If you’re heading to Japan, you won’t want to miss this epic list of things to do in Tokyo. Packed wTokyo ith adventure, food, history and culture, Tokyo is a place that is easy to love. Since Japan’s capital city is on most travelers’ itinerary, we’re sharing our top tips and advice that will help you plan what to do in Tokyo, Japan!
There is no place in Tokyo the world Tokyo quite like Tokyo. Tokyo This sprawling metropolis has a combination of modern skyscrapers as well as historic temples. You’ll find ultimate zen as well as chaos.
You’ll find Michelin star restaurants next to vending machines selling surprisingly tasty meals. And you’ll find long-standing traditions like tea ceremonies and sumo wrestling just blocks away from eccentrically costumed teenagers that live and breathe Japanese pop culture.
These beautiful contradictions are what make Tokyo such a unique and interesting place that appeals to travelers of all ages, budgets and interests.
With so many things to do in Tokyo, it can be overwhelming trying to plan your first trip to this crazy city. But fear not – we are here to help!
We’ve rounded up the top things to to in Tokyo from our own experiences as well as favorites from other travel bloggers. This huge list will surely inspire you with all sorts of quirky activities and must-see sights when you plan your trip to Japan’s capital city.
Read this before your trip: First Timer’s Guide to Traveling to Japan
Unique Things to Do in Tokyo: The most unique things to do in Tokyo! While in Japan, you will definitely want to add some of these to your list.
Japanese Culture: Learn about Japanese culture and traditions in Tokyo.
Japanese Food to Try: Best food experiences to be had in Tokyo!
Free or Cheap Things To Do in Tokyo: If you’re on a budget, we’ve got a bunch of inexpensive activities to add to your Tokyo itinerary.
Where to Stay in Tokyo: From budget to luxury, from Shinjuku to Ginza, including affordable Airbnbs, we have you covered on where to stay in Tokyo.
Tokyo Metro & Using the JR Pass: We’ll show you how to get around in Tokyo and whether you should use the metro or the JR Pass.
Unique Things to Do in Tokyo
Tokyo is absolutely packed with mind-boggling, heart-thumping, imagination-bending things to do. Satisfy your nerdy urges, your boozy desires and your adrenaline cravings in this exciting city!
1. TeamLAB Borderless Museum
Sensory overload is the only way to really describe the experience you’ll have at TeamLAB Borderless. And to clarify, I mean sensory overload in the best possible way!
Wander through a room of floating lanterns that enchant you as they change color, and make your way through a dazzling room of crystal raining down from the ceiling. To say you’ve never seen anything like it would be a huge understatement.
This digital art “museum” is hard to describe in words, Tokyo but we tried our best and wrote up an entire TeamLAB Borderless guide that goes over what to expect, tips for the best route to avoiding big crowds, and our favorite parts of the exhibit.
2. Drive a real life Mario Kart
Recommended by: Emily from Travellers Horizons
As someone who has spent many hours of their life playing Mario Kart, I was super excited when I found you can make the game a reality by dressing up as your favorite character and driving around the streets of Tokyo in a custom built go-kart.
Though you can’t throw banana skins or turtle shells, it is still a unique and fun experience and probably the coolest way to see the city sights.
We booked a tour with MariCar, and opted for their SM course which began at their Shinagawa #1 office just a short train ride from Tokyo city center. This 2-hour tour took us through the well-known areas of Shibuya, Roppongi, Harajuku, and even past the Tokyo Tower, which dwarfed us in our mini carts.
At first I was nervous about driving in a tiny cart on the streets of Tokyo, but those nerves soon subsided when I experienced how organized the roads are, and how courteous other drivers are towards you. It was also less busy than I expected, as amazingly 57% of all travel in Tokyo is via public transportation.
Our guide Miyoshi ensured we were never separated and took many photos of us throughout the journey which were quickly uploaded to a Google Drive and emailed to us after the tour ended, plus we were provided with a printed photo collage which was an unexpected and happy surprise.
If you’re thinking this sounds great but you’re going elsewhere in Japan, do not worry! MariCar not only have offices around Tokyo but also other major cities like Kyoto and Osaka. There are loads of tours you can choose from and even night tours where they light up the go-cart.
You can also add some extras to make your tour even more fun such as music, LED shoes and mustaches. If you want to record the journey, bring your own action camera or rent one from the shop. They also sell SD cards at a very reasonable price.
You feel like a celebrity when you drive around the city, as many people wave at you and take pictures. It’s an experience that should not be missed on your visit to Japan!
3. Experience insanity at the Robot Restaurant
Flashing neon lights: Check. Girls wearing next to nothing riding giant motorized robots: Check and Check.
I’m not sure if there is any other place in the world where you can find this scene.
Even though our first time to Japan we were traveling to Tokyo on a budget, we decided to splurge a bit and spend one evening at the famous Robot Restaurant.
Let’s just say the food leaves much to be desired, but the real reason you’re there is the insane experience. It was wild. And unlike anything you’ve ever see before.
The people in the audience are foreigners and Japanese salarymen (business men that work crazy amounts of hours and typically want to let loose in the little free time they have).
Touristy? Yeah. Expensive? Yeah. But in our opinion, it was a fun way to soak up something you can only find in Tokyo.
Pair the Robot Restaurant with a bar hopping tour, and you’re in for a WILD night!
Insider Tip: Don’t pay full price for tickets. Book on Klook for nearly half off tickets, and you have the choice of not getting a meal (which in our option is not worth it). Or better yet, we’ve heard that many hotels with concierge service offer 2-for-1 tickets to this show.
While the robot restaurant is arguable the most famous of the themed restaurant in Tokyo (visited by famous people like Katy Perry and Anthony Bourdain), it is certainly not the only one. So if robots and scantily clad ladies aren’t your Tokyo thing, or you want to try a less popular (or less expensive!) one, check out this list of other crazy themed restaurants in Tokyo!
4. See a Japanese Baseball Game at the Tokyo Dome
Recommended by: Anne from Pretraveller
A great cultural activity while you are visiting Tokyo is to attend a Japanese baseball game – you may not realize that baseball is the national sport of Japan. The Japanese people really love to support their teams, so the experience of being part of a very active crowd and hearing the drums and cheering is amazing!
