26 Unique Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
Last Updated on September 1, 2021
Tokyo is one of the best destinations and one that is becoming increasingly popular in the last couple of years. That is because this quirky city has so many great things to do and is a very unique destination to visit in the first place. Not to mention that the Japanese are some of the most friendly people you will ever meet and the food is absolutely mouth-watering.
If you’re looking for a guide with some great things to do in Tokyo then look no further. Some of the suggested below you won’t find in the usual travel guide!
Here are 26 unique things to do in Tokyo, Japan
1. Take a helicopter ride over the city
Suggested by Pre Traveller
A unique activity to do in Tokyo is to take a helicopter ride over this vast city to gain perspective on just how large the city is, and if you take a daytime flight to perhaps catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji! We recently went on a night time helicopter flight over Tokyo with our children and had an amazing flight. We do not often get the opportunity to fly in a helicopter so this was a really special experience for us as a family.
After checking in and enjoying watching the sunset with our welcome drink, we shortly went to receive a safety briefing before boarding our flight. We flew a large loop over Odaiba, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Asakusa to see the Tokyo Skytree before returning to the heliport. The night time views were amazing and our whole family had grins from ear to ear after we landed. 😊
Our flight departed from Urayasu Heliport, which is located beside the Disney Tokyo Resort area on the eastern side of Tokyo. The helicopter service included collection and return to Maihama Station, which is a 20 minute train ride from Tokyo Station. Prices start from $US 210 per adult and include both day time and night time flight options.
2. Learn traditional Japanese dance
Suggested by Dance Dispatches
Tokyo is a mega-city, brimming with quirky cafes that celebrate cartoon characters and flashy, multi-story arcades. But if you want to slow down and inspect Japanese culture during your trip to the capital, you should spend an afternoon learning Nihon Buyo – a traditional Japanese dance – with Grandma Shizuko.
When you arrive, you will be dressed in a kimono with an obi and white socks that are traditionally worn with geta-style sandals. It’s much easier dancing without shoes; and trust me, you’ll be thankful you don’t have to worry about losing a sandal when you’re already using all of your concentration not to accidentally trod upon the hem of your kimono.
At the beginning of class, Grandma Shizuko and her students will demonstrate the entire choreography. Then, you get up and join in, slowly following the movement. The dance moves are then paired with music, and the class continues as you learn the entire dance. Warning: it looks a lot easier than it is, but you’ll have a fun time regardless of skill level because of the warm-hearted hostess.
Admission to the 2.5-hour experience costs £33, and it includes kimono rental, as well as green tea and light snacks during a well-deserved break. Dance class is held in a studio by Minowa station, and it’s easy to travel from the busy central parts of the city to this residential area with Tokyo’s well-connected public transportation system.
3. Take a food tour
Suggested by Carolin from Breathing Travel
Japan is all about the food? Hell yes, it is! Fresh Sashimi, Tempura, Shabu Shabu, Yakitori, Udon, Ramen – OMG, take me back to Japan right now!!
The coolest thing you can do on your visit to Tokyo is going on a food tour to experience all the popular as well as rather unknown dishes of Japan. I actually went on two food tours in one week in Japan, just because I loved it so much and there are many different neighbourhoods in this metropolis that have various specialities. One of the tours I highly recommend is a Tsukiji Fish Market tour. Tsukiji is one of the largest wholesale fish market in the world. Of course, you can wander Tsukiji by yourself for free, but you might miss half the fun and all the secret places. If Sushi is your thing, Tsukiji will not disappoint. There is even a sushi-making workshop where you can learn how to properly roll sushi. There are also some amazing places nearby if you are wondering where to stay in tokyo.
If you are after other things then just fish to try while in Japan, check out Secret Food Tours Tokyo. Their 3.5 hour guided food tour through the Ueno District includes 7 different stops filled with Japanese delicacies and lots of insights into local history and culture. There is a max of 10 people, so I had a chance to talk to our guide one-on-one about her love for Japan and food, while sampling gyoza, grilled chicken skewers and beef croquettes. The tour price is $110, which fills you up for a good while and the tours run almost daily.
4. Explore Asakusa in Kimono
Suggested by Chloe’s Travelogue
Asakusa is the most historic district in Tokyo with well-preserved ancient streets from the Edo-period and the oldest and largest Buddhist temple, Senso-ji. Without a doubt, it is a must-visit place in the city to get a taste of traditional Tokyo.
