Tokyo is unquestionably a remarkable city. There are tons and tons of things you can do here and never be done with it! Whether it is trying out local food, visiting Japanese temples, going to gardens, checking out attractions or shopping from the many smart Japanese products – you will have no dearth of opportunities in Tokyo!
Do read about my Vegan and Vegetarian food guide to try out when in Japan.
During our trip to Japan in the Autumn of 2017 (November), we were in Tokyo for 5 nights.
Read about our Japan Itinerary for some planning tips.
Of course, I wished to have stayed longer than that! However, we did AND saw many grand things in that short period.
Of the many things we experienced, I have listed some exciting things that even you can do and see in Tokyo –
1) Visit the Meiji Jingu
On the first day, we started off by seeing the Meiji Jingu Shrine. Once you arrive the location, it is a short walk from the main Tori Gate to the Shrine. You should also not miss the Inner Garden that is adjacent to the shrine. Although there is a small fee (500 Yen) to enter this garden, I thought this was the best part of the Meiji Jingu area.
It is beautiful garden and is definitely a “not to be missed” item in the Autumn.
2) Take a Stroll in Harajuku Takeshita Dori
If you are a first-time visitor to Tokyo, do walk around on this pedestrian street. There are a lot of trinkets you can buy here, or you may just walk for fun. If you are with teens or kids, they may find this street very colorful.
There are a few cafes and handy supermarkets you will see as you walk. Don’t miss checking out the Harajuku Daiso departmental store on this street.
3) Eat at a Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurant – GENKI Sushi, Shibuya
There are different conveyer belt sushi restaurants in Tokyo. The one we chose to go was GENKI Sushi in Shibuya. This was after hearing a lot about it and after understanding that they were vegetarian and vegan friendly too.
Note – We walked all the way from Meiji Jingu to GENKI Sushi. It was a convenient straight google-guided leisure walk for us.
Genki Sushi Restaurant is a fully automated one. Every seat has its own small screen from where you can place your order. Language options make it easier to choose our orders and along with pictorial representations its real fun!
There are many sushi options to choose from including few vegan and vegetarian ones. There are fries and desserts too along with beer and cold beverages. The food arrives on a conveyer belt and the tray stops right in front of you; waiting for you to pick your plates. There are hot water dispensers placed between two seats for free matcha that can be brewed with your meal.
Tip – The restaurant can get really crowded during peak hours!
4) Cross the Shibuya Crossing/ Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble
We were out of GENKI Sushi at about 6:00 PM. After window shopping a bit around Shibuya, we walked the ritualistic Shibuya crossing! For those of you who are not aware, it is a world famous giant crosswalk and there are over 2,500 pedestrians crossing this every time the signal changes!
We crossed this road-rumble about 4 times and it was so much fun. We were there on a Saturday evening after 6:00 PM (November) and it was a beautiful sight.
If you want to have a clear look at the number of people crossing this giant crosswalk (top view), I would suggest seeing it from either L’Occitane Café, or the adjoining Starbucks, or the Shibuya Mark City walkway (free admission and the best view in my opinion).
When I think of Tokyo, I think of the Shibuya Crossing – just can’t get over that magic!
5) Shop at the Muji Flagship Store, Ginza
Muji Stores maybe common in your city too, but when you are in Tokyo you must have a look at the Flagship Muji Store in Ginza. They have a lot more things you will ever find at any Muji store in your country.
There is also a Muji Café and Meal outlet here which has high quality hot food available. It is an excellent pit-stop as you shop!
6) Visit the Sensoji Temple at Asakusa
Even if you are in Tokyo for a very short while, don’t miss seeing the Sensoji Temple! It is Tokyo’s oldest temple and has been the most visited temple in the city.
Being in Asakusa (the old part of Tokyo) Sensoji has a different atmosphere and the locals are also more approachable and helpful. Coming here will bring a different filter in the way we all perceive Tokyo; a more traditional Tokyo indeed!
7) Walk around in the Imperial Palace Gardens
Most people see the Imperial Palace only from the outside! If you do that during autumn or Cherry Blossom, you are missing a whole lot of hidden gorgeousness! We were here during autumn and the gardens were flamboyant and glowing.
Imperial Palace is totally walkable from the Tokyo Station.
