Things to Do in Tokyo

20 Things to Do in Tokyo From Seasoned Local Tour Guide’s Perspective

With the gazillions of things to do in Tokyo, it’s all but absurd not to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of options there are. We can’t think of anyone better to tell you about the best places to visit in Tokyo, what and where to eat, or how to navigate such complex city than a local who grew up in the heart of the city; a seasoned tour guide with decades of experience.

Look no further. Get to know how to explore Tokyo regardless if it’s your first time in Japan, if you’re travelling solo, if you’re pressed for time, or you’re on a tight budget.

We’ve listed 20 of the best things to do in Tokyo that you can easily do without getting lost in translation. Here’s the quick list so you keep track of your pace:

1. Take a river cruise to see Tokyo in a new light

2. Visit Tokyo’s landmark of all landmarks - the Tokyo Tower

3. See live tuna auction at the new Toyosu Market

4. Eat $1 sushi at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant

5. Cook your own ramen and gyoza in Asakusa

6. Join a food tour in the heart of Tokyo

7. Pub-crawl the winding alleys of Golden Gai

8. Taste Japanese craft beer at Popeye Beer Club

9. Explore Japan’s best whisky bars in Tokyo

10. Shop and dine at Roppongi Hills -- a city within a city

11. Buy Japanese antiques at Oriental Bazaar

12. Hunt for electronics, anime, manga goods in Akihabara

13. Trace Japan’s military history at the War Memorial Museum

14. Visit the Tokyo National Museum

15. Witness a Japanese traditional tea ceremony

16. Hit the trails of Mount Takao

17. Relax at local public bathhouses

18. Get to know ramen at the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

19. Visit Japan’s ‘Home of the Samurai’ -- Kamakura City

20. Get closer to Mount Fuji

Sightseeing

1. Take a river cruise to see Tokyo in a new light

Tokyo Cruise Ship’s Himiko water bus on Tokyo Bay | Image Courtesy of Tokyoship / Wikimedia Commons

To explore Tokyo’s cityside is easy and efficient. Japan’s train system is one of the most advanced in the world, letting you navigate the city hitch-free. But to explore Tokyo by the river is a whole new ballgame.

Suijo or water buses provide a way to see Tokyo in a unique perspective right down the Sumida River and Tokyo Bay southeast of the city. A few ferry companies have commercial leisure water buses sailing off the coast of Tokyo. But the company that comes to mind first is Tokyo Cruise Ship. Tokyo Cruise Ship has been in the business for 100 years now. It’s only in the recent years that its sightseeing cruise trips really took off.

The company boasts a fleet of cool futuristic flagship water buses that you can ride on, namely: Emeraldas, Himiko, and Hotaluna. The river cruise starts at Asakusa Pier in Hanakawado, Taito and traverses to different locations like:

  • Hamarikyu Gardens in Chuo

  • Hinode Pier in Minato

  • Odaiba Seaside Park in Minato

  • Palette Town in Koto

  • Tokyo Big Sight in Koto

  • Toyosu

River cruises can run from 30-75 minutes depending on your chosen destination. Rates vary starting at ~$7. It opens daily, even on holidays. They’re really popular among foreign tourists so be sure to book your ticket in advance.

To make the most of your time, we suggest taking Tokyo Localized’s 2-hour free walking tour in Asakusa before going for the cruise. This Tokyo free walking tour will bring you to places like Kaminarimon, Sky Tree Tower, Denpoint Street, Hollywood of Tokyo, and more.

2. Visit Tokyo’s landmark of all landmarks - the Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower at night | Image Courtesy of Yu Kato / Unsplash

Tokyo is popular for so many things and so many structures. But above all of them stands 333 meters high, smack in the middle of the city centre - the Tokyo Tower.

Resembling France’s Eiffel Tower on the outside, the Tokyo Tower has been in existence for 60 years now, and it has become one of the most recognizable landmarks on the skyline of the metropolitan.

While it’s only the second tallest structure in Japan, for Tokyo locals, the Tokyo Tower embodies the city for a lot of reasons. It represents the triumphant post-war Japanese society in the face of economic and other crises. In short, the Tokyo Tower is the symbol of the resilience of the Japanese people.