If you want to make your visit to Asakusa extra special, wearing a kimono would make it a memorable experience you will never forget. Kimono is a traditional Japanese outfit that the Japanese still wear today on special occasions. Wandering the historic neighbourhood in traditional costume is undoubtedly a unique way to experience Japanese traditional culture. It also allows you to take the Instagram-worthy photos with ancient architecture as a backdrop.
Renting a kimono in Asakusa is easy and affordable. Many rental shops offer professional assistance from selecting and putting on a kimono to styling your hair. While the rental price varies, about 3,000 – 5,000 yen will get you a decent one for a full-day rental. (On the other hand, purchasing an authentic kimono will cost you an arm and a leg.)
For the best experience, it is essential to research and book a kimono rental in advance. Many shops will not take walk-ins. Nor do they speak fluent English. Learn more about how to rent a kimono in Asakusa and what to expect from my Tokyo kimono experience.
5. Eat rainbow cotton candy bigger than your head in Harajuku
Suggested by The Sweet Wanderlust
Takeshita Street in Harajuku’s district of Shibuya, Tokyo is the epicenter of kawaii. (That’s cute in Japanese.) The fashion is kawaii, the purikura (photo booths) are kawaii, and most importantly, the food and desserts are kawaii.
Before visiting Japan, I saw a video of the rainbow cotton candy at Totti Candy Factory. This video is almost entirely responsible for Japan’s rise to the number one country on my bucket list. When I finally visited Tokyo, I made my way to Takeshita Street the morning of my first day in town and waited for the shop to open. I handed over my ¥900 and moved forward in line to watch the magic begin.
Watching the cotton candy experts craft a rainbow from sugar is unlike any dessert experience I’ve had elsewhere. Within moments, a bare stick holds a cloud of rainbow cotton candy bigger than your head. Because of the sticky humidity in Tokyo, it’s advised to quickly make your way back to street level for photographs before the cotton candy begins to melt! Each color is a different flavor… can you name them all?
I had Totti Candy Factory’s rainbow cotton candy three times during my time in Tokyo, and the best time to visit is early evening, when you’re least likely to encounter a long line of people.
6. See a Kabuki Theater Show
Suggested by Sometimes Home
I was raised on going to Manhattan to see Broadway shows. Going to the theater was a part of life in my eyes. The performance was an enjoyable thing to see and appreciate as part of the culture of being a New Yorker. When I traveled to Tokyo I went to the Ginza neighborhood to roam around. (It’s one of the more upscale neighborhoods in Tokyo.) I passed a grand building framed by a white gate with red details. But it wasn’t a temple. I started to look at the posters and advertisements outside and realized it was a theater! One of the best Kabuki theaters in Tokyo, actually, if not the best.
I immediately inquired about performances and learned Kabuki theater lasts for hours, over several acts. But I was able to buy last minute tickets on the spot at the box office and see just a few hours of the entire day’s performance and join in on one of the acts. So I did, at a discounted ticket price of 1,900 yen, which allowed for seating in the balcony area. It remains one of my favorite things to do when I go to Japan and it’s a style of theater very much uniquely Japanese.
7. Visit the Meguro Parasitological Museum
Suggested by Time Travel Turtle
There are some great museums in Tokyo – but this is not one of them. However, the Meguro Parasitological Museum is certainly one of the weirdest. It’s not really clear why anyone thought it would be a good idea to dedicate this museum to parasites from around the world, but it’s surprisingly popular with locals.
Over two small floors, the museum presents a series of exhibits about parasites. As well as information panels, you can see jars with things like worms, crabs, fish, bugs, and all sorts of other strange things. The highlight is the 8.8-metre-long tapeworm that was pulled from someone’s body (and there’s an actual piece of tape that long so you can hold it to get a sense of the length).
It’s free to visit the museum and it’s in a convenient location in Meguro, which has become quite a trendy part of Tokyo, with cafes and boutique shopping. It means you can just pop in when you’re in the area, without needing to go out of your way to learn about the kinds of parasites that could be in your body right now!
8. Visit the arcades in Ikebukero
Suggested by Priya from Outside Suburbia
Not being big anime or manga fans, we wanted to get some insight into this anime culture that is so popular in Tokyo and booked a tour. We made our way to Ikebukero to meet our private guide who helped us delve into these realms. Our docent explained the history and current trends associated with these fascinating subjects. It was a two-hour Tokyo for Kids and Families Tour, where he explained what it is like to be a child in Tokyo today. He took us to arcades and introduced us to the world of manga, anime and themed cafes. Kids in Japan are pretty independent, and it is a very safe environment.
