Visiting Tokyo in 2020? Looking for best things to do or places to visit today?? Check out my Tokyo Bucket List of 2020 which includes classic tourist attractions and the latest trendy spots in Tokyo from the traditional temple to colourful Instagram-Worthy desserts.
Robot Restaurants: Experience the High-Tech Entertainment
The high tech machine extravaganza with flashy neon lights..is there any other place as unrealistic as this place? Robot Restaurant is a crazy and entertaining spots to see the robot show while dining.
The 10 billion yen worth restaurant is located in Shinjuku Kabukicho area, the biggest red light district in Tokyo often called “the districts never sleeps”. Out of hundreds of night-out spots within the area, the Robot Restaurant absolutely stands out as it’s totally unique, and something you can never find anywhere else on earth.
Izakaya Alley: Get Tipsy like Locals
Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku: An old-fashioned narrow Izakaya street with lantern lights
Tokyo has numbers of fancy restaurants and bars serving fine meals, but for more unique booze experience, Izakaya alleys (Yokocho) are better options.
Izakaya is Japanese style bar/gastropub serving drink and usually Japanese food or snacks. It’s popular among salary man and locals to hop in right after work for a couple of beers. Izakaya alleys are old fashioned, smokey narrow streets clammed by small Izakaya. Some of Izakara are very tiny and have only a few seats.
Sitting next to local and sipping a glass of Sake with authentic Japanese snacks could be a whole new experience for foreign tourists rather than dining at fabulous bars. There are some great Izakaya alleys and cool drinking districts in Tokyo such as Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ueno.
One of the best ways to explore the drinking culture in Tokyo is joining bar-hopping tours! A lot of local Izakaya might be hard to find or enter for first time visitors, but the local bar hopping tour can take you to hidden bars and Izakaya and show you the real drinking culture in Tokyo!
Watch Sumo Morning Practice
Sumo is a national sport in Japan, considerably started in ancient time, and it’s also one of most unique and interesting cultures in Japan. Numbers of Sumo stables (training rooms) are located in Tokyo, especially in Ryogoku area, which is not too far from Asakusa area and the Tokyo Skytree, and some of them are open for public viewing of their morning practice.
I’ve personally participated this activity once and it was absolutely fantastic. Watching Sumo wrestlers in action in such a close distance is totally breathtaking, and by knowing how hard they train physically and mentally, I admire the sport much more and respect the wrestlers. It’s not cheap activity for every traveller, but it’s definitely worth the money and one of most precious experiences you can have in Japan.
MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM — teamLab Borderless
MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM — teamLab Borderless opened in Odaiba area, Tokyo in summer 2018 as the very first digital art museum in the world. Since then, it has been one of the hottest spots in town.
The museum offers an unique interactive art experience with the latest high technology. Multiple digital art exhibitions are displayed in a huge space and the artworks are projected across walls and floors, and immersive installations of light and sound move and reflect by your movements and touches.
Lose yourself into the immersive digital artworks! Make sure to take to bring your camera as it’s the perfect place to take Instagram photos. See the below link to get ticket info!
Dine at Cute and Crazy Kawaii Monster Cafe
One of the most popular places to dine in Tokyo, Kawaii Monster Cafe is a super colourful and Kawaii cafe/restaurant located in the center of the pop culture, Harajuku area, Tokyo. Kawaii Monster Cafe, which is designed by the famous art designer, Sebastian Masuda, has the vivid and edgy interior and serves various unique and colourful dishes including rainbow spaghetti and unicorn coloured par fait.
Kawaii Monster Cafe is an extremely cute, entertaining and 1000% photo-worthy place to dine in Tokyo! Please make sure to reserve your seat before visiting. See the link below for booking info!
Sensoji at Asakusa: Visit Tokyo’s Oldest Temple
Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensoji Temple is located at the historic center of the city, Asakusa area. Take photos of an iconic Kaminarimon gate, stroll down “Nakamise Street”, the approach to the main hall of the temple with traditional street snacks. It’s a great area to experience Japanese traditions while being in this modern Metropolis.
Asakusa is also a great area to eat traditional Japanese cuisine, as there are numbers of long-established Japanese restaurants serving authentic dishes such as Sukiyaki, Tempura and Sushi. Variety of traditional activities can be found in this area, such as riding Rickshaw, wearing Kimono dress, etc. Besides, the area is very close to other tourist attractions such as Tokyo Skytree, Sumida River, Kappabashi Street and Ueno area.