The tower offers an open panoramic view of the city, one of the best spots to see Tokyo from a distant perspective, either day or night. It has two observation decks -- the main deck at 150 meters and the top deck at 250 meters. Both vantage points offer a stunning view of the Tokyo Skytree and Mount Fuji on a fine, sunny day.

The lower floors of the tower house a mishmash of different attractions like glass floors, aquarium, souvenir shops, cafés, restaurants, arcade, and more. If you’re a manga fan, you’ll surely enjoy the One Piece indoor amusement park.

The decks are open to visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Admission fee starts at ~$8 for the main deck and ~$25 for both decks.

The Tokyo Tower is located in Shiba, Minato Ward. The closest subway stations to the site are Akabanebashi Station on the Oedo Subway Line, Onarimon Station on the Mita Subway Line, and Kamiyacho on the Hibiya Subway Line.

From the tower, some really cool places you can do a side trip to are Zojoji Temple, Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden, and a ramen restaurant called Toripota Ramen Thank.

3. See live tuna auction at the new Toyosu Market

Inside Toyosu Market | Image Courtesy of Education of Edo Village / Wikimedia Commons

Toyosu Market stands in for Tsukiji Fish Market -- the biggest and oldest fish market in the world -- as it’s been shut down by the metropolitan government after over 80 years in operation.

The new market in Toyosu is far more advanced, offering similar experiences but in a more modern and tourist-friendly environment. Whether you want to see tuna auctions up close and personal, observe what a fish market in action looks like, or taste the freshest seafood dishes in the city, the market works pretty much the same.

Toyosu Market has three main buildings -- one for fruits and veggies and two for seafood. All are interconnected via walkways where tourists can watch the market in action through the glass windows.

Tourists aren’t allowed in the wholesale section. Meanwhile, the open observation platform closer to the auction section won’t be open to the public until January 15, 2019.

After the viewing, take delight in authentic Japanese dishes cooked in restaurants within the complex. And of course, climb up the seafood wholesale building’s rooftop garden to see Tokyo Bay.

Toyosu Market is open to tourists Mondays thru Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Toyosu Market is located in Toyosu, Koto Ward. To get to the market, take the Yamanote Line one station from Tokyo Station to Yurakucho, then take the Yurakucho Subway Line to Toyosu, and finally take the Yurikamome Line to Shijo-mae Station.

Food

4. Eat $1 sushi at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant

Inside a Sushiro branch in Minami-Ikebukuro | Image Courtesy of AkindoSushiro

Think of sushi like a suitcase on a conveyor belt in airports waiting to be picked up.

It’s the same experience that kaiten sushi (which means “rotation sushi”) restaurants offer, except you’re waiting for sushi. One of the most popular conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Japan is Sushiro.

Sushiro has over 80 varieties of sushi ranging from traditional sushi to cooked sushi to the ones with a creative spin. Other authentic Japanese dishes like ramen, tempura, udon noodle, desserts, and drinks are also available as side dishes.

If you’re tightening your belt, good news, most choices cost less than a dollar only per plate. But seasonal or special items may cost a little bit more.

In Tokyo, there are over 10 Sushiro stores so it shouldn’t be hard to find the nearest one for you. Normally, Sushiro stores open at 11 a.m on weekdays and 10 a.m on weekends and close at 11 p.m.

This ostentatious and one-of-a-kind way to serve sushi to customers is much sought after by local and foreign tourists alike.

So there are three possibilities if you walk in. First, wait for a vacant table. Second, wait for your order to hit the conveyor belt. Or third, wait for both a vacant table and your order.

During peak hours, walk-in diners might have to wait up to 2 hours long. That’s how busy it is.

Protip: Download the Sushiro app on your phone and use it to reserve a table.

Don’t feel intimidated to order from the screen because it provides English and other languages. Remember, you’re not allowed to bring any outside food to the store. And don’t return the plates to the conveyor belt; leave them piled up on your table.

Sushiro has grown to more than 400 stores all over Japan. It’s been around for over 30 years, so no surprise there.

5. Cook your own ramen and gyoza in Asakusa

Ramen noodles | Image Courtesy of Masaaki Komori / Unsplash

Toyosu Market stands in for Tsukiji Fish Market -- the biggest and oldest fish market in the world -- as it’s been shut down by the metropolitan government after over 80 years in operation.

