Tokyo. A city of lights, sounds, food, and culture. It offers a multitude of activities, sights, and tastes that one can explore and indulge. Tokyo is an eclectic mix of modern and traditional architecture along with its well-preserved parks and heritage sites are sights to behold. That said, activities are endless for tourists. Looking for things to do in Tokyo? Here are the 10 best things to do in Tokyo.
- Go temple, museum, and park hopping.
Amidst the modern-day skyscrapers enveloping Tokyo lies hidden cultural and natural wonders to give tourists a peek at the history, culture, and religion. Ancient shrines adorn the expanse of Tokyo and its neighbors, one of which is the Meiji Shrine, the world-renowned Shinto shrine. Add to the list of must-see temples is Senso-ji Temple that houses the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon. Meanwhile, those interested in Japanese art, pottery, samurai swords, refined kimonos must visit the Tokyo National Museum, Edo-Tokyo Museum, Samurai Museum and The National Art Center. For anything sake, spend an hour (or two) at the various sake breweries located across the city like the Ishikawa Brewery. If beer is your thing, then head to Ebisu to explore the Museum Yebisu Beer. Nature lovers, meanwhile, can feast in the natural beauty of Tokyo’s parks such as the Yoyogi Park in Shibuya or the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
- Go heavy with sumo.
Another ancient tradition that tourists can discover lies at the heart of Ryogoku, sumo. This district houses Tokyo’s National Sumo Hall, the Ryogoku Kokugikan, which hosts three grand sumo events every January, May, and September. Outside the tournament season, one can still catch a glimpse of sumo wrestlers in training at one of the sumo stables within the area. To complete the sumo experience, have a taste of chankonabe or the staple sumo meal consists of a simmering pot of meat and vegetables.
- Join a food tour.
What a better way to explore a new city than to relish on its culinary offerings. Tokyo by Food, for example, hosts food tours, which will take you to the hidden food gems serving Japan’s not to miss dishes that will surely whet your appetite for more. Tours include exploring the kawaii culture of Harajuku, a closer look at nightlife and food scene at the nostalgic district of Shinjuku.
- Appreciate tuna auctions and freshest sashimi at the Tsukiji Fish Market
Ever wondered where that marvelous fish in your sashimi or sushi came? It was probably one of the tons of fishes in auction every single morning at the Tsukiji Fish Market, touted as the world’s busiest fish market. Those who’d like to take a glimpse of the live fish haggling action needs to start early since only 120 people are accommodated for viewing at 5:30 a.m. Aside from the auction, the Tsukiji Fish Market is also a restaurant hub serving the day’s freshest catch to energize your morning.
- Eat at themed restaurants.
The dining scene in Tokyo is not just a tummy-filling adventure. It is a unique arena wherein one can unleash their fantasy. Themed restaurants can take you to the depths of the rabbit hole, be entertained by robots, make you feel like the master or princess for a day, get imprisoned, be a ninja, joined the company of your favorite Sanrio character or merely chill with the animals. Themed restaurants are indeed a thing in Tokyo—from bizarre to almost like a dream come true. The experience that comes with the array of sumptuous food offerings is absolutely worth every buck.
- Learn to roll a sushi or pack a hearty lunch.
If you still can’t get enough of Japanese cuisine, learn from teachers who are eager to give their insights of preparing classic Japanese dishes such as the art of sushi making and creatively assembling your bento (lunch box). These hands-on lessons are usually arranged by groups, like Tokyo by Food, to cater to your schedule and are offered in English. Truly a remarkable experience, this will absolutely make your Japan tour a more noteworthy one.
- Watch a kabuki performance.
One way to know more about the rich Japanese culture is to watch a Kabuki—a theatrical men-only performance of song, mime and dance showcasing ostentatious costume and makeup. The Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza holds daily matinee and single act shows and tickets can be sold out fast.
- Enjoy geisha performances over kaiseki.
The art of geisha entertainment has gained renewed glory thanks to the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Geishas are trained women dressed in Japanese kimono. These gurus of hospitality are trained in the performing arts such as singing, dancing or playing the shamisen. This age-old tradition is still thriving Tokyo, and one can experience this luxurious experience in any of the six Hanamachi within the city.
Ginza. Akihabara. Koenji. Harajuku. Shibuya. These are just some of the districts in Tokyo adored by shopaholics for its vast array of merchandise: clothing, electronics, luxury items, vintage LPs, or even second-hand items. Ginza, known for its glitz and glamour, is the epicenter of Japanese fashion, housing majority of international luxury brand shops and local fashion brands. Meanwhile, Akihabara is the electronics and manga hub while Harajuku is renown for its teen culture and anything kawaii. For those old souls, Koenji district sells mostly retro and second-hand items that will make you nostalgic about the distant past. Rush with the rest of Tokyo at the infamous Shibuya crossing as you traverse the different department stores surrounding the area.
- Relax in an onsen.
After all the food, sake, sightseeing, and shopping, relieve the tension in your muscles as you soak in a bath of natural volcanic spring water in an onsen, or a bathhouse. Aside from the bath, one can also try the bedrock sauna, whirlpool baths, and massage services.
Tokyo is such a marvel to enjoy. It is an encounter that will enrich your mind with ancient learnings and will fill your grumbling tummies with delectable Japanese treats. We hope that this list will help you as you uncover the wonders that Tokyo has to offer.
Aleli is a wanderlust whose main itinerary is to culture soak in the places that she sets foot on, sinking her teeth in the gustatory offerings that the place has to offer and knowing the story behind it. Food for her is a marriage of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the rich history of every city she explores and uses the pen as her tool to share to the world each unique experience she unravels.