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The Ultimate Tokyo Bucket List
The Ultimate Tokyo Bucket List

With 37.8 million residents, Tokyo is the single largest metropolitan area on this earth. It is often said that big cities offer something for everyone, and Tokyo is perhaps the world’s most exemplary city in this regard. Characterized by a distinct mix of ancient and ultra-modern, there is certainly no shortage of things to do in Tokyo.

But it is easy to get overwhelmed in such a gigantic city. And as tempting as it is to do it all, Tokyo natives will be the first to tell you that even a lifetime in Tokyo is not enough time to experience everything. But if you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, perhaps to see the Summer Games in 2020, rest assured that it is possible to get a little taste of everything. When you’re not watching the world’s greatest athletes in state-of-the-art stadiums and venues, use this guide to for what to do in Tokyo.

The top things to do in Tokyo are hard to name, precisely because they are so diverse and plentiful. In an effort to help you experience as much of this amazing Japanese city as possible, we’ve written this Tokyo Bucket List to ensure that you get to experience a wide range of what Tokyo has to offer. We avoid being too specific here and instead approach this Tokyo Bucket List in categories. Not everything is to everyone’s taste, but if you manage to check off at least one thing from every category on this list, rest assured that you’ll feel you’ve covered a ton of ground.

If you’re starting to plan what to do in Tokyo, make sure you include at least one activity for every category here:

 

Things to Eat and Drink in Tokyo

After a long international flight, our first thoughts are almost always with about food. Lucky for Tokyo travelers, this city is a veritable paradise for eating and drinking. Naturally, our list of suggestions for what to do in Tokyo includes four types of food and drink. Here are the things you should not leave Japan without imbibing:

Sushi

We begin our Tokyo Bucket List with the most well-known tradition of Japanese cuisine. In Japan, sushi is not just delicious – it is a culture institution and revered artform. If you have only ever had California rolls, wipe its memory from your mind before stepping off the plane. If you think of rice as a boring white starch, a trip to Tokyo may just blow your mind. Incredibly fresh fish is abundant in Tokyo, and the highly competitive nature of the restaurant industry in this city makes it such that it is difficult to find bad sushi (though the price spectrum can vary hugely). Keep in mind that sushi is an honored tradition in Japan, and therefore there is a lot of ritual importance in its ordering, preparation, and consuming. Check out this guide to sushi in Japan to get a feel for the tradition.

 

Tea

Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in Japan, and the national love for it is abundantly clear in Tokyo. Not only will tea come complimentary with most restaurant meals, but there are also plenty of tea houses all over Tokyo. The Japanese approach tea very differently from how Americans tend to consume hot beverages – a distinct cultural difference between Japan and America. While Americans often consume hot beverages on-the-go (while commuting, for example), the Japanese don’t walk while eating or drinking. This is part of the reason why tea houses are such institutions, and why you should take the time to properly enjoy a fragrant cup of Japanese tea in a comfortable setting. Plus, in many places you’ll be served colorful Wagashi, traditional Japanese confections, alongside your teacup. Experiencing Japanese tea house culture is one of those cool things to do in Tokyo that you won’t want to miss.

cool things to do in tokyo tea houses

Wagashi and Matcha Green Tea (Source)

Ramen

You won’t even be able to look at Cup-O-Noodle ever again after eating traditional ramen – a particularly delicious and cool thing to do in Tokyo. Just as the Japanese take their time when it comes to enjoying tea, you’ll quickly find that the Japanese approach ramen with the same kind of ritual patience. The rich and fragrant bone broth is the most important part of ramen soup, and most traditional ramen restaurants will simmer their broth from anywhere between 15-60 hours. Think about that the next time you tear open a packet of instant noodles.

 

Sake

Sake is the national drink of Japan, and the most beloved alcoholic beverage in Tokyo. This fermented rice drink is served at a variety of temperatures (from hot to room temperature to chilled) and in a variety of forms (raw, sparkling, cloudy, sweet, etc.). Sake is most commonly consumed alongside a meal, so you are sure to find at least a modest selection in most any restaurant in Tokyo that serves both alcohol and Japanese cuisine. But for the beverage aficionado, Tokyo boasts a bunch of lauded sake tasting bars where one can sample rare and exclusive sakes. If your list of things to do in Tokyo includes a night out on the town, touring Tokyo’s sake bars is a great way to take care of that item.

