18 Most Exciting Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
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Tokyo is a city unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s where technological advancements outdate any other city on the planet and yet Tokyo still manages to retain much of its traditions, history, and unique culture.
You can wander around ancient temples, sing karaoke until dawn, have your coffee made by a mechanical AI-driven machine, and have your sushi delivered by train, but this is just a fraction of the weird and wonderful things to do in Tokyo, Japan.
If you’re visiting this vibrant and unique city, you’re going to need to grab a pen and paper and list down these unmissable attractions in Tokyo, otherwise, you’re going to miss out on a lot of cool things!
1. Be Served by a Robot Waiter at Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe
One thing that separates Tokyo from the rest of the world is how technologically advanced the city is, and you can really see this aspect of Japan in its consumer technology.
One example of this is at Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe, which is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a restaurant that has replaced waiters with robots.
Have you ever had a meal bought to you by a robot dressed up as a human? I’m guessing the answer is no.
While you might think that the idea is to eliminate the human workforce, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Robot waiters are actually remote-controlled by disabled workers. It was created as a way of providing an opportunity for those who are unable to leave the house due to medical reasons.
When you’re served by a robot waiter, you are still talking to a person, they’re just sitting at home and controlling the robot remotely via the internet. Pretty cool, right?
- Hours: 11.00am – 6.00pm (Closed Thursday)
- Address: 3 Chome−8−3, Nihonbashi Life Science Building, Chuo City, Nihonbashihoncho
2. Walk across the Shibuya Crossing
Perhaps one of the most iconic things to do in Tokyo is to walk across Shibuya Crossing. This is the world’s largest and busiest pedestrian crossing and is also one of the most photographed scenes in Tokyo.
The square is surrounded by glitzy skyscrapers and flashing billboards displaying the latest advertisements, which is particularly impressive at night.
When the traffic lights turn red, the crossing becomes chaotic as 3,000 people cross from all angles. If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t get lost in the crowd.
In fact, a top tip for those who want to avoid being thrown into the throng of people is to view the crossing from the 2nd floor of the Starbucks at Shibuya Tsutaya. Not only does it give you a view of the crossing from above, but it’s free to enter.
- Hours: 24 Hours
- Address: Shibuya Crossing, 1 Chome-21 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya City
3. Dine at An Intimate Ramen Restaurant
Trying all the delicious cuisine should be at the top of your list when planning an unforgettable Japan itinerary. One dish you cannot miss is ramen. This is a hot noodle soup that’s usually served with chicken or pork.
One of the nation’s favorite ramen restaurants is Ichiran, which has individual, intimate (albeit anti-social) booths where you’re steaming hot ramen is served to you via a hole in the wall.
Once you have your ramen, a curtain is closed and you’re alone in your little booth. It’s supposed to eliminate all distractions so you can concentrate on the flavor.
There are several Ichiran stores all over the city, but I suggest visiting the one in Shibuya as it’s the most frequented by tourists.
- Hours: 10.00am – 6.00am
- Address: 1 Chome−22−7, Shibuya City
4. Explore the Wonders of Cat Street, Harajuku District
The Harajuku District is Tokyo’s fashion district, though fashion here is a little more colorful and quirky than what you might find in the West.
Cat Street is possibly the best street to see all of Harajuku’s weird and wonderful trends. You’ll see many people wearing bold and eclectic fashion statements, and it’s also a great place to try strange and wonderful street food.
You can eat rainbow-colored candy floss, a croquant chou (a type of croissant and cream puff combination with Hokkaido cream), fried potato, crepes, and soft ice cream. You will also see lots of places selling bubble tea.
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: Cat Street, Shibuya City, Tokyo, Japan
5. Take a Day Trip to Hakone
One of the best things to do in Tokyo in October is to take a day trip out to Hakone National Park. This is the closest park to the city where you can see Mount Fuji in the distance.
One of the reasons why October is particularly important is because it’s the time of year when the clouds disperse. Mount Fuji has a cloud covering its peak 60% of the time, and the end of fall and the start of winter are the best times of year to see it.
