This post may contains affiliate links. All recommendations and opinions remain my own. For more information, check out my disclaimer.
I visited Tokyo as my final stop around the island of Honshu. To keep it simple – Tokyo is a city like no other. There are a number of crazy, weird and wonderful things to do in Tokyo that are unique to the city. There is an incredible contrast between the historic temples and the neon skyscrapers.
Where To Stay In Tokyo
To keep it short – Shinjuku or Shibuya. These are where you will have the best access to everything you need. These options work as a great base to get around Tokyo as they have excellent transport links. They also have a number of bars and restaurants while maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere.
During my time in Tokyo, I stayed at the Imano Hostel in Shinjuku which I could not recommend more.
How Long To Stay In Tokyo
Deciding what to do in Tokyo depends on how much time you have. I spent about a week in Tokyo and never managed to achieve everything I wanted to. There’s just so much to do here.
So how long should you spend? As long as you can (that goes for time and money). You will not get bored or run out of things to do in Tokyo.
Anyway, here are the best things to do in Tokyo to get you started.
Top Things to do in Tokyo
Sensoji Temple is probably Tokyo’s most famous temple. The temple is located in Asakusa in Tokyo and dates all the way back to the 7th century making this Tokyo’s oldest temple.
The area is incredibly photogenic as it is vibrant red throughout.
As this is a top sight to see in Tokyo, expect to be part of a crowd if you are travelling peak season.
Located a small walk across the river from Sensoji Temple is the Tokyo Skytree. Don’t worry about finding it as it is that enormous needle-like building ascending into the sky.
The tower stands at 634 meters tall and is a TV broadcast tower. This has also now become a symbol of the city.
As you may already know I am a fan of heading up to viewpoints to see a city from above. Having already enjoyed the view from Harukas 300 during my time in Osaka, you can imagine how excited I was to head up to 450 meters.
It is only once you arrive at the top that you fully appreciate how large Tokyo is. The 360 view from the observatory deck shows Tokyo disappearing into the distance no matter what side you look out.
On a clear day, it is possible to catch Mt Fuji in the distance. Also, try spot the building above in the picture below for a idea of height!
Purchase tickets via GetYourGuide to ensure you can skip the line to maximise your time in Tokyo. However, tickets are available at the Skytree too if you are less prepared.
Head to the top and try get a better picture than I managed. At least the incredible view of Tokyo disapearing into the distance made it into the photo…
Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine)
The Meiji Shrine offers a much-needed sense of tranquillity in an otherwise bonkers and chaotic city.
Located in Shibuya, the shrine itself is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife. The Emperor played a key role in opening Japan to the outside world after its isolation. The shrine is Tokyo’s largest Shinto shrine and surrounded by approximately 175 acres of greenery.
Head for the shrine before taking a relaxing wander through the surrounding area.
Just a short walk from the shrine is a large wall of Japanese sake barrels. These are referred to as kazaridaru and they are meant to honour the gods. Every year many barrels of sake are donated. These are pretty cool to pass by.
Akihabara is where you will find more Pikachu toys and images than you can imagine. This area is mainly known for its arcades and electronic stores. There is also a vast number of manga and anime stores here.
The amount of time you spend in Akihabara is very much dependant on your taste. I loved wandering around playing old arcade games in the endless arcades around the area. If you enjoy gaming, time flies by as you sit basking in nostalgia.
Overall, this is just another crazy area of Tokyo to get lost in.
Kappabashi Utensils Street
Kappabashi Street is where some of the most famous chefs in the world have been to purchase top quality products. Japanese knives are known for their quality all around the world.
You will find photos of celebrities who have visited over the years in some of the knife shops. There are also a number of other kitchen utensil shops which are fun just to wander around in (if you’re into that kinda thing).
I picked up a santoku knife during my trip to Kappabashi street and I absolutely love it for general everyday cooking. It was not cheap, but the quality is impressive.
Within Kappabashi Street, there is a golden statue called the Kappa Kawataro Statue. The statue was unveiled on the street’s 90th anniversary.
A kappa is a mythological water sprite and this status is said to help prevent flooding caused by the nearby Sumida River.
Probably one of Tokyo’s most famous attractions is actually just a “normal” road crossing. Most travellers make it a point to venture here as this is the world’s busiest crossing.
