17 Unmissable Things to do in Tokyo, Japan 17 Unmissable Things to do in Tokyo, Japan

17 Unmissable Things to do in Tokyo, Japan

Discover the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, the capital city of Japan — home to weird and wonderful sights, neon flashing lights, expansive gardens, tavern-filled alleys, and sensory food markets. This exciting city is hard to beat, offering a myriad of unforgettable adventures: peer through glass floors at the top of the city’s tallest skyscraper, wade through water in abstract art museums, devour rainbow-spun candy as you peruse cosplay shops, or enjoy moments of peace at sacred shrines. Experience it all with the top things to do in Tokyo!

Best Things to do in Tokyo

Tokyo is an enormous city, and there’s so much to see that you’ll definitely want to return again. Although busy, it doesn’t have the hectic feel of other Asian capital cities like Bangkok or Beijing.

shibuya crossing tokyo japan

This is mainly because of the unique Japanese culture, which centers around respect and good manners. In fact, it’s one of the safest cities in the world, meaning you can explore at any hour — although after dark is when the city really comes to life, with thousands of neon flashing lights leading the way to music-pumping restaurants and high-rise bars. 

sushi restaurant tokyo japan

1. Tokyo Skytree

Discover the tallest tower in the world! Yes, the Tokyo Skytree is not only the tallest structure in Japan but also the tallest tower globally, standing at a mammoth height of 634 meters. You can ascend the building to see breathtaking panoramic views of the city. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Fuji in the distance!

things to do in Tokyo skytree

Begin your trip to the pinnacle via the four different elevators (rocketing to the top at a speed of 50 seconds per section!). The Tembo deck is the first viewpoint you’ll reach at 350 meters with a knee-shaking glass floor, giving you fantastic views of Tokyo from a different perspective. (Get your tickets here)

tokyo skytree view

At 450 meters, you’ll reach the Tembo Gallery, the Skytree’s highest viewpoint. Here, you’ll find 360-degree panoramic views — an unmissable thing to do in Tokyo!

We recommend visiting just before sunset so you can see the city transition from day to night. After dark is special when bright neon lights illuminate the sidewalks and buildings.

Opening Times and Tickets for Tokyo Skytree

It’s best to book your tickets in advance so that you can get them at a slightly cheaper price.

  • Advance tickets for both decks (Tembo Deck and Tembo Gallery) cost 2,700 yen (19 USD)
  • Tembo Deck (the lower viewpoint) costs 1,800 yen (12 USD).
  • Don’t worry if you forget to book tickets in advance; you can buy tickets at a slightly higher price on the same day.
  • Please also keep an eye on the weather, as high winds can lead to closure.
  • Decks are open from 10 AM to 9 PM (last entry 8.20 PM)

Budget tip: On a budget? Head for the free observation deck in the metropolitan building at Shinjuku. 

2. Shinjuku Gyoen

Welcome to Shinjuku Gyoen – a tranquil oasis at the heart of bustling Tokyo, once only reserved for royalty. Escape the bright lights and crowds and enter a natural garden of 144 acres full of trees, traditional Japanese gardens, flowers, and unique plants.

things to do in Tokyo shinjuku gyoen

Situated right in the middle of the city, Shinjuku Gyoen is often compared to New York’s Central Park, providing an escape for Tokyo residents throughout different seasons of the year. See 900+ trees burst into color during the cherry blossom season and majestic oranges, yellows, and reds in the fall. 

fall colored trees japan

Don’t miss the incredible greenhouse, which feels like an indoor jungle, like a small Cloud Forest in Singapore. It’s home to many tropical plants, some of which are rare and close to extinction. 

Shinjuku Gyoen tokyo green house

There are plenty of cafes and tea rooms throughout the park for refreshments. However, Starbucks deserves a special mention as it’s entirely made of windows and has a fantastic view of the park. 

Shinjuku Gyoen starbucks

3. Teamlab Planets

One of the best things to do in Tokyo is to experience the magic of Teamlab Planets: a sensory museum experience with large-scale art spaces. Move through a series of rooms, each home to a unique experience, from giant glowing orbs and lights to water spaces filled with flowers and mirrors. (reserve your tickets in advance here)

best things to do tokyo japan teamlab planets

As you move through the abstract art experience, you’ll be accompanied by classical music. This, combined with the 3D visuals, makes for an awe-inspiring yet tranquil experience. 

