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Tokyo: 25 fun things to do in a mind-blowing metropolitan

by Elisa Flitter Fever
Published: Updated: 2 comments 4.4K views
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Wow, what a city. Tokyo feels so vibrant! Full of life. Like a mix of New York, Hong Kong and Paris at the same time! With all of these impulses and energies coming at you, you may wonder how it would be best to spend your time? In this blog post I share my recommended 25 activities in Tokyo. For sure you will be short on time!

Unicorn cotton candy in Harajuku, Tokyo
Unicorn cotton candy in Harajuku, Tokyo

Bike around

A fun, healthy and sustainable way to explore Tokyo, especially the city’s lush green areas, is by bicycle. You can rent one at Tokyo Bike Rentals. A one-day rental costs around ¥3,000, with a ¥1,500 surcharge for every additional day.

Cuddle & Eat

Tokyo has several themed restaurants and cafes. Everyone’s has got to eat, so better make it fun!  Animals such as hedgehogs, goats and owls, but also fairytales, robots, vampires, maids… the crazier the better! Or join a cooking class from a local, or in a tiny alley yakitori restaurant for example. Read all about it in my earlier blog post Tokyo’s Fun Food Fairytales at themed restaurants and cafes.

Goat Cafe Tokyo
Goat Cafe Tokyo
Maid Cafe in Akihabara, Tokyo
Maid Cafe in Akihabara

Cut fish with sashimi instructor

Do you like sashimi? Learn the tricks how to cut the fish in the Japanese way!

Discover Harajuku

Harajuku is Tokyo’s hipster neighborhood. Takeshita Street is considered the heart of Harajuku. Not a long or wide boulevard, but a relatively small street full of fun and colorful cool stuff. People dressed up, crazy shops, the place to be for people watching! New boy bands trying to get your attention, school girls in uniform, fashionistas, etc.

Japan is The place to be to encounter robots. Read where in Japan you can stay at a Robot Hotel!

Still hungry after your unicorn cotton candy or in the mood for something more savory? Treat yourself with a tasty bun filled with lobster, shrimp and/or crab at Luke’s Lobster! This is actually a chain from New York, but it’s getting quite popular in Tokyo. 15 min wait and ¥1380 later I understood why: delicious! Great for lunch or snack. Minus: only limited seating outside.

Map things to do in Tokyo

This map includes places and spots mentioned in this article (and more). This one is ‘smartphone friendly’; you can easily use it via the Google Maps app. Click the icon at the top left to open the menu and see the categories. To adapt the map to your own preferences and interests, (de)select a category. Via Google Drive you can copy the map to your own My Google Maps account.

Planning to visit Japan soon? Tip: via Japan Experience you can arrange all sorts of things in advance, such as Sim card or Pocket-Wifi, Pasmo or Suica cards and/or JR Pass.

Draw Japanese manga

Are you creative and like reading manga books or watch manga TV series? Learn how to draw Japanese manga.

Drink sake

You can drink of course sake on your own occasion, or take a tour and get some further explanation from a knowledgeable tour guide. ‘Kikizake’ (sake tasting) may involve blindfolding… Voyagin offers sake tasting tours, or take a customized tour with Tokiotours for example.

Drive Super Mario cart

Born in the 80s and would like to relive your childhood’s game for real? In Tokyo this can be done! Rent a Super Mario Cart and drive around the city with your friends. Since I was alone and short of time, I did not do this, but it look-like so much fun!

UPDATE JUNE 2020: Super Mario Cart is no longer in Tokyo after the organization lost a law suit against Nintendo. Such a pity!

This is not my video but gives a good impression on how it was:

Tip! An international driver’s license is mandatory to be allowed to drive a Mario cart, as you will be driving on the public road. So arrange this in time before leaving your home country and take it with you on the day of the drive. In The Netherlands you can get an international driver’s license at ANWB.

