so-typical Tokyo karaoke bar.
Lovenet is home to Tokyo’s most surreal and exciting karaoke booths. They offer karaoke with a twist—you’ll probably never have experienced anything like it.
If you’re looking for a bar that can host 100 people, this is the place to go. Not only do they have space for large groups, but they also allow you to perform karaoke while relaxing in a hot tub. Incredible, right?
It doesn’t end there, though. Lovenet boasts other themed suite experiences, too. You can try out the Heaven room, where you can sing your heart out on a glass floor, surrounded by crystals and immaculate white decor. Some say it’s like taking a trip to the Korova Milk Bar—the favorite hang-out spot in Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novella A Clockwork Orange.
Other rooms include the Attic, which boasts an elevated platform where visitors can take pictures. There’s also Monaco, where the inspiration behind the decor is a David Lynch movie set.
If this sounds like fun to you, know that it will set you back a fair bit. For the hot tub experience, be prepared to pay around $280 for an hour, or a steeper $450 for a group of 40 friends to live out a David Lynch experience.
If you can afford it, and you fancy treating yourself to some karaoke novelty, though, Lovenet is a definite go-to karaoke bar.
Check Out the Tokyo Skytree
Wondering what to do in Tokyo for a magnificent view of the city? If you’re a sucker for a skyline or any building that makes you crane your neck, this famous landmark is for you.
The tallest tower in Tokyo, it stands at a staggering 2,080 feet tall. In 2012, when it opened to the public, the Guinness World Records awarded it with the status of being the tallest tower in the world. It even beat the Canton Tower in China, which stands at 1,968.5ft.
Built with a 360-degree observation deck, when you have reached the top, you can overlook the whole city. Imagine being able to look over the whole of Tokyo, one of the most incredible cities in the world. Words won’t even describe the breathtaking feeling you will experience.
Not only this, but an all-access pass to go inside and reach the top of the tower won’t break the bank, either.
It will cost you around $36 to buy the pass, and we guarantee that it will be worth it.
Even if you don’t opt to go inside and climb to the top, there’s no denying that your jaw won’t drop when looking at it from the ground up.
You will need to take a little train to reach it, however. The Skytree is in eastern Tokyo. Alongside it being a tourist attraction, its day-to-day runnings include an in-house broadcast tower, along with it being home to some of Japan’s biggest networks.
View Tokyo from above at Shibuya Sky
Continuing with the money-can’t-buy panoramic views, if you want to view the city from the air, then make sure you visit the Shibuya Scramble Square building.
A mixed-use skyscraper connected to the Shibuya Station, you will find yourself on its doorstep once you have disembarked the train.
Head up to its 47th floor and to the rooftop to take in 360-degree views of the city. If you want to experience the famous Shibuya Crossing, too, but don’t fancy being amongst the hustle and bustle, you can view it pricelessly from the sky.
Walk Across the Shibuya Crossing
If you were unsure of what the Shibuya Crossing was after reading that last section, then don’t worry; we are here to tell you.
This famous crossing always makes the top ten on Tokyo bucket lists.
Probably the most iconic zebra crossing in the world (sorry Abbey Road and The Beatles), the Shibuya Crossing is one like no other. It is the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world, meaning never will there be a moment where it is empty.
If anything, it is always chock-a-block. However, the controlled chaos you would expect from such a busy crossing is something you would not expect.
Hundreds of people will cross the intersection at once, and the precision and organization that it takes to maneuvre so many people are impeccable. Even watching the crossing is a sight to behold.
If you want to see the crossing at its busiest, head over on a Saturday afternoon. You’ll witness a swarm of people crossing the road at the same time while somehow managing not to run each other over.
Drink at a Posh New York Bar
Okay, so we know this isn’t a traditional choice for what to do in Tokyo that gives you a feel for Japan, but it’s an experience in itself.
Who doesn’t love to get dressed up and sip cocktails on a Saturday night?
The New York Bar allows you to do precisely this, but with a view of Tokyo rather than Manhattan—they do sell cocktails with the same name, though.
Located on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt, an elegantly posh part of Shinjuku, the sophisticated cocktail bar serves all the classic American cocktails, including cosmos, Martinis and Old Fashioneds.
