ViaHero · Updated August 8, 2019
Tokyo is a unique city that wows travelers with its historical charm and modern quirkiness. It’s a no-brainer that you have to go—the question is: what should you do when you're there? Luckily, we have the answer. These are the 30 things that you must do in Tokyo in 2019! Any questions after reading? Drop us a line.
To get a local's perspective on the real must-dos in Tokyo, connect with someone who actually lives there. They'll help create an itinerary unique to you—so that you'll see Tokyo like a local, not a tourist. Why see it any other way? Learn more.
#1: Check out the crazy cosplayers in Harajuku
In Tokyo, cosplay isn’t just a trend—it's a lifestyle. Cosplayers dress up as their favorite characters from books, video games, or anime, taking to the streets to showcase their one-of-a-kinda fashion statements. If you're looking for some prime Tokyo sightseeing, head over to the Harajuku district in Shibuya (one of Tokyo's most awesome neighborhoods) on Sunday mornings. It's the foremost time and place for Tokyo's cosplayers to see and be seen.
#2: Bar hop through the Golden Gai alleys
By far one of the best things to do in Tokyo at night, hitting up the ramshackle bars in the Golden Gai alleyways is a total must-do. With 200 bars piled into 6 narrow alleyways, Golden Gai is a throwback to the Tokyo of the 1960s, a haven for artists and musicians. In the bars (which sit 10 people max), you’ll have plenty of opportunity to sip some sake and chow down on sushi alongside Tokyo locals. Added perks—Golden Gai is also very safe after dusk and is one of the best places to stay in Tokyo.
#3: Drive in a real-life Mario Kart race
Racers, start your engines—Nintendo-style. In Tokyo’s MariCar races, you dress up in the costume of your favorite Nintendo character (Bowser FTW), climb in a go-kart, and zoom through the streets of Tokyo past famous attractions like the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. Lasting about 2 hours, this race is technically more of a tour, but still well worth your yen.
#4: Experience the world-famous Toyosu Fish Market
Tokyo’s Toyosu Fish Market is the largest fish market in the world, reeling in (heh) thousands of travelers and locals alike every day. Some even line up outside as early as 5 AM to take part in the famous tuna auction, while others just browse the marketplace. Sure, it’s a bit loud, but it’s a must-do activity on your trip to Japan. Seriously. It's unreal.
Pro tip: The Toyosu Fish Market is simply the modern version of the legendary Tsukiji Fish Market, which was located nearby. Our advice: eat fish to your heart's content at Toyosu, and then go to see Tsukiji—some of its delicious outdoor food stalls are still open for business.
#5: Conquer Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing is known as the busiest intersection in the world, and it
#6: Find old-fashioned treats in Yanaka Ginza Shitamachi
Located in the quiet heart of east Tokyo, Yanaka Ginza Shitamachi is a stretch of authentic Japanese shops with definite old-school vibes. Start your shopping spree at Yuyake Dandan, the neighborhood’s sloping steps that descend into the shops, restaurants, and cafes. Japan travel guides especially love Yanaka Ginza Shitamachi’s food stalls, which serve world-famous taiyaki: red-bean pancakes shaped like adorable animals.
#7: Go to an adorable hedgehog cafe
Tokyo is known for its kawaii (cute) stuff. And if you head to a hedgehog cafe, you couldn't get a higher dose of "adorable" if you tried. These exotic cafes are total Tokyo must-sees. At the Harry Hedgehog Cafe, for instance, you can sip a cappuccino while cuddling a teacup-sized hedgehog (or three). Ask a Tokyo travel expert how to make reservations in advance—hedgehog cuddles are (unsurprisingly) in high demand.
#8: Shop like crazy in the Ginza neighborhood
With five-star restaurants, high-end fashion shops, and exciting nightlife entertainment, Ginza has become Tokyo’s best neighborhood for shopping. Though it’s popular among Japanese youth, Ginza has something for everyone; it’s totally the Tokyo place to be!
Pro tip: There's an unreal number of amazing stores in Ginza, so make sure to chat with a Japanese local for recommendations on the ones you have to check out.