After school, most kids go to hangout in the arcades with their friends. D our son who plays the drumset tried to play the renowned Taiko no Tatsujin (a Japanese rhythm drumming game) after some basic instructions from Edgar Peláez our guide for the day. We spent some time walking through the colorful arcade and trying a few other games that give us a little insight into this Japanese popular culture. It was a unique thing to do when visiting Tokyo where from Maid cafes to colorful Monster cafes there seems to be plenty to make the inner child happy. This private tour was $350
9. Karaoke in Tokyo
Suggested by Thrifty Family Travels
If you’re looking for something a bit different to do in Tokyo – get some friends together and go rent a karaoke booth. Whether you’re traveling with family or friends it’s a great way to spend a few hours. It’s also the perfect thing to do when the weather isn’t so great – whether that be too hot or rainy.
Karaoke is such a cool thing to do – you simply turn up, ask for a room and pay for however long you wish to stay for. Prices are fairly similar with most places around 300 yen per hour during off peak, or around 1000 yen during peak times. Some places also include a drink or even unlimited drinks in their price.
Inside the booth you’ll find super comfy chairs, a big screen, microphones and your karaoke machine where you can choose what you wish to sing. Most rooms also have a phone system where you can order drinks (including alcoholic) and food which is delivered to your booth.
Some of the more popular karaoke chains in Tokyo are Shidax Karaoke, Karaoke Kan, Uta Hiroba and Big Echo Karaoke to name a few. Most places open around mid-morning and stay open until early hours of the morning.
10. Watch the skyline from the Metropolitan Government building
Suggested by Wapiti Travel
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a landmark building in the heart of Shinjuku. The building houses Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government in two high-rising towers, each reaching a height of 202 meters.
Both towers are equipped with an observation platform on the top floor.
There are several observation platforms you can visit during your Tokyo Itinerary. One can argue about which one has the best views on the capital’s impressive skyline. One thing is sure however, none will be cheaper as both the observation decks of the Metropolitan Government Building can be visited for free.
The views from both towers are similar. On clear days you can see several famous landmarks such as the Tokyo Skytree, the Tokyo Dome and Mt. Fuji. The observation deck in the Northern tower stays open till late and offers spectacular views of the beautifully illuminated towers of the city.
It’s easy to reach the Metropolitan Government Building with the metro or the train. The Tochomae stop of the Oedo Subway Line (Toei) is located directly underneath the building. From Tokyo’s central Shinjuku station, it is a 10-minute walk to the Metropolitan Government Building. Shinjuku station is served by several JR lines and both Tokyo Metro and Toei lines. To get to the building take the West exit of the station.
11. Take a trip to Kamakura
Suggested by Katie Diederichs from Two Wandering Soles
Located just 1 hour from the city center, Kamakura is a popular day trip from Tokyo.
This seaside town is known for having dozens of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. In addition to being an important religious spot, Kamakura was also an important historic town, as it was the region’s political center during medieval times. This blend of history and Zen has earned it the nickname “the Kyoto of the Kanto region”.
Kamakura’s most famous attraction is Kotoku-in Temple’s Great Buddha, which stands nearly 12 meters tall and is made out of bronze. Built in 1252, it’s pretty incredible that this Buddha is not only still standing, but can be entered inside (for a small fee).
While the Great Buddha is unarguably the most iconic sight in Kamakura, there is actually much more to the town than this single attraction.
Hokokuji Temple is a small Zen temple known most for a small but peaceful bamboo grove through which visitors can take a pleasant stroll. Yuigahama Beach surfing 20-minute walk from Kamakura station, and is a popular place for surfers and beach bums in the summertime. Hasedera Temple is a large complex with gardens, an ocean lookout, and even a cave.
If you’re traveling to Japan on a budget, you’ll be pleased to know that this is a pretty affordable day trip. Each temple or shrine costs a small entrance fee (200-300 yen), and transportation to and from Kamakura is free if you have the JR Pass (with the exception of a short journey on the Kamakura metro).
12. See a sumo wrestling tournament
Suggested by Travel Made Simple
When we started planning our trip to Japan, one thing my husband said was on his must-do list was to see sumo wrestling. You can go to sumo wrestling practice year round, but it sounded more interesting to attend an actual tournament. We did a little research and found out that the tournament occurs six times a year, and three are in Tokyo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium.