The new market in Toyosu is far more advanced, offering similar experiences but in a more modern and tourist-friendly environment. Whether you want to see tuna auctions up close and personal, observe what a fish market in action looks like, or taste the freshest seafood dishes in the city, the market works pretty much the same.

Toyosu Market has three main buildings -- one for fruits and veggies and two for seafood. All are interconnected via walkways where tourists can watch the market in action through the glass windows.

Tourists aren’t allowed in the wholesale section. Meanwhile, the open observation platform closer to the auction section won’t be open to the public until January 15, 2019.

After the viewing, take delight in authentic Japanese dishes cooked in restaurants within the complex. And of course, climb up the seafood wholesale building’s rooftop garden to see Tokyo Bay.

Toyosu Market is open to tourists Mondays thru Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Toyosu Market is located in Toyosu, Koto Ward. To get to the market, take the Yamanote Line one station from Tokyo Station to Yurakucho, then take the Yurakucho Subway Line to Toyosu, and finally take the Yurikamome Line to Shijo-mae Station.

6. Join a food tour in the heart of Tokyo

All Star Food Tour in Tokyo | Image Courtesy of Tokyo By Food

Have you always been curious about where and what to eat in Tokyo? Experience a unique and off-the-beaten-path event in this retrospective food tour.

There are many delicious and one of a kind dishes in Tokyo that don’t simply match the ones you see and eat in other countries. Of course, it will taste and look better when eaten in the heart of its creator.

There is the greatest invention that is ramen, the crispy and golden tempura, juicy grilled skewers, and sticky and sweet dangos. These are few of the many of the listed delicious finds in Tokyo.

In this food tour, you get to travel back in time to 1970’s Japan where you will explore the many streets and sights of Gado Shita where many hidden gems of great and mouth-watering finds reside.

There are eateries and restaurants that are unique and interesting. It includes five food stops which are all highly recommended. Of course, it includes dessert because who can resist one?

You get to walk around the streets of Yurakucho, Ginza, and Shimbashi with our trusted local guide. After that, visit the famous restaurant built under the tracks Gado Shita.

You will sample 18 to 20 delicious dishes and experience the beauty of izakaya, a frequented place by working-class people. The great thing about this food tour is that you don’t just get to mingle with fellow tourists but you also get to interact and dine with the locals.

You might also get insider tips from them to places you’ve never been before and food you’ve never tasted before. This is one of the longest-running food tours of All Star Tour which is highly recommended and rated by patrons.

Nightlife

7. Pub-crawl the winding alleys of Golden Gai

A Golden Gai alleyway | Image Courtesy of Big Ben in Japan / Flickr

If it is your first time in Japan, finding Golden Gai might be a bit of challenge because it’s tucked away in the back alleys of Kabukicho, Shinjuku Ward.

Golden Gai is an array of ill-assorted tumbledown pubs and eateries cramping six narrow alleyways of Kabukicho that dated back to the 50s. It’s a special place for Tokyo locals for many reasons.

One, because it’s one of the few remaining parts of the old and untouched post-war Tokyo -- a far cry from what you typically see of the modern metropolis.

Some remaining bars can be traced back to the 60s, and it went through a rough time in the 80s when some buildings on the area were set on fire by gangsters.

At this time, Golden Gai now has around 300 bars, clubs, and restaurants, so you can pub-crawl the area to look for the best-tasting beer and even authentic Japanese dishes. Most bars in the area open at about 9 p.m.

Some important things to remember; taking photos or videos intended for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited in the area without permission. Some bars have ‘no tourists,’ ‘no foreigners,’ or ‘regulars only,’ so be sure to respect that.

Because bar-hopping became an issue, some establishments will ask for cover charges. Although, there are still bars that are free to enter.

Some really good, locally-favored bars include Kenzo’s, Bar Darling, Albatross, and Bitter Orange, among many others. Remember, Golden Gai has about 300 establishments so just go and explore the area.

Did you know that Tokyo Localized offers a free walking tour around Shinjuku? So if you want to save time, you can join our Shinjuku free walking tour before heading to Golden Gai.

This two-hour Tokyo free walking tour will let you experience Tokyo’s vibrant nightlife and the Japanese drinking culture around Kabukicho and Omoide Yokocho. Plus, explore Tokyo’s infamous red light district during this tour.

