So, before I begin this post about all the incredible things you simply must do in Tokyo, let me first apologise for the recent hiatus! It has been a busy few weeks on the road, and writing has unfortunately been pushed to the wayside. But never fear, regular posts and some other exciting things are starting again now!
Tokyo is amazing and one of the craziest, most interesting destinations i’ve ever visited. It’s a bright and colourful city where you’re free to do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be. The Japanese are friendly and quirky, polite and fun! It makes visiting the eclectic city an absolute breeze!
There’s so many incredible things to do in Tokyo it’s often hard to decide on all the absolute MUST dos. I spent five days there and it was truly a whirlwind of an adventure. Because there’s so many options and often too little time, I have put together my list of top recommendations for things to see, do, eat in Tokyo. If there’s anything I’ve missed out or any recommendations you have, post them in the comments below.
1. Cat café
Even if you’re not a cat lover like myself, visiting a cat cafe is an experience you cannot miss. In the famous Shinjuku area I stumbled upon the Calico Cat Cafe which is one of the main cat cafes in Tokyo. Costing around $12 AUD per person you can find yourself drinking tea surrounded by some of the cutest feline’s. They come up to you for cuddles and pats and it really is adorable. You can even buy food to entice them over. I warn you though, if you’re allergic to cats like myself, be prepared with some heavy antihistamines!
2. Visit a rabbit/ hedgehog café
One of my favourite places to visit in Tokyo was the beautiful rabbit and hedgehog cafe in Roppongi. It’s a small room with very healthy, well-loved rabbits and hedgehogs just waiting for your affection. For around $15AUD you get to spend half an hour with three different animals where you’re allowed to pick them up and take photos with them. It’s absolutely adorable!
3. Robot restaurant
The robot restaurant was probably one of the biggest highlights from my time in Tokyo. It was everything I expected and more. I don’t want to tell you too much and spoil it for you, but you’ll be treated to an evening of cute Japanese girls dancing, singing and fighting robots. It’s in your face, loud, vibrant with colour and TOTALLY worthwhile. You might read reviews asking if it’s worthwhile going to the Robot Restaurant. Yes, yes it is. Do not miss it. It’s completely Japanese and you absolutely MUST do it.
Okay, I’ll admit, I was a little karaoke virgin before my trip to Japan. I thought karaoke was a joke and a completely humiliating experience… until I tried it. With a few shots of traditional Japanese Liqueur we found ourselves jumping up and down and belting out Taylor Swift, Drake, Vanessa Carlton and many other classics. They take it pretty seriously over there and I definitely got a little swept up in it, despite the fact I sing like a bag full of angry cats. We visited a small bar in Roppongi with a strange little man named ‘Panda.’ It was probably one of the best nights of my life.
5. Meiji Shrine
Located in Shibuya, this beautiful shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. The shrine and gardens surrounding it are ethereal and a tranquil oasis in Tokyo, even with the tourists. As they enter, the locals stop to cleanse their mouth and hands at a water fountain. Inside the shrine, you can throw a coin and bow to the shrine’s deities and write your dreams, wishes and thanks on wooden plaques or pieces of paper, hanging around a large tree. If you have time, take a moment to read the prayers and thanks. It’s truly moving.
6. Eat Tokyo’s best ramen
Okay, this might be slightly bias because it was my first ever Ramen, but I ate Ramen in a tiny Ramen restaurant in Roppongi which seats approximately 7 at a time, AND IT WAS DELICIOUS. You get to order out of a vending machine and take the ticket up to the counter to have it freshly made before your eyes. Ramen is one of the main Japanese delicacies, and something you really have to try. Being a vegetarian, I opted for the $7 soy sauce Ramen (which did come with egg and meat that can easily be taken out) but it was absolutely delicious and a must-do food experience in Tokyo.
7. Go back in time to an old school arcade
Head out to Odaiba using the monorail and visit the shopping mall next to Odaiba station. If you go up to the second floor you’ll be met by a very cool souvenir shop packed full of fun, weird and affordable things. Keep going and you’ll come across a super cool old style arcade with loads of fun games that will remind you of a simpler time.
