Tokyo has to be one of the most mental and futuristic cities on the planet. Before I decided to come to Korea, I watched Lost in Translation so many times and was in awe of this completely foreign place. Oddly enough, that movie is one of the reasons why I decided to come to East Asia. I wanted to walk down streets glowing with neon lights, feel lost in a strange place and experience all the most unique things to do in Tokyo.
Thanks to Jonathan from Video Intro Maker for this video of all the things to do in Tokyo!
So last year, I took advantage of the 5 day Lunar New Year holiday to finally visit Tokyo! Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer vastness of the city- there is so much to see that it can be overwhelming and I left feeing like I had hardly even scratched the surface! Despite the fact I’m no Tokyo expert, trust me that you shouldn’t leave without having these experiences.
14 Fun and Unique Things to do in Tokyo!
If you really want to experience something you will never experience in any other city EVER, you need to check out the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. Although it says “restaurant” in the name, don’t come here for the food- it’s just overpriced bento boxes that are similar to what you’d pick up in a 7/11. Instead, come for the dancing fighting robots! I don’t want to ruin the surprise or give too much away, so that’s all I’m going to tell you about this unique thing to do in Tokyo!
Geeking out at Akihabara
This neighbourhood is the geek capital of Tokyo. You’ll find streets and streets filled with huge anime, manga and electronic shops and ever shop is filled with young, single guys, lusting over expensive anime figurines. You really need to come here to witness Japanese geek subculture for yourself!
Experiencing So Much Cuteness you Want to Die at a Maid Cafe
While you’re in Akihabara, make sure you visit one of the many Maid Cafes! When you arrive, you will be greeted by a maid who will show you to your table and treat you like royalty while showing off her cuteness to you. Our maid talked us through the menu, giggling and letting us know which things she would draw on for us. Like, if we ordered a cappuccino she could draw a bunny or teddy on top. I was boring and went for an iced americano, sorry cute maid!
Before you can eat your food, you need to “bless” it and do a dance and shout “moy moy kyoon” which is a Japanese expression to describe the feeling your heart makes when you are in love. Seriously, too much cutenes!! You can pay extra to play games with maids or take a photo together. I opted for the photo (with props, of course) but there were lots of young single Japanese guys playing Uno or Hungry Hippos with the maids.
Expect to see young, single guys everywhere in Akihabara. Again, another insight into Japan’s unique subculture.
Edit: When I visited I had no idea that the girls in the Maid Cafes were often much younger than 18. Therefore, I would refrain from visiting. I’ll leave you with this post from Donna at Haute Culture. Do your homework and make your own mind up about it! Although this is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Tokyo, just know that you’re supporting a bigger problem by visiting.
Eating Super Fresh Sushi
Before I came to Tokyo, I was so scared of proper sushi! I’d had California and maki rolls before but had never eaten raw fish. On my first night in Tokyo, I visited a sushi restaurant but avoided all raw fish. But, by my final night, I was brave enough to try it and I loved it! I’ve since had sushi back in Korea but it’s nowhere near as fresh and tasty. My personal favourites are fatty salmon, red tuna and eel. Yum!
Navigating Ramen Street
Japan’s other ubiquitous dish- ramen! This is nothing like the pre-packaged stuff. Instead, expect really fresh noodles, meat and pickled vegetables in a rich bone broth. The city is full of ramen restaurants and it’s hard to know which are the best. To make things easier, pay a visit to the ramen street under Tokyo Station. The best and most popular vendors from around the city have opened shop down here. Just head to the shop with the longest queue! If this isn’t one of the most unique things to do in Tokyo, I don’t know what is!
The elusive Mount Fuji is the quintessential image of Japan that comes to mind for most people and I think that no visit is complete without trying to catch a glimpse of it. Due to the icy conditions, the mountain itself is only open for hiking in July and August. Unfortunately, when I was there the weather was pretty cloudy so I didn’t make the journey out to see it. I did kind of see a faint outline of it from the top of Tokyo Skytree if I squinted really hard and held my head in the right position and put my sunglasses over my camera lens and zoomed as far as I could…. Yeah, so I didn’t really see it. I would definitely love to in the future though, and if you get the chance to, you should too!