They also have an extensive and impressive range of champagnes and wines, and because it’s in Tokyo, a range of Japanese beer.
The New York allows you to enjoy the whole swanky cocktail bar experience, including a night-long array of jazz music from a live band while taking in the glistening views of Tokyo at night.
Because of the location, drinks choices, music, and overall concept of the bar, be prepared to spend quite a lot of money. It’s the cost of spending your whole night in a version of New York on the other side of the world.
Let Loose at Star Bar
While we’re on the subject of cocktails, let’s not forget the gin joint Star Bar. Located in the basement of a narrow building in Ginza, it’s one of the city’s best shopping districts.
The Star Bar is home to some of Tokyo’s best and most respected bartenders. Barmen such as Hidetsugu Ueno (High Five) and Daisuke Ito (Land Bart Artisan’s) learned their craft here, under the supervision of Hisashi Kishida, who is one of the most respected Japanese bartenders. Some say he is one of the Godfathers of Japanese bartending, so you can expect exemplary service and out of this world drinks.
The most popular cocktails the Star Bar serves are Negronis and Manhattans.
Again, because of the service, brilliant bartending history, and an extensive drink menu, you can expect to pay a little extra at the Star Bar.
With this said though, you don’t need to spend all night in the joint. You can pop by for a drink to see what all the fuss is about and return to the Ginza streets. Depending on what time it is, you may be able to enjoy some shopping in one of Tokyo’s best-loved shopping districts, too.
Shop the Oedo Antique Market
So, what to do in Tokyo when you fancy a day of shopping but not in the traditional sense?
If antiques and outdoor markets scream fun to you, make sure you visit this great fair.
The Oedo Antique Market only opens up shop twice a month near Tokyo Station. If you are planning on visiting, make sure that you check your dates, so it’s actually on when you are in the city!
The antique market has an abundance of stalls selling weird and wonderful items. From vintage kimonos and attires to old Japanese antiques, even if you don’t want to buy anything, the fair still provides you with an exciting and enjoyable day out.
You can literally wander around the market for hours in awe. There are hundreds of independent stallholders selling their one of a kind stock. Because Tokyo doesn’t have many antique or vintage stores in the city, the market is always the best place to find the quirky gems you never knew you needed.
So, if you are looking for a unique Japanese keepsake, then the Oedo Antique Market is definitely to spot to hit up. We do recommend that you come earlier on in the day though—the market is so popular that the best and most unique items sell out very quickly.
First come, first serve!
Stroll Kappabashi Street
After you’ve visited the Tokyo National Museum, why not head to Kappabashi Street? Only a 20-minute walk or a 7-minute car journey, while you’re in the vicinity, you should make a stop here for another kind of Japanese experience.
The street caters to the restaurant industry. However, you won’t find fancy eateries and expensive cocktail bars here. Instead, some might say it’s a chef’s dream.
The street is a hub for cookware and kitchen equipment, with the supply stores best known for their sampuru (otherwise known as food replicas or models).
Sampuru is a century-old craft that has solidified itself in Japanese culture. The art of ‘fake food,’ the sampuru are replicas of different food items. Often, they consist of wax, plastic or resin. They are most commonly on display in restaurant street windows to entice visitors into their restaurant and to represent the types of dishes they have available.
Kappabashi Street is also one of the less frequented tourist spots as its focus is more on trade. So, if you are a keen chef and want to purchase some traditional Japanese crockery, or get your hands on some funky tourist items, you can pick them up here. As a plus, the prices will be a lot more economical than if you were in a prime tourist spot.
Enjoy Yourself at Japan’s Oldest Amusement Park
So, you’re still in Kappabashi Street and wondering where to head next?
You’re currently between Ueno and Asakusa. At this point, you are probably looking for another hit of adrenaline because you just successfully haggled on a piece of traditional Japanese crockery.
Well, we have the perfect item to add to your plan for what to do in Tokyo!
Hanayashiki—it’s Japan’s oldest amusement park! Founded in 1853, the park boasts around 25 attractions that are suitable and great fun for all ages. The park has universally enjoyed rides and attractions such as roller coasters, a haunted house and carousels. You can feel its old school presence and personality too, which just makes the experience even more authentic.