I knew almost nothing about sumo wrestling before attending, but it was really interesting to watch. The tickets allow you to enter twice, so you can leave once in the middle of the day if you want and still come back later. We went in the morning when the junior division was competing, and the arena was almost empty. The sumo matches lasted only 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, and they moved on quickly from one match to the next.
Things changed when we came back after leaving the arena for lunch. In the afternoon, the upper level competitions were going on, and the arena was nearly full. The matches took a little longer, with much more ceremony taking place. We learned that the wrestlers perform intimidation routines and purification rituals before the actual match takes place. This sometimes went on for 5 minutes before the actual 30-60 second wrestling match started. It was fascinating to watch.
We bought seats in section C, which is the cheapest and farthest from the action, but still close enough to see everything. Our tickets cost 4800 yen per ticket, or about US$42. If you decide to see a sumo wrestling tournament in Tokyo (or one of the other cities) you’ll need to be online to buy your tickets the moment they go on sale. Tickets go quickly, so if it means staying up until a ridiculous time, it’s worth it to have this experience.
13. Marvel at the Shibuya Crossing
Suggested by Lindsay from Step into Jordan
Shibuya Crossing is one of the unique things to do in Tokyo because it is unlike anything else you will see in the world. Hundreds upon hundreds cross at this famed crossing every few minutes, it has become one of the things TO DO while in the city. Pick one of the 5 crosswalk options and after crossing yourself, head up to the second floor Starbucks, grab yourself a coffee and watch the chaos ensue as traffic comes to a standstill to let the hundreds of pedestrians cross at Shibuya.
Shibuya crossing can be accessed from the nearby Shibuya train station. There is no cost, it is just a street crossing, but it will cost you a few dollars for a Starbucks and a window seat to the action from above!
14. Take the bullet train
Suggested by Inside Our Suitcase
My favourite thing to do in Tokyo is head to the Shinkansen viewing platform to get up close to these incredible trains. While you can ride the Shinkansen, the cost of doing so without a JR Rail pass is unaffordable for many. Instead, you can view the Shinkansen at Tokyo Station inside the Shinkansen area for up to two hours by simply paying an entrance fee of JPY 140.
You don’t have to be a train enthusiast to appreciate the incredible force and beauty of the Shinkansen. Also known as the bullet train, this train reaches speeds of up to 199mph (although non-commercial tests have been run to demonstrate the train reaching an incredible 375mph breaking a world record in the process)
While there are many places to watch the Shinkansen at full speed throughout Tokyo, seeing it up close is something else entirely. It’s like no other train I’ve ever seen and is, in my opinion, a symbol of Japan. Be sure to stick around to watch the train be cleaned, the entire process takes 7 minutes and is a testament to the organisation and precision of the Japanese workers.
After your viewing experience be sure to head down to the Tokyo Station basement where you’ll find an incredible range of shops (including my personal favourite, the Pokemon store) and an entire food court.
15. Visit the Robot Restaurant
Suggested by Ck Travels
There are several Shinjuku night-time activities worthy of your Yen but none more so than the weird and wonderful world of the Robot Restaurant, one of the highlights of our recent trip to Tokyo.
A cabaret show like no other, your experience starts as you first arrive and wait in a colourful cocktail lounge with more glitter and glamour than Madonna’s changing room – the lounge music is provided by musicians who look like they’ve just walked off a Daft Punk video. This is only the very beginning of the spectacle
But nothing really prepares you for the ‘main act’, as you’re ushered into a darkened room and begin to watch a terrific techno cabaret unfold – a cavalcade of dancers, dinosaurs, robots, ninjas and all manner of eclectic entertainers vie for your tension – neon madness ensues, like an overspill from Bladerunner. We were lucky enough to sit in the front row and with our neon glow sticks in hand, we really got behind the high octane antics and had an incredible evening (truly an awesome assault on the senses).
The 90 minute show costs 8000 yen (bento box meals are an additional cost), and advanced booking is recommended due to it’s extreme popularity.
16. Try matcha tea in the traditional teahouse
Suggested by The Invisible Tourist
Japan is known worldwide for its famous matcha. This vibrant green tea has been enjoyed by everyone from emperors and samurais to everyday people throughout the centuries. Sampling matcha is a must-add experience to your Tokyo itinerary!