What to Wear to Teamlab Planets

Each room in Teamlab Planets offers a different sensory experience. The most important things to note are:

  • You walk through the rooms barefoot. In two rooms, you’ll walk through water, one up to your ankles and the other up to your knees. For this reason, we recommend wearing loose trousers that you can roll up above your knees.
  • You can also rent shorts at the start if you prefer. 
No time to read now?
No worries! Save on Pinterest to read it later.
Save to Pinterest
17 Unmissable Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
  • We don’t recommend wearing a skirt to Teamlab Planets due to the many floor mirrors (for obvious reasons!). 
  • The rooms can get warm, so leave your sweater in the lockers at the beginning.
  • You can take your phone or camera with you. However, because of the water, do so at your own risk.
teamlab tokyo

Tickets for Teamlab Planets, Tokyo

This is one of the most popular experiences in Tokyo, and tickets get booked quickly, so we recommend booking ahead to avoid disappointment. Additionally, tickets are only released a couple of months in advance. Best is to choose one of the earliest time slots.

The ticket price is 3,800 yen (27 USD), and you can reserve your tickets in advance online.

4. Sensō-ji

Sensō-ji is one of the most sacred sites in the world and the most visited temple in Japan! The traditional red temple, home to a stunning 5-story pagoda, is particularly important to the Japanese and Tokyo residents. It is also the location of many important festivals throughout the year. 

best things to do in tokyo japan Sensō-ji

Legend has it that two brothers found a Kannon statue in the river, and when they let it go, it kept returning to them. The area’s chief at the time recognized this phenomenon and wanted to house the statue in his home. He even remodelled it to become a place of worship — which is now Sensō-ji. 

senso-ji temple tokyo

Visiting Sensō-ji

As you enter the main gates, you’re greeted by gigantic red pillars and Japanese lanterns, making for a great photo. There are also many food and souvenir stalls if you want to take something away to commemorate your visit.

Our Japan tips in your Google Maps? We made it easier for you! All our tips: favourite to do's, restaurants, hikes, secret spots & more in Google Maps!
Shop our maps
google maps phone

Once inside, you’ll see the main temple, which you can enter. However, if you’re not religious, the interior itself is not as attractive as the external grounds, although it is special to see people praying.

Please note that the pagoda interior is fenced off, and you cannot take photos.

Entry and Opening Times: Admission is free. The main hall is open from 6.30 AM to 5 PM every day from October to March. In the summer, opening hours are extended to 5.30 PM. 

tokyo Sensō-ji stalls

5. Kōkyo Castle / Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace of Tokyo is an icon of the city — a fortified castle that sits high up on a stone embankment surrounded by a moat. The imperial family live here, giving it extraordinary importance in Japan. 

things to do in Tokyo kokyo castle

Although the palace itself is not open to the public in general, it’s surrounded by a vast park, so there’s plenty to explore. There is the option to apply to join a free guided tour of the palace grounds to learn more about its interesting history (10 AM and 1.30 PM daily). Otherwise, simply wander among the beautiful Japanese gardens, cross the pretty stone bridges, or relax in the grassy park. 

Chidorigafuchi Park

On the other side of the moat, on the west side, you will find another small park called Chidorigafuchi Park. This relatively undiscovered spot is home to some of the best cherry blossom viewpoints in the city.

Rent a rowboat (open from March to November) and explore the waters surrounding the palace. This is particularly impressive in Spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

things to do in Tokyo imperial palace

6. Shibuya Crossing

Think of Tokyo, and the incredible setting of Shibuya Crossing immediately jumps to mind. This is the busiest crossing in Japan, if not in the world, where surrounding skyscrapers, huge glowing advertisements, and flashing traffic lights bathe pedestrians in a neon glow as they cross the intersection.

best things to do tokyo japan shibuya crossing

Prepare for all your senses to be sparked as you move among the many people, with music coming from all directions (shopping malls, advertisements, and music).