Enjoy nature

Tokyo has numerous parks and gardens to enjoy, such as:

  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (a.k.a. Imperial Garden, closed Mondays, ¥200)
  • Ueno Park
  • Yoyogi Park (Harajuku)
  • Todoroki Valley (a.k.a. Tokodori Ravine Park)

These parks are even more amazing in blossom season. Join the ‘sakura’ celebration if you are lucky enough to be in Tokyo right in the moment when the blossom comes out. The above mentioned parks are great blossom viewing spots, plus for example Naka-Meguro (Meguro River). For more blossom stories, check out my earlier blog post Cherry blossom hunting in Japan.

Meiji Shrine Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi Park is at walking distance from Takeshita Street in Harajuku

Fight swords

The discipline of the drawn-sword technique in Swordsmanship, or ‘batto’, was vital in times of war to protect oneself and one’s community. Learning this ancient art can be an opportunity to widen your horizon and test your sword skills. Batto (Sword) Course can be followed at HiSUi TOKYO. Metro: Ginza.

Japanese Calligraphy

Ever heard of ‘shodo’? It’s Japanese Calligraphy (brush writing). You like being creative? Voyagin offers the possibility to give your calligraphy talents a try. Staying longer in Tokyo and like it a lot? 20 lessons at HiSUi TOKYO will take you through the basics, 112 lessons will make you a specialist.

Ninja or Samurai techniques

Do you know the difference between a ninja and a samurai? Find out at The Ninja Trick House in Shinjuku. Or learn ninja techniques in a dojo. In Harajuku there is a small yet interesting place called SAMURAI SOUL Harajuku ARMOR GALLERY where you can learn more about the samurai.

Sake barrels wrapped in straw in  Yoyogi Park Tokyo
Sake barrels wrapped in straw in Yoyogi Park

Make wagashi 

Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets that are typically enjoyed in combination with a cup of green tea. You can learn how to make wagashi during a class by a local expert.

Play taiko drum

Like playing musical instruments? Try something new? Learn how to play the traditional Japanese Taiko drum during your visit in Tokyo. A professional instructor will teach you how to enjoy this fascinating Japanese musical instrument. Starting at EUR 44 per person.

Play video games

If you like video games, I am sure you will have this on your Tokyo-to-do-list! SEGA has several large game centers, some with multiple floors in Akihabara. Takadanobaba Game Center Mikado in Shinjuku is usually a lot less crowded. Or try the conventional arcades at Shinjuku Street (near . Hungry and/or thirsty, yet still in the mood to play video games at the same time? Combine both at 8bit Café.

Game arcade in Akihabara, Tokyo
Game arcade in Akihabara
UFO catchers
UFO catchers

Relax at a Bay cruise

Feeling like escaping the city buzz for a few hours? Sit back and relax at a Bay Cruise. See Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge from a whole other perspective: water. Metro: Takeshiba.

Shop till you drop

Tokyo is a ‘Shopping Walhalla’. All brands that want to matter, have at least a location in this vibrant city. I know people from Hong Kong who go to Tokyo to shop, just because it’s so good. Shopaholics may want to consider planning Tokyo as the only or last stop of their round trip. Or leave some space in your suitcase when you leave home, so you can shop a few things in Tokyo?! You won’t regret it.

You name it, Tokyo has it for sale. From a kimono for your dog, to a special wrapped 200 dollar melon. Check out department store Tokyu Hands for example (multiple locations), or a ‘100 yen shop’ such as DAISO. Fun shopping guaranteed!

Shinjuku is the home of many top fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Burberry, but also of stores like the GAP and Forever 21. Omotesando is a chic, large shopping street in Shibuya. Prada has an architectural highlight near Omotesando subway station. Chanel has a boutique at Seibu Shibuya.

Louis Vuitton store in Tokyo
Louis Vuitton store in Tokyo
Shop window with blossoms in Shunjuku
Shop window with blossoms in Shunjuku

In Harajuku you will find plenty of fun shops, such as Alice on Wednesday (a themed store featuring three floors of delicious sweets and pretty accessories), Condomania and Kiddy Land. But also stores like The North Face (adult and kids), Columbia, Longchamp, Intimissimi Calzedonia, etc.  

