Tokyo is a city like no other; a city bursting with modern boldness mixed with sprinkles of tradition. It is a city so fascinating that you will want to return again and again. Tokyo is a city that features high on so many travel bucket lists and for good reason as there are so many amazing places to visit in Tokyo.
There is no city in the world that offers so much from zipping around in a Go-Kart, watching an early morning sumo session, relaxing in the Emperor’s garden to sleeping in what can only be described as a coffin. Tokyo offers the ultimate in bucket list experiences, keep reading to check out the best experiences Tokyo has to offer.
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Cross The Famous Shibuya Crossing
The Shibuya crossing is an iconic tourist spot in Tokyo and one you really shouldn’t miss out on. With over half a million people passing through each day, it is one of the worlds busiest intersections. When the traffic lights at the junction turn red at the same time to allow everyone to cross, prepare to dive into what can only be described as organised chaos.
For a different perspective of the crossing, find a spot to view the scramble from a height. Avoid the Starbucks directly facing onto the intersection. It’s always crowded, noisy and extremely hard to get a good spot at the window. A better option is to head to any of the taller buildings nearby such as the L’occitane across the street from Starbucks. Here, you will be able to hop in to an elevator to the top of the building and enjoy the best view of the famous scramble in peace.
Check Out Kabukicho – Tokyo’s Red Light District
Kabukicho is known as Tokyo’s red-light district. It is located in Shinjuku and the large, neon arch on Shinjuku’s main street indicates that you are entering the area. The best time to go to Kabkicho is at night time as not much happens there during the day. You can get a private tour of the area and find out about the history and why it is so different compared to other red-light districts around the world.
The area is brimming with host and hostess bars which became famous in large part due to the late Anthony Bourdain’s documentary Parts Unknown – Tokyo. It gives a truly fascinating insight into the underground of Tokyo and you will definitely experience a side to the city you never knew existed.
Experience The Wacky Robot Restaurant
Right in the heart of Kabukicho is The Robot Restaurant which has become one of Tokyo’s bucket list destinations. The infamous restaurant, which cost 10 billion yen to build, is probably one of the worlds wackiest places to eat.
Prepare for a sensory overload, flashing neon lights, human and robot performers and if I’m completely honest, mediocre food. Who comes here to eat though?! Make sure you’ve eaten before you arrive as the show is two hours long and will leave you with a feeling of bewilderment and excitement. It is most definitely an ultimate Tokyo bucket list experience!
While living in Japan, I celebrated one of my birthdays there and it was one of the best nights of my life. Quirky, eccentric and ultimately a whole lot of fun. It is definitely one of the best places to visit in Tokyo! Tickets usually cost around €50/$55 which is worth it for the experience. If you want to know more about Tokyo’s themed restaurants, then check out my post here which provides all of the details you need to know for the best themed restaurants in Tokyo.
Get Tickets Here: Have an Out-Of-This-World Experience at The Robot Restaurant
Bar Hop in Golden Gai, Shinjuku
In the midst of Tokyo’s red-light district, Robot Restaurant and neon-lit buildings lies the traditional ‘Golden Gai’ area. The Golden Gai takes up a small amount of space in Shinjuku, the area is unlike anything you will have ever experienced making it one of the best places to visit in Tokyo.
Essentially made up of six alleyways which are crammed with over 200 tiny bars, it gives a real feel of what Tokyo must have been like in the past. Usually, only 3 – 4 people can fit in a bar and rarely food is on offer. The bars open at around 5 pm but they really only get going after 10 pm.
Bar hopping around the Golden Gai is a unique Tokyo bucket list experience, no bar is the same and every bar has it’s own story to tell. You will see an array of decor, history and offered cocktails you have probably never heard of. Be mindful though, as this is still a designated locals area so don’t be surprised if you come across signs such as ‘No Tourists’ or ‘No Photos’.
Sing Karaoke – With Your Own Rock Band
Karaoke booths are all over Tokyo, usually on the second floor upwards of high-rise buildings. The Japanese love nothing more than to let their hair down and sing to their heart’s content in a private karaoke booth. It can seem a little intimidating at first but after a while, you’ll forget where you are whilst blasting out the lyrics to songs like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
Most Karaoke places often have costumes and wigs to make the experience even more interesting! You can also include Nomihodai as part of your Karaoke package which basically means “all you can drink“.
