Tokyo is a city like no other! I have never met a single human being who have visited the metropolis and hated it! It’s a city full of cool, bizarre, exciting and unusual things to do! You might spend a lifetime here and still not experience it all! So what exactly should you do there? Here are my top recommendations for the best things to do in the city on your first visit!
1. WATCH A SUMO WRESTLING PRACTICE
Sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport and national obsession! If there are no tournaments on during your visit, book a tour to watch a morning training session in a sumo stable like I did! It was exciting to watch the wrestlers build their extreme strength through their rigorous day by day routines. I even learnt from my guide that the wrestlers eat 20,000 calories a day which is equivalent to 200 sushis or 20 bowls of ramen per day! Just a heads-up though, the event has to be strictly watched in silence. Stay still and don’t speak a word! Don’t worry after practice comes photo-ops! This encounter with the gentle giants is a memory you can keep for a lifetime!
2. ENJOY A BENTO BOX IN A SHINKANSEN
If you’re traveling from Tokyo to somewhere else in Japan, surely your journey will start from a train station! Do me a favour and buy yourself a bento box before boarding the train! A bento box is simply a traditional Japanese lunch featuring multiple small dishes served in a box with separated compartments! Japanese people have a special talent for packing beautiful and delicious lunchboxes for their children to enjoy at school or at work and this is your time to experience it first-hand! I promise you that eating a delicious bento box will definitely enhance your travel experience and will make traveling so much fun!
3. FEED, PET AND PLAY WITH OWLS
You’ve heard of dog, cat and bunny cafes! But what about an Owl café? Watch the owls fly across the room and land in your hands! The very accommodating staff will also provide support as you feed the owls and even let them sit in your shoulder! Don’t worry too much, the birds are very well looked after by the sweet and knowledgeable owners! If you happen to have enough of shopping centres, maid cafes and electronic stores while in town, head over to Ikebukoro and I will assure you that the adorable owls will make your day!
4. SEE ALL OF TOKYO FROM THE TOKYO SKYTREE
You cannot not visit the steel-tube structure that you see all over Tokyo, that ladies and gentlemen is the Tokyo Skytree! On sunny days, you’ll even get a glimpse of Mount Fuji from here! The two observation decks house a glass flooring you can walk over… cafes, souvenir shops and a gallery 450 meters above the ground! MEGA TIP for foreigners: Buy a fast pass and skip the lines! This will save you 1-2 hours of waiting and queueing so it’s definitely worth the money! If you want to witness spectacular views of the entire Tokyo cosmopolitan and Tokyo Bay, you gotta come here guys!
5. A DAY TRIP TO TOKYO DISNEYLAND
This is the best Disneyland in Asia so devote at least 1 day of your Tokyo trip here! Who doesn’t love going to Disney anyway? Make sure to use the fast pass as much as possible! For those who love the rides, all your old favourites are here! Don’t forget to watch the Happiness is Here Parade during the day, & Electric Parade at night! Complete your fun day out with Alien mocha dumplings & Mickey Mouse Teriyaki steamed buns! Nommmmm!
6. NIGHTLIFE AT ROPPONGI HILLS
Want to see a mini-city within a city? Make your way to Roppongi Hills! This is where you’ll find the iconic spider by Louise Bourgeois and the home to fancy cafés and upscale shopping! While I love futuristic architectural designs and gawking at overpriced goods, I adore Roppongi for its’ nightlife! Great eateries and Karaoke bars everywhere! It’s a great area to hang-out with locals and tourists alike!
7. SHOP AT THE WORLD’S FIRST KITKAT STORE
Being a huge KitKat fan, I needed to visit the world’s first KitKat Store in Ikebukoro! Though it’s actually not a store because it was only a small little shop in one corner of a food court, I didn’t mind at all! Nevertheless, they had the flavours that you would not find in the US or in Australia! KitKats from this store are nicely packed in a luxury box making it great as a souvenir or as a gift! Let me warn you though, the chocolates sold are a bit more expensive compared to the ones at the convenience stores or at the airport… Just thought I’d let you know!
8. COOK YOUR OWN OKONOMIYAKI
Okonomiyaki or what I call the “Japanese pizza” is a popular pan-fried dish that consists of batter and cabbage! You can add meat, cheese, seafood or wasabi and cook it to your liking! While in Japan, cooking your own okonomiyaki is a dining experience worth trying! Just pick whatever you want from the menu, mix the ingredients well in the bowl then throw it in the grill! Consider going to Sakura Tei if you’re in the Harajuku area! I highly suggest this hole-in-the-wall restaurant as I ultimately enjoyed the food, the vibes and the beautiful art pieces all over the place! I cannot wait go back!