Sing karaoke

Tuesday night, 8 pm, the karaoke bar at Bar Champion in Shinjuku is fully packed. A nice mixture of tourists and locals sing along with their favorite songs, guide by lyric videos. For ¥100 you can grab the microphone yourself. A great thing to do in general to my opinion, also when you are alone; a little effort and you can meet fun people from all over the world. The area is called Golden Gai; there are several more cozy (karaoke) bars around. Metro: Shinjuku.

Feeling a bit insecure and would like to have more privacy for your karaoke session? Then rent out a more traditional karaoke room for a few hours. There are a bunch of them around Shinjuku Station for example.

Champion Karaoke Bar in Golden Gai, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Champion Karaoke Bar in Golden Gai, Shinjuku
Golden Gai, Shinjuku
Bar in Golden Gai area, Shinjuku

Sleep in a capsule

Have you ever slept in a capsule? Try it when in Tokyo, where you pay lots of yens for every inch of sleeping accommodation. A nice one is Nine Hours in Shinjuku (North), my favorite neighborhood of Tokyo. For about 22 euro you get your own capsule with air-conditioning and heating. Station: JR Shin-Okubo.

Capsule too claustrophobic for you? Then try this one: Apartment Hotel Shinjuku. It’s an budget friendly hidden gem with industrial styling in the best possible area, quiet at night and still close to all the huzz and buzz of Shinjuku. Station: between Shinjuku and Shinjuku-sanchrome (metro entrance 2 min walk).

Nine Hours Sjinjuku North capsule hotel in Tokyo
Nine Hours Sjinjuku North Capsule Hotel
Apartment Hotel Shinjuku lobby Tokyo
Apartment Hotel Shinjuku lobby

Stroll @ Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Market (try to pronounce that!) is said to be the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. An interesting place to walk around as it does not only attract tourists, but also many locals. A local tour guide can make it even more interesting, as they can tell what you see, about the history and show you the different auctions at the market, such as Tuna Auction and Vegetable Auction. Metro: Tsukiji (Chuo).

Take a photo in a Purikura

Purikura is a Japanese photo booth machine. Ikebukuro and Akihabara are good places for some purikura fun. Ikebukuro SEGA game center for example. Or in Takeshita Street in Harajuku, usually in the basement. Purikura Land NOA is a big one with at least 25 different photo booths.

Purikura Land Noa Tokyo
Get your Barbie photo booth shot at Purikura Land NOA in Harajuku

Tea ceremony & Geisha

Is Tokyo your only destination in Japan? Then you might also be interested in experiencing a traditional tea ceremony (‘sado’). Or/and dressing up like a geisha with kimono and matching make-up maybe? If Tokyo is the start of your round trip, you may want to do these activities in Kyoto or elsewhere in Japan. Read more in the article Special experience: meeting a geisha or maiko in Japan.

Theme park

Japan has several excellent theme parks. In the south east of Tokyo there are Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. So much fun!! Often bookable with a hotel transfer.

Another fun theme park in Tokyo especially for kids is Sanrio Puroland, also known as Hello Kitty Theme Park.

Universal Studios is in Osaka, 3.5 hours from Tokyo Station by bullet train. Coming from Tokyo, this package deal could be interesting: Universal Studios as a Multi-Day trip from Tokyo.

Visit a Museum

With more than 100 art museums, >70 historical museums, 19 science museums, >400 art galleries and a bunch of other museums, there is something for everybody’s interest in Tokyo. The teamLab Borderless Tokyo MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM (see video below) was very popular, but due to reconstruction of the area, it closed in August 2022. Nowadays there is the new teamLabPlanets. I visited it in June 2023.

And what about the Fire Museum, Bonsai Museum, Subway Museum, Toy Museum, or Samurai Museum for example? Or a bit more classic: the popular Tokyo National Museum with old treasures.

Walk the Shibuya Crossing

Every day thousands of people pass the Shibuya Crossing intersection. Due to its heavy traffic and advertising screens it may remind you of Tokyo’s version of Times Square in New York City. Tip: go early (7-8 am) and see the ‘ant nest’ move below while enjoying your breakfast at Starbucks. If you are there around 08:45h, the peak of people is pretty much gone, as you can see in my photo below. Metro: Shibuya.