If you’re looking to switch Tokyo’s bustling streets for a little slice of tranquillity, head to Hamarikyu Gardens in Tokyo’s southern neighbourhood of Minato. The gardens date back to the Edo period and were originally created as duck hunting grounds for a feudal lord. There’s even a little memorial in the grounds for the ducks that were killed as game.
Enjoying matcha in the traditional teahouse located within the grounds is one of the most unique things to do in Tokyo. Why not try it for yourself during your visit?
Sitting beautifully on a small island within the pond is Nakajima No Ochaya teahouse. This traditional teahouse is one of the few remaining in Tokyo, complete with zen garden out the front. Please note you will need to remove your shoes to go inside and sit on the tatami flooring to admire the view.
For only JPY 700, you can sample your own tea bowl of matcha goodness as well as accompanying mochi (Japanese sweet). If it’s summer, you can also opt for cold matcha with ice cubes! It’s not a full tea ceremony like you would expect with geisha as you would in Kyoto, but it’s still a nice stop to watch the world go by as you enjoy hot or cold matcha, just as samurais and lords did before you.
17. Have a Ninja Akasaka dining experience
Suggested by Travel Wander Grow
If you are interested in a unique “dinner and a show” experience in Tokyo, the Ninja Akasaka restaurant should be on your list! Located in the Chiyoda neighborhood, this restaurant has somewhat of a hidden entrance – in true Ninja fashion. Once you’re in, you’ll step back in time to an Edo-period village that’s full of – you guessed it – ninjas. Once you make your way to your seat, you’ll dine in a cave-like setting in a semi-private area, with your own personal ninja servers.
In addition to being able to spend with ninjas, you’ll be treated to some delicious food. The food is a bit more on the high end, but the food quality does indeed match the price. You have the option of choosing from a pre-set menu or selecting what you desire a la carte. The food is Japanese fare, ranging from delicious sushi to seafood soups to vegetarian delights. While you eat, you will be treated to a show – I won’t give too much away, but it is quite entertaining.
To visit, be sure to call ahead for a reservation – it is required for dining. There is no entry price for the experience overall, but I’d say you’ll likely spend at least $50 per person for dinner. For additional information on this experience, check out this Ninja Akasaka Restaurant Review from Christen at TravelWanderGrow.
18. Visit Studio Ghibli
Suggested by Kid Bucketlist
Showcasing the amazing anime that has been produced by Studio Ghibli, the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan has become a Mecca for fans all over the globe wishing to explore this one of a kind space.
Studio Ghibli is the brainchild behind some of Japan’s most famous anime movies including Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Ponyo. Through the museum visitors are likely to be captivated by the references to their favourite movies, characters and whimsical nature of the setting, whilst also learning about the mechanics that underpin the creation of each animated movie.
Whilst photography is not allowed inside any section of the museum, there is an opportunity to head to the rooftop garden and capture an image with the robot from Castle in the Sky. The strict no photography rule does allow the Studio Ghibli Museum to maintain a sense of wonder and magic that I am certain would be otherwise eroded away if there were images easily sourced.
Whilst I don’t want to give too much away by revealing what is inside the Studio Ghibli Museum I can tell you that the kids will have a chance to climb all over the Catbus from Totoro and you will have the chance to catch an exclusive movie within the theatre. “Let’s get lost together” is the museum’s central theme, and this is very much a possibility!
Studio Ghibli Museum tickets can be quite elusive to obtain, often leaving fans frustrated that they didn’t do their research before arriving in Japan. Tickets are generally released 3 months in advance in very limited numbers, so it advised to plan your date in advance and set a reminder so you can jump online and book your tickets well in advance. They are quite cheap in comparison to other animation parks at around 1,000 yen per adult. Get in quick!
19. Go to the Monster cafe
Suggested by Swedish Nomad
The Kawaii Monster Cafe in Tokyo is one of the main attractions among tourists in Harajuku and it’s a themed cafe with a rather unique interior and menu. The cafe is created to give visitors the ultimate experience of Harajuku girls and their culture in a crazy and fun way.
The Monster Cafe has several rooms which are decorated in various themes. There are hourly performances by the Kawaii Monster girls who will dance and sing. In addition to this, the crowd is sometimes also invited to the stage to sing along and dance together with the monster girls.