#9: Sing karaoke in Shibuya
Your trip to Japan is simply incomplete without at least one night of karaoke. And what better place to sing your heart out than in the karaoke capital of the world? Most bars in Tokyo will charge an entry fee that includes unlimited karaoke and a number of drinks—which might be necessary, depending on your bravery! As always, the best place to do crazy stuff in Tokyo is... you guessed it: Shibuya.
#10: Watch a professional sumo match
An ancient tradition that’s become Japan’s national sport, Sumo wrestling is so much more than just a competition. What originated as a ceremony to entertain Shinto Deities is now a major attraction to locals and travelers alike. Sumo competitions only take place three times a year in Tokyo, so you’ll want to plan your trip around seeing this hidden gem.
#11: Shop for all things anime in Akihabara
Whether you’re an anime fanatic or just want a taste of Japan’s anime craze, you’ve got to explore Akihabara at least once. A favorite TripAdvisor Japan spot, Akihabara brims with collectible figures, manga, and arcades. Sunday is the best time to indulge your inner geek in Akihabara, since the main street is pedestrians-only.
#12: Stroll around Ueno Park
A hop, skip, and jump from Ueno Station, you’ll want to set aside at least 2 hours for Ueno Park. Home to some top things to do in Tokyo like the National Tokyo Museum and the Ueno Zoo, the park is also an amazing place to see the sakura: Japan’s fabled cherry blossoms!
Pro tip: The park really comes to life when the sun goes down, when the city skyline glimmers over the lotus blossom ponds. Open every day until 11 PM, Ueno Park is ideal for travelers who come alive in the nighttime.
#13: Slurp up amazing ramen
These aren’t your college-era instant noodles. Get over to Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya or Afuri Ramen by Tokyo Tower and order the yuzu ramen (with pork belly and bamboo shoots) or the chilled tsukemen noodles. And if you end up eating nothing but ramen for your entire week in Tokyo, zero judgment from us.
Pro tip: Ramen in Tokyo is like pizza in New York. It's everywhere, but only a local knows which spots are delicious and which are just meh. Solution: ask your local trip planner for ramen recommendations!
#14: Soak in a Tokyo Onsen
Relaxing in an onsen is a can’t-miss while you’re in Japan. These traditional baths are often heated by natural hot springs, and they’re a traditional part of Japanese culture. To visit these Japanese hot springs like a pro, get savvy with onsen etiquette (for example, onsens generally frown upon tattoos, so you may need a sleeve or tower to cover up)—and for that, we’d recommend that you connect with a Japanese local for help planning your trip. While you’re in Tokyo, check out the LaQua 8 Onsen—it’s heated by hot springs beneath the Tokyo Dome.
#15: Eat Jiro’s world-famous Sushi
Sukiyabashi Jiro is owned and run by Jiro himself, the supposed world master of sushi (watch the documentary!). You’ll definitely want to ask your trip planner to throw a meal here on your Japan itinerary. Oh, and here’s a pro tip: don’t be late!
#16: Dine at a Robot Restaurant
Welcome to the future! Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant is a futuristic light show extravaganza—complete with robots piloted by women in dazzling costumes. This place is one of Tokyo’s coolest eateries, so make sure to throw it on your Tokyo itinerary.
#17: Travel back in time at Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple
Senso-ji is a stunning, 400-year-old, red-and-gold Buddhist temple. Senso-ji is known for its 1,000-year-old pagoda and thriving temple market, Nakamise Dori. One of the best places to find cool Japan souvenirs, Nakamise Dori feels like an ancient market street and has excellent views of Senso-ji’s front gates. If you’re planning a trip to Japan and want some amazing history, make sure to put Senso-ji on your itinerary.
#18: Head to the top of Tokyo Tower
This building—which is pretty much the Eiffel Tower’s Japanese twin—is definitely a Tokyo must-do! The views, day or night, are always spectacular. It’s probably one of the most popular places to go in Japan, so ask your Tokyo trip planner to book your tickets in advance.
#19: Stay at a traditional Tokyo Ryokan
These traditional-style inns offer more than just a place to lay your head: guests are housed in rooms with futon beds and fed delicious local cuisine. Ryokans are a popular option for those seeking to fill their Tokyo itineraries with authentic Japanese experiences. Even though this Japanese luxury can be costly, it’s most definitely worth it.
