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Yebisu Garden Place in Shibuya Ward | © 淳平 筈井/Flickr
Yebisu Garden Place in Shibuya Ward | © 淳平 筈井/Flickr
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The Top 20 Things to Do in Tokyo

Picture of Alicia Joy
Tokyo Writer
Updated: 2 November 2018
No trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to its capital city. Nowhere else in the world can you see the world’s most iconic fish market, pray at a thousand-year-old temple, and eat at the infamous ‘piss alley’ all in one day. Here are 20 things you must do when you’re in Tokyo.

Sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market

Tokyo is famous for its fresh, quality sushi, and the best place to get your hands on some is Tsukiji Fish Market. You don’t have to wake up early to enjoy the cheap and delicious eats found here, but earlier is still better: many sushi restaurants here do open up with the market and can sell out fast.

Sushi bar in Tsukiji | © Bryan Allison/Flickr
Sushi bar in Tsukiji | © Bryan Allison/Flickr

Asakusa and the ancient temple Senso-ji

The well worn historic neighborhood of Asakusa and Senso-ji are a must on every traveler’s list, because there’s nothing else quite like it in Tokyo. This ancient temple and its iconic red lantern, along with the Nakamise shopping street set up along the approach, will take you back to old Japan.

Nakamise-dori in Asakusa, Tokyo | © Dieter Karner/Flickr
Nakamise-dori in Asakusa, Tokyo | © Dieter Karner/Flickr

Visit the districts of Harajuku, Omotesando and Aoyama

The stylish districts Harajuku, Omotesando and Aoyama can be explored in a single day. Harajuku and the famous Takeshita-dori are the place to go for offbeat fashions and knickknacks. Admire the stunning architecture and shop high end brands in Omotesando, and then finish up in the art galleries and cafes of cultured Aoyama.

Tokyu Plaza, a mall in Omotesando | © Rs1421/WikiCommons
Tokyu Plaza, a mall in Omotesando | © Rs1421/WikiCommons

Go for cafe’s and boutiques at Naka-Meguro and Daikanyama

The Meguro River lends Naka-Meguro a special charm. Here, you’ll find cool cafes, restaurants and the odd boutique selling goods for the modern flower child. Its classier neighbor Daikanyama is popular with locals. It’s an upscale neighborhood characterized by winding lanes, one of a kind specialty shops and really great dining.

The Daikanyama T-site, a bookstore famed for its architecture | © 淳平 筈井/Flickr
The Daikanyama T-site, a bookstore famed for its architecture | © 淳平 筈井/Flickr

Pick up Anime films and collectibles at Akihabara

Tokyo’s Electric Town still wows visitors with the sheer volume of anime, manga and gaming paraphernalia available. You can find anything you need to complete your collection, from DVDs, detailed figurines and costumes to magazines, manga and an endless supply of knickknacks – badges, phone traps, clothes and more. This is also the place to go to check out Tokyo’s quirky maid cafes.

Costume shop in Akihabara, Tokyo | © Ronny Siegel/WikiCommons
Costume shop in Akihabara, Tokyo | © Ronny Siegel/WikiCommons

Visit the historic Yanaka Ginza Shitamachi

Historically, the shitamachi (low city) was a place where the less affluent worked and lived. Today, there are few places left in Tokyo where you can experience the old world, and Yanaka Ginza shopping district is one of them. The staircase here is famous among locals, and has been featured on TV and in movies.

Experience sumo culture at Ryogoku Sumo

Ryogoku is the capital of sumo culture in Tokyo. Take in a match at the Ryogoku Kokugikan or learn the history of the sport at the Sumo Museum. The district is also home to a large number of little known historical landmarks and sumo stables, some of which might let you watch the early morning practices for free.

Traditional bow-twirling ceremony | © Simon Q/Flickr
Traditional bow-twirling ceremony | © Simon Q/Flickr

Ueno Park Museums

You can easily spend an entire day at Ueno, Tokyo’s largest park. It’s here you’ll find the Tokyo National Museum, the city’s most famous art museum, along with the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the underrated Shitamachi Museum, among others. Spend an afternoon museum hopping and finish up with a picnic in the park.