It’s a cafe that welcomes all ages, and many tourists who come will also dress up themselves. You can order food, drinks and desserts from the Monster menu. Some of the most popular dishes to order in the Monster Cafe includes rainbow pasta, cat bowl, and rainbow cake.
Food and drinks start from ¥700 up to ¥1200. And the entrance fee is 500 yen per person, and it’s recommended to reserve a table before your arrival. It’s a very popular cafe, especially on the weekends. You can book the tickets online.
When you visit the Kawaii Monster Cafe, you can expect a fun experience for the whole family with colorful foods, harajuku girls clapping and singing, and fluffy monster characters running around and hugging guests.
20. Visit A Bean To Bar Chocolate Factory
Suggested by Dame Cacao
Japan is the chocolate capital of Asia; no doubt about it. From French-style chocolate ganaches to cacao pulp shakes and fudgey chocolate brownies, Japan has something for every consumer. That’s why, of all the unique things to do in Tokyo, a chocolate factory tour should be at the top of your list. While there are over a dozen chocolate makers in Tokyo (desired anchor text: chocolate makers in Tokyo alone, I’d recommend Dandelion Chocolate Factory above all.
There you’ll learn how chocolate is made from cacao bean to chocolate bar, and you can savor sweet drinks & desserts made with the cacao fruit’s pulp, seeds, and a mixture of both. The sipping chocolate is sometimes changed out for a seasonal speciality; on my last visit, they infused the drink with a special green tea from Kyoto. Since the parent company is American, they have a lot of English signage, but since the Japanese branch is run locally, it still has a very Japanese feel.
Located outside of the main tourist areas, visiting Dandelion will also give you a look at the destination travel culture in Japan, in which a cafe or restaurant makes itself so appealing that locals are willing travel quite far to visit. Don’t forget about the free wifi, a rarity in Japan!
21. Drink in a tiny bar within Golden Gai
Suggested by Ala Jode
Tokyo is one of those cities that has just as much to offer once the sun goes down as it does during the day. Just like the city itself, the nightlife in Tokyo is eclectic, unique and very, very fun – and Golden Gai is a perfect example of that. An architectural feat, Golden Gai is an area of “tiny bars”, each of which can hold only a few patrons at once. It makes for an intimate and unique kind of drinking experience, and is something that shouldn’t be missing during any trip to Tokyo. Due to the tiny size of the bar, you never need to worry about getting served because you’ll have the full attention of the bartender! Most of them are happy to chat, too, and you never know what you might learn.
Golden Gai is nestled in the entertainment district of Shinjuku. Made up of only 6 tiny alleyways, It’s so small that you could easily miss it. Most visitors tend to hop from one bar to the next, but visiting just a single bar will give you the full Golden Gai experience. Once inside, expect to pay typical Tokyo prices for drinks, but you can sometimes find a good deal if you’re with friends. Just keep in mind that you may be expected to pay a small “cover charge” of around $10 to enter a bar – which can quickly rack up if you visit multiple.
22. Visit the cemetery at Yanaka
Suggested by Travel Photo Discovery
Yanaka Ginza in the edge of Tokyo is one of the few untouched areas of the city that was not damaged by the war and retains much of its smaller town appeal and how parts of Tokyo looked liked in the past. The main points of attraction in visiting this district is to stroll the cemetery and temples in the area which is really a unique and spiritual experience and then walk through the main shopping promenade or Shitamachi and feels very local and community-oriented. The cemetery of Yanaka takes up a large part of the district and also contains many temples and even the grave of the last Shogun of Japan. The main thoroughfare is called Sakuradori which is lined with beautiful cherry blossom trees and it is spectacular to visit in spring when all the blooms are bursting on this street.
It is quieter here and really feels very local and out of place compared to busy and frenetic Tokyo. If you are looking for something authentic and smaller paced, check out Yanaka Ginza and you wil be pleasantly surprised at how amazing this area is and off the beaten path it is. Also, check out my post on the best-photographed areas of Tokyo here for more inspiration and planning your visit to the city.
23. Visit where they make plastic food replicas for Japanese restaurants
Suggested by Just Go Places Blog
Japanese restaurants are known for the realistic-looking Japanese food items they have on display. These fake dishes are the items the restaurant offers and are supposed to tempt potential diners into the establishment. We were fascinated with the sample fake dishes we saw in restaurant windows and were excited to find there is a make your own replica food at a sample food shop in Asakusa named Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya. Located in the cooking and kitchen section of Asakusa called Koppabashi, the store is only a short walk from one of the most visited places in Tokyo, Sensoji Temple.
