Tokyo offers a wide range of shopping, dining, entertainment, cuisine and culture and you will never get enough of the Japanese capital. Originally a small fishing village named Edo, Tokyo means ‘eastern capital’ in Chinese.
It is always a good time to visit Tokyo, however, the cherry blossom season is the most popular time of the year so better to plan your travel well in advance. In an average year, the cherry blossoms start blooming on 25 March in Tokyo. Then, they hit full bloom (known as “mankai” in Japanese) on 2 April.
Ahead of your travel to Japan, make sure to order your mobile wifi online so you will never be disconnected from the rest of the world. It is pretty convenient and recommended for all travellers visiting Japan as the city is pretty instagrammable!
Here are my top ten things to do in Tokyo:
- Anime Stores in Akihabara:
Akihabara is famous for its electronics gadget and anime stores, and it is collectors’ heaven. If you have been looking for 90s game consoles like Game-boy or Tetris, this is your place. Don’t worry if you are not a geek as the street is lively. When you are in Akihabara, you can also check out Tokyo’s famous Maid Cafes, or have your ears cleaned (no I’m not joking).
- Shibuya Crossing:
Shibuya, Ginza, Roppongi or Shinjuku are the most popular areas to stay in Tokyo. Shinjuku has the busiest station in the world, Ginza offers luxury shopping, Shinjuku is the hip area which accommodates younger crowds and Roppongi offers nightlife.
Shibuya intersection is the meeting point of Tokyo residents, and walking across the Shibuya crossing is a must-do. Once you cross, head to Starbucks at the corner and sip your coffee while watching people crossing when all the lights turn red at the same time.
- Subway Queues:
Taxis are expensive in Tokyo, however, underground transportation is pretty developed and orderly. When you are in Tokyo, go underground and see the conductors dressed in crisp uniforms, wearing white gloves and holding microphones to keep the order of the subway.
- Best Views of the City and Mt. Fuji:
If you have time and energy, go ahead and book a tour to Mt Fuji, however for those who are not interested in climbing but only the view, a visit to Bunkyo Civic Center is the best option, and it is right in the middle of the city. It is free and gives the best views of Tokyo as well as Mt Fuji given the weather permits.
- Shopping in Cat Street:
If you are not into Zara or H&M, forget about Ginza or Takeshita streets. Cat Street is the hippiest shopping street of Tokyo. Tokyo’s coolest hipsters hang out here in trendy cafes and street fashion shops. This narrow street in Harajuku has nothing to do with cats so don’t be disappointed when you are there.
- Tsukiji Fish Market:
The world’s largest fish market handles around 2000 tonnes of seafood a day. If you’d like to watch tuna auctions, make sure to be there at 5:00am in the morning. This touristic market offers fish as well as fruits and vegetables. There are pretty good sushi restaurants as the market is best combined with a fresh sushi breakfast. The market is open until noon so you don’t have to wake up so early.
- Takeshita Street:
This pedestrian shopping street offers costumes, gothic clothes and kawaii fashion. The real kawaii (cute) culture’s birthplace Takashi Street has been inspiring many pop stars as well!
- Ginza Street:
The large shopping street Ginza is the Tokyo version of 5th Avenue of New York or Oxford Street of London. The popular upscale shopping area offers numerous internationally renowned department stores. You may lose yourself in department stores as some of them are pretty huge and interesting but try to remember there are much more to see in Tokyo.
- Temples and Shrines:
If you will add Kyoto to your Japan trip, there is no need to see all the temples in Tokyo, however, there are a few ones which are attracting a lot of tourists such as Meiji Shrine and Senso-ji. Meiji Shrine, located in Shibuya is not colourful or flashy like other places of worship and is less of a tourist trap than Senso-ji which is Tokyo’s oldest temple.
When you are in Japanese temples, you will see people drawing small pieces of paper stripes from boxes in return for a small fee as 100 yens. This is called O-mikuji, and they are random fortunes written on strips of paper at temples in Japan. If you draw bad luck, don’t worry as it explains how to improve your fortune.
Tokyo has the weird and kinky nightlife and it is limited by your imagination. From Izakayas (inexpensive Japanese bars) to beer bars, red-light district to themed bars, karaoke bars to cocktail joints, Tokyo is the hot spot for night owls. While there are small bars in every neighbourhood, the bigger clubs and attractions for nightlife are all concentrated in one area called Roppongi. The Kabukicho section of Shinjuku is Tokyo’s most well known red-light district, with The Robot Restaurant which features a raucous pop-culture show with robotic monsters, dancers and lasers.
An additional tip for art enthusiasts: If you are interested in contemporary art, I would highly recommend the Mori Art Museum which is located in Roppongi Hills. There is also a sky deck which offers astonishing city views but you need to pay extra to get in.
Hope you enjoy Tokyo, and make sure to add your favourite things to do in Tokyo in comments below 🙂