Tokyo is one of my favourite cities to date. If you’re looking for the best things to see and do in Tokyo, this is the post for you!
Something about the hustle and bustle which contrasts the peaceful attitudes and green spaces, combined with the pull of Japanese culture, amazing food and, of course, endless cups of matcha, left me wanting so much more the last time I visited. And I promise you, when you go, you’ll want to return again too.
It’s an adventure playground for every kind of traveller. Festivals, nature, day trips, architecture, culinary delights… Tokyo has it all within arm’s reach. If you want to visit this incredible city but have no idea where to start, I’ve put together a bucket list of highlights, including both things I did on my last trip, and things I want to do when I next go. If you have more ideas, pop them in a comment below!
Here are 30 things you must do in Tokyo: the ultimate bucket list…
1. See Tokyo at its prettiest, during cherry blossom season (hanami).
Cherry blossom season only lasts a couple of weeks at the end of March-beginning of April, but it’s absolutely stunning and worth booking a trip to see the sea of pink flowers across the city. However the season is unpredictable (these dates are averages) so it’s often luck as to whether your trip coincides with the season or not. Chidori-ga-fuchi (the Imperial Palace Area), Sumida-gawa River and Ueno Park are great places to see the cherry trees in full bloom.
If you miss cherry blossom season, autumn leaves season (end of October to beginning of December) is also beautiful.
2. Dance the weekend away at Ultra Japan.
Ultra music festival has taken the world by storm! Now taking place in over 20 countries, this electronic music festival has three stages and takes place over three days. To find out more and get tickets, click here!
Other festivals just outside Tokyo you could try include…
3. Extend your visit and add a week on Tokyo’s Ogasawara Islands to your itinerary.
Known as the Galapagos islands of Asia, you’re sure to have a wildlife and nature filled adventure here!
4. Explore the epicentre of fashion, Harajuku.
One of the most ‘instagrammable’ corners of Tokyo lies on Takeshita Street and the surrounding streets of Harajuku. You’ll spot the colours, the candy floss and the shops a mile off. I loved Harajuku, it’s exactly as I imagined and just full of life. There are rainbow coloured offerings in abundance, be it clothing, candy floss, crepes, ice creams or ramen. I challenge you to not get a snap for the ‘gram.
5. Do a sushi cooking class.
Book the same AirBnb experience sushi class I did here. If you don’t fancy sushi, what about ramen, gyoza or something else?
6. Take in the cityscape
Tokyo has a stunning skyline, particularly at night when it is lit up. You can see the cityscape for free from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, near Shinjuku Station.
7. Cruise around the island of Obaida.
Enjoy Tokyo from a different perspective in Tokyo Bay! Find out more here.
8. Take a day trip to Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko).
The lakes are incredible, providing not only a break from the city crowds but also giving you the best views of Mt Fuji itself!
If you fancied climbing Mt Fuji, climbing season is June to September. It’s recommended to reach the summit across two days, and then another one or two to climb back down.
9. Escape the concrete jungle in one of Tokyo’s parks or traditional gardens.
Tokyo is an amazing city, but when it gets too much, the green spaces are the perfect place to take a step back. If you’re able to, visiting in every season means that you get to see the parks and gardens in all their glory. Cherry blossom season is very different to autumn leaves season; winter is different to spring. But, all the seasons are equally stunning.
10. Watch professional sumo wrestling.
11. Cross the iconic Shibuya crossing.
If you don’t want to take part in the hustle and bustle, you can watch it from the Starbucks on the north side!
12. Explore old Tokyo in the underrated neighbourhood of Yanesen.
13. Drink with the locals and have a glass of sake in an Izakaya Alley.
14. Eat, breathe, live matcha.
Not only the famous tea, but also all of the matcha products that are on offer. Chocolate, cake, biscuits, ice cream, popcorn, crisps… it’s in everything!
Why not take it one step further and attend a traditional tea ceremony?!
15. Experience Japan’s more unusual dining experiences at the infamous Robot Restaurant or Kawaii Monster Cafe.
Colours, neon, tech and more… these experiences aren’t for the faint-hearted! Forget tradition for an evening and try out gimmicks instead. Book in advance though, as tickets can be hard to get last minute!
16. Get the freshest seafood at Toyosu Fish Market.
Not quite the same as it’s predecessor, the Tsukuji Fish Market, but still worth exploring. Where the old market had chaos, charm and mess, this market is more organised, but you can still witness the world-famous tuna auction first hand.
17. Eat your weight in ramen.
It’s the best place for the world-renowned noodle dish!
18. Enjoy a cuddle with your coffee in an animal cafe.
Animal cafes have become all the rage in Japan! From owls to cats to hedgehogs and more, there’s a creature for everyone. I loved Harry’s hedgehog cafe – check it out here!
19. Have dinner at Gonpachi, the Kill Bill inspired restaurant.
20. Visit the Ghibli Museum to learn more about the famous Studio Ghibli films.
21. Head out on a day trip to Kamakura, the ‘eastern Kyoto’.
Known for it’s many Buddhist temples, statues and shrines, this town is about an hour south of Tokyo and easily accessible by train. It is also home to fantastic hiking trails if you want a more active day!
22. Spend a night in a traditional ryokan.
Soak up the classic Japanese cuisine, cultures and traditions in this eastern ‘inn’. They’ve been around for centuries, and Tokyo is home to quite a few! Ito Ryokan is one of the more traditional ones in the city centre, but there are also some ryokan that marry Japanese traditions with luxury and western amenities, if you prefer something more modern.
23. Take a trip to an onsen to completely relax and switch off.
These hot springs and bathing facilities are located in small towns around the city, so it’s likely to be a day trip. Hakone is the most accessible from Tokyo, and Kusastu is apparently the best in the area.
24. Get a view of the whole city from Tokyo Tower.
At over 300m tall, you’re sure to see all the main sights from up here! To find out more and book tickets, click here.
25. Drive the streets of Tokyo in a go kart dressed as your favourite character.
I was Mario and Lydia was Princess Peach… and we had the best time! Unfortunately the company got sued for incorrectly connecting themselves to Nintendo, so you can’t be the Mario Kart characters anymore, but they still have other costumes available to hire! Find out more and book on the website here.
26. Marvel at Tokyo’s countless temples.
Senso-ji temple is one of the most well-known temples in the city, but you’ll run into Buddhist temples and shrines all over Tokyo.
27. Explore a world or artwork without boundaries at the Mori Building Digital Art Museum by art collective teamLab Borderless.
TeamLab Borderless is a group of artworks that form one borderless world. Artworks move out of rooms, communicate with other works, influence, and sometimes intermingle with each other with no boundaries. Immerse your body in borderless art in this vast, complex, three-dimensional 10,000 square meter world. Wander, explore with intention, discover, and create a new world with others.
28. Hit the beach during summer.
Shirahama beach rivals some of Japan’s very best beaches on the southern islands, and it’s a stone’s throw from Tokyo!
29. Party the night away in Rappongi.
30. Wander around Ayasana traditional town and explore the temples and markets.
– 2020 Olympic & Paralympic Games!
The Tokyo 2020 Games will be taking over Japan from 23 July to 8 August 2021 and the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games from 24 August to 5 September 2021 (postponed because of Covid-19). It’s the second time the games have been in Japan and over 200 countries will be taking park! Enjoy all the Olympic classics as well as new sports such as baseball, karate, skateboarding, climbing and surfing.
– Nippon Festival
Building hype and energy around the Olympic games, this is a series of events (in 2021) celebrating diversity, inclusivity, culture, unity and regeneration. Find out more on the official website here.