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Home Japan Top 10 Things To Do In Tokyo

Top 10 Things To Do In Tokyo

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We know Japan is great. You know Japan is great. And we likely don’t have to give you the nitty-gritty of Japan’s historical uprising to where it is now. So let’s get straight to the point — or rather, let’s get to Tokyo!

Why Tokyo? Let’s be honest, no trip to Japan would truly be complete without making a visit to its legendary capital city.

It’s also the most populous metropolis in the world if you didn’t know. And with a city population so gigantic, it’s pretty much certain that you’ll have more than enough things to include in your Tokyo itinerary.

Where else in Japan could you ever fathom visiting the world’s most famous fish auction or getting to pray at one of the hundreds of centuries-old temples and shrines or even having some of the best sushi in town? Certainly not Kyoto, but we digress.

These days, Tokyo City offers a near-unlimited amount of sights, sounds, and experiences visitors may partake in. So much so, that it can be a tad overwhelming at times to take in everything all at once. But fret not, we’re here to help.

For a worry-free Tokyo jaunt, here are the top 10 things to do when you’re in the city.

10 Best Things Do In Tokyo – A Guide For First-Timers

1. Explore Tokyo’s World Famous Toyosu Fish Market

Ask any Japanese cuisine aficionado, Tokyo’s famed fish market is a one-of-a-kind affair you MUST visit when you’re in town. The always-bustling fish market, Tsukiji Wholesale Fish Market is more than just a wholesale market, it’s where chefs, homemakers, and tourists congregate to eat and buy fresh produce.

Tsukiji Wholesale Fish Market has been around for more than 80 years but it has to be closed in 2018 due to the lifespan of the building structure and to make way for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But that’s not the end of the iconic fish market.

Shortly after the closure of the iconic fish market, Toyosu Fish Market located on the man-made island of Tokyo Bay opened its door for the locals and sightseers. The new wholesale market is divided into three main buildings — two of which caters to seafood, while the last one is intended for the wholesale of fruits and vegetables. Tourists are free to explore the market’s sprawling premises and observe the goings-on that happens from the crack of dawn until around late afternoon.

One particular activity you must see is the spectacle of the tuna auction that goes on in the market every day. Visitors may view the action from the observation windows which look out onto the auction and wholesale floor for tuna and other seafood.

Elsewhere, the top floors also provide tourists with the opportunity to sample and dine on the very same fresh seafood at many of the restaurants found in the market. These include some restaurants formerly located in Tsukiji’s inner market, with some being widely popular sushi joints.

2. Eat Some Of The Best Affordable Sushi In Tokyo’s Sushi Dai

While we’re still in Toyosu Market, you should definitely not miss out on the chance to try out one of the best value-for-money sushi restaurants in Tokyo, Sushi Dai.

With a focus on chef’s choice (Omakase), the menu at Sushi Dai changes daily, and sometimes even hourly. So you can be sure that no two visits to this tiny sushi bar offer the same dining experience.

Sushi Dai’s Omakase menu features 10 pieces of nigiri sushi made from fresh seafood picked up from the aforementioned Toyosu Market a few floors down. Each piece is pre-seasoned to perfection and prepared with precision — a true testament to the years of gruelling training undergone by these sushi craftsmen under the watchful eye of their masters.

Otherwise, you may also order à la carte, but considering each piece of sushi pretty much cost an arm and a leg on their own, the Omakase course is what we’d recommend. Of course, apart from the Omakase set, you could also order additional sushi to fill yourself up for a sushi feast.

After all, you should make the most out of your time in Sushi Dai since it’s likely you’ll have to queue for at least two hours (or more) before managing to get in their doors.

3. Visit Tokyo’s Always-Hip And Vibrant Harajuku District

For the young and the young at heart, a visit to the fashionable district of Harajuku is deffo warranted.

In particular, the Harajuku District refers to the lively and dazzling area set between the districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya. Long considered the epicentre of Japan’s teenage culture, Harajuku is where you’ll find many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crêpe stands, fast food outlets, and a multitude of themed cafés catered to the country’s fashion-conscious teens.

Here you’ll also find Japan’s most extreme youth culture and fashion styles on full display. Imagine the classic Lolita style, goth fashion or Gyaru culture exhibited by teens and young adults alike along the streets of Harajuku.

