Tokyo is without a doubt, the craziest place I have ever visited. But in such a wonderful way! The sheer amount of people crammed into such small places, is overwhelming to see. The seemingly endless number of trains, arriving exactly on time, ready to transport the 13 million around Tokyo. The bustling Tokyo city, surrounded by incredible mountain scenery. If you didn’t think Tokyo was the perfect base to explore some mountainous landscapes, think again.
My partner Russell and I stayed in Tokyo for 12 nights. We managed to find a nice, decently priced hotel, located conveniently close to Shinjuku Station. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings were right across the road, giving us super close access to Tokyo’s free Observation Deck. We booked Shinjuku New City Hotel because of it’s location to quick and easy (and delicious) food options, location to the train station and attractions within walking distance. The hotel also provides a free shuttle to and from Shinjuku Station!
Some awesome things to do in Tokyo!
Given that Tokyo is the most populated metropolitan area in the world, there’s always an endless amount of things to see and do. There’s something for everyone when it comes to things to do in Tokyo.
There are so many things to do in Tokyo, it’s definitely not a task that can be completed in 12 days. So we had to compromise, and prioritise what we wanted to see the most! This was pretty difficult to do, but in the end, our visit to Tokyo turned out to be a lot of fun.
Here are 13 of our favourite things to do in Tokyo. From theme parks to observation decks and beautiful gardens. Tokyo has it all!
1. Tokyo’s Disneyland and DisneySea
Both Russell and I are huge theme park fans. We’re also huge Disneyland fans. So there wasn’t question that we had to visit both of Tokyo’s Disney Parks. If you’ve been to Anaheim’s Disneyland, Tokyo’s version is very similar. Almost identical really, Tokyo’s park just has more open space.
DisneySea is where I suggest you spend your day. It’s the most unique Disney park in the world, with the best themed decorations I’ve ever seen at a theme park. From the bright colour of Toy Story Mania to the underwater experiences of Mysterious Island. If you can only visit one of Tokyo’s Disney parks, I highly recommend DisneySea. You can read more about our Japanese Disney experience by clicking here!
Tip: If you’re planning a visit to Tokyo’s Disneyland or DisneySea, head to the Disney Store in Shibuya to buy your tickets. You can purchase any of the ticket options from the Disney Store, and it will save you having to wait in line at the gate, or finding a way to purchase tickets online!
Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. It had been a while since Russell and I had seen an ocean, after living in Alice Springs for 4 months. So being able to walk on sand, even though it wasn’t actually a real island, was pretty great! There are also some shopping malls and a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Bring your camera, because it’s a beautiful place!
3. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Deck
Tokyo’s very own FREE observation deck. You’ll get incredible views of Tokyo and unforgettable sunsets. There are two towers to choose from – north and south. Each offer different views, but are equally as amazing! This is definitely one of the must-see things to do in Tokyo. Plus, who says no to an amazing 42nd floor FREE view of the city?!
4. Tokyo Dome
During our time in Tokyo, we were lucky enough to go to a Japanese Baseball game, where we watched the Tokyo Giants play Chiba Marines. Japanese baseball is awesome to watch, especially since the crowd gets so passionate and supportive when their team is batting. Baseball games in general have such a fun atmosphere!
5. Tokyo Dome City
Next to Tokyo Dome is Tokyo Dome City, which is a small theme park that looks like a lot of fun! Unfortunately, Russell and I didn’t get a chance to visit. But there’s a huge roller coaster, ferris wheel and a ton of delicious restaurants nearby. So if you’ve got some spare time, budget in the $30 to visit. The Japanese do everything to perfection, so you can bet it will be one of the best theme parks you’ve ever visited.
5. The Pokemon Mega Centre
If you’re a Pokemon fan, you’ll want to add this to your must-see list. There are a ton of Pokemon souvenirs to take home, with everything from pencil cases to backpacks and giant stuffed Pokemon characters. If it weren’t for Pokemon Go, I’d know nothing about it. So it was cool walking around and actually recognising characters I know! The place is huge, and everything is fairly decently priced, considering you’re purchasing from an actual Pokemon store.
6. Takeshita Street, Harajuku
Harajuku is where Japanese teenagers like hang out. Takeshita Street is a highly popular, super small pedestrian street filled with crazy fashion and delicious crepes. It’s home to the youth of Japan, where crazy bright coloured fashion is found. There are also a few crepe stores scattered along the street, with more than a dozen different flavoured premium crepes! If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re in for a treat. If sugar isn’t your thing, I’d recommend walking away. I love sweet food, but I could only take a few bites! Delicious though, and so very Japanese!
7. Shinjuku Entertainment District
Right near Shinjuku Station, is one of Tokyo’s largest shopping and entertainment districts. You’ll find a good amount of department stores, shopping boutiques, electronic stores and restaurants. If you’ve ever heard of the Robot Restaurant, you’ll also find that in Shinjuku’s entertainment district. It’s quite pricey though, so you’ll need to budget the $80 experience into your time in Tokyo. We didn’t get a chance to visit (ran out of money!) but from the research we did before our trip, it looks like an amazing, unique and crazy unmissable experience!