Shibuya Crossing: Take the Coolest Photos
Shibuya Scramble Crossing has been the hottest photo spot in past years, and when you go there you’ll see many tourists waiting for the best moment for a shoot at the corner of crossing. The world’s busiest crossing are passed by about a half million people daily, the view of passengers coming from the all directions at once when the traffic lights turn green is simply stunning.
Shibuya is known as Tokyo’s most trendy district and it’s home to Japanese young culture. Numbers of large shopping malls, small boutiques, discount stores, bars, clubs, cafes and restaurants are located here.
When it comes to special events, the crossing and the surrounding area are tend to become the place for unofficial street celebration among young people. The most notable one is Halloween Day, when thousands of party lovers in unique costumes gather and roam around the street of Shibuya all night long.
Be Indulged with Matcha/Green Tea
Matcha is highly popular around the world, and traditional Matcha tea ceremony is one of the most popular culture experiences in Tokyo today. Through traditional tea ceremonies, you can learn how to make fresh Matcha green tea using traditional utensils, be indulged with freshly made Matcha green tea with delicious Wagashi (traditional Japanese desserts) in an ancient style Japanese teahouse. Enjoy peaceful and tranquil “Zen” moments while being in the heart of Tokyo! You can also take an option to wear Kimono for even more authentic Japanese experience.
A popular Japanese tea ceremony workshops by MAIKOYA is available in Shinjuku, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo. Click the link below for more details about the experience and make a reservation on your wished date before it’s too late!
You can also enjoy Matcha at many locations in Tokyo now. Talking about Japanese food, Sushi, Tempura, Wagyu Beef and Ramen are popular dishes among tourists to Japan, but but Matcha is also now one of the most popular Japanese food products across the world. If you are a Matcha lover, it’s time to spoil yourself with delicious Matcha desserts served in various ways including ice cream, parfait, mousse, pancakes and seasonal Matcha sweets buffets.
In Tokyo, there are numbers of teahouses and cafes serving delicious and creative Matcha desserts, and they are absolutely delightful! After enjoying Matcha desserts, don’t forget to shop Matcha flavour sweets and snacks for souvenirs! Many of famous Japanese snacks like KitKat, Pocky and Meiji Chocolate are all sold in Matcha flavours!
Tsukiji Fish Market: Taste the Freshest Seafood
Tsukiji Fish Market was known as the world biggest wholesale market, and has been a top tourist attraction of Tokyo for many years. In 2018 autumn, the wholesale market (inner market) of Tsukiji has been relocated to the brand-new Toyosu Market. The famous tuna auction can be seen now at Toyosu Market.
Although the Tsukiji Fish Market has moved away, the outer market of Tsukiji remains same as before, and it’s absolutely worth visiting. Tsukiji Outer Market is where hundreds of restaurants and shops gather including Sushi restaurants, groceries, kitchen utensils stores and Japanese knife shops with the lively and authentic market atmosphere. It’s located very near to Ginza area where several Michelin starred fine restaurants are located.
Eat Wagyu Beef
If you are a gourmand, you may know where the best country to taste beef is. Japanese Beef “Wagyu” is one of must-try traditional food in Japan along with Sushi and Tempura. Japan produces several types of branded Wagyu Beef such as Kobe Beef and Matsuzaka Beef, and they can be enjoyed in various style of dishes such as Teppanyaki, Steak, Shabu-Shabu, Yakiniku (BBQ), etc.
In Tokyo, there are numbers of great restaurants serving delicious Wagyu dishes. Yes, they may be not a cheap option for eat-out, buy I’d highly recommend you to have the premium Wagyu dining experience once during your trip. If you are tight on budget, having them for lunch could be much cheaper option.
The most popular restaurant to try Wagyu is Hakushu which is a family owned restaurant located in Shibuya district, Tokyo. The best quality Wagyu beef can be enjoyed with an authentic Teppanyaki style. The restaurant is extremely popular, so make sure to reserve a table in advance!
Gaze at/from Tokyo Tower
Even though the tower may get less attention today after Tokyo Skytree was built, still it has been the best symbol of the city. Tokyo Tower is enjoyable either seeing it from distance or gaze the city from the observation deck of the tower itself.
My recommended viewing spot of Tokyo Tower is Zojoji Temple, which is located right next to the tower. The temple is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism, and it’s strongly related to Tokugawa clan. The temple made an appearance in the film “The Wolverine”, and became well-known. Or simply check the link below for more great viewing spots of Tokyo Tower.
