Tokyo Bucket List: 50+ Top Things To Do in Japan’s Coolest City

Tokyo can never get boring—it has a plethora of bucket list worthy things to do and fun attractions to visit. While I was in Japan’s top city, I ate beef that was creatively shaped like a brain, served to me inside of my private jail cell by women dressed in pink nurses’ outfits. I drank my coffee next to a dozen felines at a quirky cat café, confirming my preference for dogs. And I found out exactly what all the buttons on the Japanese toilet do (enjoying some outcomes much more than others).

There are not many places that would provide such peculiar and cool forms of entertainment, but Tokyo is a city of many colorful facets; a mix of avant-garde and traditional. It is a town where the illuminated skyscrapers cohabitate with historic temples, unusual anime shops and cherry blossom lined streets. It is a cool destination where your itinerary can include attending a lively tuna auction hours before daybreak, nightlife that can include eating skewers of yakitori in the seedy Piss Alley or scrambling across one of the biggest intersections in the world with hundreds of others.

In other words the city is freaking fabulous and here are the best things to do in Tokyo:

Best Tokyo Bucket List: 50+ Top Things To Do, Places to Visit and Attractions in Japan's Coolest City

Best Things To Do, Places to Visit and Attractions in Tokyo, Japan

1. Buy Some Vinyl at HMV Records

Tokyo is a paradise for Vinyl Lovers! They have more record shops than any other city in the world with new collections brought in every month. HMV Records is a huge store filled with Vinyl Records. We recommend you bring along plenty of cash because you will surely get lost amidst aisles of wonder records making you nostalgic and rekindling your passion for music. This vast second-hand record shop has plenty of items and genres for music lovers. They also have a handful of cassettes with a special corner for them along with CDs.

2. Experience TeamLab Borderless

It’s hard to explain TeamLab Borderless, you really have to experience it. The digital art museum is an immersive world where the artwork has no boundaries. There is no map or ‘right way to go’, you move freely from room to room of three-dimensional 10,000 square meter building exploring and discovering. You will find things like the Athletic Forest that helps you think of the world three-dimensionally and, the most instagrammed room, the forest of lamps where hundreds hang from the ceilings.

3. Watch Wrestling Practice at a Sumo Stable

You can’t fully understand the intensity of the sumo wrestling sport unless you are up close and personal at an intense morning practice session to witness the panting, grunting and dripping sweat. The practices at the sumo wrestling stable are not attractions created for tourists—the athletes are not putting on a show for you—they are in serious training and need to be shown respect while you are there.

Though there are over 40 training stables, most in the Ryogoku district, only a few accept visitors. The most common are Kasugano Beya, Takasago Beya and Musashigawa Beya. Make sure to call ahead to confirm that they will be having practice on the day you arrive! Or for an even easier option just book a Morning Sumo Training tour, or take a peek at this list of sumo related experience that you can quickly book online.

Tokyo Sumo Stable

If you don’t speak Japanese seeing a practice on your own may be a little tricky (I went to Hakkaku Sumo Stable and needed a translator). But, it was worth the effort because seeing this Japanese tradition was definitely one of the Top 10 things I did in Tokyo!

4. See a Professional Sumo Match

Sumo is the world famous Japanese style wrestling match which began in ancient times as a ritual to entertain the Shinto deities. And after you’ve seen them practice at the sumo stable, witness the traditional sport live and in all its glory!  During the tournament months (January, May and September) you can get tickets for each day of the 15-day tournaments, or just one. I highly recommend the ringside seats which is the closest seating available to the wrestling ring with cushions on the floor.

It’s possible to find a few seats available on tournament day, but it’s best to get them in advance. You can see upcoming tournaments and book tickets here.

5. Make a Stop at Meiji Shrine

The historical significance of the Meiji Shrine cannot be overstated. The shrine was made for the first emperor of modern Japan – Emperor Meiji. You enter this austere and mystical place through a 40-foot high tori gate and find yourself surrounded by a 200-acre park with a 100,000 trees. Wow!

The cleansing station has a communal water tank for purification of the hand and mouth before offering prayers. You can also write your wishes and tie them up to the prayer wall. The Meiji Jingu Treasure House is at the northern end of the shrine where you will find several personal belongings of the Emperor, as well as a beautiful Inner Garden with blooming flowers and a rustic well.

For a more thorough experience take the Meiji Shrine Walking Tour with a local guide.

Meiji Jingu Shrine

6. Attend a Baseball Game

The game of baseball isn’t just one of America’s favorite pastime, the Japanese are passionate about it too. Things are just done a bit differently when you attend a baseball game in Japan, like waving umbrellas for home runs, snacking on edamame and having cheerleaders. Though the Yomiuri Giants at the Tokyo Dome draw larger crowds, you can also see the Tokyo Swallows play at the outdoor Jingu Stadium.

