There’s a reason (or 50) why CNN named Tokyo the world’s greatest city just this past year.
Whether you’re looking to get in touch with your spiritual side, taste some of the best ramen in the world, get lost in eccentric neighborhoods, check out Tokyo’s iconic fishing market, or walk with mother nature amid the untouched mountains and forests outside the city, Tokyo is swarming with experiences that will make you fall in love with Japanese culture.
If you just started planning your trip to Japan’s capital, here are 9 things you need to do in Tokyo.
1. Eat the best ramen in the world
Edokko (Tokyo locals) may argue about where to find the best ramen in the country, but we think that Tokyo’s Ichiran takes the cake.
Since this Chinese-style wheat noodle dish originated in Japan, it’s no surprise that the capital offers some of the best ramen on earth. Ichiran specializes in tonkotsu ramen, comprising of a pork-based broth, homemade flour-based noodles, and their very own special red spicy powder.
On any given day, you’ll find queues of Edokko and tourists wrapped around the building to get a taste of some of the best ramen in the world. The best part about Ichiran? You get to specialize your ramen exactly how you like it on a sheet of paper and eat at your own personal booth with dividers for privacy, in order to fully enjoy your meal without interruption.
Get in touch with your spiritual side
2. Meiji Shrine
Located in the heart of Tokyo, Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the 122nd emperor of Japan and was completed in 1920. The shrine celebrates the passing of Emperor Meiji and his companion, Empress Shoken. The shrine was destroyed during World War II but rebuilt shortly after.
Meiji Shrine and the adjacent Yoyogi Park make up a large forested area that offers endless walking paths ideal for an afternoon stroll. The forested area surrounding the shrine comprise nearly 100,000 trees, part of Meiji Jingu’s forest that were planted during the shrine’s construction and donated from prefectures across the entire country.
One of Tokyo’s most popular places of worship, Senso-ji is a Buddhist temple that was built for Bodhisattva Kannon Bosatsu, known as the “Goddess of Mercy.” The temple was completed in the year 628, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple.
The main entrance of Senso-ji is undeniably the most breathtaking (and busy) part of the temple. The outer gate leads to a more than 200-meter shopping street called Nakamise, a street with a history dating back several centuries. Here, travelers can purchase typical Japanese souvenirs such as yukata (a kimono), folding fans, and traditional local snacks from the Asakusa area.
4. Catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji
Kill two birds with one stone by crossing Tokyo’s famed Rainbow Bridge in order to reach Odaiba, a popular shopping and entertainment hub constructed on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay.
Odaiba was originally built toward the end of the Edo Period in the late 19th century to protect Tokyo against possible attacks from the sea. Today, the area has been converted into a spectacular development project aimed at turning the islands into a futuristic residential and business district.
Odaiba’s 115-meter Daikanransha Ferris wheel is one of the world’s largest, offering views of Tokyo Bay and, on a crystal clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.
5. Visit Japan’s tallest building
Tokyo Skytree became the nation’s tallest structure in 2010 and was the second tallest building in the world at the time of its completion. Today, the landmark serves as a broadcasting and observation tower as well as a restaurant!
Standing tall at 2,080 feet, Tokyo Skytree is a popular tourist destination with ample shopping opportunities; stores here offer everything from Japanese and Western desserts and general goods to stationery, fashion items, and more.
The most popular attraction at Skytree, though, is undeniably its two observation decks, located at heights of 350 and 450 meters respectively, granting spectacular views of the city. These heights make the two observation decks the tallest in the entire country and some of the tallest in the world.
6. Toyosu Market
Tokyo once housed the largest fish market in the world known as Tsukiji. If you’re reading this article, then this renowned fish market has unfortunately already closed its doors.
The closing of Tsukiji may have marked the end of an era for Tokyo, but the record-holding fish market has fortunately moved to a different location and been renamed Toyosu Market. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters during a speech that the opening of the new market will create a new brand, and continue to educate international travelers about Japan’s culinary influence.
The opening of Toyosu Market stands as one of the largest developments for the capital city in 2018. Those visiting the new location can catch the famous early morning tuna auction daily at 4:30 a.m.
7. Venture out on a hiking day trip
Welcoming approximately 2.5 million annual visitors, Mount Takao is situated just a quick 40-minute drive outside of Tokyo’s city center, serving as a popular hiking spot for Edokko and international visitors.
Mount Takao remains one of the closest natural recreation areas to Tokyo, filled with stunning scenery, a unique temple, and endless hiking opportunities.
While visiting the nearly 2,000-foot mountain, travelers can take a cable car ride to the top of the mountain and, on clear days, feast upon stunning views of Mt. Fuji.
Hang out in Tokyo’s most eccentric neighborhoods
In a neighborhood where you can “buy” girls on an iPad, watch performing robots, and enjoy bottomless drinks for around $20 USD (or 2,500 Yen), our only advice to you is to embrace Kabukicho’s seediness.
Kabukicho is Japan’s main red-light and entertainment district, a locale teeming with many host and hostess clubs, love hotels, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. Similar to how New York is referred to as “The City That Never Sleeps,” Kabukicho is often called “The Sleepless Town.”
If you’re wondering where you can kick back and enjoy a drink without getting ripped off, head to Golden Gai, the neighborhood’s most popular, cheapest, and safest drinking area.
Walking through Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood is one of the coolest and most unique experiences to be had in the capital. In Harajuku, it’s Halloween every day.
Harajuku is renowned for its colorful street art and fashion scene, filled with quirky vintage clothing stores and cosplay shops, especially along Takeshita Street.
Travelers wandering through Takeshita Street can expect to see endless local teens dressed in costume, an area serving as a focal point for teenage fashion and culture in Tokyo.
We hope these tips help you navigate the endless adventures that await you in the world’s most populous city. Happy trails!