If shopping is your main goal, we’d suggest heading either to Takeshita Dori or to Omotesando. The former is a popular and narrow 400-metre street lined by shops, stalls, cafés, and eateries aimed at Tokyo’s teenagers. The latter, on the other hand, generally caters to the luxury shoppers, where high-end brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton made their home along this avenue.

Omotesando also serves as the main stretch leading up to Meiji Shrine — another popular landmark in the area.

4. Bask In The Spirituality Of Meiji Shrine In Western Tokyo

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Make no mistake about it, Harajuku doesn’t only revolve around Japan’s modern teenage culture and endless shopping sprees. It is also home to one of Tokyo’s major shrines, specifically found within earshot of the Harajuku Station.

Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine completed in 1920 and dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji (the first emperor in modern Japan) and his consort, Empress Shoken.

Sporting a viridescent facade, you’ll find that Meiji Shrine, along with the nearby Yoyogi Park to be a rare splash of greenery in the mostly grey and uber-urbane neighbourhood of Tokyo. Indeed, passing under the massive Torii gate and stepping foot onto the shrine’s grounds, one simply can’t help but feel the palpable air of tranquillity of the forested space around Meiji Shrine seemingly drowning out the noise of the city.

And in the middle of this forest lies your goal. The awe-inspiring main hall of Meiji Shrine where visitors may take part in several Shinto activities. For instance, visitors may make offerings, buy charms and amulets, or write their wishes on ema (small wooden plaques for prayers and wishes).

A popular time to visit the shrine is during the first days of the New Year. It is at this time that Meiji Shrine welcomes more than three million visitors for the year’s first prayers. So if you want to avoid the massive crowds, skip the New Year festivities.

The Meiji Jingu Museum and the Inner Garden then make up the rest of the sights to be had at this wildly popular spot.

5. Join The Shibuya Scramble At Tokyo’s Most Iconic Intersection

Much like New York’s very own Times Square, the large intersection found outside of Shibuya Station and adjacent to the highly recognizable Hachiko statue is a prominent landmark you have to experience for yourself when you’re in Tokyo.

Often rumoured to be one of the busiest intersections in the world (but most definitely the busiest in Japan), Shibuya Crossing is the beating heart of Tokyo. Nothing truly says “Welcome to Tokyo” better than the waves of chaotic crisscrossing pedestrians (upwards of around 3,000 people during peak hours) attempting to avoid each other with somewhat of a nonchalant grace, while also maintaining a speedy walking pace.

The intersection is also heavily decorated with neon advertisements and giant video screens. Add to that, the constant stream of humanity which scrambles across the famed crossing at all times, and you’ve got the makings for a popular photo spot on your hands.

Local Tip: For an interesting sight, head to the intersection after dark on a Friday or Saturday night. This is when the number of people pouring out of the station is at the highest. However, since Shibuya Crossing’s pedestrian activity is tied to the train station, you’ll find a fascinating sight awaits you after the last train pulls out for the night. The intersection becomes eerily quiet and near-lifeless, quite the contrast to its exuberant pre-nightfall atmosphere.

6. Participate In Otaku Culture In Akihabara, Tokyo

Gaining recognition as Otaku-central of Japan, Tokyo’s own Electric Town is the epitome of all things related to Japanese pop culture. Fans of anime, manga lovers and diehard hobbyists will feel most at home in this buzzing shopping hub.

If you’re a fan of any of those, we reckon you should definitely pay a visit to Akihabara the next time you’re in Tokyo.

You may find almost anything and everything here needed to complete your collection at home. From Japanese comics to anime DVDs to detailed figurines to rare collectables to retro video games to trading/playing cards to cosplay costumes to entertainment magazines to even a wide range of electronics and gizmos, Akihabara is indeed an Otaku’s paradise.

In addition to the dozens of stores specializing in Otaku culture, various other animation-related establishments have also become popular in the area. Among them are maid cafés where waitresses dress up like your typical French maid and anime characters while serving you.

If you’re interested in getting the “Moe” experience, do check them out (don’t worry, we won’t judge) if you’re visiting Akihabara.

7. Indulge In Tender and Juicy Wagyu Beef In Tokyo

Now, when it comes to the local food, most seasoned travellers are well aware that you shouldn’t fully skimp out on the decadent stuff especially when you’re visiting the land of Japanese cuisine. And gourmands, you know full well that Japan is the best when it comes to their beef.