The park opens between 10 am and 6 pm, and we do advise that you book in advance. If you want to visit with family and friends, the park does offer group tickets. Also, if you’re in a group of more than 15 people, you can receive a special discount.
If you’ve just been to the Sensoji Temple too, the park is right around the corner. This part of Tokyo will fill up your day in no time.
Pet Purr-fection at Cat Cafe Mocha
We’ve all heard about the cat cafe—the new way of drinking coffee that took Instagram by storm a few years back.
Opened in 2015, the Cat Cafe Mocha is located in Harajuku, Shibuya and is a bucket list item if you love cats.
The Cat Cafe Mocha does operate in more than one location throughout Tokyo, but it’s the Harajuku shop that is the most popular.
The interior is contemporary and stylish and encapsulates the typical ‘kawaii’ experience – kawaii meaning cute.
The cafe boasts around 20 cats, all from different breeds and all are very friendly.
The cafe features cat-friendly furniture, and humans can enjoy the comfy seats. A cat-tree opens out into branches for the cats to perch on happily.
Free Wi-Fi is available, too, so you can post that Instagram photo of you surrounded by felines posing as a crazy cat lady. The place is a haven for people and cats, with the animals receiving the royal treatment at the cafe.
Have Cute Fun at Anime Cafes
Here’s another few cafes for you, only this time it’s for all you anime fans out there.
Probably the most recognized and one of the most famous Japanese forms of artwork and illustration, anime has become a worldwide sensation over the years.
Anime has roots back to the start of the 20th century, with the earliest recorded films dating back to around 1906. Before the explosion of cinema, Japan already enjoyed the rich tradition of entertainment, whereby they would make colorful painted figures and move them across a projection screen. Fast forward 100 years and anime is one of the things for which Japan has become most famous and celebrated.
You just simply can’t visit Japan without seeing or experiencing some form of anime, either. From Pokemon to Hello Kitty, Tokyo has it all. If you want to know what to do in Tokyo that gives you an experience of the country’s quirky and creative style, you can’t go wrong with anime cafes. The three restaurants that we have picked out will let you celebrate your inner anime self.
The Pokemon Cafe
Can you believe that the first-ever Pokemon cafe in Tokyo only opened in 2018? It’s unbelievable, right?
This themed anime cafe is on the 5th floor of the Takashimaya department store, not too far from Tokyo Station.
The design is somewhat simple, with the wooden interior brightened up by a few of your favorite Pokemon friends. It’s the menu that is wholly Pokemon and anime-themed.
The cafe serves Pickachu and Eevee lattes, Gengar smoothies, and cocktails of the different evolutions of Eevee.
The food gets even more novelty, with the range of dishes all being original Pokemon-themed. You can try burgers shaped like a Pikachu, eat pancakes and fruit salads that look like your favorite Pokemon character, and even try a cheesecake shaped like a Jigglypuff.
Be sure to try their signature dish too: the Pikachu omelette. It’s the star of Pokemon and the star of the cafe.
Most main dishes are reasonably priced, with specials not being that much pricier.
Cafe de Miki with Hello Kitty
Located in Diver City, in one of the large shopping centers on Odaiba, the human-made island in Tokyo Bay, Cafe de Miki is a hotspot for all you Hello Kitty lovers.
The cafe leans to a sweeter menu, with its Hello Kitty-themed lattes and pancakes making for a great Instagram opportunity.
If you didn’t know, the creators of Hello Kitty came up with this global phenomenon while in London. The place of inspiration explains the running color scheme and English soldiers making an appearance in the interior. (It also explains the English scones on the menu.)
Pancakes range from 1,100 Yen (around $10), and lattes and milkshakes are around 500 Yen (around $5).
The cafe just screams kawaii, and any Hello Kitty lover will not be disappointed.
Cafe Mugiwara – One Piece Cafe
Cafe Mugiwara isn’t just a cafe—it’s a whole anime experience.
Eiichiro Oda’s 90s anime ‘One Piece’ comes to life inside the Tokyo Tower.
Not only is there a themed One Piece cafe inside the tower, but it is also home to a theme park dedicated to Luffy and his crew. A theme park inside a building? Only in Japan.
You have to pay a separate ticket for entry into the theme park. But, if you’re just interested in grabbing some anime-style lunch, the cafe is open to the public without having to buy a ticket.