In Tokyo the easiest options to attend a match are either to see the Yomiuri Giants in action at the Tokyo Dome on the northern side of Tokyo, or to see the Yakult Swallows play at Jingu Stadium, which is right beside Shinjuku. The professional baseball season runs from late March to October each year and easy options to book your tickets online can be found in our article on how to purchase your baseball tickets.
5. Celebrate your inner child at Disneyland Tokyo
Recommended by: Mark from The Shutter Whale
You can never be too old for Disneyland! If you ever find yourself in Tokyo, you should set aside one full-day to explore the happiest place on earth!
Since you are technically not supposed to consume any food that is not purchased in the park, make sure you bring enough cash since the food prices can be quite high. On the bright side, the food quality is very good, and some of the snacks are almost too adorable to be eaten.
Also, make sure you bring your camera since every single corner and moment spent here is the perfect photo opportunity!
If you are planning to get on the most popular rides in the park, make sure you understand how the FASTPASS works since planning is crucial if you wish to make the most out of your stay. Otherwise, don’t stress out and simply enjoy the journey – just make sure to stay until night falls for that amazing fireworks display!
Related Reading: Check out this list of Tokyo festivals and see if your travel dates line up with any of the city’s celebrations!
6. Soak in an Onsen in Tokyo
Recommended by: Lena from The Social Travel Experiment
The Japanese hot springs called Onsen are very popular with locals and tourists alike, and while there are many famous Onsen resort towns all over Japan (mainly where hot springs occur naturally), Tokyo is not famous for Onsen. But that doesn’t mean you cannot have an authentic Onsen experience in one of the biggest metropolis in the world.
Over the years I have visited multiple Onsen in Tokyo. They all have something a little bit different to offer and vary in size and price.
My very first visit to an Onsen in Tokyo was Oedo Onsen Monogatari, a theme park like Onsen experience where you cannot only take a bath in one of the many indoor and outdoor pools, but have other entertainments like delicious food, shows and different experiences like doctor fish or stone sauna.
If you want an experience that is as authentic as possible, I recommend a visit to Tokyo Somei Onsen Sakura. This Onsen is exceptionally beautiful in spring when the cherry blossoms on the property are in bloom, but a visit at any time of the year won’t disappoint.
7. Cuddle kitties at Cat Cafe MoCHA
Recommended by: Chelsea from The Portable Wife
If you love caffeine, city views, and adorable cats, a visit to Harajuku’s Cat Cafe MoCHA is a must.
Once you don your slippers and fuzzy cat-ear headband, you’ll join tourists and Japanese salarymen inside kitty paradise. Not surprisingly, the feline residents are rather aloof, but if you snag a blanket and put it over your lap, you’ll greatly increase your chances of a cozy encounter.
Guests pay a timed admission fee, with 30 minutes being the minimum, and the price includes a drink.
The cafe limits the number of visitors allowed inside at a time, so if you visit on the weekends or during peak travel season, you may need to queue outside.
Related Reading: Not far outside of Tokyo, Japan has some incredible destinations for scuba diving. Just a couple hours drive or a short flight to some of the islands and you will find yourself in a diver’s underwater paradise.
8. Sing your favorite tunes in a Karaoke Room
If you’re traveling with friends or meet some interesting people along the way, consider going to a karaoke room!
You’ll be escorted to your own room, which typically has a couch and a television screen from which you can select all your favorite songs… Spice Girls, anyone?? (“Wannabe” is Ben’s go-to Karaoke song!) And the best part is nobody will complain if you’re off-tune!
Most karaoke rooms charge by the half-hour and serve snacks and drinks if you’d like to indulge.
Alternative: If you want to experience karaoke but in a bar setting (aka no private room rental), we’ve heard good things about Diamond Bar in Golden Gai.
Learn About Japanese Culture
There is something utterly captivating about Japanese culture. While you’re traveling in Tokyo, there are plenty of opportunities to delve deeper and learn about longstanding traditions and customs.
9. Visit a Sumo Wrestling Stable
Recommended by: Annette from Bucket List Journey
You can’t fully understand the intensity of the sumo wrestling sport unless you are up close and personal at an intense morning practice session to witness the panting, grunting and dripping sweat.
The practices are not attractions created for tourists—the athletes are not putting on a show for you—they are in serious training and need to be shown respect while you are there.
Though there are over 40 training stables, most in the Ryogoku district, only a few accept visitors. The most common are Kasugano Beya, Takasago Beya and Musashigawa Beya. It’s best to book a sumo wrestling tour. Make sure to call ahead to confirm that they will be having practice on the day you arrive!
10. Visit the Imperial Palace
Just a 10-minute walk from Tokyo Station sits one of the city’s crown jewels, the Imperial Palace. This complex consists of meticulously-maintained gardens, art galleries, castle ruins, parks, and of course, the home of the Emperor himself.
Much of this area can be visited for free (you just need to register) and there are even complimentary guided tours, making this a must if you’re traveling Tokyo on a budget.
11. Watch a Kabuki Show
Recommended by: Julie from The Bamboo Traveler
How would you like to see sword-wielding samurai, heart-broken geishas, and devastating betrayals?
Then you’ll want to be sure you watch kabuki theater while traveling to Tokyo. This is Japan’s version of a racy and tragic Shakespearean drama, in which women’s roles are played by men and the actors are adorned in extravagant makeup.
Kabuki shows run every day at the Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza.
Normally, shows are expensive and last all day. However, the theater offers reasonably priced single act tickets ranging from 600 yen for a 20-minute dance performance to 1500 yen for an hour and a half drama.
You can choose from 5 to 6 shows a day starting at 11:00 am and going until the evening. Tickets go on sale 30 minutes before shows begin. Make sure to arrive at least 60 minutes before the show starts as tickets are limited.
You can even get a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the Kabuki-za Gallery before a performance and learn about the the theater and props.
Insider Tip: Although performances are in Japanese, you can rent an electronic translator for 500 yen, which helps tremendously.