If you’re visiting any other time of year, it really is a stroke of luck if Fuji pokes its head out of the clouds, but that doesn’t mean Hakone isn’t worth visiting.
The national park is made up of small villages, hot springs, and temples. It’s also where you’ll see incredible views of Lake Ashinoko.
For those traveling with kids, your little ones will love taking the Hakone Tozan train up to the highest village, and then a cable car to the village of Gora at the top of the mountain. The train leaves from Odawara, so make sure to check out the Odawara Castle while you’re in the area.
If you get unlucky with the weather, head over to one of the many onsens and enjoy a relaxing dip in one of the hot spring pools. You could easily spend two or three days exploring this rural nature spot, just make sure to get a Hakone Pass before you visit.
- Hours: Park is open 24 hours, and the train operates between 5:33 am to 11:26 pm
- Address: Train to Hakone National Park departs from: 1 Chome-1-1 Shiroyama, Odawara, Kanagawa
6. Visit the Meiji Shrine
Japan is not short of Shinto shrines, but in Tokyo in particular, you will find some of the most beautiful. The Meiji Shrine is the biggest shrine in Tokyo and is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken.
The shrine was built in an iris garden that the Emperor and Empress had been known to visit. The area is protected by a forest, which covers 70 hectares of land. The forested area is a recreation area for the people of Tokyo.
The shrine was built in 1915, three years after the Emperor’s death. The shrine was a national project, combining the efforts of youth groups and other civic associations across the country.
Each part of the shrine was donated by different parts of Japan and was said to have cost US$26 million at the time.
The original building was destroyed during WWI but was rebuilt using community funding efforts.
Shrines are usually free to enter, so they are great attractions for families on a budget visiting Japan with kids.
- Hours: The shrine opens and closes at sunrise and sunset which differs each day. The garden is open from 5:00 am – 6:30 pm
- Address: 1-1 Yoyogi Kamizono Cho, Shibuya City
7. See the Remains of Edo History at The East Imperial Palace Garden
The Imperial Palace is a large park complex that sits on the site of the former Edo Castle. The park is surrounded by moats and great stone walls and contains the castle belonging to the Japanese Imperial family.
The palace was built when the family was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1888, but it was destroyed during WWII. A replacement was built in the same style, which you can see today.
Visitors cannot enter the buildings but are free to wander the Imperial Palace East Gardens. The palace grounds are only accessible by guided tour. The tour takes around 75 minutes and it’s best to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Hours: English tours daily at 10.00 am and 1.30 pm (Closed Mondays and Sundays)
- Address: 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda City
8. Find Your Fortune at Asakusa’s Sensō-Ji Temple
Perhaps one of the most iconic sites in Japan is the Senso-Ji Temple in the Asakusa district. This ancient Buddhist temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo and also one of the most significant.
It is dedicated to Kannon, the god of compassion, and receives over 30 million visitors each year. The site is also famous for the five-story pagoda and Shinto shrine in the complex.
The temple is also a great place to learn about your future by taking an omikuji, a strip of paper that tells your fortune.
To do this, look for the booth that has a collection of metal tins. Simply place a ¥100 coin in one of the metal boxes, give it a shake, and an omikuji rod will appear.
The rod will have Japanese symbols and a number on it. Go to the box with the number on the rod and take out one omikuji. This slip of paper will reveal your fortune.
- Hours: 6:00am – 5:00pm (6.30am – 5.00pm October – March)
- Address: 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City
9. Sing Karaoke Until Dawn
Japan is the birthplace of Karaoke so it would be a shame not to give it a go while you’re in Tokyo!
Typically, karaoke is how the Japanese party hard, hiring booths with friends and colleagues and singing the night away until dawn.
For young adults visiting the city, spending the whole night singing in a room with your friends is definitely up there as a crazy thing to do in Tokyo.
If you’re traveling as a family, you can still enjoy the fun in a family-friendly karaoke room.
