The 20 Best Things To Do During Your First Visit To Tokyo
So, you're finally going to Tokyo?! Are you totally psyched? Good! You should be! You are in for a supreme treat. Tokyo, a bustling and densely populated metropolis is the capital city of Japan and is a city steeped in both rich history and modern flair. Prepare to be wowed, relaxed, stimulated, full, and grateful! It will be a journey you will never forget.
Tip: If you're planning your first visit to Tokyo aim for mid to late May. This is post Golden Week, when the country has multiple holidays and often travels, and post cherry blossoms in full bloom when most tourists come for the season. May will be less touristic and better weather - before the monsoon season and high humidity kick in. #betterhairdays
If you haven't finalized where you will be staying, consider what attractions you are the most drawn to and plan to stay around there. Otherwise shoot for an area that is also close to public transport like the JR Line. If you aren't looking to post up in a specific hotel consider staying in Shinjuku, in western Tokyo. There's a lot to see and do there. And delicious places to eat. It's also easy to get to other parts of the city. You might consider the Shinjuku Sunroute Hotel, located near the train station or for up market the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
The 20 Best Things To Do During Your First Visit to Tokyo
1. Take the trains
Japan in general has extensive and impressive railways. About 70% is owned by Japan Railways (JR), while the rest are owned by private companies. The metro system is reliable and an easy way to get around the city. For train routes you can use the app Hyperdia or google maps.
There is so much good shopping available in Toyko. You will notice the shoe game is also quite strong, so you may want to make sure you don't pack too much stuff so you have room to bring back your new goodies. Every neighborhood will have some place to buy things you are into. There are recommendations listed throughout the post in the different neighborhoods, but here are a few places to take note of:
Orientel bazaar for shopping and cute Japanese stuff
Omotesando - the Champs-Elysees, of Tokyo (Harajuku)
Amyeyoko shopping street (northern Toyko)
3. Get into the Kawaii
This includes, but is not limited to Karaoke and dancing solo is acceptable, Pachinko Parlours and the cafes... See blog post here for the all the good quirky stuff!
4. Look out for cool art exhibits and events happening
As with any major city, there are cool goings on and events held through-out the year. Best to check with the Japanese Tourism Board for what events are taking place throughout the city.
There is so much amazing food to choose from in Tokyo, you might want to plan to eat a lot. But have no fear! If you are walking around the city and making use of the train system, it will all balance out. Tokyo has more Michelen rated restaurants than New York and Paris combined. But it also has plenty of delicious cheaper street food options. Look out for the following dishes when you visit the city: soba, sushi, ramen, yakitori, tempura, Chonkonabe, Monjayaki, Tsukadani, mochi, and a variety of sweets. Consider the following restuarants:
Commune 246 (outside of the Omotesando station)
Sukiyabashi Jiro for sushi
Maison Keiser - French bread and patisserie
Tapas Molecular Bar
Ginza Cozy Corner for desserts
Look out for yummy food in the train stations!
6. Beauty products
Stop in the drugstores and get yourself some face masks, lip jelly or any cosmetic. If you love Paris for it's drug store beauty finds, you will find the ones in Tokyo superb. For more on the beauty products, check out this blog post here.
TIP: water is cheaper in the stores than the vending machines. Although the vending machines are amazing and you must check them out.
If you plan to stay in Shinjuku, let's start with...
7. Shibuya district and the Pedestrian Scramble
The Shibuya district is also popular for young people. Look for Center Gai and Tokyu Hands and check out the Love Hotels if you need a "rest".
Arguably the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, is the Pedestrian Scramble. It's worth both crossing in the mix and watching from above.
8. Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi Park, in Shibuya, is close to Harajuku and Meiji Shrine. It's a large and beautiful park that is great for picnics, attracts folks who want to juggle or dance, and hosts events. Grab some food or a great book and a blanket and enjoy your time.
Here you will find the skyscraper district, the Metropolitan Government Office (where you can get great views of the city for free), and Golden Gai for some nightclubs and bars. Oh, and the infamous Robot Restaurant, which is definitely worth checking out.
10. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
The national garden is a large park and garden in Shinjuku and a former residence of the Naitō family. The gorgeous park has a variety of gardens throughout and a tea house. Plan to take your time and mosey through its grounds. There is a cost to enter and note the hours of operation. It is closed on Mondays.
11. Meji Shrine
Located in Shibuya is the Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The actual shrine cannot be photographed, but it is both a beautiful sight to behold as well as a special experience.
12. Park Hyatt Hotel for drinks and view (can see Mt. Fuji)
Are you a Lost In Translation fan? Then you might already know this hotel is where part of the movie was filmed. If not, this hotel has some of the most stunning views of the city. On a clear day you can actually see Mt. Fuji off in the distance. Grab yourself a drink or an afternoon tea and enjoy both the views and the ambiance.
13. Harajuku Takeshita - dori
Harajuku is one of the most fun parts of Tokyo you'll find. It is well known for Japanese youth culture and fashion and you could see some of the coolest street wear or even a stroller full of cats. You will also find many eateries, boutiques, and high-end luxury brands. Look out for Takeshita Street and the neighboring smaller backstreets.
14. Tsukiji Fish Market
An infamous wholesale fish market. Plan to get there super early to watch the auction and get a seat for the freshest sushi at Sushudai before it sells out.
"Electric Town" is best known for its anime, video games and shopping for computer goods. This is also where you will find a variety of maid cafés (yes they do wear maid costumes and treat guests as masters).
16. Imperial Palace
This is the residence of the Emperor of Japan. If you love outdoor exercise, the outer grounds here is a great place for running.
The premier area for shopping! Is there anything else to say? It's also worth sticking around in the evening to see all of the neon lights lit up in their full glory. Check out the Tokyu Hands store here if you don't check it out in Shibuya. And visit Ginza Wako department store to take in its neo-renaissance architecture. It's the oldest in this neighborhood.
18. Tokyo Tower
Does it remind you of anything? It is indeed an Eifel Tower inspired radio and communications tower with observation decks to take in some of the most incredible views of Tokyo.
19. Roppongi Hills
This complex was built to give people an opportunity to work, live, shop, and play in one area. Best known for shopping, entertainment, and art this part of town will have well known Grand Hyatt hotel as well as art on exhibit throughout the city, and luxury retailers.
Well known for the Kaminarimon and the Sensō-ji Temple. Can be very touristy. Look for artisan shops. Pretty gardens in the neighborhood. Check out art stores and Kuro Dayma traditional Japanese village.
21. Tokyo Disney by the Sea
If you are Disney inclined you may want to check out Tokyo DisneySea built along water. Unlike Disney parades that will take place on the grounds, you can find parade performances on the water. It's colorful, fun-filled, and all things you come to love about Disney, and in Japanese!
Have a great time on your journey to Tokyo!
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