12. Visit the Kamakura Buddha
Recommended by: Shannon from A Little Adrift
Just an hour long train ride from Tokyo but a world away from the bustle, Kamakura is a beach town popular with Japanese and international tourists alike. It’s quite easy to navigate, and there are enough things to fill an entire day.
The most notable is the giant bronze Buddha statue in Kōtoku-in temple that dates to the 13th century. Although it’s not the largest in Japan, it is a gorgeous statue!
You should also not leave town until you’ve hiked through the forests in and around Hase-dera temple, relieved the heat with a sweet potato ice cream, and splashed in the waves at the beach.
A local bus service easily runs between the train station and the cluster of recommended sites, which are all easily walkable once you step off the bus.
13. Wander around Meiji Shrine
Tokyo is chaotic, there’s no doubt about it. But there are a few places near the city that feel like an escape from the madness of the center. Meiji Shrine was one of those places for us.
Walk on wooded pathways, and explore the grounds of this simple, yet beautiful temple. If you visit on a weekend, you might even be lucky enough to see a Japanese wedding ceremony take place like we did!
14. Spend the night at a Ryokan
For a quintessentially Japanese hotel experience, staying at a ryokan is a sure way to soak up traditional culture and hospitality. Though you can find ryokans all around the country, there are some great ones to choose from in Tokyo.
Ryokans are typically characterized by tatami-matted rooms (see the photo above). Traditionally, ryokans have communal baths and they provide guests with yukata (a casual kimono).
Staying at a ryokan isn’t cheap, but it is one of those “bucket list” experiences that you can only find in Japan, so why not add it to your travel plans?!
Depending on your budget, you can choose from ryokans that include traditional meals as part of your stay. Some even have their own onsen (hot spring for bathing).
Best Ryokans in Tokyo
Budget Ryokan: Ryokan & Day Shizuku – While the location is not in central Tokyo, would be good for a night or two so you can have your own private spa and ryokan experience. Get the feel of Japanese hostipitality without the big price tag.
Mid-Range Ryokan: Miyabiyado Takemine – Ryokan and Western style mix in this beautifully decorated inn. Feel at peace in the premium rooms which offer open-air baths.
Luxury Ryokan: Hoshinoya Tokyo – Everything you have ever wanted in a Japanese culture experience. Bamboo framed paper walls, onsite hot spring bath, and settled in the prefect location in Tokyo.
15. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Recommended by: Alyse from The Invisible Tourist
If there were only one simple word to describe Tokyo, it would be LARGE. Not only is it the world’s largest city by population and coming a close second in area after New York City, Tokyo is also home to the world’s largest passenger train station located in Shinjuku.
A whopping 3.5 million people pass through it daily. With all these large statistics, it’s no wonder Tokyo may feel a little crowded at times!
Thankfully, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is located only a short 10 minute walk east from JR Shinjuku Station and is the perfect place to escape the otherwise hectic streets of the surrounding neighborhood.
The grounds are made up of three different types of landscaped gardens: French, English and traditional Japanese and are lovely stroll through the many winding pathways or lounge on the emerald lawns to soak in some sun.
A whopping 20,000 trees are dotted throughout Shinjuku Gyoen including 1,500 cherry trees, making the park one of the most popular locations in early springtime for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo.
Shinjuku Gyoen is open Tuesday through Sunday from 09:00 – 16:30 and costs JPY 200 to enter. Be sure to add this beautifully tranquil location to your Tokyo itinerary!
16. Watch a Traditional Tea Ceremony
Recommended by: Laura from Savored Journeys
A real, traditional Japanese tea ceremony can take many hours and is a very choreographed ritual that includes the preparation and serving of the matcha tea to the guests.
It’s a wonderful authentic ceremony, but it’s not necessary for tourist to partake in a full tea ceremony in order to learn about it, which is why there are many shorter, more informal ceremonies for tourists that are respectful of the ritual.
Participating in a traditional tea ceremony in Japan can be very fascinating and educational. If you want to add this activity to your things to do in Tokyo, it’s a good idea to first understand the different types of ceremonies that are available to tourist.
You can participate in an hour-long ceremony, where you wear traditional kimonos, or you can go join an informal ceremony where you learn about the ritual and perform the steps yourself in just a few minutes.
Tea ceremonies for visitors range in price from 100 to 35,000 yen, depending on the type of experience it is.
For a basic overview during an informal ceremony head to Hamarikyu Gardens tea house, where at 15-minute do-it-yourself tea ceremony is just $6. Another option is at Kyoto City in Tokyo Station, open from Friday to Sunday afternoon in the afternoon.
If you want the fully immersive experience wearing a kimono, the Asakusa area has many option, like Nadeshiko, which is open 11am to 5pm everyday except Wednesday and Thursday. It’s always best to make an advanced reservation, particularly in high season.
Whichever way you choose, you will surely learn a lot about the culture of tea ceremonies and enjoy the experience.
17. See the famous red lantern at Sensoji Temple
Famous for its giant red lantern, the Sensoji Temple is a top sight to see in Tokyo. And since it’s on just about every traveler’s itinerary, expect this area to be crowded. Really crowded! But even so, it is worth a quick visit.
This Buddhist temple is located in Asakusa, a district in downtown Tokyo known for its historical sights. Built in 645, Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest temple.
If you’re looking for souvenirs, you’ll find no shortage of stands in this popular tourist zone, selling everything from Japanese snacks to folding fans.
Best Food and Drink Experiences in Tokyo
Japanese cuisine is touted as some of the finest in the world (and trust us, it goes far beyond sushi!). While you’re exploring the capital city, there are plenty of Japanese foods to try and interesting foodie experiences to be had.
Related Reading: Best foods to try in Japan: Everything you need to know about Japanese cuisine.
18. Take a Japanese Cooking Class
We are huge fans of taking cooking classes on our travels, as we think food is one of the best ways to learn about a culture. Plus, we love to cook, and we really enjoy collecting recipes that we can make for our friends and family back at home someday.
While in Tokyo, sign up for a cooking class and learn how to make Japanese staples like homemade soba noodles, wagyu beef or tempura.
Or sign up for a sushi class where you’ll learn all the secrets to making your very own rolls.