The absolute best and most unique karaoke experience in Tokyo though is in Shibuya where you can feel like a real singer on stage backed up by a live band. Sing to your heart’s content from a catalogue of 280,000 songs in multiple languages, including English, Chinese, Korean, and Tagalog.
Get Tickets Here: Sing Karaoke With A Live Rock Band
Visit The New Fish Market In Tokyo
It’s not often that a fish market would be recommended as a bucket list experience is it?! But there is nothing quite like the fish market in Tokyo which recently opened in a new venue. The new Toyosu Fish Market is near Shijomae Station, on the Yurikamome Line. The tuna auction is the highlight of the day but make sure to get there early if you want to see it. The new fish market is twice the size of Tsukiji and it is the worlds largest fish auction. It regularly features as one of the top 10 things to do in Tokyo for this reason alone!
It is free to enter the market but I highly recommend booking a guide for the best experience and amazing sushi recommendations. Get the best tour of the fish market by buying this ticket here.
Get Tickets Here: Private Tuna Auction and Tokyo Toyosu Fish Market Tour
Watch A Baseball Game At Tokyo Dome
Baseball is an incredibly popular sport in Japan and stadiums are always full to capacity with extremely passionate fans. Attending a game is exciting whether you like baseball or not as it gives a real glimpse into modern Japanese culture. Tokyo Dome is the biggest baseball stadium in Japan and accommodates up to 50, 000 people so you can imagine how exhilarating the atmosphere is inside!
Being Irish, baseball is not a sport I know well but I loved seeing how much the crowd get into supporting their teams – the Mexican waves, the chants and boos were fun to take part in. It is definitely an experience worth doing in Tokyo!
Get Tickets Here: Watch A Baseball Game inside Tokyo Dome
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Experience the Technique of Sumo Wrestling
Sumo wrestling is a sport steeped in Japanese history since the early ages. It is the national sport of Japan and the only country in the world where it is practised professionally. So be sure to add it to your list of things to do in Tokyo!
There are only three sumo wrestling tournaments a year and tickets sell like hotcakes. So if you want to experience a sumo tournament (you really should!), book tickets as far in advance as you can.
However, if the tournaments don’t fall during your visit or you didn’t manage to get a ticket- don’t worry! Early morning sumo training sessions are open year round and it is such a fun way to see sumo in action. I highly recommend booking a ticket through Voyagin for the best experience. They are my go-to ticket agent for all things Tokyo!
If you’re lucky enough to be there when a tournament is on, check out my guide which is full of everything you need to know such as how to buy tickets, how to get to the stadium and the rules and history of sumo wrestling.
Get Tickets Here: Early Morning Sumo Wrestling Training
Drive a Go-Kart Super Mario style
Did you know that you can zip around the streets of Tokyo in a go-kart? Unfortunately, you can no longer dress up as a Super Mario character due to copyright infringement laws (oops!). However, it is still possible to dress up as other characters such as Spiderman or Batman. Voyagin offers an amazing discounted deal which includes an English speaking guide, GPS and plenty of stops for photos.
Get Tickets Here: Go Kart around Tokyo ‘Super Mario’ Style
Learn How to Cook Japanese Food with Locals
Have you ever wanted to learn how to cook authentic Japanese food? Well, now is your chance as there is an amazing cooking school called airKitchen in Tokyo which provides cooking classes for tourists of all ages. What is so unique and inspiring about this cooking school is that many of the classes are taught by Japanese locals in their own home.
There is also a huge variety of classes to choose from; ramen cooking, bento boxes, tempura, sukiyaki, vegetarian, gyoza, okonomiyaki, sushi and so many more. And best of all you get to eat and share the food afterwards. Prices start from 1000Y(€9) but prices do vary depending on skills being taught. You are sure to find a class to match your budget and interest. One of my favourite classes is the cute anime characters lunchbox class!
Not only will you learn incredible Japanese cooking skills from locals – you will also fully immerse yourself into authentic Japanese culture. It’s such an amazing insight into life in Japan and the hosts of each class love learning about other cultures too. This is why this cooking school needs to be on your Tokyo bucket list!
