Tokyo: 12 must-see attractions
Places to visit in Tokyo
Shinjuku et Kabukichô
At first, Shinjuku looks like a classic Japanese district with is large shopping centres and multi-coloured signs, yet it conceals many hidden treasures. During the day, enjoy an invigorating walk in the vast Shinjuku Koen Park with its three gardens lined with 1,500 cherry trees (beautiful in the spring) and go window shopping in one of the many surrounding shopping centres. Wait until nightfall to discover a completely different universe... Walk the streets of Tokyo’s hottest district: Kabukicho.
In addition to the dozens of host and hostess bars and adult entertainment venues, lose yourself in the quiet streets of Golden Gai, a small area with more than 200 traditional miniature bars (some only designed for 4 to 6 guests) all lined up side by side, it is also the gay district of Tokyo. Some of them have a specifically stated “foreign-friendly” sign on their doors. They are the one where you will be welcomed the best.
In this heart of the sultry Kabukicho district, not far from the young men in three-piece suits, in a basement with a psychedelic decor, is the Robot Restaurant. It's actually a musical show during which giant robots, dinosaurs, pandas and young girls in sexy outfits perform in a kind of noisy but quite enjoyable chaos. You can even enjoy a bento during the show. If you are still hungry, the wonderful Alice in Magical Land restaurant dedicated to Lewis Caroll’s universe will fill your stomach with delicious food and your eyes with fantasy visions.
Entertainment | Shopping | Shows | Parks & Gardens | Themed cafe
Shibuya and Hachiko statue
If you go to Tokyo to go shopping, Shibuya is the place for you. It is the perfect place for fashion addicts looking for the latest trend.
When leaving the station, do not miss the legendary statue of Hachiko, the most loyal dog in Japan. This adorable Akita waited for his master at this exact place every day even though his master had died. Hachiko’s remains are on display at the Tokyo National Museum of nature and Science in Ueno district.
Before entering the shopping paradise, you will have to cross the famous Shibuya crossroads, one of the most crowded in the world! No less than 1000,000 people use it every day.
After having survived the crowd, it finally rises before you: Shibuya Tower 109. More than a hundred women’s boutiques spread out over several floors classed according to different themes: gyaru, lolita, rock... All of them have their own saleswomen, with perfect make-up and dressed in clothes from the brand. The men’s version, Shibuya 109 Men, is right across the street. After your makeover, it is time to discover the latest hits in Japan at Tower Records, a huge record store with the latest cutting-edge music trends.
To finish your crazy shopping day, and since you’re broke, why not enjoy Japanese food for free? Free tastings are very common in Japanese shopping malls, so take the opportunity to recharge your batteries! If you haven't had enough at this point, make a last detour to the Q-pot Café, a tea room deliciously decorated with its biscuit-shaped tables and its wall lined with chocolate bars.
Entertainment | Shopping | Themed cafe
Akihabara and its themed cafés
Akihabara, or as nicknamed Akiba, is undoubtedly the most colourful, noisy and emblematic district of Tokyo. It is what comes to mind to most travellers when they think of Japan. And for a good reason, it is the temple of electronics and manga. A must-go for otakus!
In “Electric Town”, dozens of goodies shops and arcade game rooms (including SEGA and Taito Station) line the main road that goes up from the station, not to mention the adjacent alleys where entire rows of gashapon machines (collectible toys or key rings) are lined up. Akiba is also known for its many Maid Cafes, including some made accessible to foreigners such as Maidremin or Mia-cafe.
If you like Japanese idols, you should note that it is possible to eat in an establishment dedicated to the famous band AKB48, the AKB48 Cafe&Shop, and that they perform at the AKB48 Theatre on the 8th floor of the Don Kijote (which is also a must-see!). If you are a fan of Japanese manga and animated series, the Gundam Cafe, dedicated to the franchise of the same name, is a very nice place with its futuristic decor. Feel free to press the red button in the toilets...
Entertainment | Shopping | Shows | Themed cafe
Asakusa and Sensô-ji temple
Japan is not only about neon lights and mangas, so seize the opportunity to discover a more traditional aspect of Japan in Asakusa.
This district has a unique atmosphere despite the fact that it is crowded with tourists most of the time. Walking along the Sumida River and admiring the impressive flame on the other side is a real delight when the weather is pleasant. If it is your first time in Japan, you will inevitably be fascinated by the Senso-ji temple and its gigantic red lantern named Kaminarimon. The huge statues of the Gods (Kami), at the entrance of the sanctuary seem to keep an eye on the visitors of this sacred place.
