It can be overwhelming planning a trip to Tokyo, but we are here to help! We share the best things to do in Tokyo and guide first-time visitors through the massive Japanese capital.
Tokyo is an enormous city but once you understand how the city works, it is easy to get around and plan each day to perfection.
It is hectic and crowded and one minute you can find yourself among the masses in the Shibuya and then be in the serenity of the Nogi Shrine during an early morning visit to a traditional Japanese temple.
Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
- Sumida River
- Museums of Tokyo
- Getting Around Tokyo
- WiFi and Data in Tokyo
Shibuya is one of the most visited wards in Tokyo being the main shopping hub and meeting place.
Getting To Shibuya: Take the Yamanote Line direct to Shibuya Station.
1. Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya is one of the most visited wards in Tokyo being the main shopping hub and meeting place. It is a spectacular spot to take views of the crowds crossing the street en-masse. It is considered the busiest intersection in the world.
The Shibuya intersection sees more than a quarter of a million people crossing every day. That is roughly 2500 people every time the lights turn green.
Surrounded by billboards and neon lights, thousands of people walk this all-way pedestrian crossing every few minutes. This is our choice as one of the best attractions in Tokyo.
- Getting There: Metro Stop Shibuya Station
2. Magnet’s MAG7
To really get a sense of the crowds of Shibuya Crossing, make your way to the top of Mag 7.
Take the escalators or elevators up to the 7th floor for the viewing platform.
You’ll have to walk through restaurants and shops to the rooftop lookout, but it is free and you can order drinks outside.
The glassed-in viewing area looks right over Shibuya Crossing and you will have the perfect view to take in what looks like an army of ants crossing the street from all directions.
3. Meiji Shrine
One of the most popular shrines to see in Tokyo is the Meiji Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and is one of the most popular things to do in Tokyo. He was considered the first modern emperor of Japan.
During his reign, Japan had modernized and westernized herself enough to join the world’s major powers by the time Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912.
- Getting There: Metro Stop is Harajuku Station
4. Love Hotel Hill (Dogenzaka)
You can stay for a few hours or overnight. Many hotels won’t allow foreigners though, so be prepared to look around. Tokyo not only has weird and whacky shops it also has weird hotels. This hill is dedicated to romantic getaways.
5. Hachiko Statue
The story goes that the dog Hachiko used to meet his owner every day at the subway station coming home from work. When his owner died the dog kept coming back every day for years until its own death. It is now a popular meeting spot at his memorial.
- Getting To Shibuya: Take the Yamanote Line direct to Shibuya Station.
6. Yoyogi Park
For a reprieve from the crowds, duck into Yoyogi Park. It was home of the Olympic Village for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Today it is one of the largest city parks in the city.
- Getting there: From Harajuku Station, Yoyogi Park is just a 5-minute walk.
12. shinjuku gyoen national garden
shinjuku gyoen national garden is Tokyo’s largest park is a great place to take a stroll through a traditional Japanese garden. During cherry blossom season, it is a good place to see the cherry blossoms bloom.
Located in Shinjuku, it is a great escape from the crowds.
- Getting There to Shinjuku: Take the Metro to Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest railway station.
- Where to Stay in Shinjuku: Check out TripAdvisor for reviews and places to stay near Shinjuku
8. Golden Gai – Izakaya Alleys
All around the city you’ll find alleyways filled with pubs and bars known as Izakaya Alleys. They are tiny stalls serving food and drink and are popular after-work meet up points for locals.
There are more than 200 tiny bars to choose from. They only seat a few people and entry is at the owner’s discretion. In Shinjuku, you can wander through the alleys of Golden Gai in search of the perfect bar.
Getting There – Shinjuku Station.
- It can be overwhelming and intimidating choosing which bar to enter, so instead book a Shinjuku Golden Gai food tour with Get Your Guide.
- Get Your Guide offers tours in the Shinbashi area to check them out thoroughly and to be sure you get a seat at one of these small bars!
9. tokyo metropolitan government building
One of the best views of Tokyo is from the tokyo metropolitan government building It’s free to enter and offers a panoramic view of the city. There’s also a tourist information center in the building.