Note: We took a cooking class in Kyoto and in Osaka, but there are plenty of great cooking classes in Tokyo.
19. Enjoy Yakitori & beer surrounded by locals
One of our favorite things about traveling is getting out of the tourist zone and brush shoulders with locals. And in Tokyo, you don’t have to go far for that, because ummm, there are people everywhere so you’ll be brushing a lotta shoulders!
Tokyo Popping into one of the city’s thousands of izakayas, or small pubs, is one of the best ways to soak in the local vibes. And you’ve probably already guessed that we have a recommendation just for you…
Located in a tunnel underneath the railroad tracks just outside Tokyo Station, Yakitori Ton Ton has an atmosphere that is hard to rival. On the week nights, this place is packed with salarymen letting loose with a beer and snacks after a long day at the office. (We’re pretty sure we witnessed a business deal go down across the table from us.) And smoke fills the tunnel as skewers of meats and veggies are grilled over charcoal.
After getting some recommendations from the (very) drunk salarymen across the table from us, we ordered a couple drinks — a beer for Ben and a chuhai for Katie (my favorite summertime Japanese drink!) — edamame, veggie and meat skewers.
Just so you know what to expect:
Lots of local businessmen (and some women) grabbing beer and yakitori after work
Crowded and smoky
simple menu of drinks and veggie & meat skewers
Communal type seating for the most part
Few foreigners (we were the only ones when we visited)
While we didn’t encounter this, we’ve read about Westerners who have been turned down during busy times
Good to know: There are plenty of other cool izakayas around the city (and country!), so if this one is out of the way for you, no worries.
20. Grill your own Wagyu
(Psst! Vegetarians, you can skip this tip because the next one is for you!)
Japan is known for its high-quality wagyu, or beef. But if you’re traveling on a budget, it can be difficult to find any wagyu that doesn’t empty out your wallet (especially in Tokyo).
Don’t worry, we’ve done the legwork for you and found a place that serves a variety of cuts and grades of beef and is reasonably priced. Oh, and you’re able to cook your own meat on a personal grill and season it to your liking.
Good to know: The word wagyu actually refers to all Japanese beef cattle (“wa” means Japanese and “gyu” translates to cow), so it’s not really that specific.
Located in the Akihabara neighborhood, Jiromaru Akihabara, is a small, no-frills restaurant inside which there are no seats, which means you’ll be standing at the “meat bar”… if you can call it that. In front if you is a personal grill, on which you can – you guessed it – grill your own cuts of meat to what you deem perfection (but please don’t overcook it!).
There are also sauces and seasoning if you’re tastebuds desire. But we recommend first trying it with just a bit of salt.
*Cue me drooling on my keyboard as I type this.*
So what should you order? It can be a little confusing when ordering, but fear not, the staff speak some English, so they can help if you need it.
You can order individual pieces of meat, which cost between 250 – 300 yen each. But it can be a little confusing choosing which cuts to get.
We’d suggest getting the “sampler” where they give you 5 small pieces of their recommended cuts. The last piece they give you is an A5 grade wagyu (the highest grade), and lemme tell ya, it was by far the best. Wow. I’m not even a huge red meat eater, and I could dream about that stuff.
You can certainly just order this cut exclusively, but the “sampler” will allow you to truly taste the difference and see why the A5 is so good.
We’ve also heard their raw beef “sushi” is excellent, so give that a try if that’s your thing!
In addition to having a variety of meats, grades and cuts, there are also vegetables which you can order à la carte. We loved the shiitake mushroom (yasss!), shisito peppers, and spring onion. And you can get a bowl of rice to round out that meal!
Cost: We paid 4,000 yen for our two wagyu “samplers”, veggies, and one beer, which works out to be $18.88 USD per person.
Insider Tip: While I assume this tiny 15-person “restaurant” can get packed and draw a line, we got in right away when we showed up around 2:30pm after the lunch crowds. We’d recommend trying to go before or after typical lunch/dinner hours if possible.
21. Drinks at Park Hyatt New York Bar
Recommended by: Julianne from It’s Five O’Clock Here
Yes, the Park Hyatt Tokyo and its New York Bar will be forever linked to Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film, “Lost in Translation.” The iconic hotel bar may have looked stunning in Coppola’s film, but is it really worth a detour in your precious Tokyo itinerary?
The answer, it turns out, is absolutely. Located on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, finding your way up to New York Bar is actually half of the fun. The Park Hyatt Tokyo comprises the top 14 floors of the Shinjuku Park Tower (floors 39 to 52), and you’ll have to take not one, but two elevator rides up to this swanky bar.
Once you’re in, though, you’re in for a treat. New York Bar’s drinks menu covers a lot of ground: there’s a stellar selection of scotch and Japanese whisky, wines (the list is truly dizzying and odds are you’ll find something to suit your palette), and, of course, cocktails. Be sure to try the Café-Tini – a much better version of the traditional espresso martini.
With those mesmerizing floor-to-ceiling views, we really can’t fault anyone who wants to spend hours here listening to live music and taking in the gorgeous Tokyo skyline.
So go ahead, pretend you’re Scarlett Johansson sipping on cocktails with Bill Murray. We won’t judge
22. Eat ALL the Ramen
Forget about those packets of dry noodles you bought for 20 cents back in your university days. The ramen you’ll find in Tokyo (or anywhere in Japan, for that matter!) is a whole different story.
With thousands of noodle shops around the city, you’ll have no problem finding a place to sit belly up next to the bar as your bowl of steaming noodles is prepared for you.
A traditional bowl with have perfectly chewy noodles, thin slices of pork shoulder and a soft cooked egg all together in a bowl of brothy goodness. And you’ll find non-traditional versions as well, like smoked duck, lemon chicken or spicy seafood.
Like I said, these gourmet bowls are a far cry from the sodium-ridden packets you ate in your younger years. And they are oh so satisfying after a long day of walking around the city, especially if you’re visiting Tokyo in the winter.