#20: Become a Tokyo hipster on Shibuya Cat Street
Located in Tokyo’s mega-trendy Shibuya neighborhood, Shibuya Cat Street is essentially Tokyo’s catwalk for all things trendy and vintage. If you’re looking for awesome things to do in Shibuya, Shibuya Cat Street abounds with bohemian boutiques and eclectic cafes (like the overwhelmingly adorable “Ra.a.g.f. Rabbit and Grow Fat Bunny Cafe”).
#21: Watch mysterious kabuki dancers
An ancient theater dance with masks and mimes, kabuki shows can run long but are 100% worth your while. Head over to Kabukiza, a grandiose theater in the Ginza district created especially for kabuki performances. For a taste of Japan’s history without the time commitment, Japan trip planners recommend buying a single-act ticket—you’ll pay $7 USD for a spectacular 40-minute kabuki show.
#22: Mark your territory on a bizarre Japanese toilet
Hear us out—Japanese toilets are actually really cool. These wacky thrones, called
#23: Escape the city chaos at the Meiji Shrine
Less of a tourist trap than other temples and shrines, the Meiji Shrine is something you'll want to see in Tokyo. It’s always a good time to visit Japan, but it’s a cultural tradition to visit the Meiji Shrine right after the New Year to offer good prayers. It’s important that you respect the rituals of this ancient practice, so ask your local for pointers before you go.
#24: Root for the home team at a Tokyo Dome baseball gam
Forget what you know about American baseball—Tokyo takes baseball fever to another level. Known for their super high energy and crazy fans, a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome is a must if you want to visit Japan like a local (and have a blast doing it). To cheer on Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants, dress in orange and head to Tokyo Dome between March and October. Since tickets sell out fast, be sure to have a Tokyo local reserve yours at least two weeks ahead of the game.
#25: Spend the night in a “capsule hotel”
Wondering where to stay in Tokyo and also how to budget your trip to Japan? Capsule hotels offer a cheaper and simpler alternative to Tokyo’s pricier lodging options. Guests are each given their own pods—capsules—that serve as a private nook for sleeping or relaxing.
#26: Take a scenic day trip to Mt. Fuji
Depending on how many days you plan to stay in Tokyo, you might want to consider a day trip to Mt. Fuji. The active volcano is the tallest mountain in Japan and is considered the country’s national symbol. Plus, Mt. Fuji is easily accessible from Tokyo with a Japanese rail pass.
#27: Make your own sushi
If this is your first time traveling to Tokyo, then this is something you definitely have to try. Though sushi might be easy to eat, it’s certainly difficult to make! Add a sushi-making class to your Japan travel itinerary, and roll one up for the homies.
#28: Attend a traditional Japanese tea ceremony
Wondering where to go in Japan for delicious tea? A must-do for all travelers to Japan, Tokyo’s traditional tea ceremonies are an elegant and cultural experience (and the tea is delectable). Ask a local trip planner for the best place to bring out your true tea connoisseur.
#29: Try matcha and its many treats
Whether you’ve already tried matcha or not, you must try the matcha in Japan. In Japan, this green tea flavor is added to all your favorite snacks—like Oreos, Kit Kats, and Starbucks coffee—making them even more delicious. Plus, these make great snacks to bring home from Japan. Just be sure to get a lot; we’re not sure if this is a treat you’ll want to share!
#30: Watch fireworks from Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge
If you’re looking for the top things to do in Tokyo, you can’t miss the fireworks shows over Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge. During Japan’s festivals (including Christmas and New Years), the Rainbow Bridge lights up with… well, rainbow lights… and is illuminated by the massive, 500-foot high fireworks. Ask your Tokyo local about the best viewing spots away from the tourist crowds.
Ready head to Japan? We thought so! Talk to our local Japanese trip planners for help building your perfect trip full of insider tips and hidden gems! Or, if you still have questions, feel free to message us. And before your trip, make sure to check out:
- Connect With a Local to Plan Your Trip
- The 25 Things You Must Do in Japan
- Planning a Trip to Japan
- Tokyo Travel Tips
- Japanese Visa Requirements
- Contact Us