8. Taste Japanese craft beer at Popeye Beer Club

Popeye Beer Club on the outside | Image Courtesy of Popeye Beer Club / Wikimedia Commons

The first bar in Japan to serve craft beers, Popeye Beer Club in Ryogoku, Sumida Ward is a must-visit place for so-called zythophiles (or beer lovers) and even those who just want to gobble up what a truly local Japanese craft beer tastes like.

Popeye Beer Club has the largest selection of craft beers in the country with over 70 varieties represented in taps and hand pumps. From light to dark beers, your options are endless whether you’re looking for ale, cider, lager, pilsner, or stout.

Of course, the number won’t add up if the quality of the beers is below standards. But here’s where this bar shines.

All craft beers at Popeye’s come from microbreweries around Japan while others are imported from the United States and Europe. This guarantees you the finest traditional or non-mechanized beers.

Worried about which one to choose? Don’t fret! Visitors are entitled to get 10 flights of beer for tasting before you take the plunge.

The overall vibe of the bar feels like an izakaya or a pub because -- one -- it used to be a pub, and -- two -- it serves a range of pub-style dishes to match the beers. It offers free snacks on certain orders, too.

Popeye Beer Club is open Mondays thru Fridays from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

9. Explore Japan’s best local whisky bars in Tokyo

A whisky bar in Tokyo | Image Courtesy of Tokyo Whisky Library

While whisky didn’t originate in Japan, the country has managed to carve a name for itself in whisky production. In 2015, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible named the Yamazaki Single Malt as the world’s best whisky, giving the country somehow a validation that it’s now become a whisky haven.

From scotch to bourbon to authentic Japanese whisky, you can find a raft of bars in Tokyo that offers a variety of styles inspired by other countries as well. Unfortunately, bottles of Japanese single malt can be hard to find these days.

Some of the best whisky bars in Tokyo include:

  • Whisky Bar B.A.C. (Shintomi, Chuo Ward)

  • Hibiya Bar Whisky-S II (Ginza, Chuo Ward)

  • Zoetrope (Nishi-Shinjuku)

  • Campbelltoun Loch (Yurakucho, Chiyoda Ward)

  • Bar Urushi (Ebisu, Shibuya Ward)

  • Cask Strength (Roppongi, Minato Ward)

  • Nikka Blender’s Bar (Omotesando, Minato Ward)

  • JBA Bar Yoshu Hakubutsukan (Ginza, Chuo)

  • Bar Pond (Sangenjaya Station, Setagaya)

Some of these bars can be found in tiny, sometimes unusual locations like on top of office buildings or basements or in areas where bars there are not a lot of bars. And most of them open in the evening until the break of dawn. Note that some of these bars have cover charges.

Soon, Tokyo Localized will be offering a whisky tasting tour so be sure to check that out.

Shopping

10. Shop and dine at Roppongi Hills - a city within a city

A view from Mori Tower’s Sky Deck at night | Image Courtesy of Jannes Glas / Unsplash

Described as a city within a city, Roppongi Hills in Minato Ward is a mega-complex district that houses offices, restaurants, shops, apartments, cafés, an outdoor amphitheater, a TV studio, a hotel, an art museum, and a few parks. It’s become the symbolizes the Japanese IT industry over the years since it was opened in 2003.

Best visited at night, Roppongi Hills offers a stunning view of Tokyo from the open-air Sky Deck on top of Mori Tower, a 52-story glass-walled mix-used skyscraper that stands 238 meters high. Since it’s an open-air observation deck, it gives you a 360-degree view of the city without distractions.

One of the tallest buildings in Tokyo, Mori Tower is filled with shops and restaurants in its first six floors and various IT and finance offices in its succeeding 43 floors. On top of the tower isn’t only a deck as the contemporary Mori Art Museum is also there. In fact, you’ll pass through the art museum before entering the deck.

After experiencing the view of Tokyo, shops and restaurants abound in the complex so be sure to check that out.

Sky Deck is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. (until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). However, admission hours may highly depend on how good the weather is. Admission fee starts at ~$16.

Roppongi Hills is only a few minutes walk away from the Hibiya Line and Oedo Line platforms of Roppongi Station.

11. Buy Japanese antiques at Oriental Bazaar

Souvenir items at Oriental Bazaar | Image Courtesy of Oriental Bazaar

If you’re thinking of bringing home the best Japanese souvenirs, Oriental Bazaar in Jingumae, Shibuya Ward is the best place to go to.