Rental Go-Kart: Drive like Super Mario
Special activities are great option to experience traditional or unique Japanese culture, and Go Kart has been one of top activities in Tokyo in these days. With a valid Japanese/international driving license, you can drive Go Kart in character’s costumes through the city just like in the video game, Mario Kart!!
Race with a group and drive through bustling areas of the city such as Akihabara, Shibuya and around Tokyo Tower. Last year, the British F1 racing driver, Jenson Button was captured driving go-kart on the road of Tokyo city, and seemed like he loved it!
Animal Cafes: Meet Adorable Animals
Animal Cafe is one of the significant places to represent Kawaii culture of Japan, and there are various kinds of animal cafes today in Tokyo where you can meet, touch and play with adorable animals.
Owl cafe is the first animal cafe become sensationally popular in Tokyo featuring several types of owls. It’s rare to see owls in real life, but at owl cafes in Tokyo, you can actually touch them, take picture together and share a precious moment together with the adorable owls in the heart of Tokyo.
If you are deciding which animal cafe to visit in Tokyo, I’d also recommend a hedgehog cafe. The cozy cafe features one of the cutest creatures on the planet, little hedgehogs, and you can watch them in life, touch them and play together.
Japanese Cooking Class: Be a Master Chef
If eating at restaurants is too ordinary for you, you should definitely join one of cooking classes held in Tokyo. Japanese cooking class has been a popular activity among eager foodies travelling in Tokyo.
Not only typical Sushi making class, but a wide variety of cooking classes are available today such as Ramen, Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings), Udon Noodle, Wagashi (Japanese confectionery) and home cooking Japanese dishes as well as vegan and vegetarian options. You can pick your favourite Japanese food cooking class, learn how to make, enjoy tasting and bring the recipe back home to cook for your family and friends!
Most cooking classes are held by Japanese teachers in English. Cooking class is not only about cooking, but it also provides a great opportunity for foreign visitors to communicate with local Japanese, and you can also learn Japanese culture and make friends through the class!
Maid Cafe “Moe” Experience ONLY in Akihabara
Akihabara, a.k.a. Akiba is one of most popular areas to visit in Tokyo, and the area is best known for electronic products and as home to Otaku culture. Waking down the street of Akihabara is simply entertaining even for Japanese people. Even if you are not into Japanese Otaku culture such as underground idols, gaming, anime, electronics, etc, Akihabara is still a great place to have a whole new Tokyo experiences.
One of the most unique things to do in this neighbourhood is visiting one of Maid Cafes. It is said that Maid Cafe was originated in Akihabara and become gradually popular among Otaku, then today’s top tourist attraction in Tokyo. Be served by cute maid, enjoy colourful food and drinks and have the weirdest “Moe” experience in Tokyo!
Eat Tokyo’s Best Ramen at Shinjuku
Ramen is one of most popular Japanese dishes among foreigners along with Sushi and Tempura, and it is indeed most beloved food among Japanese nations. Tokyo has thousands of Ramen restaurants, but most notably Shinjuku area owns most with over 300 and the area is often called the most competitive Ramen district in Tokyo. So if you are a Ramen lover and hunting for best Ramen dishes, simply visiting Shinjuku would be the best option.
From everyone’s favourite Ichiran to Tsukemen (dipping Noodles) and Halal Ramen, many kinds of ramen dishes can be found in Shinjuku area. Be prepared to queue up for 30 mins or more at some popular Ramen stores, especially during lunch time!
Free City View at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Visiting one of observatories in Tokyo is an essential since the overlook view of the city is pretty impressive especially at night. The reason why Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is recommended is that its observation decks (there are two of them) on 45th floor, 202 m above the sea level are total free to enter.
Moreover, the building is located in a short distance from the west gate of Shinjuku Station and the surrounding area is well known for skyscrapers. It’s a great spot to hang around at night along with your visit to Izakaya Alleys or Robot Restaurants which are also located in Shinjuku area.
Harajuku: Be a Fashionista
If you are into Kawaii culture or Japanese fashion, you know where to head. Yes, the kingdom of Kawaii culture, Harajuku is home to hundreds of chic and stylish boutiques and trendy shopping malls. Harajuku’s Takeshita Street is the center of teenage culture where you can hunt trendy and colourful fashion items and unique variety goods at surprisingly affordable prices . Moreover, there are numbers of cafes and street food stands (crepe, cotton candy, etc) to stop for a break by while shopping.
There are also numbers of high street clothing brand stores on the backstreets of Harajuku area such as Bape and Supreme. On the main streets of Harajuku, Omotesando Street and Meiji Street, there are large shopping malls like Laforet, Tokyu Plaza, and Omotesando Hills which are also suitable for adult.