If the first thought that popped into your head was Wagyu Beef, congrats! You didn’t win anything but we’re certainly thinking along the same lines.

Wagyu Beef is one of the most popular Japanese delicacies that travellers must try when they’re in the country, along with sushi and tempura. And nothing screams luxury more than this thick cut of juicy, rich, and flavorful beef. It’s thanks to its unique fatty marbling and texture that has accorded Wagyu Beef its status as an opulent meal in pop culture and among the masses.

In general, Japan produces several types of branded Wagyu Beef like Kobe Beef and Matsuzaka Beef. These cuts can be enjoyed in various ways such as Teppanyaki, Shabu-Shabu, Yakiniku, or as your good old traditional steak. Though, high-end steakhouses offering Wagyu Beef are a dime a dozen.

For a more traditional Japanese fare, Teppanyaki is the way to go. And in Tokyo, there are a number of great joints serving delicious Wagyu Beef, Teppanyaki-style.

One of which is Hakushu Teppanyaki in Shibuya District. The family-owned restaurant is extremely popular, so you should make sure to reserve a table in advance or risk disappointment.

8. Slurp Up Some Of Tokyo’s Best Ramen In Shinjuku

In a similar vein, one simply does not visit Japan without eating another traditional Japanese cuisine — Ramen.

Tokyo is home to thousands of Ramen restaurants, stalls, and mobile vendors, but for the best of the best the city has to offer, you need to head to Shinjuku. It is here that the over 300 high-quality Ramen restaurants will vie for your attention (and tummy). And it’s often said that the district is the most competitive Ramen district in Tokyo. So if you’re a Ramen lover, visiting Shinjuku should be the top priority on your to-do list in Japan.

As any Ramen expert knows, the noodle dish comes in a variety of forms. And you’ll most definitely find some of your favourites in Shinjuku. From the universally acclaimed Tonkotsu Ramen to the unique Tsukemen dipping noodles to even Halal offerings, there are many kinds of Ramen dishes to be had in the here.

Do be warned though, you should be prepared to queue up for hours at some of the more popular and well-known Ramen stores, especially during mealtime.

9. Soak Up Classic Japanese History In Tokyo’s District Of Asakusa

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After you’re done stuffing your face with tasty Japanese food, perhaps it’s time for some light exercise. Might we suggest a tour through the time-worn neighbourhood of Asakusa?

It is here that the air of Tokyo’s past seems to linger well into the present day. In Asakusa, you’ll find the sacred and ancient Buddhist temple of Sensoji to be a must-visit highlight of the olden neighbourhood. The popular 7th-century temple is adorned top-to-bottom with a glow of red, which obviously also includes its iconic red lantern hanging on its gate.

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But visiting Asakusa isn’t merely about its old-world charm, for located just a few steps away from Sensoji Temple is Nakamise Shopping Street — a shopping avenue lined by more than 50 shops offering a variety of traditional local snacks and tourist souvenirs.

For the shutterbugs, a short walk from Asakusa across the Sumida River to the towering Tokyo Skytree may be up your alley. Spend the evening exploring (and snapping) the wonderful 360-degree panoramic views of the city from the 634-metre tall tower’s observation decks. If you’re lucky and bestowed by clear weather, you may even get a glimpse of the majestic Mount Fuji!

10. Immerse In The Fiery Fighting Spirit Of Tokyo’s Sumo Athletes

Sumo is the national sport of Japan and like any other national sport, the locals are very much impassioned about it. Nowhere in Japan is Sumo culture more evident than in the centre of the Sumo world in the Ryogoku District.

This district plays host to a variety of Sumo events and tournaments held in Sumo stadiums — the most famous of which is Kokugikan Stadium. But other than the 15-day tournaments held in Tokyo in January, May, and September, there are also many other Sumo-based attractions found in Ryogoku.

Ryogoku is also home of the Sumo wrestlers. If you’re interested in Sumo culture, some of these stables are open to public viewing for their morning practice. And if you want to try your hand at the sport, you can! Some stables offer beginners and visitors the chance to “spar” or learn the basics with their athletes.

We promise, one session of training with these world-class Sumo wrestlers and you’ll immediately gain respect and admiration for the sport and the athletes going through rigorous training daily.

Hey, Sumo isn’t just about getting fat binging on Chankonabe and stepping into the ring, alright?


Getting onboard a plane to head to Tokyo soon? Here are some of the best attractions in Tokyo, Japan!

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