8. See the Tokyo Sky Tree
Towering over Tokyo at 634m, it’s kind of hard to miss the world’s tallest tower. It’s easy to visit by train and there are beautiful gardens within close walking distance if your neck gets sore from staring up. You can also pay to visit the 450m observatory for a bird’s eye view of Tokyo.
9. Visit a Japanese garden
There are many beautiful gardens in Tokyo and Kokyo Gaien (Imperial Palace Outer Garden), Kokyo Higashi Gyoen (Imperial Palace East Garden) are some of the best. The gardens are serene and have beautiful places to sit and have a picnic lunch, there are great photo opportunities too, especially of the Cherry Blossoms if they are in Bloom.
10. Watch the busy intersection at the Shibuya crossing
The famed crossing at Shibuya lives up to the hype, especially at peak hour when everyone is trying to get home. The busy intersection comes alive with swarms of people bustling in, out and around Shibuya station. I spent a good three hours at Starbucks with my delicious Matcha Frappuccino and Bagel, watching the hustle and bustle. It was so worth it.
11. Buy as many cute things as possible
It’s all too easy to slide into the Tokyo scene, especially when it comes to cute phone accessories, keychains, handbags and coin purses. Stock up. Don’t feel embarrassed walking into boutique shops and buying cat keychains, nobody will judge you, they’ll just love you for it. Did I mention the Pokemon and Disney stores? Yeah, there’s that too.
12. Stuff yourself with pastries
Much to my surprise, the Japanese love pastry shops and there seemed to be one on every corner. My favourite pastries were the small Parisian ones that contained several cheesy rolls. Talk about delicious.
13. Buy 7eleven food
One of the greatest things about Japan was the abundance of 7Eleven/ FamilyMarts available. Unlike the servos in Australia and other places i’ve been to around the world, the 7Elevens in Japan are filled with freshly cooked meals in cute little takeaway packages. From sushi to wraps to spaghetti bolognese- there’s literally everything. If you’re not feeling the hot meal, you can always opt for an array of desserts or breads both sweet and savoury. You can also find large cans of Asahi and Smirnoff for approximately $2. It’s amazing!
14. Queue for food
Just find a queue and join it, it doesn’t really matter what it’s for, if the locals are lining up for it then it must be good. The Japanese have a knack for being very patient and have no issue lining up for quite a while.
15. Drink $1 coffee from a vending machine
Find a vending machine and splash out the 100 yen for some hot coffee. I tried several delicious coffees but my absolute favourite was Coffee Boss. Why? Well, why not!? It’s what the locals do and it’s actually pretty damn good.
16. Get classy in Ginza
Catch a train to Ginza and spend a few hours walking along the shops looking at the classy and high-end shops lining the streets. If you’ve been staying in Shinjuku or Shibuya, you’ll notice a difference when you get to Ginza, it has a more fancy feel to it.
17. Row down the famous Chidorigafuchi moat
If there was anything I simply had to do in Tokyo, hiring a little row boat to travel down the Chidorigafuchi moat was it. For $12 I had half an hour to row up and down the moat which was flanked by the most gorgeous Cherry Blossoms I came across in all my Japan travels. I will admit I waiting for around three hours but nothing has every been more worth it.
18. Visit the Imperial Palace in Sakura Season
This is self explanatory but Sakura Season is no doubt one of the greatest seasons in the world. I mean, check out those gorgeous little blossoms- could anything be more beautiful? I was lucky enough to visit Tokyo in the first week of Cherry Blossom season and was privy to some of the finest blooms of the year. The flowers are spread all over the cities, however if you find yourself in a park they are in abundance and man it is a sight to behold. Thinking about travelling to Tokyo soon? Do yourself a favour and GO IN CHERRY BLOSSOM SEASON.
19. Walk around
Just walk. There is so much to see and so much to stumble upon that no guide book or blog post could ever list for you. Tokyo is very safe and people don’t tend to take much notice of polite tourists. Even in the red light district you’ll be fine to walk around provided you don’t get drunk and act like a fool. Explore every little street, go into shops and try tiny hidden restaurants. It’s the only way to truly experience Tokyo.
Want to wander with me? Don’t forget to add me on Instagram – @oneworldwanderer – for more foolishness and travel adventures!