8) Eat Vegan Ramen at T’s Tan Tan, Tokyo Station
Don’t look at it as a ‘vegan’ place. Even if you are a hardcore meat eater, you will still love the Ramen at T’s Tan Tan. They make it so addictive that you will positively come back for more vegan Ramen!
This restaurant is in Keiyo Street area of Tokyo Station and you may need to ask the station staff to locate it for you. You will also need a platform ticket (170 Yen) if you don’t already have an active JR Pass or a travelling Shinkansen ticket. But, trust me T’s Tan Tan will be no doubt worth the money and time!
9) Climb up the Mori Tower, Roppongi
Tokyo is a beautiful city that justifies your time and effort to hunt the best top view (Bird’s eye view). There are many places (Tokyo Tower, Skytree, the government building etc.) from where you can get a good top view of the city. The best view, in my opinion, is the observation deck at the Mori Tower. The reason for this is that you will get the beautiful Tokyo Tower in your frame. This, according to me, is the essence of Tokyo.
With a 360-degree view, you will also be able to see Mt. Fuji on a clear day. Do book the tickets in advance so that you avail a discount.
Tip – Go there just before the sunset to get the best of day and night views of Tokyo!
10) Go to the Tokyo Odaiba/Daiba Bay Area
Every coastal city has a beauty of its own waiting to be showcased. Tokyo, similarly, boasts of the Tokyo Bay area (rainbow bridge) and the Odaiba Statue of Liberty.
To reach here, we took the metro from Roppongi Station to Shiodome Station and from here we took the Yurikamome Train to Daiba Station (metro pass is not valid on Yurikamome line). It was biting cold and windy when we got there but the view of the Statue of Liberty and the Rainbow Bridge was incredible!
Do go to the bay area for a new look of the ever-vibrant Tokyo city! Again, just before sunset is the best time to arrive at the Daiba station. You will have a great time here even after the sun has gone down!
11) Eat Pre-cooked Convenience Store Meals
Yes, eat a pre-cooked meal when in Japan – especially in Tokyo! With an ever-so-busy schedule, this is what most locals do very often, and it is not a bad thing at all!
The supermarket/convenience store meals in Japan are high quality cooked meals and should be experienced once during your visit to Tokyo.
12) See a Japanese Departmental Store in Ginza
Sounds funny? Well, yeah do enter any big Departmental Store in Ginza and you will know what I mean. Even if there is nothing you want to buy, check out their basement section that sells an astounding array of mind blowing food!
People may talk about Shibuya and Shinjuku (which are no doubt spectacular areas) but I would suggest strolling around in Ginza. You can find almost everything you want in Ginza! There are upscale shopping malls, departmental stores, restaurants, pubs you name it. I really liked the vibe at Ginza not to mention Ginza’s high profile departmental stores.
13) Buy Souvenirs in Daiso
Really, you can’t come to Tokyo and not go to a Daiso!
Well, it is no secret that you will end up picking souvenirs at almost every place in Japan. However, if you are searching for value for money souvenirs, then Daiso is your best bet!
The Daiso in Harajuku has most things you have always wanted from Japan. That said, do keep in mind that this place would be crowded at almost all times in the day.
The best Daiso in my opinion is the one in Narita AEON Mall. If you plan to board your flight from Narita Airport or plan to be in Narita for a while before you leave Japan, then check out the AEON Mall Daiso. It is less crowded and will give you a peaceful shopping experience.
14) Visit a Bic Camera Store
Tokyo indeed has the biggest selection of latest technology gadgets and other things you may want to bring back home. You may want to go and have a stroll in Akihabara to see what best you can lay your hands on! However, if you are short of time, I would suggest going to the nearest Bic Camera shop for a convenient shopping experience.
It is a big multi-floor departmental store where you will find everything under a single roof. Often, there are credit card discounts and eventually you will get better deals than picking items from a random place in Akihabara.
There are many more interesting things you can do in Tokyo. Once you visit the city, you might end up making your own list which may be a lot more fun and motivating.
Of our 5 nights in Tokyo, we spent 2 of them doing side trips to Hakone and Nikko. These were full day trips and were enjoyed doing it the way we wanted (rather than the typical guided trips).