12 Things to Do in Tokyo

By 11:40 AM , , ,

It was a bit of spontaneous decision to visit Japan over the Christmas break and given we only had two weeks, we decided to focus our time getting to know Tokyo and Kyoto, the bulk of our time spent in Japan’s capital.  When visiting Tokyo, we certainly had an expectation that it would be weird and wacky and assumed we would be surprised and shocked on a daily basis. Instead our first impressions of Tokyo (and Japan for that matter) wasn’t that it was a crazy culture of fetishes and out there fashion but rather it was very organised, efficient and polite! From catching trains in peak hour to shopping at a busy convenience store, everything was done in an orderly fashion and no one was pushy but rather patiently waited their turn (I guess with Tokyo’s population being almost 4 million, they are used to waiting in line!). And they were so polite, sometimes in the hustle and bustle of things I would accidentally bump into someone and before I could even register it had even happened the person I bumped into would apologise to me!

And don’t get me wrong, we still got our fair share of wackiness, it just didn't happen on a daily basis. We were initially a little worried we would bored staying in a big city for a week but luckily we never had a boring moment and were busy everyday exploring different parts of the city and discovering new things to do. If you have never been to Tokyo, hopefully the below list gives you some ideas of how to experience the city. And if you have been, you might even discover something to tempt you back!

1. Get your fortune at Sensoji Temple
Upon entering the temple you will hear people rattling metal containers which is actually a part of the process of getting your fortune. You shake the container and pull out a stick that has a symbol on it, find the draw with the same symbol and pull out your fortune.

2. Buy weird snacks at Don Quijote
Don Quijote is a multi-level discount chain that sells everything from electronics to pet toys. My favourite level was the snack one where I picked up wasabi Kit Kats and spicy soy jerky.

Robot Restaurant
3. Get amazed at the Robot Restaurant
The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku is hard not to miss, brightly coloured with two massive female robots out front. It’s less of restaurant and more of a show with anime style plots, dancing, animatronics and robots. And you might even spot a celebrity, while we were there we met some of the cast of The Walking Dead.

4. Have some cute parfait at Nicholas Charles Bunny café
This cute café went all out with the bunny themed décor and to go with their décor they also serve “Kawaii” desserts, their parfaits being their most popular dessert.

5. Discover a whole new world at Disney Sea
The sea version of Disneyland is only found in Japan  so it’s worth a visit. The rides whilst fun and pretty impressive do all come with a hefty wait so I very much recommend downloading a podcast or ebook to listen to while you wait. Also, work out a strategy of which rides you want to get a Fast Pass to and in what order. The unexpected highlight of Disney Sea was the show, Mickey’s Funtasia, which uses fireworks, holographs, water and floats to bring back all the nostalgia related to classic Disney films. And as a side note, keep your eyes peeled for Mt Fuji while riding the Disney train into the resort.

Mt Fuji
6. Go sledding at Mt Fuji
Mt Fuji is an icon of Japan and is a great day trip out of Tokyo. You can do it yourself or book a tour. Because we went in Winter we couldn’t climb Mt Fuji due to safety reasons so instead  we booked a tour that gave us the opportunity to view it on a cruise and while sledding near the base. And I say opportunity because Mt Fuji is notoriously shy. We were worried the whole day when it was hidden behind clouds and mist but in the last hour of our time there, it came out and gave us a show. My cousin who visited the very next week, was not so lucky and didn’t get to see it at all so manage your expectations when visiting and if you are desperate to see it make sure you keep a day spare as a backup plan day.

Posing at the Maid Cafe
7. Get giggly at a Maid Café
The easiest place to find a Maid Café is in the geek capital of Akibahara, Tokyo. We visited Maiddreamin and the girls try to be their kawaii-est with their cutesy voices, little giggles and maid outfits. It’s a funny experience as they try and guide you in learning some kawaii gestures and words. The cafe definitely gives you a bit of insight into the culture’s obsession with being cute.

8. Go vintage shopping at Sunshine City
This was an accidental surprise find as we actually went to Sunshine City for a different reason (see number 9) but there is an entire floor of cool vintage and vintage inspired clothes. The shopping here was more aligned with what I expected Japanese fashion to be. A great place to pick up quirky souvenirs and mementos too.

9. Star gaze at Sunshine City
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and catch a viewing at Konica Minolta MANTEN Planetarium. There are headsets for English speakers so you can understand the narrator as you take a journey through the stars. It was definitely a nice change of pace and a way to relax.

Treat time at the Cat Cafe
10. Become a crazy cat lady at a cat café
Being slightly allergic to cats, visiting a cat café wasn’t on the agenda but when walking the streets of Harajuka we saw a sign that said 200 yen for 10 minutes and we couldn’t pass it up. The cafe is made of  two beautifully decorated rooms filled with the cutest kittens you can imagine. I upgraded my visit and paid for a cat treat which ended up meaning that all the kittens flocked to me as I fed them- definitely a great way to optimise a 10 minute visit.

11. Try your hand at Pachinko
Pachinko is an arcade game that used mostly for gambling and it closest Western equivalent would be slots machines. Pachinko halls are everywhere due to their popularity with the locals. Wanting to see what the fuss was about we gave it a crack. The halls are lined with super bright, music playing machines which have slightly different forms of games which all involve tiny pinballs. We basically had no idea what we were doing but had a lot of fun trying to figure it out. Which was just as well because winning cash for gambling is illegal in Japan so collecting your winnings involves a sneaky process of swapping your balls for a prize at the hall which you then take to a nearby store to swap for cash.

View of Tokyo from Roppongi
12. Get an epic view of Tokyo
Exhausted and running out of time I wanted to make sure that my day included an epic view of the Tokyo Skyline and that I got to see Tokyo Tower which is how I ended up in Roppongi which houses Tokyo Skyview. At Skyview you can an amazing bird’s eye of the city with the Tower standing proudly amongst it. We went during the night as I wanted to see they city all light up but apparently on a clear day you can see Mt Fuji.

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  1. What crazy fun picks!! Tokyo is my favourite ever city and you made me a bit home sick (I lived there quite a few years ago).

  2. Informative article, thanks! I'm going there in September and need advice. How much (in USD) do you recommend for food every day? I'm planning to have less expensive breakfasts and lunches (do the 7-11's and vending machines really have decent food?) and spend a little more on lunch.
    Also, any apps you recommend for translating, getting around and finding good restaurants around me?

    1. We spent on average $10 a meal but can definitely go cheaper at the 7/11 type stores and the bakeries. The majority of vending machines only sell drinks. Tripadvisor and tabelog are helpful when trying to find places to eat


Thanks for the comments!