Where to eat ramen in Tokyo
There are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from in Tokyo, so don’t go too far for a specific restaurant. But here are a couple of ideas to start off your #RamenHunt:
a) Ramen Cubicle at Ichiran: Multiple locations in Tokyo (and around Japan)
We’d heard people rave about the famed ramen chain, Ichiran, and decided we couldn’t leave Japan without giving it a try. Lemme tell ya… it was well worth it.
First, you get to fill out a survey, more or less, in which you tell the chefs how to make your perfect ramen. You’ll have to answer questions that you’ve never thought about, like ‘how chewey do you want your noodles?’ and ‘how rich do you like the flavor?’
Once there is a seat available, you’ll be led to your own private ramen “cubicle”, which kind of reminded me of a row of phone booths with small partitions.
Your little booth even has a water spout so you can hydrate while you wait. Iit won’t take long before a small door is opened and a pair of hands holding a bowl of ramen extend and set it down in front of you before said door is closed.
Now it’s time to enjoy that sweet, sweet ramen in your little isolation booth.
Yep, that’s right, there are actually signs that explain the ramen booths were designed so guests can have a more “intimate experience with their ramen, free of distractions”. Mmmm… however weird that statement makes you feel, I can assure you one thing: your ramen will be friggin’ delicious.
Oh, and you can press a button and request “extras”, like more noodles, a soft-boiled egg, or sliced pork.
How did Ichiran stack up against other ramen shops we tried? The broth was really, really good. However, we both agreed we’ve had better noodles elsewhere. Still highly recommended. But we also urge you to try a bunch so you can find your own personal favorite ramen. There are many types of ramen, and each person has their own preference.
The great thing about Ichiran is they have many locations all around the country (and even abroad).
b) Tokyo Train Station Underground: Choose from the Best Ramen Shops in the Country
In the Tokyo Station Underground, there is a place where you’ll find perhaps your best bowl of ramen in the country. That’s right – I said you’ll find some killer food in the train station.
“Ramen Street” is deep underground, yet the food that’s served up here is far better food than you’d expect of a train station. E
ight of the most famous ramen shops in the country have been asked to make a secondary restaurant, so you’ll have the best of the best all in one place. Plus, there’s a ton of variety – from vegan ramen to the classics to types you won’t find many other places.
The most famous of all is Rokurinsha, which is known for tsukemen, a style of ramen where the noodles are served separately and dipped into the rich broth. The queue can get very long, so if you don’t have time or patience to wait, you can try this style ramen at Oreshiki Jun, which is just around the corner.
We tried it there and ohemgee, these were the best ramen noodles I’ve ever tasted. They’re also known for a great tonkotsu ramen, so if you’re traveling with a partner, try one of each.
23. Explore Tokyo’s Craft Beer scene
Calling all our fellow craft beer snobs!
I hate to say it, but my love for craft beer has made it very difficult for me to appreciate a regular ol’ light beer. So these days, I reserve my beer calorie budget for the good stuff. The craft stuff.
In the past, craft beer has been expensive and hard to find in Japan, as well as much of Asia. However, this is starting to change (albeit slowly).
Tokyo has some great craft beer options, and I’m sure this scene will only grow.
Here are some good places for craft beer in Tokyo:
Spring Valley Brewery: large, beautiful facility with decent selection of beers and food, albeit sub-par service (in our experience)
Coaster Craft Beer & Burger: good choice if you want a burger with your brew
TAPTIME: quaint bar with fantastic selection of Japanese craft beers
BathHaus: part bathhouse, part craft beer bar. Sounds strange, but they earn rave reviews!
Far Yeast: higher-end vibes and a decent selection of beers and snacks
Ebisu: one of the largest selections of craft beer (40+ taps), mostly Japanese brews
24. Spot quirky Vending Machines
Japan is known for efficiency, so it comes as no surprise that their vending machine game is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
With so many people in Tokyo, vending machines are often the quickest (and most efficient) way to get things that they would otherwise have to wait a few minutes for.
No more standing in line at the supermarket: get your sports drink in a matter of seconds from a vending machine. And no need to sit down at a restaurant and wait to be served. Get your hamburger on the go from a vending machine, of course!
While wandering through the streets of Tokyo, take note of the strange vending machines you spot: sushi-printed socks, anyone?!
25. Have Sushi for breakfast at Toyosu Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market has long been a Tokyo staple, but sadly it has stopped doing the famous tuna auction back in October 2018. The brand new Toyosu Fish Market is now where the early morning tuna auction happens. There are still many sushi shops around Tsukiji, but some of the famous sushi shops, like Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi, have opened locations at the new market.
Tip: Arrive as early as you can, because this is when the market is most lively. Sushi for breakfast is a thing here!
One of the most intriguing experiences one could have at Tsukiji was to come early, at 5 a.m. to watch the live tuna auctions take place.
Instead of being right next to the action as the day’s freshest catch was being sold, visitors can now only experience this from a second-floor observation deck at Toyosu. However, it is still an experience worthy of your Japan bucket list.
Toyosu is modern and beautiful, albeit lacking the character and charm (some may say chaos!) of Tsukiji. You can still get a feel for what Tsukiji used to be by visiting its outer market and compare it to its more refined replacement.
Tip for sushi lovers: Another fun food experience in Tokyo is to go to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Pick and choose items as they come past you, and pay per piece.
26. Drink Sake
This spirit is to Japan what mezcal is to Mexico or what chianti is to Tuscany. So while in Tokyo, try a glass… or two! But be careful; even though it is referred to as “rice wine”, the alcohol content is higher, weighing in at 18 – 20 ABV percent or more.
You won’t have a problem finding sake on just about every menu, but if you want a cool experience, head to Sake Stand Moto in Shinjuku. Tiny hole-in-the-wall bar is standing room only and fits just 15 people. The sake choices change up often, and there is quite the variety. Tell the staff you’re a beginner and they can give you recommendations.
Good to know: It can be considered rude to pour your own glass of sake. If you are drinking with a friend, pour for each other — it’s considered a way to bond!
And if you want to learn more about the whole distilling process, consider taking a sake brewery tour. There are 9 to choose from in Tokyo, and some are free!
The breweries are located on the outskirts of the city, however, so plan on making a day trip of it. Our pick is Ozawa Shuzo, which is the oldest sake brewery in Tokyo and is located near picturesque mountains, nature trails and shrines.