Asakusa is the ideal place to look for traditional Japanese souvenirs. There is a very wide choice as you go down the Nakamise Dori avenue where you will come across Japanese people dressed in traditional kimonos. Everywhere, charming young men with muscular "shafu" (calves) will offer rickshaw rides. If you’re hungry, the streets are full of restaurants, so don't hesitate to go there. Asakusa is also home to Japan’s oldest amusement park: Hanayashiki with its wooden roller coaster.
Art & Culture | Shopping | Craftsmanship | Heritage | Rivers
Harajuku and Yoyogi park
Between luxury, cosplay and temples, the Harajuku district is very colourful and multi-faceted.
Explore Yoyogi Park as it is full of surprises, cosplayers from all over the world meet up on the bridge. Many young artists and the famous Japanese “rockers”, who seem to have come straight out the 1950s, perform in this park. In the middle of the park, go make a wish in the Meiji Shinto temple, one of the most beautiful in Tokyo. And above all, make the most of the spring weather to have a picnic under the blossoming cherry trees.
You can also go window shopping on the Champs-Elysée of Tokyo Omote-sando avenue. You will be able to admire the ultra-futuristic design of Tokyu Plaza before discovering the superb showcases of the most famous brands in the world, such as Dior. Further down the avenue, your inner child won't be able to resist Kiddy Land, a huge multi-storey toy store.
Fashion lovers will be delighted by the many boutiques on Takeshita-Dori avenue. It is also the perfect opportunity to taste the Japanese sweet crepes filled with fruits and cream. Finally, all the extravagance of Harajuku can be found in one place: the Kawaii Monstar Café. A must-go for travellers and foodies looking for something unique!
Park & Garden | Shopping | Heritage | Luxury | Themed cafe
Odaiba artificial island
The artificial island of Odaiba is full of entertaining activities for people of all ages. It is very pleasant in both summer and winter, for a day or a weekend, get your camera and credit card ready!
Venus Fort is a shopping centre which is worth taking a look at with its Italian-style architecture, its central fountain and its impressive ceiling that will turn you shopping session into a bucolic walk. Head to the SEGA Joypolis indoor park to have a fun time with your friends. Three floors are dedicated to this license, where you will find racing simulators, 3D cinema and even a horror house to have fun all afternoon! If you are looking to relax, go to the Oedo Onsen Monogatari Thermal Park.
Unless you are afraid of heights, the Daikanransha Ferris wheel is the not-to-be-missed attraction on the island. It is one of the highest in world (115 meters high). To make the experience even more exciting, some gondolas are completely transparent! Will you dare to embark?
In front of DiverCity Tokyo Plaza and its Gundam Base, stands a huge futuristic statue, that of the emblematic robot of Mobile Suit Gundam, erected in 2012.
You can also enjoy a (smaller) replica of the Statue of Liberty, with the Rainbow Bridge in the background.
Entertainment | Shopping | Relaxation | Themed cafe | Rivers
The tower of Tokyo
Every major city has its own observatory. Just like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Japanese capital has its own emblem: the Tokyo Tower.
This 332.2 metres high iron needle is one of the tallest in the world. Let’s be honest, the Tokyo Tower has no real interest other than to offer a breathtaking view of the city which is what most tourists are looking for when going there. Two floors are open to the public, one at 150 metres, which is not in great condition, and the other at 250 metres (the “Top Deck Tour”), renovated in 2018 in a very futuristic style with its triangular mirrors and multicoloured LEDs. Accessible during the day or in the evening, with two very distinct atmospheres. The highlights of this attraction are the panoramic glass elevator and the glass floor areas that give you the impression of walking in the air.
In addition to the view, the Tokyo Tower offers other activities including the Tokyo One Piece Tower(indoor theme park dedicated to the animated One Piece), an aquarium, cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
Viewpoint | Entertainment | Shopping | Themed cafe
The Ghibli museum
Rare are the travellers who go to Japan who don't know about the work of the great Miyazaki - My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke are some of his greatest masterpieces. The Ghibli Museum is therefore a must-go for the fans.