Hanging out in Harajuku
Much like Akihabara, Harajuku is the place to come if you really want to check out Japanese subcultures. This area is home to some of the most unique things to do in Tokyo and is probably the best place I’ve ever been for people watching. The girls have such amazing but crazy fashion sense! Takeshita Street is the main place where all of the action happens. You’ll find lots of shops catering to Harajuku girls and creperies which seem to be really popular here! Expect it to be extremely busy on weekends!
Spotting Elvis impersonators at Yoyogi Park
Just around the corner from Takeshita Street is Yoyogi Park. As is to be expected in a big city, Tokyo is full to the brim with creative types. Pair this with astronomical rent prices and you’ll understand why so many people are using public parks as their own open-air rehearsal studios. Here you’ll find lots of wannabe J-Pop groups, break dancers and acrobats doing there thing on a Sunday. When I was there I spotted some competing Elvis impersonators at the entrance and later learned that they are a bit of a permanent fixture! Never in a million years did I ever think I would walk into a park to see professional, competing, Asian Elvis impersonators! Another one of the more unique things to do in Tokyo!
Crossing at One of the Most Iconic Crosswalks in the World
Crossing the road might not seem like a very exciting thing to do in one of the most mental cities in the world, but crossing at the famous Shibuya Crosswalk is another unique thing to do in Tokyo! Wait until the traffic lights turn red, then watch pedestrians spill out onto the road from every direction. For a coffee with a view, check out the main Shibuya Starbucks, which overlooks the crosswalk. If you have the chance to go on a rainy day, go and see the moving procession of umbrellas!
Gazing at Neon Lights
Shinjuku is the main downtown, business area of Tokyo and you’ll more than likely end up here at some point during your visit. To really see Shinjuku at it’s best you should come at night and see the sky lit up with neon lights.
Having a Few at Golden Gait
The Golden Gait is one of the only parts of Tokyo that wasn’t blown up in the war and, because of this, it’s one of the only places you can see the Tokyo of the past. As if that wasn’t reason enough to visit, the area is filled with hundreds of tiny bars, stacked on top of each other. Choose one, squeeze in and spend the night sipping on sake with the locals.
Top tip- experience another unique thing to do in Tokyo is spending the night at Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan where you can really experience Japanese culture!
Finding your Zen at a Temple or Shrine
While a trip to Tokyo is absolutely amazing, it’s not exactly a relaxing place! Trying to decipher the subway, eating unusual food, being surrounded by neon lights and crazy fashion can all take its toll and, sometimes, you just need to find a bit of zen. Although a lot of the temples can be packed with tourists, you can’t deny that they offer a peaceful retreat from city life. While I was there, I was actually lucky enough to witness a wedding at the Meiji Shrine, near Harajuku. Even if you aren’t as lucky as I was, it’s still a lovely place to walk around and take a breather!
Experiencing Rush Hour (Tokyo Style)
If you’re brave, jump on a commuter train at rush hour. Train conductors literally push all of the passengers into the train until the doors can close. It really does take being squashed like a tin of sardines to a whole new level! I do not recommend this if you are claustrophobic, or don’t like people invading your personal space! While not exactly enjoyable, you can’t deny that this is one of the more unique things to do in Tokyo. Where else has a subway system like this?!
Trying to Get a Game of Pachinko
Pachinko, a game similar to pinball, is REALLY popular in Japan. So popular that I even saw loads of Pachinko Parlours on a tiny Japanese fishing island not far from the Korean Coast! Gambling for cash is illegal in Japan so this game is a bit of a loophole in the system. Instead, winners try to collect balls which they can exchange for prizes, but there is a bit of controversy over the matter as there are said to be secret vendor shops who will exchange ball tokens for cash. I tried to get some balls so I could try and play myself, but could not for the life of me figure out what the process was! Expect to see lots of Japanese men who have been sitting for hours on end trying to get lucky!
I’m pretty sure I haven’t even scratched the surface on all of the unique things to do in Tokyo but, if you only have a few days in the capital, this list should definitely provide you some amusement and a nice insight into the modern day culture of this weird and wonderful city.
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The Best Things to do in Osaka! (Another unique Japanese city well worth visiting!)
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Not sure what city to visit? Why not throw in a trip to Seoul as well- another futuristic super city not to miss!
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Already been? Leave a comment and let me know what you think are the most unique things to do in Tokyo!
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