What started out in 1916 as a small antique shop, Oriental Bazaar has come a long way and is now deemed as the best gift shop in Tokyo. Apart from one-of-a-kind antiques, the shop offers a wide range of Japanese handicrafts, traditional items, and other kinds of souvenirs.

On the outside, the shop in itself looks like Shinto Shrine. Inside the shop are floors full of different products, from furniture to kimono garments. All of these products can be shipped overseas.

If that’s not enough, you can do a side trip to Omotesando Hills where you can find fancy restaurants and upscale clothing brands.

To save you time, join Tokyo Localized’s free walking tour in Meiji Shrine and Harajuku before heading to Oriental Bazaar. This 2.5-hour Tokyo free walking tour will let you experience history and street culture of Tokyo, particularly in areas like Takeshita Street, Ota Memorial Museum, Japanese sake (rice wine), Tokyo Olympic Stadium, Yoyogi Park, and of course, Meiji Shrine.

Oriental Bazaar is open daily except for Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. To get to Oriental Bazaar, take the Chiyoda Line or Fukutoshin Line to Harajuku Station. The shop is only a 3-minute walk away from the station.

12. Hunt for electronics, anime, manga goods in Akihabara

Sega store in Akihabara | Image Courtesy of Jezael Melgoza / Unsplash

Also called Akiba, Akihabara in Chiyoda Ward is a popular area for its electronics shops. But over the years, the district has become a haven for anything related to manga and animé, too.

From hundreds of electronics shops lining the streets of Akihabara, you can find brand-new and preloved mobile phones, computers, cameras, televisions, and all tiny electronic parts and junks imaginable.

Some stores offer tax-free purchases to foreign tourists. But not all products purchasable in the stores of Akihabara may not be usable outside of the country due to voltage and other technical differences.

Some of the best shops in Akihabara include Sega, Mandarake, Yodobashi Camera, Radio Kaikan, AKB48 Café and Shop, Akihabara Radio Center, Tsukumo Robot Kingdom, Janpara, Super Potato, Don Quijote, Gamers, among many others.

  • Sega offers the biggest selection of video games in Akihabara.
     

  • Mandarake touts itself as the biggest manga and animé store chain in the world, selling second-hand goods and special manga items that are now difficult to find.

  • Yodobashi Camera offers a wide range of electronic goods across its 9-story building.
     

  • Radio Kaikan is a 10-story shopping complex that consists of over 30 stores selling electronics and other animé-related products.
     

  • AKB8 Café and Shop is a themed resto based on the popular Japanese girl group AKB48. All food in the café is inspired by the girls, while the shop sells character goods.
     

  • Akihabara Radio Center is a 60-year-old shopping complex where you can find all sorts of electronics goods and components, from small merchants to the big ones. It’s the birthplace of the term otaku, a person with an extreme obsession for the pop culture, and in this case, animé and manga.
     

  • Tsukumo Robot Kingdom is where you’ll all things robots. Whether you’re looking for DIY robots or over-ready robots, the store has everything for you.
     

  • Janpara is a thrift shop that sells hardware items such as computers and smartphones at a very competitive price. As for quality? Be surprised.
     

  • Super Potato sells almost all kinds of video games and consoles. Here you’ll find classic titles, retro game consoles as well as game cartridges, discs, and accessories.
     

  • Don Quijote, or Donki, is a 5-story discount shop that sells groceries, fashion items, electronics, toys, and everything you’ll see in a department store chain.
     

  • Gamers, also known as KadoGema, is a 7-story shop that sells everything animé and manga, such as movies, CDs, video games, stationery, and other goods.

You can also find manga and animé-themed restaurants and cafés around the area, including The Gundam Café and Maid Café.

Akihabara is accessible via the Akihabara Station which is served by the Yamanote Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Sobu Line, Tsukuba Express, and Hibiya Subway Line.

Culture

13. Trace Japan’s military history at Yushukan War Memorial Museum

An aircraft inside the Yushukan War Memorial Museum | Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Japan was a prominent figure during World War II. If you’ve long been fascinated how a tiny, isolated island nation became a force to reckon with in the battlefield, there’s no right place in Tokyo that can take you back to Japan’s military prowess other than the Yushukan War Memorial Museum.

