When it comes to things to do in Tokyo, Japan, the opportunities are endless. From visiting traditional tourist attractions, museums, palaces, and gardens, to checking out the more modern neighborhoods filled with technological beauties. Many tourists like to wander around aimlessly and let the city reveal itself to them, but if you like to have a plan, just follow our things to do in Tokyo, Japan list below. It will surely help you plan your trip.
Japan is a destination you must see at least once in your life. It offers a unique blend of ancient and modern. You have to see the beauties of this country with your own eyes, in order to understand its charm. You will be fascinated by what this “different world” has to offer.
It is difficult to choose a place from which to start discovering Japan due to the mixture between traditional and modern. A good starting point would be Tokyo, a city with over 13 million inhabitants, which offers many routes and tourist attractions not to be missed.
In 1603, Edo, a fishing village around a ruined castle, became the military capital, which until then had been in Kyoto. In the 18th century it was already the largest city in the world. At the beginning of the 21st century, Tokyo (so named in 1868) had a core population of over 8 million people.
The Edo period can be found in countless place names. In Marunouchi (meaning “between the walls”) lived samurai. Ginza (“silver place”) took its name from a long-lost mint where coins were minted. Edo is also found in the characteristics of some neighboring neighborhoods. Nihonbashi was the most important financial area during the samurai, preserving its prestige to this day. Yoshiwara, famous for its brothels, banned in 1957, is now the realm of massage parlors of all kinds.
Nihonbashi (“Japan Bridge”) was the starting point for measuring all distances in the country. Here converge the main roads to the city, especially the old Tokaido, from Kyoto. Built in 1911, the current bridge is overshadowed by a lump of suspended highways. Beyond concrete, history remains present almost everywhere in Tokyo.
Tokyo’s city center
The city center includes the districts of Chuo-Ku, Chiyoda-ku, and northern Minato-ku, the central area of Tokyo is dedicated almost exclusively to administration, business and finance (Marunouchi, Otemachi and Nihombashi), but also trade, which is concentrated in certain areas.
Apart from the Imperial Palace and some important museums, as a tourist, you don’t have much to see. The quiet streets with high office blocks in Marunouchi barely allow a glimpse of Japan’s economic engine. At noon, businessmen and their Marunouchi employees interrupt work and crowd to walk through Hibiya-koen Park, near the Imperial Palace, an oasis of pleasant greenery, but unnoticed.
Despite war bombings and modernism today, some pre-war Western-style buildings survive in this area, including the Bank of Japan and Tokyo Railway Station.
Japan’s architectural transformation from wood to reinforced concrete began in the late 19th century, but developed strongly, and vertically, with the massive post-war reconstruction. Much of Japanese architecture seems inspired by the city-of-the-future presented by the books of S.F. from the 50s, while the monstrous “danchi” (buildings with state apartments), remind of the ugliness of Soviet architecture.
Although it has benefited from reduced urban planning, the amazing variety of the urban environment, often shocking, is enchanting in itself. The richness and variety of wooden houses are combined with the numerous reinforced concrete buildings. Even Las Vegas could envy the Chinese Rococo architecture of the “onsen” (thermal water) resorts, the neon-lit parlors of those “pachinko” (bowling), or the scandalous kitsch of the “love” hotels.
Next, we would like to show you our favorite things to do in Tokyo, Japan. Depending on your holiday duration, you can visit as many as you like.
Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
There are a lot of interesting and entertaining things to do in Tokyo, Japan, so we made a list of our favorite tourist attractions to visit and activities to take part in while visiting Tokyo.
An important area in Tokyo is Roppongi Hills, an area known for its many office buildings, art museums, restaurants, and residential areas. Roppongi Hills is one of the most important financial centers in Japan and a symbol of the IT industry.
As a tourist, you can visit the Mori Tower, which has a height of 238 m, being one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. Most of the floors are occupied by important companies, others are occupied by restaurants, cafes, and even a platform from where you can capture spectacular panoramas.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
This is one of the main objectives that you should not miss if you are in Tokyo. The palace is the official residence of the emperor and his family. For this reason, it can be visited only two days a year. On December 23, the emperor’s birthday and on January 2, the new year.
Even if you visit Tokyo at another time, you must see the Palace, even from the outside, because you can get an idea of its beauty, given the elegance with which the palace gardens are decorated.