8. Shibuya Crossing
The world’s busiest pedestrian crossing is located in Shibuya. The best place to view the crossing in action is from Starbucks. Grab a seat (if you’re lucky) and enjoy the view. We visited during the day, but I’ve heard it’s best between 7 and 8 o’clock at night.
9. Shinjuku Gyoen Garden
We visited this garden twice towards the end of our stay in Japan. The first time it was raining, so we wanted to go back on a sunny day to fully experience the bright and beautiful colours. If you’re visiting Japan during the end of March to beginning of April, you’ll be lucky enough to experience cherry blossom season! Bring your camera, Shinjuku Gyoen Garden is beautiful!
10. Day trips into the mountain
Tokyo is the perfect base if you’re wanting to explore more of Northern Japan. Given that you’re in the capital and the biggest city, there are always going to be trains and buses available to take you where you want to go! On our way to Tokyo, we stopped in Nagano for a few days to visit the snow. The Shinkansen Bullet Train is the easiest and most convenient way to travel between prefectures within Japan, and the perfect way to include some day trips from Tokyo into your itinerary! Read more about our day trip to Nagano here!
Shibuya is filled with well-known department stores, fashion boutiques and international chain restaurants. There are huge Forever 21 and H&M stores, TGI Fridays and McDonalds for some Western food options, and plenty of Japanese cuisine to please everybody.
A city filled with anime, old school gaming consoles, entire buildings turned into multi-story arcades, electronics stores and a lot of brightly coloured shop fronts. A gaming and anime heaven, in the middle of Tokyo! Although I’m not a huge gaming lover (Russell loves games of all sorts though!), I enjoyed the colour and excitement of browsing through all the secondhand goods, trying to find a winner.
13. Cherry Blossom sightings
If you’re in Japan between the end of March and early April, you’ll be lucky enough to see the cherry blossom trees in full bloom! I remember seeing my first one in Arashiyama, Kyoto, and they just kept getting better from there!
Tip: Cherry Blossom season in Japan is very busy, as people tend to plan their visits around this time of year. So if you would like to experience Japan’s blossom season, make sure you book ahead!
For an almost two week visit to Tokyo, we definitely saw a lot! Depending on what’s at the top of your must-see list, you can certainly either slow it down or kick up the pace a bit, to fit more into your itinerary.
Those were 13 of our favourite things to do in Tokyo! Whether you love to shop, spend hours playing games of all sorts, or crave beautiful landscapes and incredible scenery, Tokyo has something for everyone. There’s literally an endless amount of things to see and do, no matter what your interests are.
Tips for visiting Tokyo Japan:
- Purchase a Suica or Pasmo card. This will be your best friend if you plan to travel by train or Subway. Load money onto the card, then all you have to do is swipe and pass through!
- Base yourself in Shinjuku. The train station is very centrally located, there’s a huge entertainment district minutes away, and a great choice of take-away and restaurants.
- Tokyo is a great base to explore more of Japan. Choose a hotel that’s close to a major train station. Research some good day trips to take from Tokyo and narrow down your favourites.
- If you are not Japanese, and do not live in Japan, you are eligible for the Japan Rail Pass. This is a pass purely made for travelers and tourists. You can choose between a few different ticket packages, depending on how long you plan to stay in the country. This is what you’ll need if you plan on using the Shinkansen Bullet Train!
- Convenience stores are very popular around Japan, and you’ll find one on almost every corner. This means that generally, there’s always going to be one close to your hotel. After checking in, walk to the nearest convenience store and stock up on some supplies. Most hotels provide simple cooking appliances like a kettle or toaster, which is perfect for tea and coffee. You will also find a large, ultimately unlimited supply of cup noodles. So if you’re short on cash, but still want a delicious snack, buy some noodles!
- Convenience stores are also great for alcohol. Most of them sell wine, spirits and a good range of premixed drinks. Drinking on the street isn’t illegal nor frowned upon in Japan, so convenience stores are a great place to buy a cold alcoholic beverage for a couple dollars!
- Bring plenty of cash when shopping and dining in Tokyo. This goes for the rest of the country too. Although Japan is very modern in most aspects, they are still pretty far behind when it comes to card payments. Not many restaurants or stores accept anything other than cash, so always make sure you have some with you!
- If you’re visiting Tokyo during the rainy season, find the closest Daiso store. Daiso is essentially a dollar store, Japan style. Rows and rows of Japanese snacks, chopsticks with tons of different styles and general household goods. They also sell umbrellas for one dollar. Buy one to take with you each day, just incase it starts raining. You can thank me later.
- Stand on the left hand side of an elevator. Leave the right side free for people who want to walk up (or down) if they are in a hurry. Yes, Japan even has elevator etiquette. The Japanese are a very polite group of people.
I hope this guide to what I think are some of the best things to do in Tokyo has helped you in planning your visit! Like I’ve said, Tokyo has something for everyone. So even if what I’ve listed here doesn’t interest you, there’s a whole world of Japanese happiness waiting for you. Go out and find something you love!
Have you visited Tokyo before? Did you love it as much as we did? Tell me in the comments below what you remember most, and what you recommend are some must-see things to do in Tokyo!
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