Located in the grounds of the Yasukuni Shrine in Kudankita, Chiyoda Ward, the exquisitely refurbed Yushukan War Memorial Museum is home to the soldiers’ personal effects from 1894 to the end of WWII, exhibited to pay homage to their sacrifices for the country.

Over 100,000 articles are now exhibited in the museum, including paintings, work of arts, weapons, and other relics. Pieces of gargantuan military equipment used during the war are on display, including a kamikaze flying bomb, a suicide attack submarine (kaiten), a tank, aircraft, large-caliber guns, and more.

Video displays around the museum commemorate Japan’s hand at liberating its Asian neighbors from western colonialism in a way. Right outside the museum are an array of statues to give honor to every animal that served in the military during Japan’s wars.

Built in 1869 under the Meiji era, the Yasukuni Shrine honors Japan’s 2.5 million war dead, among whom is notorious army general Hideki Tojo. Every year, Japanese prime ministers and high-ranking politicians visit the shrine to pay tribute to the war heroes.

To get to Yasukuni Shrine or the Yushukan War Memorial Museum, take the Hanzomon or Tozai subway lines or the Toei Shinjuku Line to Kudanshita Station. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission fee is around $8 for adults.

Other attractions that you can visit nearby include Kitanomaru Garden, Nippon Budokan (indoor arena of martial arts and live concerts), the Science Museum, the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, and the Imperial Palace.

14. Visit the Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum | Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Tokyo National Museum is the oldest national museum in Japan and one of the largest art museums in the whole world. Before it was moved to Ueno Park in Taito in 1882, the museum was first established in 1872 at Yushima Seido Shrine, a 17th-century Confucian temple located in Bunkyo Ward.

The museum complex has six individual buildings housing over 110,000 articles, including nearly a hundred national treasures, archeological artifacts, and art collections. Each building specializes in a particular art and exhibitions.

The Honkan building is the original main structure which was opened in 1938. It contains sorts of Japanese artwork from 10,000 BC up to the late 19th century. Here you’ll find antique Buddhist statues, scrolls, sculpture, maps, costumes, armor, weapons, and other Japanese relics.

The Toyokan building was first opened in 1968. It holds Asian art and archeology artifacts from China, India, South Korea, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and even Egypt.

The Hyokeikan building is the oldest, which was built in 1909 to celebrate the wedding of Taisho Emperor. The building boasts a Western-inspired architecture during the Meiji period and is registered as a significant cultural property.

The Heiseikan building was inaugurated in 1999 in celebration of the marriage of Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, to Masako, Crown Princess of Japan. It houses the Japanese Archaeology Gallery and serves as a place for special exhibitions.

The Horyuji Homotsukan building, or the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, is the newest of all. It was built to shelter a collection of religious objects.

The Kuroda Memorial Hall was built in 1928. It displays the works of Kuroda Seiki, the father of modern Western-style painting in Japan, including 126 oil paintings, 170 drawings, sketches, and other materials.

To get to the Tokyo National Museum, take a train to Ueno Station. From there, you can reach Ueno Park on foot in 10 minutes. The Tokyo National Museum opens Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. admission fee starts at around $6.

Get Localized

15. Witness a Japanese traditional tea ceremony

A traditional tea ceremony in Japan | Image Courtesy of Okinawa Marines

The art of making traditional and delicious tea has been around for thousands of years in Japan and is part of everyday Japanese lives. You can have it any time of the day and is the perfect companion for traditional sweets and pastries.

Commercialized tea is already readily available in supermarkets and groceries where you can purchase them by sachets or bulks. But nothing beats a freshly made tea.

This wonderful tradition has been passed down to many generations and is something you can learn by attending tea ceremony events like this one.

In this event, you get to learn all about traditional tea. A tea ceremony mistress will guide you throughout the event and will let you choose an antique tea bowl to enjoy your tea.

She will teach you its history, the ingredients used, and the likes. After that, Japanese sweets and matcha tea will be served for guests to try.

When the tea ceremony is finished, it’s time to learn how to make the perfect serving of matcha green tea where you will be taught how to whisk properly to acquire that perfect texture and form. It will show this frothy goodness and rich, vibrant color of green which is the one you’re looking for.