Japanese Baseball Game: Top Thing to Do in Tokyo

It may be possible to snag some tickets on the day of the game, but not guaranteed! So, if seeing a Japanese baseball game is high on your things to do list then buy tickets to a game online.

Japanese Baseball Game: Top Thing to Do in Tokyo

7. Go to Dinner at a Ninja Restaurant

At Ninja Shinjuku a small robot in the corner starts to speak to you as a sliding door opens and leads you down a narrow hallway. Shoji doors open and lead you to a small room where dinner is served. This is not the kitschy place where spry ninjas pop down from the ceiling and serve mediocre food, it’s more of a molecular gastronomy experience where smoke billows out of a box to uncover a beautifully executed salad and Kobe beef is served with a trio of unique dipping sauces.

Dessert was served inside a basement room, along with a “ninja show” which really was more like a magic show—impressive none the less. But what was even more impressive was the bonsai tree dessert whose branches needed to be trimmed with scissors in order to eaten and the base was a sweet crumb that looked just like dirt. Genius.

8. Go to the Intermediatheque Museum

The Intermediatheque (IMT) Museum is a psychedelic world of its own. Located in the Kitte Marunouchi building near the Tokyo Station, you’ll find yourself lost amidst the ancient wonders and treasures left behind for us by extinct civilizations. From early steam engines to Egyptian mummies, this kaleidoscopic wonderland has everything preserved and on display. Get inspired by the tribal art or see your kids’ faces light up by the wildlife specimens and the 19th century raconteurs of flora and fauna.

Allow yourself at least half a day to absorb the richness and literary brilliance of this place!

9. Play a Game of Pachinko

Pachinko is a Japanese arcade game where the object is to fire balls that will then fall through a maze of metal pins. Try to capture as many balls as possible into the center hole. If you walk through the Shinjuku district, you won’t be able to miss the Pachinko Parlors with their flashing neon and clinking of the balls. It can be an addictive, yet fun thing to do in Tokyo!

Annette White playing pachinko in Tokyo

Understanding the game of Pachinko can be tricky without lessons or guidance from someone who knows the in-and-outs. You can book the Original Japanese Entertainment tour and you’ll get a half hour lesson along with playing time.

10. Spend the Night in the Hello Kitty Room

You don’t need to be a diehard Hello Kitty fan to enjoy this must see (and sleep in) room. Slink over to Shinjuku and spend the night in the fun Hello Kitty Room at Keio Plaza Hotel. The room is decked out in the cats signature decor and you can even get yourself breakfast with kitty shaped/stamped food.

11. Walk Across Shibuya Crossing

The iconic Shibuya Crossing is on most visitors “things to do in Tokyo” attraction itinerary because it is dubbed as the busiest intersection in the world, which means it won’t be difficult to find yourself there when it’s insanely packed. While crowds may not be something you wish for your everyday life, trust me, you’ll want participate in the organized chaos that ensues when hundreds of people walk across the intersection at once.

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

For a different perspective, watch the crossing from the 2nd-story window of the Starbucks on the North side or from the 47th floor of Shibuya Scramble Square building. For an even more unique bucket list experience, walk Shibuya crossing in a kimono. Don’t forget to check out the famous Hachiko Statue right between the intersection and Shibuya Station before you set on your way! And perhaps commit yourself to some window shopping at Shibuya’s massive record stores after?

If you want to experience more in the area the Shibuya & Harajuku Hidden Gems tour would be a good choice!

12. Try Batto, the ‘Art of Swordsmanship’

Batto, the art of swordsmanship, is a discipline that very few have mastered, but at HiSUi Tokyo you will be one step closer as you take their comprehensive course with a real katana (a long, single-edged sword used by samurai). These techniques and swords were vital in order for the samurai to protect the community and reigning lords.

13. Get the View at Shibuya Sky

Make your way to the tall Shibuya Scramble Square building and climb to the 47th floor, to the Shibuya Sky. This rooftop observatory will get you a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the city. You can even see the chaos of the famous Shibuya Crossing from way up there.

14. Unleash Your Inner Anime Fan!

Japan is the birthplace of anime, the Japanese term for animation, so while you’re there make the most of it! If you’re an anime fan then there are so many shops that sell anime products, like Mandarake in Shibuya, as well as themed cafes (here are 8 good ones!) for you to explore. Even if you’re not a fan then it is still amazing to go and immerse yourself in the culture.

For the ultimate experience, book the Akihabara Anime & Gaming Adventure Tour, that will take you to a retro video game store, to a maid cafe and shopping at an anime store!

15. Stroll Through Yoyogi Park

Taking a walk through Yoyogi Park is a grand experience all on its own. You’ll be setting foot on the ground which represents the ancient facets of Japan, as it was once a site of military barracks, and even served as an Olympics Gymnasium in 1964. The park is divided in two parts by a wide road, one side of which is a dense forest area where people usually take their strolls and enjoy the natural beauty of the place, have picnics and barbecues. The latter has a stadium and an outdoor stage that hold exclusive events and food festivals.

If you are a garden lover then don’t miss the 6-hour private Japanese Garden Tour that will take you on your choice of gardens!

16. Attend a Kabuki Theater Show

Kabuki is a unique form of Japanese theater where they combine song, mime, dance, costume design and elaborate makeup that is typically performed solely by men. At Kabuki-za you can buy Single Act tickets just to get an introduction to the style of theater, or opt for the whole show. It’s easy to get your tickets online here.

Hint: before going to the Kabuki show learn more about the tradition with a guided tour of Kabuki-za Gallery.

17. Get a Photo of the Giant Godzilla Head

Godzilla is thankfully not wreaking havoc on the streets of Tokyo anymore, but you can still see him peeking through the 8th floor of Hotel Gracery in the Toho Building. The Godzilla Head is a popular attraction in Shinjuku with its giant 39-foot reptilian head, piercing eyes and sharp pointy teeth! You can see him from the busy street 130-feet below, or take the elevator up to get a closer peek. Keep your eyes open for the new Godzilla Viewing Room coming soon.

Big Godzilla in Tokyo

If you’re interested in exploring more of the area surrounding the Godzilla Head, then consider taking a private tour of Shinjuku’s Top Sites.

18. Learn About the History at Edo-Tokyo Museum

Edo is Tokyo’s old name, and the Edo-Tokyo Museum conserves the historical culture and traditions of the city. It almost felt as if I was approaching a UFO when walking towards the building, but then I learnt that the architecture was inspired by the old Tokyo warehouse raised on stilts—it has an ultramodern feel to it with a lot of character.

During my 2-hour tour, I marveled at the handcrafted figurines with unique clothing and expressions, the massive cavern room, the replica of Nihonbashi Bridge, recreations of houses and transports of the ancient people, market areas and stage settings of theatrical performances. The place will be your guide to understanding how Tokyo evolved to be one of the most influential cities of the world.

Edo Museum in Tokyo

The Sumida Walking Tour will take to on a guided tour of the Edo Museum, as well as the museum of the famous artist Katsushika Hokusa.

19. Sing Karaoke

What to do in Tokyo for nightlife? Karaoke, of course. It is a big part of their culture and a huge attraction tourists as well as locals. Tokyo has plenty of fun (& sometimes weird) Karaoke bars where you can belt out a few tunes. One of the more well-known is Karaoke Kan, which was the location for Bill Murray’s singing session in the movie Lost in Translation. But, there are other clubs as well, and you can find some top ones here: 10 of the Best Bars in Tokyo for Karaoke and Other Weird Stuff.

20. See the Tokyo Tower at Night

The Tokyo Tower is the second tallest architectural wonder of Japan. Standing at a height of 1092 feet, the tower glimmers with lights and serves as one of the symbolic features of the city. It is a true marvel to see at the night time, especially because the  illumination themes change according to seasons and occasions. You can see it from afar (here are the best place to do it) or you can also go up to the special observation deck and get a night time view of the city (book your ticket here). It is a sight you’ll never forget!

21. Get an Umbrella at Cool Magic SHU’s Umbrella Shop

A store solely dedicated to umbrellas? Yep, that’s exactly what Cool Magic Shu’s is. It may take you hours of perusing the aisles to find your perfectly designed rain protection, but it will be fun doing it!

22. Use all the Buttons on a Japanese Toilet

I’m sure your asking yourself, “can a toilet really be worthy of a spot on your Tokyo Things to Do in Tokyo Bucket List“? Yes, in this case it can. A Japanese commode isn’t any ordinary potty, it’s like a spa for your private parts.

Not only will your butt be warm with their seated heats, but they can also clean your derrière with a hot stream of water. Plus, many public restroom stalls will play the sounds of chirping birds to mask any other noises that may be happening! Luckily, you can experience these toilets at many restaurants, hotels and public attractions.

23. Visit the Red & White Cats at Gotokuji Temple

The Gotokuji Temple is a place that comes with a highly engaging, legendary tale of the maneki neko–the beckoning cats. They are believed to bring good luck and are a symbolic figure of the temple. The visitors make offerings and prayers in front of thousands of red and white cat statues. The kitties are all wearing a red collar with a hanging golden bell and a paw raised in the air to bring you good fortune! You’ll also find cat art in the neighborhood leading up to the temple—a treat for all the cat lovers out there.

24. Do a Kimono Fitting

Wearing a kimono is a large part of the Japanese culture. A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that is typically worn by women on special occasions. There are few places to be fitted for a kimono while traveling to Tokyo, but you can find a couple. My personal tour guide, Tomomi, offers private fittings in her home (this is my story about it: Do a Kimono Fitting in Tokyo, Japan), whereas you can book one of these top tours:

25. Visit the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is the place of residence of Japan’s Imperial family. It has a beautiful park area surrounded by grand stone walls and moats in the center of Tokyo. The main Palace area is open only on the New Year’s Greeting Event on January 2nd and the Emperor’s Birthday on the 23rd of December, but the palace exterior grounds are open for public throughout the year.

There are two bridges that can be viewed right from the Kokyo Gaien plaza that’s right out from the the palace and the Imperial Palace East Gardens are amongst the best places for a stroll.

Imperial Palace in tokyo Japan

The Imperial Palace Walking Tour will give you a deeper look into palace with a licensed guide.

26. Buy a Japanese Knife

Japanese knives are known to be some of the best in the world due to there keen edges, quality of steel and made-by-hand techniques. Being a restaurateur, I could not leave Tokyo without bringing one home with me!

Though I bought mine at Masahisa, there are plenty of other reputable knife shops around town. You can try walking down Kappabashi Street, the kitchen district. Not only will you find plenty of knife shops, but you will also find every kitchen product imaginable, including plastic food samples used as window displays by many restaurants.

27. Walk Across the Rainbow Bridge

The iconic Rainbow Bridge of Japan got its name because in the month December it’s lit up like a rainbow. The suspension bridge has a pedestrian pathway on both its north and south ends. It is free to take a walk across and takes about 25 minutes on foot, but you can also go on a bicycle.

The north route has breathtaking views of the Tokyo Tower along with stunning skyscrapers around Roppongi and Toranomon, Toyosu and the Shiodome area. The south route offers views of Odaiba as well as the neighboring islands and the Shinagawa area.

28. Relax at an Onsen

Relaxing in a hot springs bath, an onsen, is a top Japanese tradition that you don’t want to miss. There are plenty of them in Tokyo (you can see some of the best ones here), but Ooedo Onsen Monogatari is a popular one because it’s an onsen theme park where you can soak in one of their baths, get your fortune told and/or have a foot massage. There’s plenty of entertainment on the premises to keep you occupied for at least an afternoon.

29. Go to Tokyo Disneyland

Welcome to the happiest place in the world—Disneyland Tokyo edition! It is highly recommended that you spend at least 2 days here to enjoy all the wonderful attractions and food. There are several fun attractions unique to Tokyo Disneyland, like Dream Lights with a magical nighttime light parade (Minnie oh! Minnie!), the interactive Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek and Western River Railroad to name a few.

You can book admission tickets and transfers here. Also consider splurging a little by staying at the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel which is at a short walk from the theme park and comes with many perks.

30. Visit 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT

If you are a fan of unique design then stopping at the 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT is a must! This contemporary design exhibition hall is the brain child of fashion designer Issey Miyake and architect Tadao Ando. It’s located in Tokyo’s midtown, an upscale section in the Roppongi area of the city.

The beauty of this places starts with the exterior architecture and moves about through the different gallery spaces. The artwork changes with some of the themes being things like “Secret Source of Inspiration: Designers’ Hidden Sketches and Mockups” and “Chocolate” that focused on the unique social attributes related to chocolate.

During my visit they had a beautiful chair exhibit, each designed by current and former members of the Japan Design Committee. The best part was that you were encouraged to sit in them all!

31. Visit the Meguro Parasitological Museum

The Meguro Parasitological Museum is one of a kind, and the only one in existence that displays the weirdly fascinating collection from the world of parasites! It is a unique experience that you’ll carry with you all your life, although if parasites make you feel squeamish, you may need to cover your eyes because the skin crawling museum has parasites from all facets of life on display in hundreds of jars. Even though it sounds gross, you’re bound to be intrigued by its bizarreness, and it may even end up being top of your favorite thing to do in Tokyo!

32. Go to a Maid Cafe

Maid cafés are all the buzz in Japan! They are fun cosplay restaurants where waitresses are dressed up as working maids to serve the customers as a master in a private home rather than as a café patron. The key word is “iyashi” that translates into “to be soothed”.

Your quintessential Victorian maid fantasy will come to life with spa like services, scrumptious food along with relaxing classical music while you are enveloped by verdurous greenery! There are numerous maid cafés in Tokyo (you can see some of the top ones here), each offering a unique service with the cutest undertones like chanting “moe moe kyun” to make your drinks taste better or writing over your food with ketchup! It is definitely something to look out for.

If you don’t want to navigate a maid cafe on your own, you can book one of these tours:

33. Go to a Cat Cafe

Tokyo is filled with weird things to do and going to a cat cafe ranks really high on that list. Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku is an attraction that gives you the opportunity to play with unique feline breeds while drinking a cup of coffee. So odd that it’s definitely worth a spot on your things to do in Tokyo bucket list itinerary. If you prefer, you can also play with cute hedgehogs in Roppongi!

Best Quirky Café in Japan?Tokyo's Calico Cat Café in Shinjuku

34. Dine in a Jail Cell

Most people would avoid (at all costs) dining in a jail cell, but Alcatraz ER will give you an offbeat dining experience of a lifetime. This restaurant is designed as a jail and each cell or prison represents a dining area for a group. Staff that are well dressed in nurse uniforms tend to the call of the bang of a metal rod against the cells bars.

Alcatraz ER themed Restaurant in Tokyo Japan

Brave diners (like myself!) will nosh on things like blue curry served in a urine tin or drink cocktails out of dummy’s head. Can you ever imagine eating sausage in the shape of bowel movement; well this place has more quirkiness to offer than you can imagine. A must have nightlife experience for your Tokyo itinerary even you prefer not to visit again.

Alcatraz ER themed Restaurant in Tokyo Japan

35. Go to Yasukuni Shrine

The Yasukuni Shrine is the most interesting and possibly the most controversial place in Japan. Founded in 1869, this place is said to hold 2.5 million shrines! It was made in honor of the men who lost their lives in the Boshin War and has expanded to include war martyrs since then.

The entrance of the shrine is made from a massive gray metal Daicihi Torii standing at a height of 72 feet and giving it an eerie feel. The arch then gets smaller with a Daini Torii which is the second shrine gate, and the Shinmon gate which leads into the area of shrine. The Chumon Torrii then leads into the main hall. Photography isn’t allowed but there is a lot to take in with rich cultural significance and a war museum.

36. See a Show at the Robot Restaurant

From the moment you enter The Robot Restaurant lounge to the time you depart, you will feel like you are diving into the colors of neon that bounce off the mirrors. There are dramatic fights between bikini clad girls riding atop robots, the sound of the cast playing the charismatic drums and visitors are given a glow-stick to cheer during all the action.

Best Tokyo Bucket List: The Robot Restaurant Show in Tokyo Japan

This place is more dedicated to a flashy show than on food, but you can order a sushi bento box or caramel popcorn to dine on while you are entertained. Plus, flowing beer and a few drinks are available, but the core attraction is the captivating chaos of the show.

Though you can buy tickets at the door, you can get them at a discount by booking in advanced at Voyagin.

37. Indulge in a Massive Matcha Dessert

Offbeat food in Tokyo is not limited to main meals, but extends to sweet desserts too, and some of the most popular is made from matcha, a green tea. Desserts like ice-cream, mousse, cream, jelly and many more variations are available. But, I say if you are going to do it go big! I ordered this this quadruple layered matcha gateaux chocolate parfait that was topped with an entire piece of cake! Yes, I ate the whole thing! No shame.

The most popular hot spots serving these delectable and divine tasting desserts are Kinozen, Marunouchi Café, Nana’s Green Tea (that’s where I ate) and many more.

Annette White eating Match Dessert in Tokyo

38. Attend a Tuna Auction

You will need to wake up really early for a chance to go to the famous tuna auction at Tsukiji Fish Market (folks start lining up before 4am). But, it will be worth getting an insiders view of the buyers checking the fish quality and bidding for their prize one. After, explore Tsukiji’s inner and outer market where you can watch them expertly cut the large tunas they just purchased.

Butchering ahi at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo

You can go on your own or book a tour:

39. Participate in a Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

Happo-en Japanese Garden sits in Shirokanedai district of Tokyo and is an exquisite example of natural beauty with its ancient bonsai, koi pond and blanket of cherry blossoms in the Springtime. Not only is it a beautiful representation of a Japanese garden, but you can schedule to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony where you will be drinking Matcha in their wooden Muan tea house.

Tokyo Attraction: Traditional Tea Ceremony

If you want to combine a tea ceremony with street food with a typical “Teishoku” lunch then the Old Town Tokyo Food Tour would be a perfect fit.

Tokyo Attraction: Traditional Tea Ceremony

40. Bar Hop in Golden Gai

What’s a trip to Tokyo without a little nightlife? Golden Gai is a neighborhood in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo that squeezes in over 200 miniature bars into a network of six narrow alleys, made only for pedestrians. Enjoy the unique Japanese nightlife by bar hopping in the section of town where most of the drinking holes only seat 8-12 people total. Ready to go? Get the location here or just book one of these top rated tours:

Shinjuku Nightlife: A Guide to Tokyo’s Best Golden Gai Bars

Want to read more about bar hopping in Golden Gai? See this article—Shinjuku Nightlife: A Guide to Tokyo’s Best Golden Gai Bars.

41. Learn to Make Classic Japanese Ramen at Chagohan

You can eat ramen all over the city, but how about learning to make it? At Chagohan you can learn this skill (and dine on it afterwards!). FYI: This isn’t the only ramen cooking class, there are re plenty of others and you can see a list at Cookly.

If just sampling ramen is more your thing, then book the Ramen Tasting Tour with Local Ramen Guru that will have you eating 6 mini bowls at 3 shops in 3 districts!

42. Eat at the Kill Bill Inspiration Restaurant

Gonpachi restaurant, in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, is known as being the inspiration for the fight scene from the Kill Bill movie and it’s easy to spot the similarities. Not only can you enjoy the interior design, but you can also indulge in a bowl of Soba.

43. Make Your Own Matcha at the Urasando Garden Mini-Mall

The Urasando Garden is a collection of shops within a traditional Japanese–style house giving you the ultimate kick of nostalgia as soon as you enter. It gets its name from its unique location at the back street of Omotesando, hence the name Urasando meaning “ura” – back and “omote” – front.

There are many fun things to do and shops to explore, but what makes the best visit is being able to make your own matcha. You can choose your own cup and blend your own matcha alongside houjicha-flavored chocolate and cream filled breads!

44. Eat Chankonabe (Sumo Wrestlers Stew)

Chankonabe is the nutritious stew that sumo wrestlers eat daily as part of their bulking up diet. It is a hearty dish that is relatively healthy, low in fat, high in protein and filled with tons of veggies. There are many Chankonabe restaurants in Tokyo, conveniently located close to the sumo stables where the wrestlers practice and live. But, Yoshiba is the most unique because it is located in an old sumo stable with a sumo dohyo (ring) right in the center of the dining room (this is where I had my chankonabe experience in Tokyo).

Best chanokabe restaurant in Tokyo Japan

If you’re interested in booking a tour instead of navigate somewhere to each chankonabe here are a couple highly rate ones:

45. Drink a Cat Coffee at Oshiage Nyanko

Are you a cat person who loves coffee? This quaint little café boasts stuff dreams are made of! Tucked away in a tiny pocket-sized treasure cove, this hidden gem is located near the Tokyo Sky Tree. You will be amazed at the wonderful 3D latte art of “Oshiage Nyanko”. Although the café isn’t that prominent, it is so famous that you can easily find it.

46. Take a Sushi Making Class

If you are a sushi lover, what better thing to do in Tokyo than learn how to make it? I got a personal sushi lesson with Tokyo Tours with Tomomi, where we first paid a visit to Tsukiji Fish Market to pick up some fresh tuna for our meal and went to her private home to assemble. Get Your Guide also offers a fabulous Sushi Making Class. The best part is when you are rewarded by getting to eat your efforts. Afterwards you can wash it all down with sake by booking a sake tasting.

You can find many more sushi making options at Cookly.

47. Go to a Ping-Pong Restaurant

Tokyo is filled with quirky dining options and The Rally Table is one of them. It’s ‘Game On’  at this restaurant where table tennis is the centerpiece of the room. So pop on in, order yourself a plate of the ping pong curry and play a game or two. FYI: It gets pretty lively at night, but during lunch it’s mostly business men so you’ll have a better chance at playing a game.

48. Eat at a Yakiniku Restaurant

This bucket list activity is for all the carnivores out there. At a Yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant in Tokyo you will be barbecuing your choice of raw grub on your own table top grill. If you choose to have your dining experience at the highly rated Yakiniku Jumbo Shirogane, you will be indulging in A5 Kuroge Wagyu, the highest rank of Japanese beef. Or you can try some of  Tokyo’s other tasty yakiniku restaurants Or take the Night Foodie Tour in Shinjuku that includes a Yakiniku restaurant.

49. Explore the Ghibli Museum

If you have seen Spirited Away, and loved it, then the Ghibli Museum absolutely needs to be visited by you! The creator of the movies, Hayao Miyazaki, also had a hand in creating the visuals of this museum, helping make it one of the most visually stunning museums in the world. Even if it’s just for a moment, you’ll have landed right in the middle of one of his movies!

50. Eat Grilled Salamander (and other delicious stuff) in Piss Alley

Piss Alley, also known as Omoide Yokocho (or Memory Lane), is best described as the restaurant version of Golden Gai, a section that squeezes in over 200 miniature bars into a network of six narrow alleys. Piss Alley is a small area filled with quaint yakitori restaurants, and a few drinking holes, most with just a handful of seats.

If you are an adventurous eater head over to Asadachi, a name that translates to Morning Wood, where you will get the privilege of tasting Grilled Salamander. Yes! Salamander! Maybe not the best food in the world, but visitors who love to challenge their eating habits visit this restaurant for the most bizarre meal. Here you can also try pig testicles, frog shasimi, raw pig testicles and snake liquor. Yum!

Annette of Bucket List Journey in Tokyo, Japan

51. Stay in a Capsule Hotel

These pint-sized pods have become popular for those that want something trendy, easy and economical. There are several all around Tokyo, but one of the top ones is Capsule Net Omotenashi.

52. Get Your Meal From a Vending Machine

You heard right — eat a meal from a vending machine! One of Japan’s greatest inventions, definitely not only limited to being found in Tokyo, are the vending machines at just about every corner. You can barely walk a block in Tokyo without passing by a half dozen vending machines. Though most are filled with an array of beverages, many will have food products that can easily make a meal. The list includes special items like flying fish soup, eggs, hot dogs, hamburgers, sushi, ramen and so on. My afternoon lunch of warm corn soup was surprisingly tasty!

