Best Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Last fall we had the incredible opportunity to spend 7 weeks traveling in Asia. We started in Singapore, spent a week in Malaysia, 2 weeks in Thailand, then a week in the Maldives before spending our last 2 weeks in Japan.

Over the next few days I’ll be sharing our ultimate guide to Japan — the best places to go and everything you absolutely need to see and do on your first trip to Japan.

Today I’m starting with Tokyo! Keep reading below for some of the most beautiful places in Tokyo and the best things to do and see in this vibrant city so you don’t miss any of the highlights.

MY OTHER RECIPES

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Memory Lane {GPS Location}

This narrow alley is hidden in one of the busiest, most modern areas of Tokyo — you’ll walk right past it if you don’t know it’s there! It’s is lined with tiny, cramped yakitori (kebab) shops. Definitely pop in here for lunch one day!

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Harajuku / Takeshita Street {GPS Location}

This vibrant district of Tokyo is known worldwide for its outrageous fashion scene. Takeshita Street is the epicenter of the neighborhood — a pedestrian shopping street lined with fashion boutiques, quirky vintage clothing stores, and trendy cafes with over-the-top, Instagram-worthy treats. It’s worth a visit to this buzzing street just to catch a glimpse at all the cosplayers!

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

People were lined up around the block for this giant rainbow cotton candy from Totti Candy Factory on Takeshita Street. So of course I had to try it!! I waited 15 minutes on a Monday morning for this bad boy! Can you see me in the background for scale??

Hysterically, there was a shop right next door selling almost the exact same giant rainbow cotton candy cone — but no one was in line. They were standing outside with samples trying to get people to go in!

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!


Must-Do in Harajuku

  • Definitely try one of the over-the-top stuffed crepes from one of the many crepe shops lining Takeshita Street!
  • Have lunch at Gindaco Takoyaki and get the famous croissant takoyaki for dessert!
  • Wander down the quiet Cat Street for more boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Daily Chico {GPS Location}

How ridiculously fun is this 8-layer ice cream in Tokyo??! :) :) :) I am seriously dying. And it was SO GOOD!! If I lived in Tokyo this would honestly be a regular occurrence.

Each layer is a different flavor!! You can get as many or as few flavors as you want. Of course I got them all. ;) My favorites were definitely the top 4. Here are all the flavors, from top to bottom:

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Ramune Soda is a popular soft drink in Japan. It kinda tasted like root beer?!

Daily Chico is buried in the basement of a shopping center a bit outside of town, but it’s easy to get there by metro.

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Tokyo Tower {GPS Location}

The Eiffel Tower-inspired Tokyo Tower is a prominent landmark in the Tokyo skyline — and the second-tallest structure in Japan. This recognizable bright orange and white tower is featured frequently in movies and TV shows set in Tokyo.

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Photo Tip: Head to this {GPS Location} for a fun street view of the Tokyo Tower!

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Fuji TV Observation Deck {GPS Location}

There are many observation decks in Tokyo where you can get panoramic overlooks of the city. I really wanted to visit the Fuji TV Observation Deck for its unique view over the Tokyo Bay with the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower in the background. It’s a beautiful spot to watch the sunset!

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

During the month of December the bridge lights up in rainbow colors. We were there at the end of November, just a few days short!!!

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!


Other Popular Observation Decks in Tokyo


First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Odaiba Statue of Liberty {GPS Location}

While you’re near the Fuji TV Observation Deck, definitely take a walk down by the bay and see the Odaiba Statue of Liberty! It was originally a temporary fixture for “The French Year of Japan” in 1998, but came back as a permanent resident in 2000 due to popular demand.

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Imperial Palace {GPS Location}

The Imperial Palace and Gardens is one of the most beautiful places in Tokyo, and the current residence of the Emperor of Japan. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, you can spend an hour or so wandering through the tranquil gardens.

Photo Tip: Head to this {GPS Location} for a picturesque view of the palace and stone bridge.

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

We were in Japan at the end of November and Tokyo was already decked out in colorful Christmas decorations! One of my favorite displays was the Caretta Shiodome Winter Illumination. Every 15 minutes or so there was a music and light show set to popular Disney songs.


More Things To Do in Tokyo

Senso-ji Temple — I somehow managed to not take any pictures here, but this ancient Buddhist temple is a must see. Senso-ji is Tokyo’s oldest temple and one of its most significant. Be sure to walk up the bustling Nakamise Shopping Street on the way there.

Shibuya Crossing Intersection — Like Times Square in Tokyo! Tons of people, tons of bright lights, tall buildings, colorful billboards, and tons of fun!! Definitely plan to spend some time just wandering through the colorful streets of this fun area. Keep an eye out for the REAL LIFE Mario Kart drivers!!!!

Meiji Shrine — This shrine is located in a forest in the middle of the city with many walking paths. If you have some extra time, it’s worth a visit, but if you’re short on time, it’s okay to skip this one, especially if you’re going to Kyoto. You’ll see SO many beautiful shrines there!


First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!


Where to Eat in Tokyo

Themed Cafes — Tokyo is famous for its themed cafes! There are owl and hedgehog cafes, where you can actually hold and pet adorable owls and hedgehogs, and character cafes, like the Hello Kitty Cafe. I love Hello Kitty so of course we had to have breakfast there one morning!

Kobe Steak — Oh my gosh you guys. I had THE BEST steak of my entire life in Tokyo. It was so tender, so flavorful, so perfectly cooked… And I am not even a huge steak fan! But I am a HUGE FAN of this kobe steak in Tokyo!! I am still dreaming about it!! If I lived in Tokyo, Han no Daidokoro Kadochika would definitely be one of go-to spots for dinner. Put this restaurant on your must-go list!!!

Okonomiyaki — This was my FAVORITE new discovery in Japan!!! We went to an Okonomiyaki restaurant in Osaka. It’s kind of like a hibachi grill restaurant — you can sit around a big bar with the chef cooking right in front of you — but at the restaurant we went to, even the private booths and tables had grills on top and they would come to the table and cook right in front of you! Okonomiyaki means “grilled as you like” — it’s a bit hard to describe, but it’s kind of like a Japanese pizza / pancake and you can choose your toppings. It was SO so so ridiculously good. I am still dreaming about the okonomiyaki sauce!!!! I can’t believe we don’t have these in the States!! Someone seriously needs to open an okonomiyaki restaurant here!! We didn’t have okonomiyaki in Tokyo, so unfortunately I don’t have a specific restaurant to recommend, but I definitely wanted to tell you guys about it so you could keep an eye out for it. You definitely won’t have a problem finding an okonomiyaki restaurant in Tokyo. However if you’re in Osaka, I highly recommend Ajinoya! There was a bit of a line, but it moved quickly.

Oyakodon — Another one of my favorite things I ate in Japan was Oyakodon. It’s a dish with chicken, rice, eggs, and scallions. I tried it in several places, but Toritoh Bunten in Tokyo had a really unique twist on it.


First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!via


Where to Stay in Tokyo

We stayed at the Park Hotel Tokyo. Be sure to book a room on the Artist Floor for super colorful themed rooms with incredible views of the city!! Try to request the Geisha Goldfish room — it’s the most popular and is frequently booked up!!

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

How fabulous is this view of Tokyo from the room??

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

From the comfort of your room you have incredible views of the Tokyo Tower, and on a clear day you can even see Mount Fuji in the distance!! You can see its snow-capped top here just to the right of the Tokyo Tower here.

First time in Tokyo? Here's what you absolutely need to see and do!

Thanks so much for reading! Be sure to check out our guides to Mount Fuji and Kyoto!