Although this area is one of the busiest in the city, in true Japanese fashion, it’s still exceptionally organized and respectful, with traffic lights and the politeness of Japanese people (you won’t experience any beeping here!). 

tokyo japan travel guide

7. Shinjuku

Exploring the liveliest neighborhood in the city is one of the top things to do in Tokyo! Shinjuku offers the real Tokyo experience: streets full of neon flashing lights, shiny 3D advertising, such as the iconic 3D cat, and small alleyways filled with tiny bars. 

things to do in Tokyo shinjuku 3D cat

Head for Kabukicho, the famous entertainment district that never sleeps, where you’ll find the brightest lights in the city and Japan’s renowned karaoke bars. For this reason, we recommend visiting Shinjuku at night, when you’ll be able to make the most of the themed restaurants (like Alice in Wonderland), nightclubs, and quaint drinking holes. 

Tip: If you’re looking for something more upmarket, Shinjuku also has plenty of luxury bars, including the Park Hyatt Hotel. This hotel is famous for its incredible city view, especially at sunset. It was also the setting for some of the scenes in the Hollywood movie ‘Lost in Translation’ with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanson. 

shinjuku tokyo japan

The Godzilla Head

Fans of Godzilla, or just those who want to see something truly out of the ordinary, should look out for the Godzilla head. This life-size scale model of the fictional character looks like he’s attacking a colossal building — just like in the movies! Here is the exact location.

things to do in Tokyo shinjuku godzilla head

Golden Gai

The unique area of Golden Gai in Shinjuku is an absolute must-see in Tokyo! This authentic area comprises narrow streets and many cozy taverns, some hidden away, making exploring fascinating. It’s entertaining to visit at night when it comes to life with locals and tourists. Grab the location from our Japan map or see the location

Tip: Golden Gai is the best place to make friends since all the bars are so tiny. Most only fit 10-15 people, so you’ll have to sit very close to each other. Order a soju and simply drink in the typically Japanese atmosphere.

golden gai tokyo shinjuku

Omoide Yokocho

Explore another vibrant and traditional area in Shinjuku: Omoide Yokocho! The small timeworn buildings are home to various BBQ joints — billowing out smoke — that starkly contrast with the towering nearby skyscrapers.

things to do in Tokyo shinjuku omoide yokocho

8. Shimokitazawa

What better way to spend an afternoon than vintage shopping in the trendiest district of Tokyo: Shimokitazawa! This spiderweb of streets is made up of thrift stores, record shops, street art, and plenty of aesthetic cafes — frequented by all the most stylish people of the city, each hunting through the shops to find their vintage treasures. 

things to do in Tokyo shimokitazawa vintage shopping

In true Japanese style, vintage shopping in Tokyo is exceptionally well organized, with various styles and sizes. However, as thrift shopping has become a ‘culture’ of its own in Japan, its popularity is reflected in the prices. Because of this, it’s not easy to source ‘cheap finds,’ but all the pieces are so beautiful it’s worth the price tag! 

Some of our favorite shops:

  • Little Trip to Heaven
  • Big Time
  • Florida
  • New York Joe
Tokyo shimokitazawa vintage store

9. Trip to Fuji

No trip to Tokyo would be complete without a visit to Mount Fuji, and the good news is that it’s easily accessible on a day trip! The incredible area around Mount Fuji is home to five beautiful lakes, which you can visit for stunning views of the active volcano.

trip from tokyo to mt fuji japan

The natural beauty here is exceptional, and in each season, you’ll find something different to look at, whether it’s the reds of the fall forests, the cherry blossom hues in Spring, or the snow-capped peak of the volcano in winter. Mount Fuji is truly our favorite part of Japan! 

Tip: Mount Fuji is doable on a day trip from Tokyo (a 2.5-hour drive). However, if you have more time, we recommend doing a multi-day trip to enjoy all the fantastic things to do in the Fuji region. There are stunning waterfalls to explore and multiple beautiful shrines that bask in the shadow of the volcano.

mt fuji japan waterfall

10. See the Snow Monkeys

Seeing snow monkeys in their natural habitat is a bucket list experience and, without a doubt, one of the best things to do on your trip to Tokyo! Just a 3-hour drive away is the city of Nagano, which is a jumping-off point to see these remarkable animals.

day trip from tokyo to snow monkeys japan

Frolicking in the woodland, discover the cheeky red-faced creatures who come into their element in the winter when the snowy conditions motivate them to kick back and relax in the nearby hot springs.

snow monkeys japan

There are other onsens (springs) in Yudanaka town that are accessible to humans. You’ll find plenty of them on your trip to this area, so do as the locals do and wear the traditional Yukata robe and Geta sandals as you make your way to the bathhouses. 