Fun Travel Tip: For a unique Japanese souvenir, pick up a ceramic sake decanter. They come in all sorts of beautiful designs and can be priced really reasonably. We bought a really beautiful one for less than $10 USD.
27. Eat your way around Tokyo with a Food tour
If you’re like us and want to try as much food as possible in the little time you have, the best way to do so is to go on a food tour. Sample small portions of popular dishes so you can have a little of everything without filling up too quickly. Oh, and the walking portion of the tour helps you “earn” that food. Genius!
We’ve taken food tours all around the world, and they are a great way to find local gems and learn more about each dish and the culture as a whole.
We went on two food tours in Japan, one in Osaka and one in Tokyo. Each tour was very different and we not only got to try a ton of different foods, but we were able to explore neighborhoods alongside someone who lives in the city.
Arigato is the highest rated food tour company in Japan, and we had great experiences with them. Below are some of the different food tours they offer in Tokyo.
Food and Drink tour options in Tokyo:
Tokyo Allstar Food Tour with Arigato Food Tours
Old Town Tokyo Food Tour with Arigato Food Tours
Luxury Tokyo Sake, Cocktail, Whisky and Pairing Tour with Arigato Food Tours
28. Try Black Sesame Ice Cream at Gomaya Kuki
I’m not one for Japan’s obsession with cutesy, trendy treats that cost $10 and look much better than they taste. Feel me?
So when someone messaged us on Instagram and recommended we try this black sesame ice cream, I kind of wrote it off as a “fad” (like charcoal ice cream). But then another person recommended it. And another. So on our last day in Tokyo, we sought it out, and I am so upset at myself that I didn’t try it sooner!
Sesame ice cream is a bit tricky to find, and from my research, Gomaya Kuki seemed like one of the best places to try it. There is only one flavor at this ice cream shop; you guessed it: Sesame. It comes in 6 different variations, based on richness and whether white or black sesame seeds were used.
This ice cream allegedly has 9,000 sesame seeds per scoop, and you know what? I believe that claim. The ice cream is so dense and rich that there’s no surprise 9,000 seeds were needed to create each scoop of nutty goodness.
Not too sweet, not too bitter, and almost peanut butter-y, this ice cream legit has me daydreaming about it months later.
Do yourself a favor and try it when you’re in Harajuku. And don’t blame me when you go through withdrawal and can’t find the flavor outside Japan #mycurrentstruggle
Cost: Two flavors (one scoop each) costs ¥500. Top it off with a drizzle of sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds if you’d like.
29. Find Vegetarian Japanese Food
Recommended by: Victoria from Bridges and Balloons
One of the most memorable parts of Tokyo for me was the food. I wasn’t sure that Japan would be a particularly good place for vegetarians, especially those who don’t eat fish, but we actually ate incredibly well there and Tokyo was particularly easy as a veggie.
A good budget option is to keep an eye out for one of the many curry shops, which nearly always have a vegetarian option.
Some of my other favorites were a tofu restaurant in Shibuya called Tofu Ryori Sorano (where they make fresh tofu at your table); Komaki Shokudo, a little restaurant where you can try traditional Japanese temple food; and Itasobakaoriya (板蕎麦 香り家), a soba restaurant in trendy Ebisu. These are all great options even if you’re not vegetarian.
Bonus tip for vegetarians traveling in Japan: Try searching on Happy Cow to find a really comprehensive list of all the vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo!
30. Photograph the tiny alleys in Memory Lane (aka “Piss Alley”)
While Tokyo is undeniably modern, there are still small alleyways that are reminders of the past. Tiny bars and restaurants are packed in beside one another and have remained more or less the same since they popped up right after WWII.
These traditional-style alleyways, called yokocho, are sprinkled throughout the city. One of the more poplar is known as “piss alley” because in 1999, a fire ravaged the area leaving it toilet-less. And we can all deduce how the nickname stuck…
Don’t worry, there are toilets there today as well as little eateries serving up tasty noodle bowls and yakitori (meat skewers). And if you’re feeling adventurous, Piss Alley is a great place to try something out of the ordinary, like grilled salamander, frog sashimi and pig testicles.
31. Make a toast in Golden Gai
Similar to Memory Lane (aka Piss Alley), Golden Gai is a maze of narrow streets, but instead of eateries, this is where you’ll head to get a drink!
Located in Shinjuku, Golden Gai is home to some 270 drinking establishments, most of them so tiny that fitting 10 people inside is tricky. This charming network of alleyways is popular with locals as well as tourists.
Some bars only allow locals inside, and upon entering you will be told there is no room (even if you see an empty seat). Avoid the embarrassment and choose a bar that has signs outside with some English text, or head to Albatross, a favorite amongst foreigners. We also popped into a Anime bar with an energetic bartender.
Our favorite tiny bar in Golden Gai was one called Not Suspicious bar (seriously, that is the name of it). This one row bar has probably 100,000+ post-it notes with various phrases from previous patrons posted on its walls. The people we met inside really made the atmosphere great and the drinks were good too!
While in Golden Gai, don’t expect to bar hop if you’re on a budget, as some of the establishments charge a cover fee that’s far from cheap ($12 is said to be average for this area).
Insider Tip: If you’re looking for a less touristy alleyways to wander, try Drunkard’s Alley near Shibuya Crossing or Hamonika Yokocho in Kichijoji.
Free or Cheap Things To Do in Tokyo
Even though Japan is notoriously expensive, there are certainly some free and cheap things to do in this massive city.
Related Reading: Read up on how to travel to Japan on a Budget
32. Free View of Tokyo from the Metropolitan Government Building
Recommended by: Jamie from Gajin Crew
Head to the top floor of the Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku (another one of Tokyo’s 23 districts) and experience a full 360-degree view of the city. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the city stretches further than the eye can see (in every single direction)!
This is one of the best things to do in Tokyo, and it’s totally free! While Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree are both popular tourist attractions that give you unbelievable views of the city, they both cost and are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination.
So if you’re after the ultimate picture of the vast urban landscape that is Tokyo, save yourself the cash and head to the Government building. Go up at night for the coolest views.
