Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital, is a city of contrasts, seamlessly blending ultra-modern skyscrapers, traditional temples, and vibrant pop culture. For those considering things to do in Tokyo, exploring the historic Asakusa district, home to the iconic Senso-ji Temple, and experiencing the bustling energy of Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world, are top activities.
The city’s Tsukiji Fish Market offers a unique culinary adventure, with fresh seafood and a variety of Japanese delicacies available for tasting. Nearby, the Tokyo Tower provides panoramic views of the city and is a popular spot for photography.
Beyond its urban attractions, Tokyo is also celebrated for its unique fashion districts, such as Harajuku, known for its quirky street fashion, and Akihabara, a haven for anime and electronics enthusiasts. For those seeking the best places to visit in Japan, Tokyo’s blend of tradition, innovation, and pop culture makes it a captivating destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan
1. Tokyo Tower
Inspired by the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower is a 333-meter tall structure that stands as a symbol of Japan’s post-war rebirth. Visitors can take an elevator up to the observation decks to enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo and, on clear days, Mount Fuji in the distance. The tower is beautifully illuminated at night, making it a striking part of Tokyo’s nighttime skyline.
Travel Tip: Visit in the early evening to catch both the daytime and nighttime views of the city.
2. Meiji Shrine
Dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken, Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine surrounded by a lush forest in the heart of Tokyo. Visitors can explore the serene grounds, witness traditional Shinto ceremonies, and even take part in seasonal festivals.
Travel Tip: Check the shrine’s event calendar before your visit to see if there are any special ceremonies or festivals happening.
3. Shibuya Crossing
Famous for being one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world, Shibuya Crossing is a must-see spectacle. When the traffic lights turn red, hundreds of people flood into the intersection from all directions, creating a chaotic yet surprisingly orderly scene.
Travel Tip: For the best view of the crossing, head to the second floor of the Starbucks located on one corner of the intersection.
4. Asakusa and Senso-ji Temple
Asakusa is a district in Tokyo that is home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. Visitors can explore the vibrant Nakamise Shopping Street, which leads up to the temple, and enjoy traditional snacks, souvenirs, and crafts.
Travel Tip: Try to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the peak crowds.
5. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
These two Disney parks offer a world of fun and magic for visitors of all ages. Tokyo Disneyland brings the classic Disney magic, while Tokyo DisneySea offers unique attractions inspired by the myths and legends of the sea.
Travel Tip: Weekdays during off-peak seasons are the best times to visit for shorter wait times on rides.
Known as Tokyo’s electric town, Akihabara is a paradise for tech enthusiasts, gamers, and anime fans. The district is filled with stores selling electronic goods, manga, anime, and all sorts of unique and quirky products.
Travel Tip: Check out the various themed cafes in the area, such as maid cafes and anime cafes, for a unique dining experience.
7. Tokyo Skytree
Standing at 634 meters, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest structure in Japan and offers breathtaking views of Tokyo and the surrounding areas from its observation decks. The tower is also home to restaurants, shops, and an aquarium.
Travel Tip: Purchase your tickets in advance to avoid long wait times, especially during weekends and holidays.
8. Tsukiji Fish Market
While the wholesale market has moved to Toyosu, the Tsukiji Outer Market remains a popular destination for fresh seafood and other culinary delights. Visitors can sample a variety of street foods, from fresh sushi to grilled seafood.
Travel Tip: Visit early in the morning when the market is most lively, and bring cash as not all vendors accept credit cards.
9. Roppongi Hills
Roppongi Hills is a modern development in Tokyo that includes an observation deck, an art museum, shops, restaurants, and more. The Mori Art Museum often hosts world-class art exhibitions, and the observation deck offers stunning views of the city.
Travel Tip: Visit the observation deck in the late afternoon to catch both the daytime and nighttime views of Tokyo.
This artificial island in Tokyo Bay offers a wide variety of attractions, including shopping malls, entertainment complexes, and stunning waterfront views. Highlights include teamLab Borderless, a digital art museum, and the life-sized Unicorn Gundam statue.
Travel Tip: Odaiba is best explored on foot, so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk.
11. Harajuku and Takeshita Street
Harajuku is renowned for its vibrant street fashion, trendy boutiques, and the bustling Takeshita Street. This narrow pedestrian street is lined with eclectic shops selling unique clothing, accessories, and street food. Visitors can immerse themselves in the quirky and youthful spirit of Tokyo’s fashion scene.
Travel Tip: The area can get extremely crowded, especially on weekends, so consider visiting on a weekday or early in the morning to enjoy a more relaxed experience.