Our Japan tips in your Google Maps? We made it easier for you! All our tips: favourite to do's, restaurants, hikes, secret spots & more in Google Maps!
Shop our maps
google maps phone

Please note that you are prohibited from entering Onsens if you have tattoos, this is due to the long-running stigma of tattoos in Japan.

Tip: Visiting in winter? The area where the snow monkeys live (Jigokudani Valley) is in the mountains, where you’ll find fantastic snow conditions and some of Japan’s best ski resorts.

japanese slippers

11. Trip to Kamakura

A world away from the bright neon lights of Tokyo, but just 1.5 hours by car, is the charming fishing village of Kamakura. Quite unexpectedly, this Japanese seaside town is a favorite for surfers and city slickers who come here for their beach holidays. 

day trip from tokyo japan kamakura bamboo forest

Enjoy some downtime here — explore the hiking trails, take in the views of the sea (with Mount Fuji visible inland), and swim during the summer months. The town is also home to some fantastic ancient architecture and beautiful temples and shrines, making it exceptionally peaceful. 

kamakura japan day trip from tokyo

Tip: Started your trip from Tokyo early? Get your breakfast + coffee at the Delifrance bakery at the train station in Kamakura. From here, you can take the bus or the train to other spots in the city.

old tram kamakura japan

12. See a Sumo Game

Seeing Japan’s national sport take place in real-time is one of the top things to do in Tokyo! The country is famous worldwide for the unusual and ancient sport of Sumo wrestling (Basho), which has been practiced in Japan for thousands of years. During the game, each athlete attempts to push the other out of the circular ring while wearing the traditional loincloth called a mawashi. 

things to do in Tokyo sumo game

Buy tickets for one of the arenas in Tokyo and watch this epic game unfold! We recommend joining a tour that includes tickets, reserved seating, and a guide who can explain more about the game’s history and how it works.

For something a little different, join a tour to see the morning practice. Watch the wrestlers’ rigorous training routine and snap a photo or two with your favorites!

sumo game tokyo japan

13. Go Kart through Tokyo

Experience one of the most popular things to do in Tokyo: an exhilarating Go Kart ride through the city! Ditch the typical tour bus and get behind the wheel of this adrenaline-pumping car, making your way down the fast-paced roads of Tokyo. A guide will lead you and tell you all about the most iconic sights as you go.

things to do in Tokyo go kart

To make this experience even more memorable, you can pick from various fun costumes to brighten the day — and create incredible photos for your trip. 

go kart tour tokyo japan

14. Koishikawa Korakuen

Located in the district of Koishikawa, discover the botanical gardens of Koishikawa Korakuen, which is also thought to be the oldest Japanese garden in Tokyo! Traditional Japanese gardens throughout the country are designed with ponds, stones, and bridges to mimic the natural beauty of the landscapes, and Koishikawa Korakuen is no different. 

koishikawa korakuen tokyo japan

The maple and cherry trees in this botanical garden burst into different colors according to the season. We visited in the fall when we had a vibrant mixture of reds, oranges, and yellows. The trees also attract some incredible bird species, making the botanical gardens popular for bird watchers. You might even have the chance to spot the graceful Kingfisher.

koishikawa korakuen tokyo japan botanical garden

15. Takeshita Street in Harajuku

At the heart of the Harajuku district, you’ll find the most colorful and busy street in Tokyo! Takeshita Street is weird and wonderful, with various stores selling bright, eccentric clothing — everything from anime costumes to platform heels and velvet bows. It’s overwhelming but brilliant all at the same time, with loud music, strange candy vendors, crepes, and fluorescently colored shopfronts. 

takeshita street harajuku tokyo japan

Although Takeshita Street is the most famous in the area, we recommend crossing the street and wandering around the rest of Harajuku. It’s much more chilled, home to contemporary art galleries, vintage stores, collectible sneakers, and luxury brands — a complete mix!

shopping mall tokyo japan

16. Meiji Shrine

After the hustle and bustle of Harajuku, visit the neighboring peaceful oasis of Meiji. This stunning Shinto shrine is set in the middle of Tokyo in a tranquil forest of over 100,000 trees. 

