Top 15 things to do in Tokyo

Tokyo, an amazing mix of ancient as well as modern living having all the vibrancy a futuristic developed city must have. It is a typical metropolitan city with its neon lighted streets, ever changing fashion, delicious food and unparalleled mass transit system. Tokyo, is an extremely crowded city which can be extremely quiet at times and has an unexpected traditional side that makes it one of the most charming cities in the world. Tokyo is definitely one of those top places in every traveler’s bucket list. Since there is so much to see, do and experience this guide will tell you about the top 15 things in your first trip to do for the ultimate Tokyo experience.

1) Admire the plastic food display:
From the airport you will start observing food display which looks so real, you have to actually go close enough to realize it is actually made of plastic. It however gives you the real feeling and you get used to it. I actually love the idea of such display as you know what you are going to eat.

2) Photograph the Tokyo tower:
Situated in the business area Shimbashi, you cannot miss the orangish-golden glistening tower. Photograph it from your hotel, nearby walk bridges or under the tower. You can climb up the tower to get a bird’s eye view of Tokyo.

3) Visit Tokyo Disneyland and be a part of Disney parade
How can you miss this childhood bucket list while in Tokyo? You are spoiled for choice between Disneyland and Disneysea. Visit one or both if time permits. Take a look at the ongoing festivals before going. More info here

4) Visit Sensō-ji shrine
Tokyo’s most visited temple enshrines a golden image of Kannon (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy), and is reportedly the most widely visited spiritual site in the world with over 30 million visitors annually. Be blessed by visiting this temple and drink water from one of its fountain (there is a particular way to do it and there are instructions for you to follow). You may also make an offering by drawing a wooden stick from the box, and pick up a fortune-telling paper strip in the drawer that bears the number indicated on your stick. If your fortune is good, you can keep it; but if it’s bad, it is custom to tie the strip of paper to one of the wires on the temple grounds so the bad omen will stay there and not stick to you.

5) Souvenir shopping
Well you have to do this to take home gifts for friends and family. A shopping street called Nakamise leading to Sensō-ji temple will fulfill all your souvenir demands. From refrigerator magnets, to keychains, Japanese dolls, chopsticks, fans, kimonos and even Japanese confetti and cookies everything is available here. Carry big bags, I tell you!

6) Visit the Odaiba beach
Odaiba is a waterfront area built on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay area where you can gaze on both – hearth of the city and ocean while you dine and shop; overlooking the rainbow bridge, the statue of liberty and Tokyo TV tower.

7) Try the local food
You are certainly spoilt for choice with the variety of food available. Since I am a vegetarian I got some amazing veg food with local drinks. I had sticky rice, fresh raw vegetables with 9 types of sauce, Japanese tofu soup, veg sushi, fried vegetables, sake and unending supply of green tea. (Thank you

8) Shop till you drop at Ginza street
Ginza is a market for luxury goods and reportedly the best to shop in Japan. Ginza is also of interest for its architecture, dining, tea rooms, entertainment and attractions. The area glitters with lights and if you are up for high lifestyle shops you can shop from any brand in the world you want whether fashion, cars or diamonds. There are ofcourse affordable shopping options too or just window shopping, everything is possible and is a must do.

9) Photograph the Cherry Blossom
Well this is a must do if you are in Tokyo in spring. But since I wasn’t I managed clicking the cherry blossoms embossed on these manholes. So much for the love of Sakura ?

10) Experience the traditional Japanese tea ceremony
Experiencing this tradition was one of the main highlight of my trip as it was so touching and rich. The Japanese tea ceremony is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, generally served with Japanese confetti so as to balance the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring everyone’s attention into the predefined movements and the whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics – preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart and placement of tea utensils at right angles. This is called ceremony for a reason – it makes you feel special and part of something important.

Source: Wiki Commons

11) Ride a boat
Take a boat ride from Odaiba to Asakusa to experience the change from fast paced city life to a slow old life. Watch the city from the river ride overlooking some beautiful and some weird buildings.

12) Walk across the small alleys in the centre of old Tokyo
Discover what these alleys have to offer and the way they display it. I personally love discovering any new place on foot. It is great to get a local flavor, engage in a dialogue with a local, try some food stuff, find a cheap bargain on accessories or simply photograph something interesting.

13) Buy a beverage from the Vending machines
The authorities want everybody to be well hydrated and have overdone installing the vending machines at every few meters. Look out for the expiry date as these beverages are also put up on 50% or 80% discounts before 2-3 days of expiry.

Source: Wiki Commons

14) Use the ultra modern toilets
It takes a few seconds to understand the signs, and then you realize the instructions are in English and Braille as well. Tokyo wants you to experience luxury even in public toilets, like this one!

15) Shop for delicacies at airport
Before bidding good bye to this amazingly awesome place, you have to stack on the yummy treats to carry back home. Tokyo banana (more here) is one such specialty and not to be missed. Try the Royce chocolates too, they are absolute heaven and melt in mouth!

Sustainable travel tips:
• Tokyo is extremely disciplined hence you have to respect their laws. Always segregate your waste. Look for an illustration/creative in case the text is in Japanese.
• Be courteous – always greet and say thank you to every possible person – shopkeepers, taxi drivers, hotel staff, restaurants, etc.
• Use public transport: Everybody uses it so you must too. It is cheap way to get around, there are people who can help you to get tickets from machines and frequency is good to get around anywhere in Tokyo.
• Eat Local: There are all kinds of varieties of Japanese food available – veg, non veg and vegan.
• Do not give tip at restaurant: Staff takes it as an insult. Yes, its true.