Pasela Resorts is a karaoke venue that offers private, family-friendly karaoke rooms with a wide array of western songs, and some kid-friendly songs too. There’s even a bounce house if you’re little ones are tired of singing.
- Hours: 11:30 AM – 08:00 AM
- Address: 1-chōme-20 Ueno, Taito City
10. Watch a Sumo Wrestling Match
If you’re looking for fun and unusual things to do in Tokyo at night, then get yourself some tickets to watch a sumo wrestling match.
Sumo is a type of non-violent combat that first began in Japan in the Japanese Middle Ages. It started as a form of military training and then became a popular sport among the masses.
It was also common for spectators to sponsor or bet on wrestlers, and was even used as a way to raise money for shrines and temples.
The sport is most famous for the size of its competitors. Sumo wrestlers gain weight so that it’s harder for their opponents to knock them out of the arena.
If you’re interested in learning more about the sport and its history, you can visit the town of Ryogoku, also referred to as a sumo town. Here you can see where wrestlers live and train.
The Kokugikan Stadium is where you’ll be able to watch matches.
- Hours: Dependent on the tournament
- Address: 1 Chome-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida City
DAY TRIP IDEA: Grand Sumo Tournament Tour in Tokyo
Watch a Grand Sumo tournament with a small group of maximum 8 and real-time commentaries by an expert guide. Walking tour around Ryogoku, a sumo town is also included. Learn more here.
11. Relax in a Japanese Garden at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
If you’re looking for more relaxing things to do in Tokyo then spend a few hours wandering in the quaint Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The large park is located in the center of the city and was once part of the Naitō family’s residence during the Edo period.
If you happen to visit in late March and early April during cherry blossom season, you absolutely need to come here to see the 400 semei yoshino and cherry blossom trees bloom. They only bloom for a week a year so you absolutely can’t miss this if you’re visiting at the start of Spring.
The park features several small gardens that pay homage to other countries’ styles, such as an English garden and a French garden.
It also has the oldest traditional Japanese landscape garden with a large pond with islands connected by bridges, as well as a botanical garden. It’s the perfect place to hang out if the city feels a little overwhelming.
- Hours: 9.00am – 5.30pm Tuesday – Friday, 7.00am – 5.30pm Saturday and Sunday, Closed Monday
- Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo
12. Play Arcade Games at Leisure Land
The district of Akihabara is famous for its electronic shops and is nicknamed the “electronic district” of Tokyo. Nestled in the heart of this district is possibly one of the most fun things to do in Tokyo.
Leisure Land is an arcade that offers five floors of gaming facilities. Visitors can choose between over 100 video games, crane machines, and arcade games.
Not only do you have endless hours of fun playing all the different games, but if you’re lucky you can win some rare character merchandise as a souvenir to take home.
- Hours: 10.00am – 12.55pm
- Address: 1 Chome-9-5 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City
13. Take Part in a Tea Ceremony
Drinking tea in Japan is not a simple matter of boiling a kettle and throwing a tea bag in a mug. In Zen Buddhism, a tea ceremony promotes harmony, purity, and tranquility.
The whole process of making and drinking tea is considered a meditative process. Every step, from the type of tea you brew to the way that it is brewed, has a special meaning.
Taking part in a tea ceremony is one of the ways you can experience Tokyo’s more spiritual side. It’s also a calming experience in case you need a more relaxing activity.
- Hours: 10.30am, 1.30pm, 3.15pm
- Address: True Japan Tours, 3-chōme−5−8 Minato City, Shibakōen,
14. Visit Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo has no shortage of skyscrapers and viewpoints, but the most famous ones are Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Sky Tree.
Both buildings are similar in that they both have 360 panoramic views of the city from their observation decks. It is said that on a clear day, you can even see Mount Fuji in the distance.
Though located in different parts of the city, they offer the same experience, so it’s best to choose which one to visit by proximity to other attractions in Tokyo you want to see.
