The best things to do in Tokyo
Immerse yourself in this dynamic city for an enthralling mix of futuristic streetscapes, pop culture and centuries-old Japanese culture.
- December 2021
One of the world’s great cities, Tokyo’s appeal lies not just in its incredible array of sights, traditional culture and amazing food, but also its pulsating energy. With its neon-lit skyscrapers and blaring J-Pop, this electrifying megacity is a glorious feast for the senses. Counterbalancing the madness is a city of ancient Japanese culture with palaces, serene temples and majestic parks. And with its varied and vibrant neighbourhoods filled with cool bars, restaurants and boutiques, it’s clear Tokyo isn’t a city you merely visit, but rather one you experience.
Indulge in Tokyo’s bounty of restaurants
Whether slurping down hole-in-the-wall ramen or splurging on degustation menus by acclaimed chefs, no matter what your budget, you’re going to eat well in Tokyo. Not only does it have the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, but almost double the amount from the next ranked city (Paris, in case you’re wondering). But just as enticing are its everyday experiences: yakitori (chicken skewers), prawn tempura, late-night soba – food is a quintessential part of any visit here. And then, of course, there are the city’s many high-end sushi restaurants – for as fresh as it gets, go straight to the source at Toyosu Market.
Prepare for a sensory overload with a night out in Tokyo
When it comes to bright lights, big city, nowhere does it quite like Tokyo. Come evening the city is abuzz with blazing neon, and just walking around is entertainment in itself – especially at iconic Shibuya Crossing. But for Tokyo’s epicentre for nightlife, don’t miss raucous, fast-paced Shinkuju. Here you’ll be transfixed by all number of brightly lit karaoke clubs and bars crammed into its garish high-rise district. Add in a boozy meal at any number of izakayas (Japanese pubs), a tipple at one of Tokyo’s craft beer spots, sake breweries or whiskey bars, then a gig at a live house, and you’ve got yourself a memorable night out.
Be calmed by Tokyo’s temples and palaces
Tokyo may be famous for its 21st-century innovation and design, but it’s also a city with one foot very much planted in its traditional past. Standing in contrast to Tokyo’s high-rises is the Imperial Palace with its beautiful gardens and offering a fascinating glimpse into Tokyo’s past and current royal family. Offering another insight into Tokyo’s history is Sensō-ji, the city’s oldest temple, built on a site dating to AD 628. And for the city’s most famous Shinto shrine, a visit to the elegant Meiji-jingu situated in a rare forested tract of the city is a must.
Go on a shopping spree in Tokyo’s city-wide retail paradise
Whether you’re here for toys, manga, electronics, fashion or maybe a sushi knife, if you’re into shopping, you’ve hit the jackpot. Tokyo’s department stores make for a good starting point, with many floors packed with gadgets, Hello Kitty paraphernalia, fake food models and all manner of weird and wonderful appliances. But for that quintessential quirky Tokyo experience, Harajuku’s iconic Takeshita Street is one not to miss for cosplay and counterculture fashion. For anime, J-Pop and video games, Akihabara is your one-stop pop-culture shop, while Ginza is all about high-end brands, and Asakusa is more for traditional souvenirs.
Take in Tokyo’s history and art scene
With its fascinating culture and rich history, it’ll come as no surprise that Tokyo is loaded with vibrant galleries and grand museums. The granddaddy is Tokyo National Museum where you’ll be treated to magnificent displays of Japanese treasures, covering samurai swords, kimonos, calligraphy and Buddhist antiquities. For Tokyo specifically, the excellent Edo Tokyo Museum does a wonderful job tracing the city’s multifaceted history. Art lovers have definitely come to the right place, with Tokyo’s many superb galleries exhibiting contemporary and traditional works. The highlight is the National Museum of Modern Art, where you’ll find Japanese and international masterpieces among a collection of 13,000 works.