Tokyo is one of the best places to start your Japan adventure. It really does showcase all that is Japan – from the bustling, lively Shibuya, to the electric city of Akihabara and the eclectic Harajuku. Here is a list of the must do things in Tokyo to make sure you hit the ground running upon arrival.
If you would like to read more about navigating Tokyo please see the Quick Guide: Japan.
1. Yoyogi Koen (Park)
Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks and also one of its most beautiful. Located only a five minute walk from the Harajuku Station, this park has a mass of greenery including wide-stretching lawn, ancient trees and a impressive lake. Join the locals and their furry friends for some exercise or take a picnic and relax under a big tree admiring the view!! Do not miss this park while in Tokyo!!
2. Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is located in the heart of Tokyo just a short walk from the Tokyo Station. This palace is still home to the imperial family and is rarely open to the public but you can view some of the beautiful infrastructure from the Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the palace.
3. Tokyo Skytree
The Tokyo Skytree was originally built as a broadcasting tower, however, today it has become one of Tokyo’s top landmarks. The Skytree is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest structure in the world – this means you have an incredible view of Tokyo once you are up the top. Make sure you head here in the late afternoon so you can watch the sunset over Tokyo – tickets can be purchased in advance or upon arrival.
4. Shibuya Scramble (Crossing)
Nothing welcomes to you Tokyo quite like Shibuya Crossing. It is one of the busiest intersection in the world and is absolute chaos during peak hour. Although a little intense, it is the life of Shibuya – close to amazing local restaurants, shopping centres, arcades and sights to see. So go on, try your skills at weaving through hundreds of people to get to the other side before the crossing signal turns red – its easier and funner then it looks, promise!!
5. Senso-Ji Temple
Senso-Ji is Tokyo’s oldest and most significant temple being closely tied to their rich culture and tradition. It is absolutely beautiful and completely different to any of the other temples we visited. There are plenty of traditional shops and restaurants spanning over 200 metres in the tiny streets adjoining the temple so make sure you visit with a large bag and an empty stomach!!
6. Ueno Zoo
Ueno Zoo is home to more then just lions and tigers and bears (oh my!!). Being deemed the largest zoo in Japan this place it is home to more than 3,000 animals from 400 different species and spans over 14 acres. Some of my favourite animals to see where the giant panda, the Hokkaido brown bears, sea lions, pygmy hippos and the hedgehogs. You can find more about the zoo (including a map) here.
7. Shinjuku Gyoen (Gardens)
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of Tokyo’s largest and most visited paid parks. Only a short walk from the Shinjuku Station this expansive garden, with its meandering paths, was once part of a feudal lords private residence. After being destroyed in World War II it was rebuilt and open to the public to enjoy – there are a number of different sections that you can visit, you can find a map here.
8. Visit kawaii Harajuku
Ahhhh Harajuku. I am not really sure how to describe this place other than weird, whacky, colourful and very kawaii (cute). When visiting Harajuku the main street ‘Takeshita St’ (am I the only one that finds this HILARIOUS?!!?) is where you should begin your ventures. Here on a Saturday you may be lucky enough to see the Harajuku girls strutting there stuff and posing for pictures with eager tourists. Make sure you grab one (or three) of the famous Harajuku crepes or pancakes, this is a must!!
9. Nightlife in Roppangi
Roppangi is home to a large number of Ex-Pats living in Japan and as such there are hundreds of foreigner friendly bars, restaurants and night clubs. It is one of Tokyo’s more elegant and refined districts and is a must do for dinner and drinks after a long day of exploring.
10. Explore Shinjuku
Shinjuku is most famous for the Golden Gai, a collection of over 200 bars and eateries packed into a quiet corner of the bustling Shunjuku commerce district. While exploring the streets of Shinjuku you will be greeted with hundreds of places to eat, Godzilla and in the latter parts of the year an amazing Christmas light display.
11. Take a stroll around Ginza
Ginza was one of my favourite districts in Tokyo. If I had my time again I would have opted to stay here a few days to really immerse myself. Ginza is renowned for being the upmarket dining, shopping and entertainment hub of Tokyo, it is clean, tidy and just pure luxury – take a stroll down the central Chuo Dori (street) and you will see exactly what I mean.
12. Tsukiji Fish Market
This is only on the list because it is worth seeing if you are unable to get to the Kyoto or Kanazawa Markets. Tsukiji Fish Markets has an array of fresh seafood, sushi and vegetables. I was pretty disappointed arriving here in 2017. Tourists are extremely restricted in what they can see and do and I found it extremely uncomfortable and nothing like what i had read about prior to my trip here. My advice is avoid it if you can get to one of the other markets.
Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? I loved Tokyo and I am sure you will too – let me know how you go 🙂