Obviously there is more to discover in Shibuya. Looking for a tour? Try these:

Shibuya Crossing intersection tokyo
Shibuya Crossing intersection

Watch people

One thing I always like doing in big cities, is people watching. Tokyo takes this hobby to another level. Older ladies in kimono and wooden slippers with socks on, just walking through the metro. Japanese men standard seem to wear too big shoes, shuffling their way. Like in many metropolitans, the ladies obviously pay a lot of attention to their looks.

Tokyo houses not only a lot of fashion victims, but it is also a huge source of inspiration for top fashion designers. These local ‘hipsters’ have names: ganguro girls with orange or silver hair, gothic, sweet, punk and classic Lolita’s, kodona (boyish), fairy kei (childish fairytale), etc. Harajuku is a great place to spot some Japanese fashionistas.

Coming from the west, something you will also quickly notice in Tokyo (or actually all over Japan) are the white facemasks many Japanese people wear. There are various reason people wear them: from pollution to fear of illness to fashion statement to shyness.

Watch sumo wrestling

If you are in Tokyo at the right time (Jan, May, Sep), get yourself some tickets for a sumo wrestling game! A real Japanese cultural experience. The stadium is near Ryougoku station. In and out of the tournament season, there are sumo wrestling practices that you can attend, but they are not cheap. The wrestlers may not appear very serious, they make more fun than serious hard fights, so very family friendly too, thus a couple from Australia I spoke to.

Update: in May 2023 I attended a sumo wrestling game in Tokyo. Read all about it in the article Sumo wrestling in Japan: complete guide to an impressive cultural experience.

Walk with a tour guide

Not in the mood to sort out everything yourself? Traveling alone and looking for company that can tell you all about the city? Or like meeting a local that can show you all hidden gems of Tokyo? There are many guides in town, but if I may recommend one it would be Tokiotours. Not the cheapest but a great day and quality service guaranteed!

You can also try to discover Tokyo on your own. Read more about six particularly nice areas in Tokyo you can explore.

Shinjuku Street Tokyo taxi
Shinjuku Street

Read more about Japan

Going to Japan? I wrote many other, detailed articles about it full of tips! Check all my Japan articles in the Japan Blog Archives.

  1. Onsen in Japan: relax in a traditional hot spring ryokan
  2. Cherry blossom hunting in Japan: Matsumoto Castle and Joya Park
  3. Robot hotel in Japan, the coolest and weirdest hotel experience ever!
  4. Walk the amazing Nakasendo Trail from Magome to Tsumago
  5. Japan: what you need to know about the JR Train Pass
  6. Kyoto: don’t miss these fun temples near Arashiyama bamboo forest
  7. Japan: fantastic places beyond the Golden Triangle Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka
  8. Japan: Miyajima Island & Hiroshima, a recommended and wonderful combo
  9. Riding my bicycle around Mount Fuji, Chureito Pagoda and Lake Kawaguchiko
  10. Tokyo: 25 fun things to do in a mind-blowing metropolitan
  11. Tokyo’s Fun Food Fairytales at themed restaurants and cafes
  12. Visiting the unique Jigokudani Yaen-koen Snow Monkey Park in Japan

To stay informed of the latest Japan articles on this website, I recommend that you subscribe to the Flitter Fever travel blog newsletter and/or follow the Flitter Fever Facebook page. We have just returned from our last tour of Japan and I am full of inspiration, so many more articles will follow. Take a look at our latest Japan tour on Polar Steps (in Dutch, sorry).

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Going to Japan? I wrote many other, detailed articles about it full of tips! Check all my Japan articles in the Japan Blog Archives.

Have you ever been in Tokyo? Or do you have plans to go? Please feel free to share your questions or extra tips below!

Last Updated on 07/23/2023 by Elisa Flitter Fever

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Linda 02/27/2020 - 21:44

Omg this was the best blog I have seen for japan. Thank you so much for making this page. This Tokyo section alone has helped me so so much. Whoop so exited to go now

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Flitter Fever 03/01/2020 - 13:10

Thank you so much for your kind comment Linda! Glad this article was helpful for you. Wish you lots of fun!!
Kind regards, Elisa from FlitterFever.com travel blog

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