9. GET LOST IN HARAJUKU
One cannot skip Takeshita Street in Harajuku when in Japan! It is the fashion district for a reason! Be amused by Lolita-dressed locals in every single corner! Fatten yourself with crepes and pastries, buy beverages from one vending machine or two, get lost in fashion boutiques, thrift stores, themed cafes and so much more! Every single corner seems so kawaii!!! (Japanese word for cute) I promise you!
10. CHECK-OUT THE ROBOT RESTAURANT IN SHINJUKU
Tokyo provides entertainment that you would not find anywhere else in the world! This is the only country where you can dine while watching futuristic and gigantic robots perform on stage! Unique live music, eye-popping neon lights, and outrageous performers await! Once the beat drops, you’re guaranteed an exciting, sensory overload experience that one will never forget! Tickets are limited so make sure to book in advance!
11. HAKONE ROMANCE CAR AND PIRATE BOAT SAILING
Ride the romance car to Hakone where you can catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. A real nice experience to see some of Tokyo’s outskirts and railroads lined with awesome greenery and flowers. Glide through the skies in the world’s second-longest cable car over volcanic sulphur fields. Try the black eggs at Hell Valley boiled in the sulphur pond! It’s believed that one egg consumed add seven years to your life, so why not? You are a tourist and eating this is mandatory! Hehe! Wrap up your day trip to Hakone sailing Lake Ashi in grandiose pirate boats! Buy first class and you’ll enjoy unobstructed views of the lovely sceneries!
12. VISIT TOKYO’S OLDEST AND MOST SIGNIFICANT TEMPLE
Tokyo is full of temple and shrines! If it’s your first time in Tokyo… Where does one start? Sensoji Temple is the answer! Be ready for big crowds, lots of incense and noise! Don’t expect a spiritual experience when you arrive though as you will be greeted by a festive atmosphere with camera-happy visitors! Everyone wants to be here, it’s like a magnet that attracts everybody! Shop traditional souvenirs, snacks and sweets from the oldest shopping street in Japan that leads to the temple ground… Find the large incense burner and watch people as they perform their cleansing rituals, say a prayer and make your wishes before you leave! Sensoji Temple in Asakusa is Tokyo’s cultural landmark and yes, it’s worth to visit!
13. SHIBUYA CROSSING AND HACHIKO
To cross the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection: check! With hundreds of pedestrians coming from five directions all at once, this is the craziest cross walk you’ll ever see! That’s why Shibuya crossing is one epic experience one should not miss! Also shop at Shibuya 109 while you’re in the area, the options are endless! Lastly, don’t forget to check out the statue of Hachiko, the world’s most loyal dog!
14. HAVE SUSHI FOR BREAKFAST AT THE FISH MARKET
Make the most of your trip to Japan’s capital and visit the world’s biggest fish market! The abundance of unidentifiable marine creatures available in the vicinity can be overwhelming but come here for the experience! Tsukiji Fish Market has now relocated to Toyosu fish market after 80 years of operation! But fret not… You can still watch the famous tuna action in the new location before eating your freshly prepared sushi for breakfast! This is an essential experience while in Tokyo so come early to score the best catch and seats!
15. BE AMAZED BY MAID CAFES IN AKIHABARA
One of my most unforgettable experiences in Japan was visiting a Maid Café! Maid Cafes are themed restaurants where waitresses dress as maids and treat their customers as Masters & Madams! You will be greeted by cheerful maids who never seem to stop smiling! They serve foods and drinks that are decorated with cute and adorable patterns such as bears or cats. They sing, dance and chant a spell over your meal to guarantee it will be delicious! How cute is that? The happy and energetic vibe of the maids was very contagious! This experience made me love Japan even more!
I speak not a word of Japanese and was able to go from one location to the next! The locals were so helpful and happy to provide information about facilities and directions as much as they can! They were so kind and polite that’s why it’s impossible not to love the city and its people! Indeed, there are so many things and areas to explore in Tokyo! So, it’s best to arrive with a plan of what to see and do! I really do hope that you’ll make the most of your trip with the help of this travel guide!
P.S. Follow me on Instagram for more Japan tips and photos!
Love from Tokyo,
The Travel Belle