Cafe Mugiwara offers a range of themed meals, from their Sabo’s Dragon Claw (Ryusoken) Spicy Fried Chicken Burger to their White Beard’s Ocean Seafood Open Sandwich.
Not only do they offer imaginative, well-crafted, and aesthetically pleasing dishes, the cafe also doubles up as a library. The One Piece Cafe stores past volumes of the anime series for fans to skim through or read while they are waiting for their food. The works are available in English, Chinese and Spanish.
Be aware that prices are slightly high, but at the end of the day it’s the atmosphere that you pay to enjoy. If you want to experience a real-life anime immersion and satisfy your inner foodie at the same time, the Cafe Mugiwara is a haunt to check out.
Live the Bohemian Tokyo Lifestyle in Shimokitazawa
If you’re the young and earthy type, Shimokitazawa will be your Japanese hippy heaven.
Only one stop away on the express train from Shibuya, Shimokita (what the locals call it) will seem like it’s a world away from the bright, fast-paced energy of the ward.
It is the bohemian village of Metropolitan Tokyo. You can spend a whole day here, chilling and living life like the locals.
When disembarking the train, life slows down. The Shimokitazawa neighborhood just exudes bohemian and free-spirited vibes. When planning what to do in Tokyo, you can step out of the hyperactive zone and into a thriving but low-key subculture.
Let the unique atmosphere take hold of you while you visit the many independent vintage shops and sip wine from chilled out waiters.
Everywhere you look, you will see thrift stores and independent, quirky businesses. You could almost mistake the vibe for the hippy Greenwich Village era if that sophisticated, indisputable Japanese style weren’t lingering through the streets.
The 1970s hippy movement saw the arrival of Tokyo’s hippy youth, with them building their own beatnik utopia in Shimokitazawa. They paved the way to transform the neighborhood into the free-spirited paradise it is today. This way of life is still one that many Japanese youths enjoy.
Shimokita also boasts some of the best independent clubs, venues and cafes. So, if you fancy a day and night of unpredictable entertainment, this is the place to be.
Soak and Relax at Thermae-Yu
From earthy vibes to pamper vibes, you simply can’t travel to Japan without visiting a traditional ‘onsen’.
Also called a ‘sento,’ these baths and hot springs are open to the public. Onsen has been part of traditional Japanese culture for centuries, and visiting one has to be at the top of your list of what to do in Tokyo.
Thermae-Yu is in Shinjuku and open 24 hours a day, and it has both indoor and outdoor baths.
If you feel like treating yourself, the Thermae-Yu also has a wide choice of spa experiences. They range from outdoor stone baths to carbonated baths, with the sento also possessing a steam room with salts and clays.
What’s great about the site is that there is only one entry fee. The price is 2,364 yen (about $23), which includes any of the treatments you may want to try.
We’d say that was very much a bargain!
Take a Trip to Yoyogi Park
A park of many pleasures, make sure when you visit Tokyo that you take a trip to this awe-inspiring park.
The park itself is rich with history, with the grounds representing the ancient facets of Japan. The park was once a military barracks, along with being an Olympic Gymnasium back in 1964.
Yoyogi Park is so large that it has two sections, parted by a wide road. One side is forestry and woodlands, and the other side features a stadium and outdoor stage.
The woods are a popular place for BBQs, picnics and outdoor gatherings.
You also can take walks in the forested areas and take in the scenery. You may even feel inspired to try out ‘forest bathing,’ a traditional practice of simply sitting and being present in forested areas. Forest-bathing, or shinrin-yoku, also has been scientifically proven to improve your physical, mental, and spiritual health.
The other side of the park holds the stadium and stages. Here, they often host shows, exclusive events, and various food festivals.
The food festival, or the Hokkaido Fair, usually takes place in early October. It is a four-day celebration of the Japanese food that comes from the most northern part of Japan.
You can expect a wide array of potato, meat, and dairy dishes—these are the most popular and well-known products of the region. There is usually an abundance of food to try, so it’s always a good idea to turn up hungry!
In the past, the Hokkaido Fair in Yoyogi Park has attracted almost 600,000 visitors, so saying it is popular is an understatement.