The park’s entrance is close to Harajuku station. First, pass through the Torii Gate (traditional gates that mark where the ordinary world ends and the sacred world starts) and then enjoy a relaxing 15-minute stroll through the parkland to reach the Meiji Shrine.

things to do tokyo meiji shrine

Once there, you’ll see people cleaning, performing religious tasks, and praying to the gods. You can also write out your wishes for the gods on the wooden tablets (Ema) placed near the shrine — a beautiful and spiritual moment during your time in Tokyo. 

Note: Because the shrine is sacred, photos are prohibited at the main Meiji Jingu.

tokyo japan meiji shrine

If you want some refreshments, we recommend visiting a small garden inside the park, where you’ll find an old tea house that you can enter for the price of 500 yen (3.50 USD)

Hie Shrine

One of the best things to do in Tokyo, the Hie shrine is definitely worth a stop on your city trip. If you’ve already visited Kyoto, you’ll notice it looks similar to the famous red shrine of Fushimi Inari Taisha. 

This sacred spot sits on a hilltop in the city, with a gigantic cherry tree at the entrance, which makes the shrine look extra special in spring. Although the shrine is lovely, the most beautiful element of the whole site is at the back entrance. Here, you’ll find 90 exquisite red torii gates, each painted with Japanese characters, that form a long tunnel.

17. Tsukiji Outer Market

Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of Tsukiji Outer Market – Tokyo’s famous fish market! Sprawling over a few blocks, the fish market is enormous, filled with hundreds of stalls, all selling different kinds of seafood, complete with bright signs and price markers. It’s a great spot to see what local life is like as you watch restaurants and locals buying their fish for dinner.

Tip: The busiest streets are Tsukiji Nishi-dōri and Tsukiji Naka-dōri, so head there for the liveliest experience.

We recommend trying some of Japan’s delicacies: fresh, thinly sliced sashimi, oysters, sushi rolls, or BBQ-ed fish. The best way to do so is to join a food tour, as the tour guide will recommend the best stalls to visit and also give you some fun facts about the market.

tokyo fish market

Top Tips for Visiting Tsukiji Outer Market 

  • Opening times 9 AM – 2 PM (closed on Sundays and Wednesdays)
  • Arrive before 10 AM (afterwards, it gets crowded)
  • Prepare yourself for the strong fish smell – it’s not for the faint of heart! 
  • Wear closed-toes shoes as the floor is wet. Avoid wearing sandals or high heels.
  • Some stalls don’t accept credit cards, so take cash just in case.
fish market tokyo japan

Best Restaurants & Cafes in Tokyo

Tokyo has to be one of the best places to eat in the world! You can look forward to dining on all the Japanese favorites like Sushi, Ramen, and Soba noodles, whether you purchase from market vendors or dine at high-end fusion restaurants.

matcha cafe japan in bamboo forest

In reality, every kind of food you can imagine is sourceable in Tokyo; you’ll also find plenty of Italian and French restaurants and plentiful bakeries serving freshly baked pastries – most delicious when eaten warm first thing in the morning. Some of our favorites are:

  • Ougisushi
  • Bricolage Bread & Co
  • Sushi Ishii
  • Citron Aoyama
  • Fuglen Asakusa
  • Palermo Akasaka
  • Falafel Brothers
  • & sandwich.
  • Afuri Ramen
Find all locations in our Google MapsFind in our Google Maps
cafe tokyo

Top Tip: It’s no secret that Tokyo is expensive, so if you’d like to have a quick snack or an affordable takeaway lunch, we recommend going to the supermarkets 7-Eleven, Family Mart, or Lawson. You can find delicious Onigiri (a rice ball with fish inside and packed in crunchy seaweed) or even mix a cup of frozen fruits into a smoothie.

Make sure to bring your reusable water bottle with you; you can drink water from the taps in most places in Japan! This is a good way to save money and travel plastic-free.

7-eleven onigiri tokyo japan

Where to Stay in Tokyo

Tokyo is a massive city with neighborhoods to suit every kind of traveler. Even if you choose to stay further out, the fantastic metro system makes it easy to travel between districts. 