While it’s known for being a serious event, tea ceremonies are actually enjoyable because not only you get to enjoy your tea and sweets but you also get to learn culinary history from the masters.

It also allows you to mingle with fellow tourists who share the same interests as you do and who knows, you might be friends with them after the event.

This two-hour tea ceremony in the traditional room already includes everything you need to make your matcha tea and mouth-watering Japanese sweets.

The event takes place in Yanaka which is known for being one of Tokyo’s traditional districts. It’s the perfect tea ceremony event for tea lovers.

16. Hit the trails of Mount Takao

Takaosan Yakuoin Temple | Image Courtesy of KENPEI / Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for an outdoor mountainside adventure outside of the bustling city center, hit the trails of Mount Takao.

Mount Takao is located in Hachioji City west of Tokyo Metropolis and reachable within 40 minutes by train from Shinjuku Ward. Standing 599 meters high, the mountain has a few numbered trails that you can take on.

Trail 1 is the most popular as it passes through all major sites leading up to the summit. It’s a 90-minute hike from the base, covering sites like Tama Forest Science Garden at the base, Yakuoin Temple near the peak, and a few other sites in between.

The top of the mountain will greet you with a picturesque view of Tokyo scenery and Mount Fuji on a fine and clear day. Along the trail, you’ll also pass by a monkey park, Takao 599 Museum, a hot spring bathhouse called Keio Takao Onsen Gokurakuyu, and cherry blossom trees here and there.

The monkey park houses about 40 Japanese macaques and a wildflower garden with 500 various types of plants.

For more than 1,000 years, Mount Takao has been a sacred mountain and the center of worship for Shinto-Buddhist believers, and Yakuoin Temple has been the home of statues of gods.

If you don’t want to take the trail, you can use the alternative cable car or chairlift to reach the mountain peak in 45 minutes.

Or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, take an even larger network of hiking trails beyond Mount Takao’s summit, which connects to the peaks of the nearby Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park.

Pro tip: in case you’re visiting past the cherry blossom season, you can still catch them at Mount Takao a few weeks after those in central Tokyo wither away, in the closing weeks of April. Although cherry blossoms spread across the mountain, the Takaosan Senbonzakura area is the best place to see varieties of cherry blossom trees.

17. Relax at local public bathhouses

A public bathhouse in Japan | Image Courtesy of Gizanso

Public bathhouses (locally known as sento) and hot spring facilities (locally known as onsen) are popular among the Japanese people. But in the last few decades, we’ve seen a significant decrease in their numbers.

Some big public bathhouses have managed to stay on top of their game through gimmicks, including in-house entertainment and dining experiences. The small ones largely depend on their quaint appeal.

Some of the best public baths Tokyo include…

  • Jakotsuyu (Asakusa, Taito Ward)

  • Daikokuyu (Oshiage Station, Sumida Ward)

  • Atami-yu (Kagurazaka, Shinjuku Ward)

  • Minami Aoyama Shimizu-yu (Minato Ward)

  • LaQua (Kasuga, Bunkyo Ward)

  • Oedo Onsen Monogatari (Aomi, Koto Ward)

  • Toshimaen Niwa-no-Yu (Nerima)

The Japanese culture is very particular with manners. Be sure to keep this basic sento and onsen etiquette guide in mind to avoid committing embarrassing bathing blunders:

  • Remove your shoes, and place them in the shoe locker.

  • Know which section to enter in non-coed bathhouses -- male section (男の湯, otoko no yu) or female section (女の湯, onna no yu).

  • Scrub and rinse yourself in the washing area before bathing.

  • Don’t bathe during a menstruation.

  • Don’t urinate in the water. Public baths have a way to detect it using a chemical that turns water and your body bright purple when mixed up with urine.

Side Trip

18. Get to know ramen at the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

The Ramen Museum in Yokohama | Image Courtesy of Ken Mayer / Flickr

A place that celebrates the popular Japanese noodle dish, the Shinyokohama the Ramen Museum in Yokohama City is worth a visit if you’re interested to learn more about ramen, its history, and it means for the Japanese people.

The ground floor of the museum has displays of how ramen noodles were adapted in Japan from China. Here you’ll learn the different types of noodles, soups, toppings, and bowls used to serve ramen in the country. It also sheds light on how noodles are made and how instant noodles become ultra successful.