If its a clear day, you can even see Mount Fuji! Read The Complete Guide to Climbing Mount Fuji
10. Robot Restaurant
The Robot Restaurant is one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions. When I first visited Japan in 1994, it seemed so much farther ahead than the rest of the world. And now it just keeps pulling farter away with whackier ideas.
Snacks are sold but not a full meal. And it is advised to book ahead.
Located in Shinjuku, the Robot Restaurant runs a high tech show with dancers and technology takes place three times a day.
11. Cat Cafe
Tokyo is known for its unique cafes. There are maid cafes, fishing restaurants, owl restaurants, ninja cafes, and famous cat cafes.
The Calico Cat Cafe is the biggest and probably most famous of the cat cafes.
Located in Shinjuku up five flights of stairs, it feels like you are checking into a veterinarian office instead of a cafe. I was happy to see that they are well taken care of.
It’s pricey and you pay hourly, plus you pay for treats.
12. Godzilla Street
When thinking of Japan, who doesn’t think of Godzilla? The people of Tokyo have a lot of fun with their pop culture, and in the Shinjuku district, there is a street named Godzilla Street.
The Godzilla head towers over the Toho Movie Theatre (Toho is the movie studio behind the Godzilla movies) promoting the entertainment complex.
Shinjuku is the place where all the nightlife, karaoke bars, cat cafes and other zany things to do in Tokyo happen. shinjuku station
16. Tokyo Skytree
The Toyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world and is the second tallest building in height to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Standing 634 meters (2080 feet) high, it is an impressive sight. There are two enclosed observation decks and a restaurant. Like the CN Tower, it has a glass floor, but it’s not quite as dramatic as ours here in Toronto.
You can purchase combo tickets to see both floors for 4000 Yen ($35USD)
- Getting there: Directly connected to Tokyo Skytree Station on the Toei Asakusa Line.
- Where to Eat: Lunch in Asakusa at Aoi Marushin (Tempura) . This is a good place to grab a traditional Japanese lunch.
14. Jiggen Bridge
This location makes for a beautiful view of the tower with its lights reflecting in the river. It’s walking distance from the Skytree and we suggest getting there well before sunset to save your spot.
- Google Maps coordinates: Walk from Skytree to here.
There were a lot of local photographers on the bridge once the sun went down jockeying for position. So you know it is one of the top things to do in Tokyo.
**Note: There is a lighting schedule each evening that you can check to see what colors they will be showing.**
15. Solamachi Shopping Center
While visiting the Skytree, make sure to spend time browsing the stores at Solamachi. It’s a massive shopping center at the base of the tower. With 300 stores, there’s shopping for everyone.
When you arrive, go directly to customer service with your passport to receive a coupon book. It’s filled with savings and great deals.
15. Solamachi Kunimi – Dine with a View
Located on the 31st floor of Solamachi looking directly at the Tokyo Skytree, this is the place to eat! Plus it has one of the best views of Tokyo.
If you are going to have one traditional Japanese meal in Tokyo, splurge and do it here. We had the Matsu Course that costs 10,800 Yen per person but it is totally worth it.
- Getting to Solamachi: From Asakusa Station go one stop on the TOBU SKYTREE Line.
- Taxis weren’t too pricey to attractions in nearby Asakusa.
Asakusa feels like a more traditional Japan. It has old shops and ancient temples and it’s a great place to get street food.
Getting to Asakusa: Metro Stop – Asakusa. Take JR Yamanote or JR Chuo Line to Kanda Station, transfer to Ginza line and take the subway to Asakusa station.
17. Sensoji Temple
Sensoji Temple is without a doubt Tokyo’s most popular temple to visit. It is usually at the top of people’s Tokyo bucket list. This Buddhist temple and there is a Shinto Shrine adjacent to the complex that you can visit as well.
If you go first thing in the morning you can avoid the crowds. Enter through the Thunder Gate takes you to a shopping street lined with souvenir shops. After shopping at the many stores buying Japanese souvenirs, you’ll enter the temple complex.
It is Tokyo’s oldest temple dating back to 628, but it has been rebuilt. There is one gate that still stands but it has recently been repainted. It’s a shame because it is one of the few original pieces on the grounds.