Shibuya Nightlife

The nightlife in Shibuya is unrivaled, and visitors are spoiled for choice. You can choose to spend an evening sipping cocktails thirty floors up or rocking out at an underground DJ bar. Or share a pint with the locals at the Showa Era bars by the tracks or before checking out the local clubs and live houses.

Inside Womb nightclub in Shibuya | © dat'/Flickr
Inside Womb nightclub in Shibuya | © dat'/Flickr

Take in the view at Tokyo Skytree

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Tokyo Skytree | © hans-johnson/Flickr
Tokyo Skytree | © hans-johnson/Flickr
Spend an evening at the pride of the Tokyo skyline, the Skytree and the Skytree Town (Soramachi) at its base. Get lost among the boutiques or make your way to the observation decks for an unrivaled view of the city. In the summer months, outdoor dining is at its best – reclining chairs are set up so visitors can view the tower with a cocktail or two. 日本〒131-0045 Tokyo, Sumida, Oshiage, 1 Chome−1−2
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Takeshita-dori

Colorful and lively Takeshita Street is located in Harajuku and is one of the district’s most iconic attractions. The shopping area is packed with small shops and vendors selling offbeat fashions, quirky souvenirs, and everything kawaii.

Takeshita-dori shopping street in Harajuku
Takeshita-dori shopping street in Harajuku | © Nick Gray/Flickr

Traditional dance drama at Kabuki-za

Kabuki is a traditional Japanese dance drama, using elaborate costumes, makeup and sets to wow audiences. The recently rebuilt Kabuki-za is the chief kabuki theater in the region and still retains its traditional charms.

Catch a performance at Kabuki-za, Ginza, Tokyo | © Yoshikazu TAKADA/Flickr

Imperial Palace and Gardens

Tours of the Imperial Palace grounds must be booked in advance, but the Imperial Palace East Garden is open to visitors year-round. On the other side of the moat, Chidori-ga-fuchi is a popular cherry blossom gazing spot.

Fushimi-yagura, one of the remaining keeps of Edo Castle
Fushimi-yagura, one of the remaining keeps of Edo Castle | © Fg2/WikiCommons

Meiji Shrine

This shrine was built in honor of the Meiji Emperor and his wife, Empress Shoken. With its thickly wooded grounds, skyscraping torii, and proximity to Harajuku, Omotesando, and Shibuya Stations, it’s easy to see why it remains one of the city’s most popular Shinto shrines.

Hamarikyu Onshi Teien

This traditional Japanese strolling garden was once the property of the Tokugawa Clan, the former shoguns of Edo. Don’t forget to visit the antique teahouse located within its walls, Nakajima no Ochaya, for the full experience.

Glimpse of Hamarikyu Gardens
Glimpse of Hamarikyu Gardens | © Yoshikazu TAKADA/Flickr

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is known as the busiest pedestrian scramble in the world in terms of foot traffic. It’s the perfect starting point to any exploration further into the district.

Tokyo Dome

The Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s oldest professional baseball team, call the Tokyo Dome home. But the multipurpose structure also hosts concerts and other sporting events as well. Catch a game rain or shine, or spend an hour browsing the nearby Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tokyo Dome at night
Tokyo Dome at night | © J-phopho/WikiCommons

Oedo Onsen Monogatari

If you’re happily tattoo-free, make your way to Oedo Onsen Monogatari for a traditional-meets-modern onsen (hot spring) experience. This Edo-themed onsen park lends out colorful yukata to all guests and invites visitors to experience Old Japan in their wading pools, hot springs, dining halls and festival atmosphere.

Mount Mitake

Mount Fuji is beautiful from afar, but neighboring Mitake-san is in a class of its own. Embark on a breathtaking hike to the summit, stopping to shop and dine at the nearby village, and pay your respects at the ancient Shinto shrine.

Autumn on Mitake-san
Autumn on Mitake-san | © Guilhem Vellut/Flickr

Squeeze through Golden Gai

Golden Gai is a collection of narrow alleys and two-story bars, a rare sight in the metropolis of Shinjuku. Most are so small they can only accommodate a handful of customers, which is the reasoning behind the hefty seating charges. It has mostly been taken over by visitors in recent years, but you’ll still encounter the odd locals-only signage or chilly reception now and then.