With a dizzying height of 333 m, it is 13 m higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris and is considered the tallest steel structure tower in the world. The tower was built in 1958 as a symbol of Japan’s economic renaissance, later becoming a popular tourist attraction.
If you want to get the best pictures, we recommend you to visit the observation platforms from 150 m and 250 m. You will be able to capture the city in all its splendor, and on days with beautiful weather, you can even see the Fuji Mountains. The interior of the tower houses a museum of wax figures, which completes your visit to this tourist attraction.
Tokyo offers many attractions but one of the most beautiful places you can visit is definitely Chinzan-so Garden. The elegant decor and architecture are two of the garden’s strengths, the beauty being complemented by elements inspired by Buddhism and Shinto.
A plus is the fact that it is one of the few parks in Tokyo, which can be visited at night, is beautifully lit. If you are passionate about history, near the pagoda, grows a sacred tree, which is rumored to be over five centuries old.
And if the walk whetted your appetite, you’re in luck, because the park also hosts several restaurants with Japanese food, which are worth trying.
Asakusa Buddhist Temple
Among the things to do in Tokyo, Japan, an impressive one is the Asakusa Buddhist Temple. Legend has it that two brothers discovered a statue of the goddess of compassion, Kannon, in the Sumida River in 628. Each time the two put the statue in the river, it returned to shore. For this reason, they built the Asakusa Temple as the site of the statue. Asakusa is one of the most esteemed, revered, and famous places of worship in Tokyo.
The temple hosts several important festivals, such as Sanja Matsuri, which takes place in May. Another colorful festival takes place in August, attracting a lot of locals and tourists.
On the way to the temple, the merchants’ stalls offer more and more interesting souvenirs.
The Zoo is a major tourist attraction in Tokyo. It was founded in 1882 but was severely damaged in World War II. Fortunately, the garden was completely rebuilt after ten years, being today one of the most modern and beautiful zoos in the world. Since 1964, the garden hosts an aquarium with various marine species and an exhibition dedicated to reptiles.
Hosting over 9,000 animals from 960 species from Asia and Africa, and with an area of 13 hectares, arranged in traditional Japanese style, get ready for a few hours of walking while admiring the beauty of the garden.
Tokyo National Museum
You can’t leave the capital of Japan without visiting the famous National Museum in Tokyo. Apart from being the oldest and largest museum in Japan, it also houses the largest collection of Japanese art in the world. You have the opportunity to discover traditional costumes, kimonos, weapon collections, shields, armor and antiques, unique ceramic objects, and even fabulous archeology galleries.
Among the most successful exhibits are statues depicting the Buddha brought from China and Gandhara, bas-reliefs from Cambodia, wonderful rare embroideries from India, rugs, and carpets from Turkey and Iran, and ceramic objects from Vietnam and Thailand. The collection at the National Museum in Tokyo also includes jade exhibits, rare paintings, Egyptian art, and even a mummy dating from the 7th century BC.
Opera City is said to be the cultural center of Tokyo. The opera is a modern and imposing construction, being among the tallest in the city, with no less than 54 floors. Inside, it hosts museums, concert halls, theaters, art galleries, but also large commercial spaces.
Tokyo International Origami Center
It was founded in 1859 and was the first company to produce and sell origami items. Of its 6 floors, only the second floor is restricted to the public. The other 5 floors host numerous shops with origami items, creative workshops, workshops, and even origami demonstration courses, which you can take part in.
Tokyo Dome – Photo by kanagen
The most famous entertainment center in the Japanese capital is also called the Tokyo Dome. It includes an amusement park, Laqua Spa, shopping malls, and the famous Tokyo Dome Hotel. The dome also hosts a baseball stadium with 55,000 seats, which in addition to baseball matches, hosts various sports activities, concerts, and shows. It was built in 1988 and was called the “Great Egg”.
If you want to relax, Laqua Spa Center is one of the largest in Tokyo. You can opt for massage sessions, beauty sessions or you can relax in the thermal pools.
Are you looking for adrenaline? The amusement park is a good starting point, with a rollercoaster that reaches heights of 80 m.