18. Sumo Wrestling – Ryogoku Kokugikan
Want to catch a sumo wrestling match? This is the place where the grand slam tournaments of sumo occur. If the main event isn’t happening you can still go on a tour. There is also a sumo museum to check out.
- Book a Sumo experience in combination with Skytree at Get Your Guide.
19. Tempura at Aoi Marushin
Go to Aoi Marushin for Tempura for some authentic Japanese Tempura. It is located just down the street from the Sensoji Temple.It’s busy with both locals and tourists and is located just a few minutes from the temple.
If you are up for a rickshaw ride, there are rickshaws parked all along the street. This is probably one of the best places to ride a rickshaw in Tokyo due to it being a more Traditional Japanese ward.
Address: 1-4-4 Asakusa, Taito 111-0032 – It’s kitty-corner to the Tourism Information Building, just down the street.
20. Sensoji Temple View – Tourism Information Building
Right across the street from the Sensoji Temple is the tourist information center. Go inside for tourist information, but also, catch the elevator to the top floor for an overhead view of Asakusa.
You’ll see the long roof of the Sensoji temple, the Tokyo Skytree, and the Sumida River. They also offer Geisha transformation experiences in the tourist information center too.
21. Hanayashiki Amusement Park
The oldest theme park in Japan is fittingly located in Asakusa. Dating back to 1853, it was first opened as a flower park. Today it has amusement park rides like a roller coaster, space shot and several other traditional theme park rides.
The Sumida River offers an excellent walk along the river that runs through Tokyo.
22. Asahi Beer Headquarters
The Asahi Beer Headquarters is located along the Sumida River which flows into Tokyo Bay and is a very intriguing building. The design is supposed to represent a golden flame.
On the 21st floor, visitors are welcome at the Asahi Sky Room to enjoy an icy glass of Asahi beer.
23. Sumida Park
Sumida Park is the quintessential place to view the Tokyo Cherry Blossom Trees in bloom. There are an astounding 500 cherry trees in the park. Located on the water, it offers great views of the city including the Sky Tree.
24. Azumabashi Bridge
One of Tokyo’s first bridges is a lovely walk connecting Asakusa with Solamachi. Catch a River Cruise to explore the city from the water.
Minato is an upscale neighborhood housing embassies and popular Japanese businesses like Honda and Sony.
25. Tokyo Tower
Tokyo has another tower, an older and probably more famous tower than the Tokyo Skytree. This is due to the fact that it has been standing since 1958! Located in the Shiba-koen district, it stands at 332 meters (1092 feet) high.
It looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower (except that it is red and white) and we suggest visiting it at night. Its golden glow is beautiful.
26. Shiba Park
After exploring the tower, take a stroll across the street to explore Shiba Park. It’s a giant green space and there’s a temple to visit too. The Zojo-ji Temple dates back to 1622.
The temple complex has been here since 1393 and is the main branch of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism.
Akasaka is a part of the Minato ward but we feel that it is a district in its own right.
27. Hie Shrine
If you are looking for that iconic row of red Torii Gates in Tokyo, this is the spot! Hie Shrine is located right in the heart of Akasaka and it’s very easy to get to. Take the escalator up to the shrine on one side and then walk down the gates on the other.
This Shinto Shrine houses massive white Shinto gates, temples and pagodas, and the Torii Gate. It also has the guardian statues like in Nikko dressed in red to ward of spirits. Hie Shrine’s spirit (kami) is Oyamakui.
28. Nogi Shrine
Nogi Shrine is a peaceful Shinto Shrine in Akasaka. This shrine is dedicated to a man that is considered the Last Samurai of Japan.
He and his wife committed ritual suicide after Emperor Meiji died. This was the way of the Samurai but wasn’t practiced anymore at the time of his death, so it is very peculiar.
The shrine is open year-round, but the house is only open two days per year in September. You can walk around the outer walkway to glimpse inside where you can see the sword he used, a bloodied shirt and photographs.
29. Imperial Palace
Just north of the Minato/Akasaka area is the Chiyoda Ward. This is where the Imperial Palace is located in a park in the center of Tokyo.
You can view the palace from afar through the bridges, but it is open to the public twice a year – December 23 and Jan 2.