This store has a workshop upstairs where you can make your own sample food but, unfortunately, the workshop is only given in Japanese. If you are a non-Japanese speaker, you will need to bring a translator with you. Alternatively, you can buy kits with replica food options in the downstairs store. With the kits you can make the sample food in the comfort of your own home. The sample food options include both traditional Japanese options like sushi and Western food like ice-cream parfaits.
We thought these kits were such great gifts we wound up buying a few for friends who are crafty. My kids could not get enough of cutesy kawaii things in Tokyo and we spent an inordinate amount of time in this store examining all the different items. We bought a couple of kits, too, which my kids assembled when they got home.
24. Visit the Borderless Exhibition
Suggested by Kids and Compass
Borderless exhibition of digital art is the one museum in Tokyo that you shouldn’t miss! It’s located down on the harbour island of Odaiba, which has plenty more things to keep you busy for the rest of the day.
Don’t go into Borderless thinking that you’ll be just looking at the artworks – you’ll be joining in and making the art your own! Many of the artworks are interactive – touch the figures walking along the walls and they’ll stop and bow; watch water pooling around your feet in the main hall; or create music as you walk through a room.
Some exhibits involve walking into hot rooms or climbing over cargo nets. On the top floor there’s lots for younger visitors to do, including bouncing on trampolines to create stars and make them explode.
There’s no map provided. You’ll have to find your way around the museum yourself; the first large room has side rooms leading to corridors and other, smaller rooms. You never know what you’re going to experience next!
Tickets for Borderless sell out fast so you should buy in advance. An adult ticket costs Y3200, and a child ticket is Y1000. You may have to queue when you arrive so try to get there for opening time. Plan on spending at least 2 or 3 hours in the museum, although you could definitely stay longer!
25. Visit the Stationery Cafe
Suggested by My Travel Scrapbook
One unique thing to do during your trip to Tokyo is to visit the stationery café!
If you would like to visit a less touristy themed cafe during your stay in Tokyo and you like doodling, consider visiting Cafe Bunbougu. Despite its location in the busy Shinyuku area close to the popular Harajuku street, not many travellers visit the stationery café. Most tourists prefer to visit the animal cafes meaning that it will probably only be you and some locals in this unique place. This makes it one of the best unique things to do in Tokyo!
Bunbougu (文房具) is the Japanese word for stationery. The café is full of sketches, stationery to purchase as well as use. So order a coffee, choose a seat and get ready to be creative! Your placemat is your canvas so head over to the pens and grab a few. Allow yourself to relax to the peaceful guitar music and doodle to your heart’s content. See if you can write your name in Japanese or find inspiration in one of the many sketch pads. Those who will be staying in the city for longer may want to consider joining to have access to the locked drawers! Within the locked draws are coveted stationery items with the standard Bunbougu café user does not have access to!
The stationery café in Tokyo is one of the more unique things to do in the city. It is a wonderful way to slow down after a hectic few days of sightseeing in Japan!
26. Take a Kawaii bento box class
Suggested by Traveling Honeybird
Culinary tourism in Japan seems oh so very natural. A country that takes great pride in not only the quality of the food on offer but also on the presentation. Each dish is lovingly made and often oozes a mystical charm. Which is why my number one unique thing to do in Tokyo, beyond going to Sanrio Puroland (aka Hello Kitty World) is learning the art of creating a kyara-ben bento box – aka making a kawaii bento box!
Over the course of two hours the lovely and very patient instructors from Traveling Spoon walk you through how to create a Totoro bento box. From the grinding of sesame seeds to the hand rolling, plumping and crafting of the Totoro scenery. Each step is accompanied with a quick history and culinary lesson into the main ingredients. Before you know it, the tears of laughter are rolling down your cheeks are you attempt to make little rice balls into delightful little characters to impress. All in all a fantastic experience and one that you can take home to impress your friends and family.
If you’re not sure a bento box is a single container meal. Generally speaking these are a style of a lunchbox, with compartments to separate the different sections of the meal. These are still exceptionally popular around Japan and you’ll see them everywhere!
This is a hands-on experience best suited for teenagers and adults. There are the use of sharp knives, chopsticks and cooking over a gas stove. The cost is approx. $88 USD per person.
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- 10 Japanese Food You Have to Try While in Japan
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