Hachiko statue in Tokyo
You’ve probably heard the story of Hachiko, one of the most loyal dogs in the world. Hachiko, an Akita dog, had a master, a professor at Ueno University in Tokyo. He commuted daily by train, and Hachiko waited for him every day at Shibuya station. In 1925, the professor died while at university, never returning home. The dog continues to wait for its owner in the station, every day, for 10 years.
The community was impressed by the dog’s love, affection, and loyalty to its owner, erecting a statue in Hachiko’s memory. This statue has become a tourist attraction of the Japanese capital being a popular meeting place. The story was also translated into a film, with Richard Gere playing the teacher.
If you are passionate about electronics, you can’t miss Akihabara Square in Tokyo. It is one of the favorite places of tourists because you can find out the latest news in the tech field, you can have fun in arcades or you can watch the latest movies.
Another important tourist attraction that you should not miss is the Meiji Temple, built in 1920 and dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife. Every year, especially during the new year, the temple gathers an impressive number of visitors. It has beautiful landscapes and a relaxing atmosphere, due to the rich forest near the temple.
An important place of worship is the Yasukuni Temple, constructed in 1869, in memory of Japanese soldiers killed in the wars that marked the country’s history. In the area, you can also visit the museum that houses artifacts and historical documents, and the garden that surrounds the temple. In spring, the orchards are really beautiful thanks to the blossoming cherry trees.
Shibuya Street in Tokyo
If you like shopping, you must visit Shibuya Street, an important and famous artery for the many shops. Regardless of the weather or the time, the street is lively but also crowded. It is good to know that although it is hellish traffic, pedestrians have priority on Shibuya Street.
If you really want to experience the crowds, go ahead and cross with the wave of pedestrians. Head to Shibuya 109 Mall, located near Shibuya Street, where you can find over 100 boutiques and a wide range of items signed by the most famous local designers.
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Opposite the Tokyo Dome, you can visit one of the most beautiful public gardens in the Japanese capital. It is one of two parks that have survived over time and dates back to the Edo period. It is also the oldest and best-preserved park in Tokyo. Its arrangement began in 1629, under the leadership of the noble Tokugawa Yorifusa, and was completed by his successor, Tokugawa Mitsukuni. If you want to spend your day in a relaxing environment with enchanting landscapes, do not hesitate to walk through the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden.
Tokyo Joypolis Amusement Park
Joypolis Amusement Park is a perfect place to spend your day, especially if it is accompanied by children. You can have fun in the rollercoaster, participate in skateboarding competitions, and if you want something more static, you can have fun playing countless state-of-the-art video games. You only have to take into account the fact that during the weekend, the park is very crowded, so it is preferable to visit it during the week.
Hama Rikyu Garden
You can visit Hama Rikyu Garden by walking along the Sumida-gawa river. The garden is divided into two large sections. In the 17th – 19th centuries, the apartments of noble families were located in the south. The northern part is covered by various species of plants, this area being arranged much later. During the feudal period, this garden served as a hunting ground for the families of the nobles.
This temple is located in the center of the Japanese capital and should not be missing from your tourist itinerary. You can visit the beautiful garden that surrounds the temple and offers spectacular natural landscapes in a relaxing environment. From the new year, festivities are organized that attract a large number of visitors, both locals, and tourists.
Japanese Garden Otani
Another park over four centuries old is the Otani Japanese Garden. It attracts the attention of tourists everywhere. Although it is not a public tourist attraction, the garden belonging to the Otani hotel, interested tourists can visit it, even if they are not hotel guests.
The List: Things to visit in Tokyo, Japan
- Roppongi Hills
- Tokyo Imperial Palace
- Tokyo Tower
- Chinzan-so garden
- Asakusa Buddhist Temple
- Tokyo Zoo
- Tokyo National Museum
- Tokyo Opera
- Tokyo International Origami Center
- Tokyo Dome
- Hachiko statue in Tokyo
- Akihabara Square
- Meiji Temple
- Yasukuni Temple
- Shibuya Street in Tokyo
- Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
- Tokyo Joypolis Amusement Park
- Hama Rikyu Garden
- Hanazono Temple
- Japanese Garden Otani
So, if you are planning your trip to Tokyo, these are our recommended tourist attractions and places that we think you shouldn’t miss. Of course, Tokyo has a lot more to offer, but it all depends on the duration of your visit to Tokyo. If you have friends that are planning on visiting Tokyo, share our list of things to do in Tokyo, Japan, it will surely save them some time.