33. Free walking tour
Free walking tours are a great way to see the top highlights of a city when you have limited time. Plus, being guided through Tokyo by a local will open your eyes to some sites and stories you never would have picked up on otherwise.
Tokyo Localized offers a few types of tours in different neighborhoods that highlight unique aspects of the city.
Or do it at your own pace by pinning all the big sights on your Google Maps app or Maps.me and letting your feet guide you.
Insider Tip: While you can download a map of Tokyo on Maps.me to use offline, it might be worthwhile to get a WiFi hotspot for your trip to Japan. This means you’ll have unlimited data and won’t ever be left without Internet.
34. Walk through Shibuya Crossing
When in Tokyo, most travelers make it a point to see the world’s busiest intersection: the “Shibuya Scramble”!
It’s a pretty wild sight to see crowds merge into one ridiculously packed junction. Stand on the sidewalk and wait for the crosswalks to turn green and get lost in the chaos!
Come in the daylight hours or at night when everything is aglow in neon lights. Or if you have time, come for both!
Insider Tip: This intersection is also pretty wild to see from above. There’s a Starbucks that overlooks the madness. Though we will warn you, the Starbucks is something of an attraction itself, and is always crowded. It is even said to be the busiest location of this coffee chain in the world!
Check out this short time lapse we took in the middle of Shibuya Crossing!
35. Wander around Yanaka: Tokyo’s most traditional neighborhood
If you want to imagine Tokyo as it was years ago before the ultra modern buildings and posh shopping districts, you’ll want to make time to explore the neighborhood of Yanka.
Adoringly called “Tokyo’s most traditional neighborhood,” the nickname says it all. Yanaka was spared from much of the bombings in WWII, and thus retains a lot of charm and nostalgia that you can’t find in many other parts of the city.
Things to do in Yanaka:
Yanaka Tokyo Cemetery: stroll through this beautiful, peaceful cemetery on a street lined with cherry blossom trees
Take a food tour of Yanaka: We went on a food tour in Yanaka with Arigato Food Tours and filled our bellies with food and our minds with fun facts about this neighborhood.
Tennoji Temple: here you’ll find a large statue of Buddha
Yanaka Beer Hall: rustic setting with craft beers makes a nice stop to rest your feet
Shop for souvenirs on Yanaka Ginza: Ginza, meaning “shopping street”, has many small family-run shops. We bought some beautiful ceramic bowls at a tea shop called Kanekichien.
Eat a rice cracker at Yanaka Senbei: This shop has been open for more than 100 years (est. 1913) and has changed little over time. They serve traditional rice crackers, or senbei, and have many flavors to choose from.
Spot all 7 cats: Yanaka has earned the nickname “Tokyo’s Cat Town” because of the number of stray cats that have found refuge in this place. You’ll see lots of cat souvenirs and even cat-inspired snacks. But keep an eye out for the 7 cat statues throughout the main street. It is said that if you find all 7, you will have good luck.
Take a photo on the Yuyake-dandan steps steps: You’ll see many Japanese people taking photos on these steps that lead from Nippori Station down into the main shopping street. This is a famous view, featured in newspapers and on many television shows.
36. Explore Daikanyama, aka Tokyo’s hippest neighborhood
Like any major city, Tokyo has tons of neighborhoods, each with a very different vibe. In recent years, the tiny neighborhood of Daikanyama has earned a reputation as the “Brooklyn of Tokyo” for its trendy cafes, stylish boutiques, quirky cafes and bookstores. Oh, and did I mention there’s a brewery in the area too?
I am a sucker for craft beer and bohemian vibes, so yeah, I loved Daikanyama.
Technically Daikanyama is probably not even considered its own true neighborhood, but rather a subsection of the Shibuya district. But compared to the pulsating, neon-lit center of Shibuya, Daikanyama is much quieter, more laid back and feels like a completely different place, despite it only being a 10-minute walk away.
Things to do in Daikanyama:
Explore Daikanyama T-site, a stunning bookstore
Get your caffeine and sugar fix at one of the many cute coffee shops
Wander into the neighborhood’s quirky boutiques, which sell everything from clothing to crystals
Cheers with a craft beer at Spring Valley Brewery
37. Spot the Tokyo Skytree
While walking around Tokyo, one thing you must keep your eye out for is the iconic Skytree. And if you look up at the skyline, you really can’t miss it. The Skytree is to Tokyo what the Space Needle is to Seattle. Standing 634 meters tall, the Tokyo Skytree is a TV broadcast tower and all-around symbol of the city.
We’re not huge proponents of overpriced viewpoints, so our recommendation is to spot it from the ground (then check out #32 for a free viewpoint!). But if you don’t mind shelling out $17 USD, going to the top of the Skytree (350 meters and second platform of 450 meters) might be your jam!
To get a ticket to the viewing point, book a spot to the top of the SkyTree with Get Your Guide. You’ll get to skip the line too!
38. Capture memories at a Japanese Photo Booth
Forget regular old photo booths. Just like many things, Japan does it better!
Purikura, or Japanese photo booths, are a pop culture staple that is super fun to try out on your visit to Tokyo.
Often found in arcades, there is a wide variety of purikura to choose from. Some even have an area to pamper yourself with hair straighteners and costumes to wear for your photo sesh.
One of the biggest differences between these photo booths and the traditional variety is you can do post-photo editing. You can smooth your skin, make your eyes bigger, add makeup, or add cutesy stickers and text.
Snapping some pictures in a purikura is one Japanese experience that will bring a smile to your face. Plus, it’s a perfect souvenir from your trip!
39. Stay in a Capsule Hotel
Recommended by: Mehdi Fliss from Asian Wanderlust
In the beginning, these capsule hotels were made for salarymen (expression used for hard workers in Japan) who wanted to work late at their offices in Tokyo. The metro stops at around 1:00 a.m. so instead of taking a taxi to their home, many office workers started to sleep in a capsule for few hours and get back early to work the next day.
But today, the concept has changed a bit and this type of accommodation is now used by a wide range of people, including tourists. I personally like minimalism, so sleeping a capsule was pretty interesting. They are also comfortable and you can also find nice public baths in the capsule hotel.