All photos except 2 are copyrighted images. Their use can be done only after the permission of author.

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43 thoughts on “Top 15 things to do in Tokyo

  1. I’ve just got back from Tokyo so this made me smile and nod throughout! I don’t know about you but I find it SO hard to write about Tokyo and do it justice. There’s just too much to try to fit in. I’ve been writing a blog about it for a week now and still haven’t scratched the surface! Anyway looks like you had a great time and did lots of things I enjoyed too. Miss those vending machines!

    1. Hi Caroline you are so right. Tokyo is so amazing and there are too many things to do, eat and try. Since i was on work trip i could get time only to do the things that i mentioned. But i cant wait to go back and try other things. I look forward to reading your blog 🙂

  2. Tokyo just looks amazing! I really want to get over there at some point. Is it an expensive place to visit?

  3. Great list, I’m hoping to go to Tokyo next year for a big birthday and can’t wait. I was a bit scared because I’m vegetarian and imagined it to be difficult to find food without fish, did you find it quite easy?

    1. Hi Helen. Finding vegetarian options in not difficult but you may need to ask locals to find. Even in authentic Japanese restaurants you can get veg dishes easily, just explaining them may be difficult. You’ll find pizza, budgers and also Indian food which has less meat options. I hope you’ve a great trip in Tokyo.

  4. Great post! I absolutely love Tokyo and have done everything on your list, except for numbers 10, 12 & 15. I’ll have to do them next time I’m there. Arigato ?

  5. I was recently in Tokyo and wish we could have explored it more! Senso-ji is such an incredible temple, I loved watching people bring the incense smoke to their faces.

  6. I visited Tokyo a few years ago and loved it. I think the toilets and vending machines were my two favourite things! I’d love to have a Japanese toilet installed at home.

  7. I never heard of the cherry blossom sigh on the floor, that looks so cool! And of course, the food is one of the most important things to try in Japan. At least, I think that of every country that I go too. It’s tasty, but not good for my body haha. Ah well, it’s worth it. The toilets in Japan are so cool though!!

  8. I love Tokyo. The plastic food makes me laugh. I want to go to Tokyo Disney next time I am there. The one thing I would add to your list is doing karaoke!

    1. That’s true Anisa. Tokyo is truly amazing and I can’t wait to go back and do all the things I missed doing and seeing this time. Karaoke added to my next time list 🙂

  9. I’ve always been intrigued by their toilets and vending machines, weird, I know. They’re just so awesome-looking! Thanks for this list…I’ve bookmarked it for my future travels!

  10. There’s so much to do in Tokyo! We just visited last month and we’re totally hooked! Everything was so interesting and it left us wanting to see more! 🙂

  11. I never made it past South East Asia but would love to visit the contrasting Tokyo one day soon. So much to see and do you’d be busy for weeks!

  12. I love tea, and I’ve always wanted to go to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony! It seems like it’s just so refined and interesting. I still can’t work out the plastic food though. It’s so life like!

  13. I vote for #7 and #12 most of all (food, and alleys), and lucky for me, they often go together. No city in the world makes me feel small like Tokyo does, so the little alleys put the place back into a personal perspective.

  14. Sounds like a great list to me. I would love to try these things out when I happen to visit Tokyo. Particularly the local food and the boat ride

  15. I’ve always wanted to visit Tokyo, more just to see what it is like more than for a specific reason. I haven’t heard of some of the things you’ve mentioned here. great list!

  16. It sounds funny but using the toilet in Tokyo sounds pretty fun. haha. Tokyo has so many awesome places to see too. Going on a boat ride or seeing the temples would be amazing. I like that there are places to find vegan food too.

  17. This was a great read..We haven’t been to Japan yet, but will keep this article in mind when we do. Thanks for sharing..

  18. A well written detailed informative post on Tokyo. Those souvenirs are beautiful and so is the orangish Tokyo bridge. I would love to climb it to get birds eye view of Tokyo. The boating will be a good idea too.

  19. Tokyo seems to be an amazing place. The toilet seems to be ultra modern. Great tips at the end. How poles apart are Japan and the USA, not tipping in the US is considered as an insult.

  20. I like how you came with something different to do in one of most visited cities in the world. Like admiring the plastic food display, ride a boat from Odaiba to Asakusa, and walk across the small alleys in the center of Tokyo.

  21. I;ve just recently found out about Japanese tea ceremonies are its now on my bucketlist. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  22. Number 7 sounds the most appeals by to me. I’m also vegetarian, so it would work well. Still I decided not to visit Japan until they stop killing dolphins. I watched a documentary on YouTube and it’s just awful! I’ll definitely use all your tips then.

  23. No WAY is that food made of plastic?! It looks so tasty!! The real food looks delicious though! I’ve never been to Tokyo but you’ve definitely wet my appetite (no pun intended) here! Sounds fantastic.

  24. I loved Tokyo for everything you had listed! and whenever I go back, I keep doing the same things again because my daughter loves it and its just so much fun. the plastic food still amazes me. You know you can do classes to show you how its done? And that night parade at Disney…. never seen anything like it!

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