And to be honest it is pretty weird seeing hundreds of people slowing queue up before rushing across the crossing. Wait for the light to go green then try navigating your way through the chaos.
A little tip: There is a cafe/restaurant called Mag’s Park that is a great vantage point for photography. The viewpoint is located on the roof terrace of the department store called MAGNET by Shibuya 109. Head through the restaurant and out what looks like a fire door to access the roof terrace.
Golden Gai is effectively a similar idea to Memory Lane (I can’t keep typing Piss Alley – oops). The main difference being that this is a bigger network of narrow alleys. However, this section is more towards the beverage side of things rather than food. Pop in and out of tiny bars that hold usually no more than single figures of people.
Golden Gai is located in Shinjuku and houses over 200 bars so you will definitely find one to suit your needs. Some are more suited to locals only, and others are very tourist-friendly. It’s easy to tell which is which as you may be told that there is no space when you enter a locals-only bar.
Harajuku is where the weird and wonderful fashion can be found in Tokyo.
Within Harajuku, is Takeshita Street. This is where there are many crazy shops and cafes. You will find many cosplayers dressed up as their favourite anime characters.
Most people don’t need to spend much time here but it is worth passing through as you explore Tokyo and it’s eccentric nature.
Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho)
There are a number of larger, more modern bars in Tokyo now. However, I still prefer the more traditional izakaya-style bars hidden up small alleyways. Omoide Yokocho (translated – “Memory Lane”), or more commonly known as Piss Alley, is packed with tiny bars and restaurants.
Don’t worry, the name refers back to a fire which meant there were no toilet facilities and I will let you guess the rest.
However, nowadays there are toilets and more importantly little bars serving yakitori and other tasty snacks. Also, if you’re feeling adventurous, Piss Alley is a great place to try something less common.
Catch a Baseball Game
One sport that I wanted to experience while in Japan was baseball. The sport is huge here compared to most countries outside of the US of course! Although I have no idea what the rules actually are, the mix of beer, takoyaki and the all-round atmosphere was enough to make this well worth it.
Pick up tickets before your trip. Alternatively, if you are planning on getting tickets while in Japan, lookout for a little ATM-like machine in any convenience store, as these also are a legit way to buy tickets (even if they are confusing to work at first).
There are two main options for watching baseball in Tokyo. You can either visit the Tokyo Dome to watch the Yomiuri Giants or head to the Meiji Jingu Stadium to watch the Yakult Swallows.
I opted to watch the Swallows as it had more of a traditional baseball stadium feel to it. This also meant I got to watch the local fans do the umbrella dance, which unfortunately I have no reason why they do this but its cool to see all the colourful umbrellas waving throughout the stadium. GO GO SWALLOWS!
Yoyogi Park is located adjacent to Meiji Shrine. Both of these places act as a retreat to temporarily escape the chaotic city centre of Tokyo without travelling far. The greenery is a welcome break when spending time in an urban environment.
Also, if you visit on a weekend, you may even be lucky enough to see a Japanese wedding ceremony taking place.
Shop at Ginza
Ginza is Tokyo’s most famous affluent shopping, dining and entertainment district, home to a number of boutiques, department stores, restaurants and cafes. As an FYI, in the centre of this district, a single square meter of area/land is worth over 10,000,000 yen.
I am not a massive fan of shopping, especially during a trip, but the area itself is a trendy and fashionable area to spend some time.
Kikanbo Ramen has got to be the hottest and one of the tastiest bowls of ramen I tasted in Japan.
After sampling much of Japanese cuisine on a spur of the moment basis, this trip to Kikanbo was planned after wanting to try a top ramen restaurant. And it did not disappoint.
At Kikanbo, the ramen is prepared with both chillies and Sichuan pepper to ensure a depth of heat within the bowl. This is of course entirely optional and mild options are also on the menu.
They offer multiple heat levels to ensure everyone is satisfied.
After spending a couple of weeks in Japan without having anything spicy, I was buzzing to try something described as spicy. So, naively I sample the oni level with added chilli on top. In Japanese folklore, “oni” is a type of supernatural devil, which I only learned after ordering.
The depth of flavour was incredible. However, the heat level was pretty spectacular. It was only when I finished the bowl, I was the only one foolish enough to attempt this. The colour of bowl appears to signify heat level… and I was the only one to be sitting with a black bowl. My friend had the next level down and said it was better suited.
So… If you don’t like spicy, don’t be a hero here.