On the basement floors, you’ll find some replicas of the streets and homes of Shitamachi, the old downtown Tokyo, after World War II.

The Ramen Museum has nine ramen restaurants offering delicious ramen dishes different from one another. However, each restaurant also has “mini ramen” so you can taste different ramen dishes in small portions without hopping to the other restaurants.

The Shinyokohama Ramen Museum is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (until 10:30 p.m. on Sundays and holidays). Admission fee is ~$3 only.

The museum is a 5-minute walk from the Shin-Yokohama Station.

19. Visit Japan’s ‘Home of the Samurai’ -- Kamakura City

The Great Buddha Statue in Kamakura City | Image Courtesy of Lex Sirikiat / Unsplash

Kamakura is a coastal town south of Tokyo. It used to be the political center of Japan for over 100 years since Minamoto Yoritomo made it the base of his military government in 1192, a significant mark of a new era.

Minamoto Yoritomo was the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate of the country. He established the first samurai government in Kamakura, which largely influenced the modern-day Japanese culture.

The city is brimming with Shinto shrines, Buddhist Zen temples, and monuments. Some of common temples and shrines in Kamakura include Kotoku-in temple, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Hase Kannon Temple, Engaku Temple, and Hokoku Temple, among others. Most of these temples are connected with hiking trails.

Kotoku-in Temple is home to the Great Buddha of Kamakura, an 11.4-meter bronze statue of Amida Buddha which is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. Cast in 1252, the statue has weathered multiple typhoons and tsunamis in 14th and 15th centuries.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is the most important Shinto shrine built in 1063. It honors Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family and of the samurai in general.

Often called as the “Kyoto of Eastern Japan,” Kamakura is now popular as a resort town. If you’re looking for popular beaches, Yuigahama and Zaimokuza are the most accessible. Beach season in Kamakura is from July to August.

To get to Kamakura Station, take the Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station or the Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku Station.

20. Get closer to Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji and Chureito Pagoda | Image Courtesy of David Edelstein / Unsplash

You’ve probably seen Mount Fuji somewhere before, in pictures, TV ads, movies, stamps, products -- literally everywhere. If you’re in Tokyo, the iconic cone-shaped volcano can also be seen from a distance, given the weather permits.

But to see Japan’s highest mountain up close? It’s a whole new experience.

Standing 3,776 meters high, Mount Fuji is located on the border between Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures. A couple of ways to experience Mount Fuji first hand is by visiting any of the Fuji Five Lakes and bathing in the hot springs of Hakone.

The Fuji Five Lakes is a region at the foot of the volcano composed of Kawaguchi, Yamanaka, Saiko, Motosu, and Shoji. They also have bases of different hiking trails leading up the mountain peak. July to mid-September is the official months for climbing.

Lake Kawaguchi is the second largest lake and the most accessible by train or bus from Tokyo. If you wish to see a picture-perfect Mount Fuji, visit the seaside esplanade close to the Kawaguchiko Music Forest during the cherry blossom season in April or the autumn colors in November. Alternatively, go to the Momiji Tunnel in November if you want to capture Japan’s autumn colors in a maple tree-covered road.

Near Lake Motosuko, the Fuji Shibazakura Festival, happening mid-April through early June, is worth visiting as well. This annual festival celebrates the abundance of pink, white, and purple cherry blossoms.

In Fujiyoshida City, one of the top tourist attractions to see is the Arakura Sengen Shrine where the 5-story pagoda Chureito Pagoda is located. Here you can also take the Yoshida Trail up Mount Fuji, visit the Fuji-Q amusement park, and bathe in the Fujiyama Onsen hot springs with wooden bathhouses.

Things To Do In Tokyo

There are literally thousands of places to visit and things to do in Tokyo. And you bet, most of them are worthy of your time. What we have on this list is just the tip of an iceberg. But we hope, this gave you an idea to start the ball rolling. If you enjoyed this post, help us spread the word by sharing it with your friends and family.

Web Logo White.png

Tokyo is one of the most intriguing cities in world and our walking tours will show you why. You will learn about the Old and New Tokyo, the food, religion, history and culture.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • TripAdvisor
  • Instagram
TC_2020_L_KNOCKOUT_BG_CMYK.png
ftc_logo_white_yellow_TRANSPARENT.png