We stayed in the neighborhood of Akasaka, which is close to many of the top things to do in Tokyo and has great restaurants and cafes. It also has excellent train connections, yet it is still away from the main crowds.

best hotels tokyo japan

Hotels near Shinjuku station are also a good option (particularly good for nightlife and restaurants). The same is true for the area surrounding Tokyo Station, which provides the most connections to the rest of the city.

How Many Days in Tokyo?

There are so many incredible things to do in Tokyo that we recommend spending at least two days exploring. Three to four days would be perfect (this excludes day trips), allowing you to visit all the main sites and leave plenty of time for dining, nightlife, and museums. 

Tokyo is an excellent jumping-off point for day trips in Japan, primarily because of the superfast bullet trains that can take you out of the city in a matter of minutes. 

streets tokyo

How to Visit Tokyo

Tokyo has two international airports that serve the city, Haneda and Narita. Narita is further away (60 KM east of the city), so we recommend flying into Haneda for ease.

Find flights to Tokyo ✈️

From here, it’s just a 30-minute train into the city center, or you can arrange a private transfer if you have a lot of luggage.

tokyo train station

There is a lack of elevators and escalators in Tokyo’s metro stations, making it more challenging to maneuver your suitcase when traveling into the city. Because of this, luggage transfer services are very common. For example, Yamato Transport can arrange to bring your luggage from the airport to your hotel and vice versa.

Tip: It’s best to get an eSim in advance so you’re directly connected when you land in Japan. Buy your sim online here.

metro tokyo japan

Getting Around

Getting around Tokyo is super easy; the organized Japanese public transport system makes traveling a dream! Metros and trains reach every corner of the city, and best of all, they’re super affordable. 

Walking around the city is highly recommended. It’s the best way to take in the vibe of Tokyo, and there’s something out of the ordinary to see on every street corner. When you get tired, you can download a taxi app (Uber and GoTaxi are the best, with GoTaxi being the cheaper option).

JR Pass

Is the JR Pass worth it? (Calculate it here) The Japan Rail Pass gives you unlimited access to all public transport throughout Japan, so it’s a great option if you plan on taking the Shinkansen (bullet train) several times. It’s also multi-use for other trains, ferries, and buses throughout the country. 

jr pass bullet train japan

How Much Does Tokyo Cost?

Like most of Japan, Tokyo upholds its reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, we were pleasantly surprised that entrance tickets, food and public transport cost much less than anticipated. The higher costs were for accommodation, which is more expensive than anywhere else in the country. Because of this, we recommend booking well in advance to try and score the cheapest deal. 

Tip: Capsule hotels are very popular in Tokyo, offering a budget alternative to the traditional hotel experience. 

Costs of Traveling in Tokyo

Travel on a budget in Tokyo, from $480 − $950 USD weekly per person, mid-range $2100 − $4230 USD, and high-end from $3880 − $6030 USD. However, costs depend on factors like accommodation, transportation, and activities. We did not include flights. Check flight prices here

* Average daily costs
Budget tip!
Traveling to a country with a different currency? Avoid ATM transaction fees and pay in local currency with a Wise Card. Having used it for over 5 years, we've saved loads on fees.
Get a Wise Card
vintage store tokyo japan

Best Time to Visit Tokyo

With so many things to do in Tokyo, you can visit at any time of the year and be spoilt for choice. However, the most beautiful season is Spring when the cherry blossoms are out, covering the city in pink flowers. Bear in mind that this is also the most popular time to visit, raising prices and demand for accommodation. 

Note: Although many sights in Tokyo can get busy, it’s rarely hectic as a result of the fantastic organization and good manners of the Japanese people.


Fall is an excellent alternative. It’s still busy, but it’s a little less expensive than Spring. You’ll still get to see the maple trees burst into the typical fall colors, which creates a fiery backdrop to Tokyo’s towering skyscrapers and neon lights.

07/03/2024 https://www.saltinourhair.com/japan/tokyo/
Blog comments

Looking for more travel information? Plan a chat with us for personalised travel advice or get an answer from the Salt in our Hair Travel Community on Facebook.

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    This article was about:
    Last updated: