Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? It’s definitely a fascinating city with plenty of sights, culture, and great food! Check out all the amazing tourist spots and places to see in Tokyo.
No Japan trip is complete without a trip to its largest city. Even though there are plenty of other places that are no less than spectacular, like Matsumoto, Shirakawa-go, Kusatsu, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, and so much more, Tokyo is still number one.
There is so much to see and do in this metropolitan city! It is a fascinating and gargantuan area with plenty of sights, culture, and great food! Here is our list of tourist sights and places to see in Tokyo.
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In this article:
- Tokyo’s Top Attractions
- Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Tokyo
- Best Things to do in Tokyo
- Temples and Shrines to Visit
- Some Museums
Tokyo Top Attractions You Must See!
There are so many attractions in Tokyo that it could take you a very long time to do and see everything. We know because we lived on the Kanto Plain for two years, and we still keep going back and finding a lot more things to do, see, and yes, eat!
Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Tokyo
Each area or neighborhood in Tokyo has its own flavor and its own personality. We’ve listed them from our top to our bottom choices. We think it would be good if you stayed in these areas, close to the things you want to do.
The ones we’ve listed are the biggies, the ones that you need to go to. We certainly have not visited all the neighborhoods, because it’s just too big and too exhausting, but if you have the chance…just keep exploring. There will always be a gem. I promise.
Asakusa, in Tokyo’s Taito City, is best known for its temples and shrines. Most people might expect a Japanese shrine or temple to be peaceful and quiet, and usually, they’d be right. However, the Sensoji Temple and the Asakusa area around it are just the opposite. People flock here on any day of the week, but the weekends are frenetic.
There are multiple places to shop for both traditional and contemporary items, and there are great restaurants throughout the district. Head to Shin-Nakimase Shopping Street for boutiques and eateries, or Nakimase Dori on the temple grounds for more souvenir-type items.
You can buy all kinds of souvenirs from inexpensive to very high-quality traditional items, like yukatas, fans, stamps, chopsticks, and whatever you have in mind.
As you leave the shrine area and walk around it you’ll find Hoppy Street, another walking road with stalls outside, that cater to those that want to sit down and do a little partying.
From the shopping street, Nakamise, all the way to the temple people are shopping and eating, eating and shopping. You will really enjoy the vibe, I’m sure.
Were to stay in Asakusa:
- APA Hotel Kaminarimon is a business type hotel with small but clean, comfortable and affordable rooms. It is close to both shopping streets and the temple and is only a block away from the metro station.
- Dormy Inn Global Cabin Asakusa – Dormy Inns are almost always a great bet, this one is right in Asakusa station with river view rooms. Don’t miss the open-air onsen and top floor foot bath
If you are traveling to Tokyo, you’ve probably heard of Harajuku in Shibuya City. Its famous street, Takeshita, is just so much fun to walk down and back again. Harajuku is the number one place to go in Tokyo with teens. They love This is the one area the absolute best. It is sure to live up to the hype and expectations when it comes to modern Tokyo.
If you enjoy unique things you can only do in Japan, check out this podcast!
Known for its nod to “kawaii” culture, you can find everything from animal cafés, themed foods and restaurants, and lots of shops for cosplay costumes and really so much more.
We have gone to Harajuku more times than I can count, and this last time it was pouring rain. We still had fun trying some of the foods and playing a grab-the-ticket game to see what prize we would get.
The whole place feels like a carnival, and kids of all ages will love it, that’s for sure.
Probably the busiest part of the city, Shinjuku’s train station is huge and caters to 2 million visitors per day. Of course, this means there is plenty to do! Shopping, food, and entertainment are all right there.
There is also the Metropolitan Government Building, which is a great place for lunch and views of the city, as well as a multitude of other restaurants and cafés. The ride up the elevator is free, just enter the building and follow the signs. Lunch in the cafeteria can be challenging, this is the largest ticket dispensing machine I’ve seen. If you get confused just ask anyone nearby for help.
We stayed in Shinjuku the last time we visited Tokyo at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza, and only had to walk down the street each night to find the best dinners.
Where to stay in Shinjuku:
- Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku – Steps from Shinjuku station and too many excellent restaurants and cafes to choose from
- JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom – Another fabulous choice, right there at the station, with comfortable rooms that are great value
Shibuya station is another major rail station in Tokyo with all of the shopping and restaurants you could want. Right outside the rail station are two of the most important things to do in Tokyo. The first is to wait for the lights to change and then cross the street at the busiest scramble crosswalk in the city. The other is to stop and see Hachiko, the statue memorializing Japan’s most loyal dog.
Shibuya City is also where you’ll find Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi park. If you visit the area on a weekend, be sure to enter the park through the Jingu Bashi where you’ll see Japan’s famous cosplay subculture in all its colorful glory.
Yes! One for the bucket list. Everyone wants to visit this frenetic shopping district! This “electric city” is said to be the hub for all people with any kind of obsession (Otaku culture), especially when it comes to anime and manga.
It makes sense then, that it’s one of the best places to play Pokémon in the city as well. There are even benches for people to sit on while playing.
We go for it all. We love the huge department stores, whether we are buying some digital nomad gear or a toy for the grandson. We’re never disappointed.
With so much money trading hands, it’s also a great place to find good coffee and great food as well. I think you will just love the energy of Akihabara, so put it on your list.
Where to stay in Akihabara:
- Dormy Inn Akihabara – Our favorite chain of hotels, super comfortable, free ramen at night, outdoor baths
- JR East Hotel Mets Akihabara – Right at the station, clean, comfortable rooms at a great price
One of the most interesting areas in Tokyo, especially if you are a foodie, is Kappabashi in Taito City. Go there to find all kinds of crockery, pots, pans, dishes, knives, wooden bowls, chopsticks, aprons, and everything for your kitchen or restaurant, including that uniquely Japanese plastic food that helps you choose your dinner each night.
Basically, a street lined with shops on both sides, with a few off-shoots down the side roads, you can shop, shop, shop. The mascot of the district looks like a turtle-man and is called the Kappa or River child. Look for them all over the district!
You can also visit Kappa-dera or Sogenji, a temple revering the Kappa. It’s small and won’t take you long to see, but the road is full of butchers and restaurants, and it’s quieter than the main part of Kappabashi.
Additional Reading: Where to Stay in Tokyo for Tourists and First Time Visitors
The Ginza neighborhood in Chuo City is well-known for its haute-couture and expensive shops, but it is much more than that. There are great eateries, museums, and even affordable shops as well.
In this district, you can find everything that is on trend, the newest fashion, and the best jewelry. In fact, this is where Tokyo goes for its high-end shopping sprees. You just can’t go wrong.
If you happen to be there on a Sunday, the Chuo Dori is shut down to traffic, so you can meander, eat street food, and enjoy being outside without those pesky cars and buses to stress you out.
Where to stay in Ginza:
- Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza-gochome – Stylish, affordable rooms near the station, enjoy the shared hot bath after a day of shopping
- Tokyu Stay Ginza – Affordable and near the station, with bigger rooms than most Tokyo hotels
Roppongi Hills, Minato City, has it all, great museums, beautiful gardens, good food, seasonal exhibits and markets, and lots of shopping!
For a great dinner, a night out at the movies, a chance to see some great art, or a fantastic view of the city, go to Roppongi Hills. A shopping center located in the center of the Roppongi district, this mall has it all. It’s easy to spend some time here.
If you go in the winter season, there is even a Christmas market right inside. You can get all the traditional foods and even some gluhwein as well as get some of your Christmas shopping done. And when you are finished, you can walk around the gardens and streets in the area looking at all the winter illuminations. They’re pretty spectacular.
For a nice sundowner, check out the deck at Tokyo City View. Here you can have a drink and wander around the deck for the best viewing. Afterward, pick from one of the many restaurants like the sushi restaurant that I like to go to, Roku Roku.
Where to stay in Roppongi:
- Act Hotel Roppongi – Steps from Roppongi station with clean, comfortable and affordable rooms, this is a great budget hotel in a perfect location
- Grand Hyatt Hotel – Perfectly located for shopping and nightlife in Roppongi, this is one of the best hotels in Tokyo, and such views! Get a higher floor room here, for sure.
Tokyo Neighborhood Map
Best Things to Do in Tokyo
There are so many activities to do in Tokyo, but the problem is that the tickets can go fast for popular places. If there is something you know you want to do, make reservations as soon as you can. That doesn’t mean you won’t be standing in lines, but you at least will know you will get into those special activities.
Head to TeamLab Planets
We’re big TeamLab fans. We try to go to these immersive activities wherever and whenever we can. So, one of the first set of reservations we made was to TeamLab Planets. They never fail to amaze us!
We loved it! The combination of all the sensory activities with both water and real plants really opens up your senses and makes you feel at peace. Be sure to wear shorts when you visit here, or loose pants that can be easily rolled up.
Click here to buy TeamLabs Planet Tickets ahead of time and skip the line.
Tokyo has an abundance of animal cafés, and you can sit and cuddle with everything from cats (the OG!), Shiba dogs, owls, rabbits, and the newest one we just visited…pigs! Oh so cute!
They are run very similarly. You book a time to go, and usually, you can only stay for a maximum of one hour.
When you arrive, you will thoroughly wash your hands before being able to touch any of the animals. In the pig café, they also gave us blankets to put on our laps to protect our clothes.
There are helpers in the room with you, and they will get animals to come to you or make sure you are being safe with them. There is always the rule of no picking up the animal. The animal must come to you.
In a place where space is at a premium and it’s difficult to have pets in a lot of the one-room apartments, I can see why animal cafés are so popular.
Enjoy a Themed Café or Restaurant
I love a good themed…anything, really. It’s so much fun. And you know who is the best absolute best at theming? Yep, the Japanese. When they theme, they really theme.
One trend that is super popular in Tokyo, as well as many other places in Japan, is eating at themed restaurants and cafés. We’ve been to many of them, but to be honest there are too many to go to them all. You have to do some research and find out which ones interest you.
From dining in the dark, maids, robots, Pokemon, Kawaii monsters, ninjas, catching your own fish to eat, and really so much more, you are certainly spoiled for choice.
Visit Toyosu Market
Shiny and new, Toyosu Market, is a sprawling complex that celebrates the Japanese’ favorite food – fresh fish! You can sign up to watch the fascinating fish auction, eat sushi for breakfast, and shop, shop, shop.
When we visited Toyosu, we were not fully prepared for how big the place is. It’s multiple buildings with tons to do, mostly eat and buy, inside.
We knew that we could go to the observation deck on the 2nd floor to watch whatever was happening on the auction floor, and we also knew that we wanted to eat some great sushi.
We didn’t know there was a small museum, a whole produce market as well as a fish market, and restaurants and shops galore. We ended up spending so much more time there than we had anticipated. We feel Toyosu Market is well worth visiting, especially if you love sushi.
Go to a Sumo Tournament or Visit the Stable
Sumo tournaments only happen a couple times of year, but you can always sign up for a tour to visit the sumo stable where the wrestlers practice and live. There is also a great little museum that’s worth a stop.
We happened to be in the city in January when a sumo tournament was held, and of course, bought tickets. The tickets let you enter very early in the day before the actual competition takes place.
You see all parts of the sumo ceremony, the parade of wrestlers, and of course some bouts. It’s a fascinating mix of sports and Shinto rituals. I would say it’s one of the most interesting and fun things I’ve ever done in all of Japan!
Take a Tokyo Bay Cruise
Taking a bay cruise in Tokyo gives you a chance to see the city from a different perspective. Tokyo grew up around all kinds of waterways, and being able to ride them is really fun.
The cruise we took lasted about an hour. We took it in winter, so it was nice and warm. There are huge windows to look out and it was a great way to spend some time not walking around.
Another option is to take a dinner cruise aboard a traditional Yakatabune house boat. This is a great way to see the city at night, from the water while enjoying a fabulous meal.
Visit the Imperial Palace Grounds
We haven’t visited the Imperial Palace for many years, and the reason why is that you can wander around the grounds but of course, you can’t enter any buildings.
Some of the things you can visit are some gardens and parks, like Kitanomaru Park, Chidorigafuchi Park, Nijubashi Bridge, and the Imperial East Gardens.
You can enjoy being outdoors in a pristine garden area, but it won’t take you long to do so.
Navigate through Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station is a surprise. The building itself, designed by architect Terunobu Fujimori, does not seem very Japanese. It’s more European in style.
After gawking at the outside of it, go in and look up into the dome, gorgeous! But then, wander around all the floors. Once you start exploring, you’ll forget all about the European facade, this is the heart of Tokyo, with incredible shopping and eating on several floors.
This is where the famous ramen street is, as well as shops for all kinds of themed toys and figures. We were going to eat at ramen street, but it was packed! We figured it was just as easy to get ramen elsewhere. If you don’t mind standing in line, there are definitely some good choices.
Hanami is the art of enjoying cherry blossoms, and it is an art. The delicate pink flowers are revered in this part of the world, and after living in Japan for so long, we completely understand.
Tokyo is full of wonderful places to view cherry trees, so you don’t have to leave the city to get a great experience. Just find the nearest park, filled to the brim with cherry trees, and enjoy an outdoor restaurant lunch, a picnic, or just a drink or two.
You’ll find the locals happy to include you, and the experience will be cemented in your brain as one of pure bliss.
Take in the View at Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower is an icon in the city. We have been a couple of times because if people come to visit, they always want to go up it.
The entire building is an experience. First, you ride to the top to take in the views, visit the shrine, and maybe have a refreshment. Honestly, it doesn’t take that long, but it’s definitely fun.
The rest of the building has more cool shopping, a small neon art exhibit, and so many souvenir stands, and delicious eats. It’s easy to get lost in looking at all the hipster goods and buying some neat gifts.
Click here to buy Tokyo Tower tickets ahead of time and skip the line.
Ride the Rides at Tokyo Disney and Disney Sea
Many, many people go to Tokyo to experience the one and only Japanese Disney park. I can’t lie, we did the same. In fact, we’ve been a number of times, because hey, it’s fun!
Other than the fact that all the shows are in Japanese, instead of English, you are going to find the park similar to the ones in the US.
There’s still Main Street, all the different themed areas, rides, great food, shows, and yes, characters. Each time we’ve gone, the characters seem to spend a lot more time with us than we expected. I don’t know why, but we’re not complaining.
Odaiba’s Statue of Liberty and Gundam Statue
Odaiba is an island within Tokyo that has a lot of things to do, see, and enjoy. There are some iconic spots, like the replica of the Statue of Liberty and the gigantic Gundam Statue.
It’s also not too far from a few other places we’ve mentioned like Toyosu Fish Market and TeamLab Planets.
Get High at Tokyo Skytree
One of the newest additions to the Tokyo skyline is the Tokyo Skytree. It hasn’t completely taken over the role of the Tokyo Tower, but it’s trying! The Skytree starts on the fifth level of a shopping mall. There are escalators and stairs, or you can take an elevator if you can get in. Skytree is extremely popular and the ticket lines can be crazy long.
Even if you have the foresight to order your tickets and go somewhere for the day and come back, you will still be waiting in lines. The most popular time to visit is, of course, at sunset, but really anytime you will find crowds of people. Just in case you were wondering, one sign at the bottom said to leave all pets behind unless they are caged. So yes, you can take your hamster!
Click here to buy Tokyo Skytree tickets ahead of time and skip the line.
Best Temples and Shrines to Visit in Tokyo
There are so many temples and shrines in this city, that you can’t possibly visit them all. It’s too bad because each one has its own personality and inner beauty. We love just stopping by one as we pass it on the street, and we’re never disappointed.
Meiji Jingu Shrine
One of the most iconic and must-see spots to kick off a tour of Tokyo is the Meiji Jingu Shrine. Located in a large forested park, the shrine sits back and serenely puts you in the frame of mind of relaxing and relieving your stresses. Many people come to the shrine to write wishes on strips of white paper or to clang the bell and pray to the Gods.
Many people just come to wander through the park and see who is there. On Sundays, especially in summer, you will often see brides and grooms at the shrine to look for blessings as well. The brides are often in elaborate dresses and their hair is piled on top of their heads in a more traditional style.
Winding your way through tons of souvenir and food stalls, you will finally reach the temple. There you will see crowds of pilgrims and tourists streaming through the red arches.
You will have to pass by the urn smoking away with people’s prayers and wishes. The statue, pictured above, sits over the cleansing station or chozuya, and the main entrance to the temple is just beyond.
One of the most popular things to do in Sensoji is finding out your fortune. You pay your fee, pick up a can and shake it, shake it, shake it. Then finally one stick pulls out. It’s got a number and you go find the little white paper with your fortune on it. You must then translate it. Erika always does this. It’s so much fun.
One festival we went to at Sensoji was the “baby cry” Nakizumo festival, where big burly sumo wrestlers hold youngsters. It was an interesting cultural event, and if you are there towards the end of April, go.
Even after you’ve gone through the outdoor shopping area, you’ll find food stalls right around the temple, and a lot of people trying some of the goodies. The food stalls offer octopus and other delectable treats.
The nice thing is in this area of the temple grounds, you can sit on a wall or bench to eat, instead of being in the throngs of people in the other part.
Gotokuji Temple – Cat Temple
A quirky, beautiful and peaceful place, the cat temple or Gotokuji is well worth your time. Walking around the grounds, and seeing the thousands of cats, from tiny to big all over is photogenic and fun.
We were surprised by how many cats we could find, they were everywhere, even in the pagoda woodwork.
One of the best places for some great Instagram photos, not too many tourists are aware that there is a line of red torii gates that you can climb up and down at the Hie Shrine. You don’t have to go all the way to Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari shrine for those amazing pics.
Located at the top of a very large hill, thankfully there are outside escalators to take you to the top. Wandering around the shrine, you’ll also see plenty of foxes.
Senkakuji Temple – Graves to the 47 Ronin
I just recently visited this temple, because I’d not heard of it before. Easy to find, it’s just not on many tourists’ radar, so the entire time we were there we were the only foreigners.
This temple is famous for the 47 Ronin, which is a story of loyalty. These fighters were shamed when their master was murdered, plotted their revenge, and were forever revered.
The temple is quiet, and as you walk up the path to the graves, you can buy some incense to lay on them.
Some Museums to Visit
There are a plethora of museums in this city, and they come in all forms. We’re partial to the historical and art museums, but there are plenty more, like the parasite museum or the salt museum. We loved the Edo museum and the history museum as well.
The Ghibli Museum
What a fun place! You have to make reservations long in advance, but this is one that if you love anime, you won’t want to miss.
Hayao Miyazaki, the creator of animated films like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, created Studio Ghibli and this museum.
The museum has rotating exhibits that are specific to animation, as well as all the information on Miyazakisan and his creations.
This cool place started out as a pop-up museum, and now it’s a permanent museum in Ginza. Basically, it’s the Art Aquarium is a museum where fish are the stars.
There are all kinds of ways to display the aquariums, some huge, some small. Some are in the ceiling, in the walls, really everywhere they could think of. It’s absolutely stunning.
Mori Art Museum
In Roppongi Hills, one of the most fun art museums that you can go to is the Mori Art Museum. The kids will love it because it has quirky and modern art. It showcases a lot of anime and kawaii culture, and it’s well worth a stop.
Tokyo Parks and Green Spaces
Surprisingly, Tokyo has many, many parks and green spaces to wander around. Some are extremely large, some are popular with buskers, and some are small little ponds or some greenery worthy of finding and enjoying throughout the day.
Some of the parks in Tokyo include:
- Ueno Park
- Yoyogi Park
- Shinjuku Park
- Rikugien Park
Say Hi to the Pandas at Ueno Zoo
Ueno Park is home to many museums and for us, most importantly, the zoo. For some reason, in all the years we’ve lived in Japan, it took us a long time to visit. Our main goal was to see the pandas. Kids love pandas, and our grandson loves them, too.
So we couldn’t wait to take him. The funny thing is now he expects to see pandas at every zoo. We tried to tell him that is not the case.
At any rate, the zoo, like everything else in Japan is clean, organized, and well-maintained. We love it. We spent almost three hours there, which was more than enough for our two-year-old, but we headed to his favorite animals first, so he was more than happy.
Shop, Shop, Shop
Japan has such a great look, wonderful theming as I’ve mentioned, and a knack for making everything cute and useful. What a great combination. I love shopping in Tokyo!
Take for example the Yodobashi Camera store and its multiple levels of electronics, games, stationery, and really so much more! No matter what you love, Japan will sell it in droves.
There is plenty more to do in Tokyo such as going to an animal cafe, eating lots of street food, looking for maikos, going to a Sumo tournament, or taking a Tokyo day trip. If you have more time in Tokyo, say 5 days, check out this great itinerary.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.
Have you been to Tokyo? What are your favorite things to do there?