Ueno Park: Play, Learn and Relax
Ueno Park is one of the most visited places in Japan for cherry blossom viewing
Short distance from Asakusa area, Ueno is the center of Tokyo’s old downtown area and where one of the biggest parks in Tokyo is located. Ueno Park consists of numbers of attractive facilities including museums, a zoo, historical monuments and rich nature. Ueno Park is highly popular during cherry blossom season, and it’s especially trending in recent years since the Giant Panda baby, Xiang Xiang was born at Ueno Zoo and she made her public debut.
You can easily spend a whole day, and along with the park, you should also visit Ameyoko street, another main attraction of the area. The street has vibrant and chaotic atmosphere with lots of discount stores, groceries, and street food stalls. Ueno and the surrounded has numbers of budget guests houses and it’s a popular area for backpackers.
Ghibli Museum: Explore the World of Studio Ghibli Movies
Studio Ghibli is a famous animation studio by Hayao Miyazaki who has produced numbers of popular films worldwide such as My Neighbour Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Ponyo on the Cliff. Ghibli Museum is the only museum in Tokyo that is dedicated to the work of Studio Ghibli, and if you are a Studio Ghibli film fan, you should definitely visit there.
The museum features the art and technique of animation, and some famous film characters such as a replica of Cat Bus from My Neighbour Totoro and a robot from Castle in the Sky. There are also a cafe and gift shop inside the museum. The museum is located at Inokashira Park in Mitaka City, Tokyo.
Odaiba: Be Entertained by Tokyo Bay
Odaiba is a district located on a man made island on Tokyo Bay, southern Tokyo, which can be accessed via the Rainbow Bridge or Yurikamome Line. Odaiba is one of the most entertaining districts in Tokyo where numbers of shopping malls, restaurants, museums and entertainment facilities gather. It’s especially known for high-tech entertainments such as robots at National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), digital arts at MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM and the latest VR at Tokyo JOYPOLIS.
You can easily spend a whole day in this pleasurable island. Odaiba is also famous for its stunning night view with illuminated Tokyo Bay, Rainbow Bridge and the skyscraper view of the city on the other side. Cruising on Tokyo Bay around Odaiba area is one of the most popular activities in Tokyo at night.
Instagram-Worthy Food: Keep up with Food Trends
The trend of the latest years in the whole world was all about Instagram and taking Instagram-worthy pictures. The trend has gone huge here in Tokyo, especially food industry and many cafes and restaurants made big efforts to impress Instagram lovers by their eye-popping creative dishes, desserts, drinks and decors.
A lot of new related shops and cafes have opened in past years, especially in Harajuku area, the mecca of Kawaii culture. From unicorn cotton candy to light bulb soda, a lot of colourful instagram worthy food and cafes can be found in this area, as well as great street photo spots.
YANESEN: Explore Tokyo’s Old-Fashioned Neighbourhood
Almost everywhere you go in Tokyo, it’s overcrowded by tourists. In case you wonder “Is there anywhere majority of tourists hasn’t been?” or “ Where can I see the true local life of Tokyo??”, you may wanna try Yanesen area on your next visit. For those who want to explore Tokyo in depth, Yanesen area is a perfect option.
Yanesen is an area consists of three neighbourhoods: Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi in Bunkyo Ward. There are numbers of old buildings, historical temples and shrines, a retro shopping arcade and small cafes and restaurants. The shopping street of Yanaka, Yanaka Ginza is lined with numbers of small stores where local people shop, eat and hang out, and visitors can observe the real daily lives of locals.
Nothing fabulous or trendy, but this area with the authentic old Tokyo vibe is a quite new thing in this modern days, and has become one of hottest spots in town among Tokyoites in 2017, and for sure it will be soon among foreign visitors. The area is not too far from Ueno Park, and can be access even on foot for 20–30 mins.
Yayoi Kusama Museum: Meet the Queen of Pop Art
Yayoi Kusama has truely stood out in the past few years, and we got to see her famous polka dots and pumpkin statues at several occasions. It kicked off with her exhibition which was held at National Art Center in Tokyo in spring and ended with a great success. Then her sensation continued in the ancient capital, Kyoto and the special exhibition was held at the historical building. In October 2017, Yayoi Kusama’s very own museum has finally launched in the heart of Tokyo, Shinjuku area after we have all waited for long.