53. Go to an Owl Café

Oh, what a hoot! Ever thought of having an eye staring contest with an owl? Here in Tokyo, everything is possible! One minute you are strolling through parks the next you have an owl named Peanut perched on your arm! These quirky cafés (here are 7 to choose from) are almost always packed with customers, and you need to be very careful around the majestic owls. No flash photography or sudden movements allowed!

 You can meet real owls at an owl café in Akihabara by booking here.

54. Sleep in a Ryokan

For a unique cultural experience stay at a ryokan, an old-school Japanese inn typically with tatami-matted rooms, low tables, and communal baths. Ryokan Sawanoya will give you this traditional feeling or opt for the updated Andon Ryokan.

55. Discover Sensoji Temple

Another historically significant spot in the middle of Tokyo, Sensoji Temple is the oldest religious site in all of Tokyo. Not only that, but is one of the more gorgeous temples to visit, based on its exterior. Right after visiting the temple, check out the shops by Nakamise Dori, on your way back to the station.

Truth be told, there is far more to see and do in Tokyo that could ever be written down in a post, unless you want to read pages and pages worth of bullet point suggestions. But these are some amazing activities to get started from, especially if you’ve only got a few days to yourself to explore the city. And after you’ve gone once, you’ll find yourself wanting to go back, again and again, and there will always be more to see. That’s really half the fun of it! So, what are you still waiting for? Time to book your plane tickets and go!

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84 thoughts on “Tokyo Bucket List: 50+ Top Things To Do in Japan’s Coolest City”

  1. Wow! It’s completely a different world! It’s so different to connect with some of the cultural settings you’ve been through. Some were quite odd to me and some very interesting. It seems that eating is important and collective actions are spectacular scenes there.

    Honestly, the Japanese toilets were very unique to me. Piss Alley wasn’t so appealing. Relaxing at an Onsen was something that I would have liked to do too!

  2. Hi. I found your blog through Instagram and I just looove your pictures there.
    You really have a great blog. And your list of Bucket Things to do in Tokyo is definitely something I will remember when I get the chance to go :-) Keep up your good writing!

  3. …and now I want to return to Japan.

    There’s so much about the country that we didn’t get to see during our month there at the start of our travels. It would be fantastic to return there in 2015 to see things with a new more experienced traveller perspective, plus through the eyes of a vegan – a challenge that I’d gladly accept.

  4. Where is the Hakkaku sumo place? I’m in Tokyo for one more day and would love to check it out! I cant seem to find it online anywhere. Thanks!

  5. Going to Tokyo next month, this has been helping with my final itinerary.Thank you and this is a great travel blog overall!

  6. Wow ok, well… Need to try all of them cause I’m flying to Japan at the end of March. This seems to be lots of fun and apparently there’s SO much to do and see.. Hope that two weeks will be somewhat “enough” to experience at least some traditions.
    Love , Anna & Vanessa

  7. Thankyou for the awesome ideas. My wife and I are currently in Japan visiting her family. I am looking forward to trying as much as possible from your list.
    Also do you know of any shops that sell Higonokami folding knife in Tokyo?

    • I’m not exactly sure which shops will sell one, but there are several knife shops around the Tsukiji fish market and on Kappabashi street. I’d check these two places first!

  8. Thank you for all the great ideas…I will be visiting my sister in August she lives in Sendai but we are planning on visiting Tokyo one weekend and I hope I get to experience some of your places of interest. This will be my first time in Japan so I want to make all my experiences/excursions count!

    • How exciting that it will be your first time in Japan! Tokyo is incredible, even if you can only have time for a couple of the experiences listed. There is just a cool and quirky vibe wherever you go in the city, so just aimlessly walking will be entertaining!

      • Tsukiji is open for the tuna auction, but the 120 tickets are sold on a first come first served basis and the first group are admitted between 5:25-5:50 and the second group from 5:50-6:15am.
        The rest of the fish market though is only open from 9am. Still worth visiting.

  9. I love this website so much! Me and my family are currently going to Japan this website is such a help. Once again thank you so much!!?

  10. Tokyo is my spirit animal! ;) I didn’t have time to do everything on my bucket list there, although I drank all the vending machine tea I could get my hands on.

  11. Love this list! It’s unique and adds several different highlights to a never ending list of amazing things to do and see in Tokyo!

  12. Wow ! Thank you for all these informations! Now I have a great list about things to do in Tokyo! ;)

  13. What an awesome city to be in. I have had Japanese food before, but that’s got to be done in Japan I know. Nice pictures, nice colors, nice city.