If you’re a foodie and trying specialty Japanese cuisine is at the top of your list for what to do in Tokyo, this food fair should satisfy all your cravings.
Get Fitted for a Kimono
Ever wanted to dress up in a Japanese kimono?
The sophisticated signature look for Japanese women, the kimono is a traditional garment. Nowadays, women usually wear them on special occasions.
The intricacy and delicacy of the garments are like no other, and seeing a traditional Japanese kimono up close is an experience within itself.
But, if you’re in Tokyo, what better place than to play dress up in one of Japan’s oldest and most traditional attires? Indulging in and experiencing other cultures is not only educational but also very exciting!
Despite Tokyo being the bustling capital city that it is, there are only a few places that will offer kimono fittings.
If you fancy getting pampered and dressed up in traditional Japanese attire, here are two tours that we have found that you can book into while on your stay:
Probably the cheapest kimono rental tour in Tokyo, Asakusa Shichihenge offers kimono fittings for 3,300 yen (around $33). You can elegantly stroll the streets of Tokyo adorned in your new garments—just be sure to return to the shop by 4:30 pm for a de-fitting.
This kimono fitting experience comes with a tea ceremony in the rental packages. By appointment only, a one-hour session costs 6,000 yen (around $59). However, if you want to take your kimono home with you, the price increases to 10,000 yen ($98.68).
A pretty good deal, we reckon.
This stop is something for all science lovers.
Where else but Tokyo can you have a dining experience complete with dancing robots? It sounds ridiculous but intriguing at the same time, doesn’t it?
The Robot Restaurant is just a three-minute walk from Shinjuku Golden Gai and offers you a high-tech, neon, robotic extravaganza. Situated in Shinjuku Kabukicho, this is the biggest red-light district in Tokyo. Locals often call it the ‘district that never sleeps.’ The themed restaurant and bar put on robot shows while you dine.
The entrance fee to get into the restaurant and see the robot show is 8,500 yen per person ($80.99), and meals can cost either 1,500 yen ($14.29), 1,200 yen (11.43) or 1,000 yen (9.53).
The entrance fee itself can seem a bit pricey, but the experience is something so utterly unique that you literally cannot experience it anywhere else on Earth.
Eat and Drink in the Izakaya Alleys
If you fancy drinking and dining like a true Tokyo local, be sure to visit the Izakaya Alleys.
Izakaya literally translates to ‘drinking place.’ If that doesn’t tempt you in itself, we don’t know what will! The bartenders and waiters down the alleys are all extremely welcoming, and most staff and locals will greet you with a cheery “Irrashaimase!”, meaning ‘welcome’ or ‘come on in ‘.
Unlike the fine dining and fancy bars that saturate Tokyo, these bars and eateries in these areas can offer you a more uniquely Japanese experience.
Bars and gastropubs line the smokey narrow streets of the alleys, and they are very popular with Japanese locals and salarymen.
Drinking and dining down the Izakaya Alleys could see you perched next to a local, drinking the authentic Sake tipple or enjoying traditional small dishes and snacks cooked and sourced locally.
If you want to know what to do in Tokyo that will let you experience the city like the locals, izakayas are the places to go. You won’t come across any tourist shops or big chains—the Izakaya Alleys will gift you with the authentic drinking culture that you won’t forget.
The three best izakaya alleys in Tokyo that you should be sure to check out are Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, Ebisu Yokocho in Ebisu, and Hoppy Dori in Asakusa.
Plan Your Trip
Tokyo is one of the most exciting, unpredictable, intriguing, fast-paced, welcoming cities in the world, and this list of what to do in Tokyo could go on forever.
Even if you spent a year in the city, we guarantee that you wouldn’t experience all the magic Tokyo has to offer. At the end of the day, all you can do is try.
From traditional museums, art galleries, beautiful parks and nature to ancient temples, robot shows, anime-themed cafes and sumo tournaments, the city is as bizarre as it is incredible.
If the city wasn’t on your bucket list before reading this article, we’re pretty sure it will have bumped up to the top of your list.
Tokyo—there is nowhere in the world that can ever compare.
Hello fellow travelers! My name is Mary and I am the main author of Traveling East. Just like any other travel enthusiasts, traveling has also been our passion! For inquiries, suggestions or anything travel related, please feel free to send us an E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.