The museum is open from Thursdays to Sundays and National Holidays, from 11:00~17:00 with only four admission times with a 90 mins time slot. Tickets must be purchased in advance and they are sold only online, which are released at every first day of month for for two months in advance.
So far, the museum has been extremely popular, and tickets seem to be sold out right after releasing so make sure to secure your tickets before visiting.
Enter the VR (Virtual Reality) World
VR (Virtual Reality) is one of hottest and most edgy things in the worlds in past years, and now, it became closer to our daily life as related equipment is actually purchasable at regular stores and numbers of special facilities have opened in town.
In Tokyo, more and more new spots are opening for latest VR experiences with various themes such as video games and traditional Japanese experiences. At some VR theme parks provide multiple games and activities where visitors can spend all day, and it’s a great option especially on a rainy day.
Shop Everything You Need at Don Quijote (DONKI)
Shopping might be a big part of your trip in Japan. There are a large numbers of department stores, shopping malls and other big supermarkets in town, and you might be confused which stores to shop.. but one store you shouldn’t definitely miss is Don Quijote (a.k.a. DONKI), the store which have everything. Snacks, sweets, cosmetics, clothes, electronic products, household goods, unique and traditional souvenirs, and many more.. there is literally nothing that you can not find in Don Quijote.
Don Quijote stores can be found at many locations such as Shinjuku, Ginza, Akihabara and Roppongi but its biggest branch, MEGA DONKI is located in Shibuya, which has newly re-opened in 2017. The 7 storied mega building is located near Shibuya Station and it’s open for 24 hours which means you can shop anytime you want!
Temples and Shrines: Be a Historian in Tokyo
One of the most fascinating things about Tokyo is the co-existing of the historical and modern culture. While being surrounded by concrete and skyscrapers in the heart of Tokyo, you may often spots historical sites such as temples and shrines.
Accordingly, there are over 4,000 temples and shrines existing in Tokyo, and some of them are top tourist attractions among tourists today. There are also several unique temples and shrines in Tokyo with remarkable features, interesting history or divine favour, which are very much worth visiting.
Stay at Ryokan: Experience Traditional Japanese Hospitality
Ryokan is a traditional Japanese style hotel, offering authentic Japanese rooms and hospitality in a historical building. Even though Tokyo is filled with modern accommodations such as luxurious hotels, stylish guest houses and capsule hotels, there are still numbers of great Ryokan style accommodations where you can experience the authentic Japanese staycation experience.
It’s a great way to learn Japanese culture and be surrounded by a peaceful and serine atmosphere. You may think that Ryokan style accommodation provides the high-end services and is quite pricey, but some Ryokan are cozy, rustic and more affordable than other hotels in Tokyo.
Enjoy 4 Seasons at Japanese Gardens
Although Tokyo is well known for its modern skyscrapers and chaotic streetscape, there are also some oasis in the city. Several traditional Japanese gardens such as Rikugien and Shinjuku Gyoen are located in the heart of Tokyo, and they are great hideaways where people can take a moment to relax and appreciate the nature and Japanese tradition in peace and quiet space. Also Tokyo is home to several great parks such as Yoyogi Park and Imperial Palace where you can feel the pleasant nature while being in a concrete jungle.
The gardens and parks are recommended to visit all year round as the nature displays different scenery in each season. But two most popular seasons to visit are during cherry blossom season (usually from late March to early April) and autumn leaves season (usually from mid November to early December). Several gardens holds light-up events at night during these periods as well as various seasonal events at parks.
Take a Day Trip to Neighbours
Exploring outside of Tokyo is much worth as there are so many beautiful places to see, and it’s highly recommended to spend at least a day to make a short trip from Tokyo.
The first side trip choice for many travellers is Kamakura City, which is often described as the Kyoto of East. The city is home to numbers of historical temples, shrines and monuments, and it’s very accessible from Tokyo.
Other popular destinations are Onsen resorts such as Hakone and Kusatsu, especially during winter. If you wanna be a beach bum for summer, Shonan Area and Izu Peninsula are top beach getaways near Tokyo. It is also possible to visit Mt.Fuji and surrounding area for a day, such as Fuji Five Lakes and Fuji Q Highland.
A lot of long distance coaches to these destinations are available from Tokyo Station or BUSTA Shinjuku, and usually travelling by bus is much cheaper and hustle free!
If you are a nature lover and keen on adventure, how about visiting Tokyo’s subtropical volcanic islands and exploring the unspoilt nature? Hachijojima Island and Ogasawara Islands are treasure islands of Tokyo where tourists can access from the central area of Tokyo by ferry or flight.