Ginza is the top shopping district of Tokyo, with shopping malls, shopping streets, and high-end fashion.
30. Ginza Street
Ginza was once home to a silver coin mint in the 1800s. Today it is the most chic and upmarket shopping street in Tokyo with high-end shopping and dining.
31. Tokyo Fish Market
If you want to see fish being sold, the Tsukiji Fish Market is the place to go. It’s for early risers to see the local sellers trade their wares starting at 5:00 am.
Visitors cannot visit the inner market reserved for wholesalers but can visit the outer markets.
32. Tokyu Plaza
There are a few Tokyu Plazas around the city, this one is located on Omotesando Avenue. The Tokyu Plaza entrance is located on a busy corner and a must stop when walking this street.
Take the escalators up, stand in the middle of the staircase and watch the hexagonal mirrors reflect the masses of people walking by.
33. Tokyo Disneyland
If you have families, a trip to Tokyo Disneyland is a must. Tokyo Disney is a massive theme park that has developed into two theme parks, four Disney hotels and a shopping complex. There are also six non-Disney hotels on the site.
But what makes Tokyo Disneyland stand out is TokyoSea. TokyoSea feels like you are sailing the seven seas from the Mediterranean to the Americas. This is a great option for adults.
34. Tea Ceremony
For a unique cultural experience take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Many hotels can set one up for you.
But you can also book through GetYourGuide. If you take an Old Town Tokyo Food Tour you will explore traditional Tokyo buildings, enjoy a Japanese traditional Teishoku lunch and enjoy a special tea ceremony in a 4th generation antique gallery and tea room
Museums of Tokyo
If you like Museums, Tokyo has plenty to check out. Here are a few recommendations.
35. Edo Tokyo Museum
The Edo Tokyo Museum is a reconstruction of Tokyo’s history with recreations of the Edo period of Japan. It is one of the most popular museums in Japan with interactive exhibits, miniature recreations of life in the city 400 years ago.
- For hours and prices visit their website.
36. Ghibli Museum
We all know how popular Japanese animation is and the Studio Ghibli Museum celebrates animation from the Ghibli Animation Studio.
- For hours and prices visit the website
37. Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo National Museum is Japan’s oldest museum dating back to 1872. Travel through ancient Japan discovering Japanese antiquities, tools, pottery, and clothing.
Check out the website for entrance and prices to the National Museum.
Getting Around Tokyo
Tokyo has two separate subway lines. You can buy tickets at the machine. Costs are very reasonable starting at ¥200. ($2) You can purchase 24-hour, 48-hour, and 72-Hour passes.
Taxis are expensive and traffic can be brutal, it is much better to use the subway.
There are two different airports, Narita International and Haneda Airport.
From Narita Airport, The JR Narita Express will take you to Tokyo Station for 3000 Yen. ($30 USD) one way.
There are shuttle buses that will take you to Tokyo Station for approximately 1000 Yen (10 USD).
Taxis can be very expensive to the Airport, Narita Airport can cost nearly $200 USD.
To Haneda, you are looking at much more reasonable fares (since it is closer to the city) costing around 7000 – 8000 Yen ($65 – $75 ISD)
Visiting Tokyo for the firs time? Book a private guide – This 6-hour tour takes you to the top highlights of the city. Including Asakusa, Meiji Shrine, Fish Market, Harajuku and Omotesando
WiFi and Data in Tokyo
You can rent a wireless wifi router from Get Your Guide to help navigate and book tours in Tokyo.
We used Knowroamding for International Data Roaming – Unlimited data/cellular for $3.99 per day.
And those are our tips and suggestions for all the things you can do in Tokyo.
Tokyo Frequently Asked Questions
Tokyo is a very safe city, but like when visiting all large cities, proper precautions should be taken. Don’t go out late at night alone, keep an eye on your personal belongings, and don’t make yourself a target by overdrinking.
And these are the most popular to do in Tokyo, Japan. I hope this guide helped you decide what to see in Tokyo, where to stay and how to make the most of your visit. Just remember, the more you do in Tokyo, the longer you will want to stay!
This city guide only scratches the surface of all the things Tokyo has to offer, so what are you waiting for? Book your trip today!
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