12. Imperial Palace and East Gardens
The Imperial Palace serves as the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family, and the East Gardens are open to the public. Visitors can enjoy a walk around the beautifully landscaped gardens and admire the historic castle ruins and moats.
Travel Tip: Entry to the East Gardens is free, but remember to check the opening days, as the gardens are closed on Mondays and Fridays.
13. Ueno Park and Museums
Ueno Park is a spacious public park that is home to a variety of museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, and the Ueno Zoo. Visitors can spend a day exploring the museums and enjoying outdoor activities in the park.
Travel Tip: Plan your visit during cherry blossom season in late March to early April for an exceptional experience, as the park is one of Tokyo’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spots.
14. Sumo Wrestling at Ryogoku Kokugikan
Sumo is Japan’s national sport, and watching a sumo tournament is a unique cultural experience. The Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo is one of the main sumo arenas, and it hosts three of the six annual sumo tournaments.
Travel Tip: If your visit doesn’t coincide with a tournament, you can still visit the Sumo Museum inside the arena or try to attend a sumo practice session at a nearby stable.
15. Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai
These two areas in Shinjuku are famous for their narrow alleys lined with tiny bars and eateries, offering an intimate glimpse into Tokyo’s past. Omoide Yokocho, also known as Memory Lane or Piss Alley, and Golden Gai are great places to enjoy drinks and local dishes in a unique setting.
Travel Tip: Many bars in Golden Gai cater to regulars, but there are also plenty of welcoming spots for visitors; look for signs in English or menus displayed outside.
16. Ghibli Museum
The Ghibli Museum offers a magical experience for fans of Studio Ghibli films, showcasing the art and animation of beloved movies like “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away.” The museum features interactive exhibits, short films, and delightful installations.
Travel Tip: Tickets must be purchased in advance, and they often sell out quickly, especially for weekend and holiday dates, so plan ahead.
17. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku offers free observation decks that provide visitors with stunning views of Tokyo and beyond. The building’s futuristic design and the panoramic vistas make it a popular spot for both tourists and locals.
Travel Tip: Visit on a clear day for the best chance of seeing Mount Fuji in the distance.
18. Edo-Tokyo Museum
The Edo-Tokyo Museum offers a fascinating look into Tokyo’s transformation from a small fishing village to a bustling metropolis. Through interactive exhibits and detailed models, visitors can learn about the city’s history, culture, and development.
Travel Tip: The museum provides free English-language guided tours, which are highly recommended to enhance your understanding of Tokyo’s history.
19. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen is a large park blending traditional Japanese, English, and French garden styles. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, take part in seasonal flower viewing, and explore the traditional tea houses.
Travel Tip: The park is particularly beautiful during cherry blossom season and autumn foliage season, attracting many visitors, so try to visit early in the day.
20. Tsukishima Monja Street
Tsukishima is famous for monjayaki, a savory pancake-like dish that you cook yourself on a hot griddle. Monja Street is lined with numerous monjayaki restaurants, providing a fun and interactive dining experience.
Travel Tip: Don’t be intimidated by the cooking process; the restaurant staff are usually happy to help demonstrate the proper technique.
21. Kaminarimon and Nakamise Shopping Street
Kaminarimon, or “Thunder Gate,” is the iconic entrance to Senso-ji Temple, marked by its massive red lantern and guardian deities. Beyond the gate, Nakamise Shopping Street stretches over 200 meters, offering visitors a plethora of souvenirs, snacks, and traditional crafts.
Travel Tip: While Nakamise is often bustling with tourists, it’s worth taking the time to explore the smaller side streets for unique finds and a less crowded experience.
22. Oedo Onsen Monogatari
Located in Odaiba, Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a hot spring theme park that offers a variety of indoor and outdoor baths, saunas, and spa treatments. Visitors can don yukata (casual summer kimono) and enjoy the Edo-period atmosphere, complete with games, food, and relaxation.
Travel Tip: Visit in the evening to enjoy the atmospheric lantern lighting, and keep in mind that most onsen do not allow guests with tattoos, although this particular onsen has some more lenient policies.
23. Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine
Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks, offering wide open spaces, forested areas, and a calm atmosphere. Adjacent to the park is Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.
Travel Tip: Visit on the weekend to see a variety of street performances, musicians, and local artists at Yoyogi Park. Don’t forget to check out the sake barrels and wine casks displayed near Meiji Shrine, symbolizing Japan’s connections with the rest of the world.
24. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
These two internationally renowned theme parks offer a magical experience for visitors of all ages. Tokyo Disneyland brings the classic Disney magic, while Tokyo DisneySea offers unique attractions inspired by sea legends and explorations.
Travel Tip: If possible, visit on a weekday outside of school holiday periods to avoid long queues, and consider staying at a hotel nearby to maximize your time in the parks.
25. Tokyo National Museum
Located in Ueno Park, the Tokyo National Museum is Japan’s oldest and largest museum, showcasing an extensive collection of art and artifacts from Japan’s history. The museum provides insight into Japan’s unique culture, traditions, and heritage.
Travel Tip: English audio guides are available for rent, offering a more in-depth understanding of the exhibits and the history behind them.
26. Yanaka Ginza
Yanaka Ginza is a charming shopping street that has preserved the nostalgic feel of Tokyo’s shitamachi (downtown) atmosphere. The area survived the bombings of World War II and the Great Kanto Earthquake, making it a rare glimpse into Tokyo’s past.
Travel Tip: Visit in the late afternoon or early evening when the shops are open, and be sure to try some of the local snacks from the street vendors.
27. The Sumida Aquarium
Located in Tokyo Skytree Town, the Sumida Aquarium offers a modern and innovative approach to marine life exhibitions. The aquarium features beautifully designed tanks showcasing aquatic life from Tokyo Bay, the Izu Islands, and the Ogasawara Islands.
Travel Tip: Visit during feeding times for an interactive and educational experience.
28. Rikugien Garden
Rikugien Garden is considered one of Tokyo’s most beautiful landscape gardens. Designed in the style of the Edo period, the garden features walking paths around ponds and hills, with meticulously maintained trees and plants.
Travel Tip: The garden is particularly stunning during cherry blossom season and autumn foliage season, but it provides a peaceful escape from the city year-round.
29. The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan)
Miraikan showcases Japan’s cutting-edge technology and science, offering interactive exhibits on topics ranging from space exploration to robotics. The museum aims to inspire curiosity and a deeper understanding of the world around us.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the ASIMO robot demonstration, showcasing Honda’s advancements in humanoid robot technology.
30. Tokyo Sea Life Park (Kasai Rinkai Aquarium)
This aquarium, located near Tokyo Disneyland, offers a variety of marine life exhibits, including a gigantic donut-shaped tank that houses a school of bluefin tuna. The park itself also features a bird sanctuary and a Ferris wheel with views of Tokyo Bay.
Travel Tip: Combine your visit with a trip to Tokyo Disneyland or explore the surrounding park for a full day of activities.
FAQ About Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan
What are must-see places in Tokyo for first-time visitors?
First-time visitors should not miss the bustling Shibuya Crossing, the historic Asakusa district with Senso-ji Temple, the vibrant Akihabara electric town for tech enthusiasts, and the serene Meiji Shrine surrounded by forest.
Can I visit the Imperial Palace in Tokyo?
Yes, you can visit the Imperial Palace grounds and the East Gardens, which are open to the public. However, the inner palace grounds are only accessible on January 2nd (New Year’s Greeting) and February 23rd (Emperor’s Birthday).
What is the best time to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo?
The cherry blossom season in Tokyo usually peaks at the end of March and the beginning of April. Popular spots for cherry blossom viewing include Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, and along the Sumida River.
Are there any themed cafes worth visiting in Tokyo?
Tokyo is famous for its themed cafes, such as animal cafes, maid cafes in Akihabara, and unique concept cafes like the Vampire Cafe in Ginza or the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku.
Is Tokyo Skytree worth visiting?
Absolutely! Tokyo Skytree is the tallest structure in Japan and offers panoramic views of Tokyo from its observation decks. It also houses a shopping mall, aquarium, and various restaurants.
What can I do in Tokyo’s Odaiba district?
Odaiba is a popular shopping and entertainment district on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. You can visit teamLab Borderless, a digital art museum, enjoy the seaside park, and see the life-sized Unicorn Gundam statue.
How can I experience traditional Japanese culture in Tokyo?
You can experience traditional Japanese culture by attending a tea ceremony, watching sumo wrestling during tournament seasons, visiting the Kabuki-za Theatre for kabuki performances, or exploring the historic Yanaka district.
Where can I find the best sushi in Tokyo?
Tokyo offers some of the world’s best sushi experiences, from high-end sushi bars like Sukiyabashi Jiro to more affordable conveyor belt sushi restaurants. Tsukiji Outer Market is also a great place to enjoy fresh sushi.