In Tokyo, Japan, the most populous metropolitan area on the planet, there are countless things to do. Tokyo is often referred to as a city, but it’s actually a massive metropolitan prefecture, melding aspects of both a city and a state yet still differing from each in many ways. Because of its size, finding out what to do in Tokyo can be a daunting effort.
Today, Tokyo is a vibrant urban area of over 38 million people on the island of Honshu. It combines modern architecture and cutting-edge technology with old-fashioned shrines and temples. It’s peaceful and comfortable, with a vibrant nightlife, extensive shopping opportunities, and some of the best food on the planet.
I spent four days exploring Tokyo in January of 2019. A visit to Tokyo, Japan can be a great experience, with plenty of attractions to keep you occupied. Here is my list of what to do in Tokyo, Japan!
Every time I visit a new city, one of the first things I do is get a view of it from above. The Tokyo Skytree has the best vantage points for this, offering breathtaking, full-circle sights of the city and beyond. You can even see the majestic Mount Fuji from its decks!
It stands tall at 634 meters and is the tallest tower in the world. The 2,080-foot tower has become a major tourist attraction, hosting millions of visitors annually. The tower is also earthquake-resistant and is the primary TV and radio broadcast site for the Kantō region of Honshu.
Visiting the Tembo Deck, the lower of its two observation decks, costs 2,060 Yen (roughly $18.55 U.S.). An extra 1,030 Yen, or about $9.28, will get you access to the uppermost deck, the Tembo Gallery. If you’re looking up what to do in Tokyo, this should be near the top of your list!
Food-lovers looking for exquisite dining in Tokyo should look no further than Gonpachi Restaurant. Though it looks like a traditional castle on the outside, its interior resembles a traditional Japanese home. In fact, the restaurant inspired the iconic House of Blue Leaves in the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill, Vol. 1!
Try their all-you-can-drink menu for 2,678 Yen/$24.20 for a 2-hour period. While you drink, fill your stomach with their excellent salmon sashimi, charbroiled oyster, yakitori of beef, buckwheat soba noodles, and mochi ice cream. My personal favorite was the shrimp fritter with rice noodles and chilies!
The food and ambience at Gonpachi also attracts high-profile celebrities. The late Kobe Bryant, the Kardashians, Sylvester Stallone, and Kanye West are some of its many famous visitors. On the night I went, Flo Rida was there! So if you hope to catch a celebrity sighting while you dine, Gonpachi is a must on the list of what to do in Tokyo!
The Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, constructed to honor Emperor Meiji (also known as Meiji the Great) and his wife, Empress Shōken, serves as a reminder of the city’s traditional past. Completed in 1920, the shrine was unfortunately destroyed in the air raids of World War II and had to be reconstructed in 1958 after a public fundraising effort.
The Shinto shrine near Harajuku Station is encompassed by a man-made forest, planted to make the area around the shrine more attractive. The sound of your footfalls on the gravel path, straddled by a massive, imposing torii gate, is thought to soothe the soul and put you in the right frame of mind for prayer.
Inside, you’ll find a fountain for purification, a spacious courtyard with a grand torii gate, an impressive main hall, and more. If your list of what to do in Tokyo doesn’t include a tranquil activity, visiting the shrine may be for you!
Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood is famous for its authentic Japanese street food and temples. The Nakamise is a pedestrian shopping street lined with shops offering souvenirs and delicious street food. No list of what to do in Tokyo is complete without coming here!
I strongly suggest trying the kibi dango mochi, strawberry and custard ichigo daifuku, ningyoyaki (pancakes filled with red bean paste), flavourful menchi katsu (meat patties), deep-fried curry monja, and the delicious melon pan.
At the end of Nakamise Street leads is Asakusa’s other main attraction: the 7th century Sensoji Temple. Prior to entering the temple, visitors should cleanse their hands and mouth at the outdoor fountain. Inside, visitors can offer a prayer and make a wish (don’t forget to bow). You can even get your fortune afterwards!
If you want to get a true taste of Japanese culture in Tokyo, you must visit a local convenience store. Unlike the low-quality junk food of American convenience stores, the ones in Japan are highly regarded for their fresh, tasty, and high-quality options. You won’t have to look far to find one, as there are over 10,000 in Tokyo alone!
In Japan, there are three major convenience store chains: 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, and Lawson. While each store offers its own, distinct food items, they all also provide similar ones. Freshly made sushi, onigiri, and oden, are common breakfast items for those on the go.
I visited all three stores and got a variety of foods, including sushi, several types of onigiri, pork buns, mochis, and more. Having had sushi in many places, I can confidently say that the sushi from FamilyMart is some of the best I’ve ever had! The onigiri containing salmon and pollack roe was another highlight, as was the gummy green tea mochi. If you’re wondering what to do in Tokyo on a budget, this is a great option!
Visiting Tokyo, Japan is a must for anyone looking for a unique cultural experience. From the impeccably orderly Narita Airport to the friendly locals, you’ll be amazed at what this city has to offer.
Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s history, culture, or recreational activities, Tokyo is sure to impress. So don’t wait, book your trip and experience it for yourself!