- Hours: 9.30am – 10.00pm (10.30pm on Saturday)
- Address: Tokyo Tower: 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato City
- Hours: 10.00am – 9.00pm
- Address: 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida City
15. Learn About Futuristic Robots at Miraikan
You’ve probably seen a fair few robots while in Tokyo, whether you’re looking for them or not. They seem to be taking over the city, so why not learn more about the latest technological advancements while you’re there?
The Miraikan is the city’s museum of emerging science and innovation and is where you can see where some of the latest and most advanced technologies have been applied, from the latest in space travel to how it can be applied to domestic life.
What brings most people to the museum is seeing the robotworld exhibit. This is an exhibition that shows what life would be like if robots lived with us; from robot pets to an android human servant, which looks freakishly lifelike.
- Hours: 10.00am – 5.00pm (Closed Tuesday)
- Address: Miraikan, 2-3-6 Aomi, Koto-ku
16. Check out the Art Installations at teamLab
If you’re a photographer and looking for a new playground to play in with your camera, then you’ll love exploring the art installations inside teamLab.
The exhibitions change regularly, but the concept stays the same. These holographic light installations allow you to enter a multi-dimensional reality. The art facility, established by teamLab, uses state-of-the-art digital technology to create immersive art.
This is just another example of how Japan has used technology to reach new levels.
- Hours: 9.00 am – 9.00 pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9.00 am – 10.00 pm Saturday and Sunday, Closed Wednesday
- Address: 6 Chome-1-16 Toyosu, Koto City, Tokyo
17. Eat Ramen from a Vending Machine
Yes, we’ve already mentioned trying ramen before, but this is a little different. One of the things that make Tokyo unique is how vending machines are used to deliver almost everything.
You can buy soup, vegetables, hot dogs, and even practical items such as umbrellas, batteries, and in case of extreme emergencies…a spare office tie.
One of the best items you can get from a vending machine is a frozen ramen ready-meal. While you do need to take your ramen home and heat it, you can easily purchase your meal from a 24-hour ‘Ramen Stock’ vending machine from three places throughout the city.
If you ever feel like a midnight snack, make sure to keep your eyes open for more vending machines as they pop up throughout the city.
- Hours: 24 Hours
- Address: Takadanobaba (2-13-6 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku), Nakano (2-28-8 Nakano, Nakano) and Itabashi (45-17 Oharacho, Itabashi).
18. Enjoy a Traditional Okonomiyaki meal
Japanese food is definitely one of the best reasons to visit Tokyo and if you’re a foodie fan, you will love tasting all the unique cuisines here.
Okonomiyaki (say that five times fast) is definitely up there as one of the most delicious local delicacies. It’s a type of Japanese pancake dish traditionally cooked on a teppan (a flat hot plate) in the middle of the table. Your server will usually pour the mixture on the teppan and it’s up to you to cook it.
Once it’s cooked to your liking, it’s then smothered in Japanese mayonnaise (not like Western mayo, it’s better) and okonomiyaki sauce (a kind of BBQ sauce).
Many different ingredients go into okonomiyaki but it’s traditionally made with cabbage and pork.
You’ll find okonomiyaki all over the city but we can vouch for Sometarō near the Senso-Ji Temple in Asakusa as a good place to try it.
- Hours: 12.00 pm–2:45 pm, 5:30 pm–8:15 pm (Closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
- Address: 2 Chome-2-2 Nishiasakusa, Taito City
Helpful Resources for Planning a Trip to Tokyo
- The Royal Park Hotel Iconic Tokyo Shiodome: Previous guests liked the spacious rooms, location, and affordability. See rates, reviews and availability.
If you’re looking for other accommodation in Tokyo, you can use the map below to compare hotels and short-term rental options.
Popular Tours in Tokyo
Here are a few of the most popular and interesting tours in Tokyo, Japan.
Japan Rail Passes
If you are staying for longer than a week in Japan and are going to travel by train between major cities, a Japan rail pass would definitely be the economical way to go. You must buy them before you get to Japan. Check out this site for more information.
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