All of the hosts speak English but there is, of course, plenty of opportunities to practice and learn some Japanese too. You can check airKitchen out here but advance warning – you will want to do every class they offer!
Visit One of Tokyo’s Amazing Disney parks
When it comes to Disney, Tokyo is unique in that it offers both Disney Land and Disney Sea. In my opinion, Disney Sea is definitely the ultimate Tokyo bucket list experience but if you have children you can’t beat Disneyland. I’ve been to both and I preferred my experience at Disney Sea but that may be because it is geared more towards adults and teens. They are both in close proximity to each other and by purchasing this ticket you can decide on the day which park you want to visit. Both are amazing!
The ticket above includes free access to all rides but make sure you don’t miss out on the themed food, free Disney movies and of course the spectacular Disney fireworks display in the evening too. It’s possible to see everything in a day but if you want a more magical experience, you could book into the absolutely incredible Disney hotel. Sure, why not eh?
Get Tickets Here: Tokyo Disney Land and Disney Sea
Sleep in a capsule hotel
The concept of the capsule/pod hotel was invented in Japan so it is definitely something to add to your Tokyo bucket list, if only for one night. Capsule hotels have often been described as coffin-like in the past but nowadays they provide modern, safe and cheap accommodation for everyone. Pods are often piled on top of each other in large rooms, with excellent showering and storage services provided. Do your research though and stay in one that suits you.
I loved my stay in a capsule hotel, it’s an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. I could just about sit up and there’s enough room for your own personal things. You will most likely only need a place to rest when visiting Tokyo as there is so much to see and do. Therefore, capsule hotels are the perfect place to stay and so cheap too!
There are female-only and male-only hotels or you can choose to stay in a mixed pod. I stayed in the amazing Nine Hours Capsule Hotel dorm a couple of times which costs around €30/$33 a night. What a bargain! Another great capsule option in Tokyo is Book and Bed which is a really funky place filled with books and could also be mistaken for a library!
Take a stroll around the Imperial Palace
Japan’s Imperial family live on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in the centre of Tokyo. While the palace itself is not open to the public except on the 2nd of January and the 23rd February (the Emperors birthday), the grounds around the palace are open.
There are stunningly beautiful parks with moats and stone walls dotted all around the Imperial Palace. It is definitely a destination to add to your Tokyo bucket list. Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne at the end of April 2019 and the first holiday to commemorate his birthday will take place in 2020. This is a very special celebration for all Japanese people.
It is also amazing to look up and see the high rise modern buildings of Marunouchi surrounding such an important and historic palace. The river is surrounded by magnificent Sakura trees, which you can experience during Cherry Blossom season if you’re lucky. You can also enjoy boat rides or take a stroll through the Kitanomaru Park and stop to enjoy a picnic.
Enjoy Traditional Japanese Kabuki Theatre
Enjoy a Kabuki theatre performance in the centre of Tokyo which is often made up of nationwide famous actors. Kabuki is a unique form of Japanese theatre where the performers combine mime, dance, song and almost violent make-up to deliver a stunning performance. It’s possible to get English translations but honestly, you don’t really need it as the performances are so powerful.
Get Tickets Here: Kabuki Theater in Tokyo
Experience the Mori Digital Art Museum
The Mori Building Digital Art Museum opened in Tokyo in 2018 in the Odaiba area of Tokyo. It is the very first digital art museum in the world and this 10,000 sq m space uses 520 computers and 470 projectors to create an experience that you will never forget. You are free to wander around the museum whatever way you like, let your curiosity take you through. The museum moves with you in that the art almost surrounds you. Often, if you step back to where you were a few minutes before, the art display might be completely different.
The museum is mostly known for its stunning light installations. You have probably seen such photos on Instagram thousands of times. The two most popular installations are the Crystal World and the Forest of Resonating Lamps. This museum is for everyone; prepared to be awed, inspired and completely immersed in an incredible setting. There is nowhere in the world quite like it so it really should be quite high on your Tokyo bucket list!
Get Tickets Here: MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM
Over To You….
What’s at the top of your Tokyo bucket list? Have you done any activities already? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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