 

What to do in Tokyo: Sites to Visit

Now that your belly is full, it’s time to truly look around you. There are all sorts of ultra-modern feats in futuristic Tokyo. But don’t think there is only the bustle of the big city to be seen. Tokyo has plenty of ancient and natural wonders to behold as well. Here are suggestions for what to do in Tokyo in order to get a feel for the gigantic scope of this mega metropolis:

Life in the Big(gest) City

You don’t really need to go out of your way to see just how technologically impressive Tokyo is. But our advice is that you visit at least one site that gives you in insight into the sheer volume of people in the city.

The city of Tokyo is home to 46 skyscrapers as well as the tallest standing tower in the world – the Skytree whose look out perch will give you a breathtaking glimpse of just how gigantic this sprawling metropolis is. Another site is the Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest intersection, whose impressive lights give New York’s Times Square a run for its money. But you will also develop a feel for the enormous population of Tokyo simply by riding public transit. The Tokyo Metro is also among the busiest and most extensive in the world. So busy, in fact, that during peak hours Metro employees are sometimes needed to stuff passengers into the trains. Busy sites like these are a must for those looking for cool things to do in Tokyo!

Shibuya Crossing Tokyo Bucket List

Shibuya Crossing (Source)

 

The Ancient Sites of Tokyo

If the fast pace of city life gets overwhelming, there is plenty of quiet and refuge to be had in Tokyo’s ancient cultural sites, which also constitute as some of the best things to do in Tokyo. Palaces, shrines, and temples from the shogun era of Japanese history are plentiful and are incredibly well-maintained. Leave a prayer at the Meiji Shrine, or take a tour of the Imperial Palace grounds. These rich cultural sites offer a distinctive glimpse into Japanese history.

what to do in tokyo temples

Sensoji Temple at night.

 

Nature in Tokyo

If you thought you wouldn’t be seeing much greenery in a city as large as Tokyo, think again. Not only does Tokyo proper feature incredible urban gardens, but just 60 miles southwest of Tokyo is Mount Fuji – one of the world’s most unique geological features and active volcanos. From the blooming cherry blossoms in Ueno Park to the traditional Japanese gardens featuring bonsai trees and lotus flowers, Tokyo offers dozens of public gardens that offer peace and quiet amidst the buzz of the big city. For the more intrepid travelers, Mount Fuji has several ascent trails that will give you views that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Whether you’re looking for extreme hiking or a relaxing stroll, there are plenty of things to do in Tokyo that will bring you back to nature.

nature things to do in tokyo

The Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens

 

 

Cool Things to Do in Tokyo

With some typical touristy sight-seeing out of the way, now it’s time to embark into Tokyo in search of adventure. Here are some experiences that need to make it to your Tokyo Bucket List:

Shopping in Tokyo

Even if you don’t buy a single thing, browsing stores in Tokyo is an adventure in and of itself. From bustling street markets to luxury designers, zen- and minimalist-inspired housewares to wacky Harajuku style, just about anything under the sun can be purchased in Tokyo.  Those with special interests in anything from records to anime to sex toys will find mind-blowing selections. And if you need to buy any gifts or souvenirs, rest assured that you will find something unique. Shopping in this city is a wild experience, and one of those cool things to do in Tokyo that you’ll remember for years to come.

 

Theme Parks in Tokyo

Don’t know what to do in Tokyo with family in tow? Modern Japan is fascinated by immersive entertainment and for this reason offers some of the greatest theme parks in the world. Not only are there two Disney theme parks in Tokyo (Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea) but there are also Manga theme parks abound. While visitation rates to Theme Parks in the States have been growing by a steady 3% each year, Japanese parks blow that number out of the water with an average 10% growth rate in visitation each year. This extra capital means top notch facilities, amazing rides, and lots of fun for the whole family.

what to do in tokyo theme parks

Tokyo’s DisneySea (Source)

 

Sing Karaoke

It doesn’t matter if you’re any good. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know any Japanese songs. The Japanese love karaoke and if you truly want to do as the locals do, throw back a few glasses of Sake in one of Tokyo’s many karaoke bars, pick a tune you love, and belt your heart out. No Tokyo Bucket List is complete without at least one night filled with off-key singing.

 


Does your Tokyo Bucket List include the 2020 Summer Games? Visit one of the world’s most incredible cities and watch the world’s greatest athletic competitions all in one trip! With so many cool things to do in Tokyo, the Games are sure to be a legendary travel experience. Inquire about our 2020 Summer Games Tokyo Travel Packages today.