There are several ways to get to the museum, if the weather is pleasant you can take a short walk through Inokashira park, accessible from the Kichijoji station. Otherwise, a yellow neko-bus (a reference to the cat bus in My Neighbour Totoro) will take you directly to the museum from Mitaka station.
When entering the museum, you will notice a giant Totoro that greets visitors in a fake ticket office, then you will enter a strange building where the permanent exhibition of Miyazaki’s work is located (sketches, extracts from exclusive movies, reproduction of sets, temporary exhibitions, and even a giant cat-bus at the end). At the end of your visit, you will have plenty of time to stock up on official goodies in the Donguri shop. Outside, on the roof of the museum, the giant robot of the “Castle in the Sky” will give you the opportunity to take some pictures before leaving. Please note that you are allowed to take pictures outside, but not inside.
Museums | Entertainment | Shopping | Parks & Gardens
Visiting this large park is a must, even more so in summertime. It is a very popular place to go admire the cherry blossoms, when the trees turn pink and a subtle scent fills the air.
Walking around the huge Shinobazu pond is an activity in itself. Couples hire pedalos, children play ball while the teenagers play baseball or badminton. You won't get bored as there are so many attractions in the park and its vicinity. Starting with art galleries and museums, including the Tokyo National Museum and the National Science Museum, but also the Toshogu Shrine, that dates back from the Edo-era. But there are many other temples and shrines you can visit (Bentendo, Toshogu, Yushima Tenman-gu, Tenmangu, Kiyomizu Kannon...). The Kaneji Temple once was the largest in Tokyo and had the mission of protecting the city from demons.
At nightfall, the park turns into a shelter for homeless people. Unfortunately, this aspect of Japanese culture remains taboo even today...
Park & garden | Museums | Entertainment | Market
Toyosu Fish Market
This world-famous fish market is the largest in the world,it was once located in Tsukiji but it relocated in order to be able to modernize and expand its premises. Since October 2018, you now need to go to Toyosu to discover this market dedicated to the wholesale of seafood.
Although it has lost some of its authenticity and the atmosphere has become more “sanitized”, this large covered market remains a real museum with its hundreds of aquatic species.
In addition to the tuna, which is the 'star' of the market, and sea urchins, many funny fish will surprise you, such as the fugu fish, the hairy sea cucumbers, oversized mussels and giant crabs. Just like its predecessor, the Toyosu market also has a space dedicated to fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to buy anything from the wholesalers on site . You can only watch... The good news is that the famous auctions where tunas are sold at exorbitant prices still take place. They are open to the public from 4:30 in the morning. At the entrance of Toyosu Market, restaurant areas offer the opportunity of tasting high quality suchis and sashimis.
Note that Tsukiji huge outdoor market still exists and you can find countless products, from onigiris to t-shirts, as well as many shops and restaurants.
Market | Gastronomy | Craftsmanship
Ginza and its luxury shops
Ginza, called the Japanse Champs-Elysées (just like the Omotesando Avenue is also known as), is the ideal place to lighten your wallet.
On Gatsuto Dori street, world-famous luxury boutiques (Prada, Dior, Hermès...) are found between Michelin-starred restaurants and refined bakeries such as Ladurée. The Meiji boutique is a must-go for chocolate lovers as it offers more than 50 different flavoured chocolate from around the world (pistachio, tiramisu-matcha...).
For a more traditional and less chic activity, head to the Kabuki-za theatre that is accessible to a non-Japanese speaking audience thanks to a subtitling system. A great opportunity to discover this Japanese art, which was considered avant-garde at the time. In the middle of this bustle, in a small alleyway, the 400-year-old Toyoiwa Inari sanctuary provides protection and goodwill to this wealthy district.
Shopping | Luxury | Gastronomy | Themed cafe
Tokyo is incredible, unique and always surprising. It is one of the greatest qualities of this huge megalopolis, every time you go back, you discover something new. In Tokyo, something unexpected will surprise you at every corner of the street. It is impossible to get bored there! Not to mention the fact that Japanese people are very kind and helpful to tourists. If you ever look lost, a local officer will immediately come to help you. Contrary to what you may think, there are more Japanese people who speak English than you would think. Even if the language barrier is real, it will not be a major obstacle during your stay, as the facilities are adapted to travellers from all over the world. In Japan, you might be a little disoriented but still feel “at home”! Tokyo is undeniably a must-see destination, and anyone should go there at least once is their life.