  14. I love Japan only some places dont speck english but most do. These people are very kind and very nice. If anyone would want to go on a trip i recimend them to vist the flower park in Japan. Its so pretty and so worth going.

  15. but dont disrespect them they get really upset i have seen it go down. They all are very nice but dont like when other people talk bad about Japan or the people there abd tbh i dont blame them because i would be the same way. I go to Japan every year and not once have they disrespeded my Countery or my people and the deffently deserve the same respect.

  16. I am going to Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto) for the first time for a week on October 12.
    Do they accept credit cards everywhere?
    Is public transportation available to get to the hotel from NRT airport?
    What do you recommend to bring as gifts for a baby? Adults?
    Thank you

    • Credit cards are not accepted everywhere, so make sure to bring some cash with you. From NRT you can take the JR Narita Express (N’EX; into the city center, which takes about an hour and costs roughly $27 USD. Depending on where your hotel is, you may need to take the subway or a taxi from the drop off location. From what I understand, good gifts are high-end foods that they can’t get in their area. Most Japanese homes are small, so it’ll be more difficult to store a trinket. Useable or edible gifts are best (chocolate, candies, socks, etc.)

  17. Great post, I agree on almost everything. I would just add that even better than sumo practice is the sumo tournament which really is a fun experience!
    As for the tuna auction… it’s becoming crazy lately. It has to do with the increasing number of tourists and the planned moving of Tsukiji at Toyosu: at the moment people start lining before 2 am! I am not sure it’s worth more than 3 hours of wait in an empty room

  18. Thank you for sharing these awesome bucketlist items for Tokyo. We went two years ago and only did a fraction of these. Our favourite being the sumo match. But we definitely want to go to a Kabuki Theatre this time around

  19. Such awesome ideas for my next trip into Tokyo! Thank you so much for sharing! If anyone wants to learn some Japanese before their trip to Japan, please get in touch with me and I will be more than happy to help you! Shota

  20. Of course I would love to do all of these things, but the big thing I’ve always wanted to do was check out the arcades in Tokyo. I know that Japan has some of the best in the world (whereas arcades in the US are going extinct), and finally being able to see one myself would be a dream come true.

  21. Japan is just the right blend of culture and leisure. If you are looking for some good travel possibility then do consider to visit Japan.

  22. Wow! It’s absolutely a special world! Very exciting. It seems that consuming is essential and collective movements are remarkable scenes there.

  23. Going to Japan for the first time next month. Will travel from Tokyo to Hiroshima in 7 days.
    Would it be worth while to get a JR Pass for the week we’re there?
    Any reccomendations on family (with toddler) accommodations that is reasonably priced?

  24. Hi Annette – only reading this now – we are planning about 10 days in Japan in early June. Can you recommend a good tour guide that’s not too expensive to help us get around Tokyo so we can get to most of your ideas! Please reply via email if you can. Thanks, Lila

  25. I’m leaving for Japan on Thursday, April 26! I’m super excited. My son is stationed at Camp Zama. He and his wife had their first baby (a boy) 3 months ago. We will definitely be spending some time in Tokyo.

  26. Hi Annette,

    You have some cool pictures of yourself here – did you travel by yourself? If yes, how did you take them? I will be going to Japan in September on my own, and at the moment I am bumped about the idea of only taking selfies or “unnatural” tourist poses

  27. Only just now saw this article. Really informative and I wish I was able to see more on my recent trip to Japan. I was only in Tokyo for two days but I saw as much as I could! My favorite areas were Asakusa (I was staying in Ueno nearby), Akihabara, and Shibuya. I tried to get into a sumo match but, unfortunately, all of the tickets were sold out so maybe next time. I hope to go when baseball season is in as well so I can see a Giants game. Those of you who see this and are looking for a neat place to stay in Tokyo check out the Edo Sakura in Ueno, a quaint little ryoken (traditional style) hotel!

  28. Hi Annette,

    I am so thrilled to find this article, I am visiting Tokyo next week and I will definitely try to tick as many possible in this bucket list.

  29. This blog is a wealth of information!
    So happy to stumble upon it. Just a quick question-when you stayed in the Hakone Guesthouse with the onsen were you able to book a room with a private onsen? Or do each of the rooms have access to a private onsen? Trying to book a room there, and it is unclear! Thanks!

  30. So many interesting things to do and try. I am now puttting the kimono fitting on my list of to do things in tokyo and hope we will find time for this fun experience when in Japan!

  31. Wow!! Interesting article I found this article from twitter and it was worth coming here to read this blog. It shows the true culture of Japan in a single blog post.

  32. wow!!! you have shown use some detail what can i say!! it is is such a remarkable place to be calm and relaxed and the right place to be, you’v shown us a lot thank you very mush i will need to book a ticket and what type of things could you do in Tokyo!?

  33. I love that you mention Japanese toilets. They are absolutely amazing and I wish all bathrooms were like the ones in Japan.


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Annette White the Owner of Bucket List Journey
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