It’s a great value for money, so it is a good option for people traveling to Tokyo on a budget. However, if you are a bit claustrophobic, you might want to stay away from this type of hotel!
Note: Capsule Hotels are typically gender seperated.
Best Capsule Hotels in Tokyo
9 Hours in Shinjuku-North: Well located and very clean, this highly rated capsule hotel can house over 206 visitors per night.
First Cabin Kyobashi: Where capsule and luxury meet! You’ll be wow-ed by these large capsule cabins. Well located, clean and excellent service.
40. Explore Anime Heaven on Takeshita Street in Harajuku
Recommended by: Jamie from Gajin Crew
Known as one of the most popular and busiest shopping streets in the whole of Tokyo, Takeshita street is the epicenter for the weird and wonderful side of Japanese fashion culture.
You’ll see cosplayers dressed up as some of their favorite anime characters, unicorn-flavored candy floss and enough crepes to last a lifetime. Not to mention the insane number of shops as well!
Located in Harajuku (one of Tokyo’s 23 districts), Takeshita Street is also close to the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park (both also worth visiting) so you could easily spend up to a full day exploring all three.
One more thing to do before you go…
Even if you’re on your way home, you can still have one last Japanese experience!
41. Souvenir Shopping at Edo Market & Tokyo Pop Town
Recommended by: Tiffy from Asiatravelbug
Shopping at Haneda International Airport is something I always look forward to whenever I’m in Tokyo. The price of souvenirs and restaurants inside the airport are very reasonable, and not inflated like airports in many other countries.
The Edo Market, located at the 4th floor of Haneda International Airport before immigration, is great place to have a memorable Japanese meal and do last-minute souvenir shopping before your flight. I discovered this place by chance when I arrived at the airport earlier and it’s such a wonderful find!
Arriving at Edo Market felt like being transported back to Asakusa in Tokyo. There are a multitude of restaurants to choose from. If you are looking for a reasonably-priced yet high-quality sukiyaki meal, I recommend Takafuku.
After a hearty meal, head one level up to Tokyo Pop Town where you can find Soradonki, a branch of Don Quijote – the most famous bargain shop in Japan. While prices of souvenirs after the airport’s immigration are very reasonable, souvenirs at the Soradonki shop are even cheaper!
Once you are done with your sayonara meal and last-minute shopping, head over to the top floor observation deck where you can have a close up view of the planes landing and departing at Haneda International Airport.
Bonus Tip: Cut your airport transfer time in half by picking Haneda International Airport instead of Narita when you book your flight to Tokyo. Haneda is much closer to downtown Tokyo than Narita.
Where to Stay in Tokyo
Tokyo is massive, so choosing a neighborhood to base yourself in can be daunting. Then you have the task of choosing a hotel or Airbnb. We have a few suggestions to help you get started in the planning process.
Hotels in Shibuya/Shinjuku
Budget Hotel: Capsule Hotel Anshin Oyado Premier – Super close to Shinjuku Station, this capsule hotel is highly rated and has great service. Note: Gender separate sleeping.
Mid-Range Hotel: Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel – Next to Shibuya Station, this hotel has spacious rooms and an onsite restaurant and bar.
Hotels in Ginza
Budget Hotel: First Cabin Kyobashi – This spacious capsule hotel has a great location and is well worth the value. One of the highest rated hotels in Tokyo for its value.
Luxury Hotel: The Celestine Ginza – Impeccable service, large rooms with great views, on-site massage spa, restaurant and bar.
Hotels near Tokyo Station
Budget Hotel: Tosei Hotel Cocone Kanda – Great location with decently priced rooms in the heart of one of the best foodie areas of Tokyo.
Fun Fact: We stayed in our very first Airbnb in Tokyo. It can be a great way to save some money on accommodation. Check out all the Tokyo listings, and if you use this link and we’ll give you $55 off your first stay!
Bonus! We have loads of info on how to book Airbnbs, red flags to watch out for when booking, and our favorite Airbnbs in our Airbnb article. Plus, we’ll give you our Airbnb coupon code for up to $55 off Airbnb.
Tokyo Metro & Using the JR Pass
The metro and bus systems are fantastic and very timely in Tokyo. There are two major companies that operate the subway system in Tokyo: Toei and Tokyo Metro. If you plan on doing quite a bit of exploring in a day, one of the cheapest ways to get around Tokyo is to purchase the Tokyo Metro 1-Day Pass.
The Tokyo Metro has 9 different subway lines, where the Toei only has 4 lines. You can get to all the major spots on the Tokyo Metro lines. The 1-day pass only costs 600 yen ($5.34 USD) and you can purchase it at any ticket vending machine.
You should only get the Toei 24-hour pass (700 yen and gives you access to Toei subways and buses) if you’re hotel is only by a Toei station.
Or if you want to spread out your days in Tokyo, here is a tip from Anne from Pretraveller:
“To most easily get around Tokyo we recommend that you purchase either a Suica or Pasmo tap on tap off public transport card – you get a starting amount of credit and then just top it up as you need at most train stations. These transport cards can be used for all public transport within Tokyo, and also within most other cities within Japan.”
Insider Tip: The Tokyo metro system can look quite confusing at first glance. Navitime is a phone app and Hyperdia is a website. Both are very helpful in navigating the public transport in Tokyo. Google Maps works pretty well for this too!
Do you need the JR Pass?
Here’s the simple answer to your question:
If you are staying only in Tokyo: NO
If you will be traveling to at least 2 more places in Japan: YES
Read more about how much money the Japan Rail pass will save you and find out how to get it. We have a whole guide and are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Are you planning a trip to Japan?
We have TONS of resources on travel in Japan and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Japan Travel Guide for all the answers to your most burning questions, or read some of our favorite articles below.
teamLab Borderless: Ultimate Guide to Tokyo’s Digital Art Museum
Crazy & Fun Things to Do in Japan
15 Best Japan Travel Apps
Ultimate Japan Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know for Your First Visit
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Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? What part are you most looking forward to? Did we miss your favorite thing to do in Tokyo? We want to hear from you in the comments below!