7 Unusual & Unique Things to Do in Tokyo
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and also one of the worlds best city destinations where you can expect history, culture, tradition and bustling modern day life all mixed in.
One of our featured travel writers - Aimée Auguin has written an article below with 7 amazing and non-touristy things do when visiting Tokyo...
1. Sensōji Temple
The oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, the Sensōji Temple is an absolute must-see. The famous Kaminarimon Gate with the huge red lantern and the Nakamise-dori shopping street filled with traditional wares and souvenirs lead up to the Main Hall with its gold-plated Gokuden Shrine. The main shrine is surrounded by a five-storey pagoda (the 2nd highest in Japan), the Dembo-in Garden for a tranquil stroll, a huge incense burner, the Hōzō-mon Gate, and the Nade Botokesan Buddha.
2. Meiji Jingu Shrine
Although there are numerous seasonal festivals in Tokyo, the most extravagant ones are during the spring. However, there is a year-round opportunity to see Japanese wedding processions Sundays at the Meiji Jingu Shrine. In addition to the beautiful and serene traditional atmosphere, there are hundreds of different picture opportunities and chances to participate in Japanese tradition whether it is writing a wish on Ema (a wooden tablet) and hanging it up, or buying a lucky charm.
On the way to the main shrine through the first Torii Gate is a path with lush greenery and stone lanterns. To the side is a trail to the Meiji Shrine Garden (carp and water lilies and iris garden), Kiyomasa’s Well, and the Treasure Museum. You might expect to find young girls on Sundays dressed up in cosplay nearby at the Harajuku Station, but unfortunately there aren’t as many as there were in the early 2000s.
3. Tokyu Hands
Tokyu Hands in the Shibuya district of Tokyo is a huge department store that carries every possible household product you will ever need. Filled with inventive every-day Japanese goods, you will find items that you never thought you would need or knew that even existed. With 25 different sections, this unique branch holds a plethora of products as you can see above.
4. Oedo Antique Market
The Oedo Antique Market has a fantastic array of kimonos, obi sashes, lacquer boxes, and other Japanese antiques at very reasonable prices. Gorgeous kimonos in particular are available at about 1,000 Yen ($10). With about 250 dealers, it is the largest outdoor antique market in Japan and takes place every 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month at the International Forum courtyard. There are good small restaurants in the area and the inside atrium of the forum building is gorgeous, so make sure to make a visit along the way to admire the modern architecture.
5. Tea Ceremony at the New Otani
Taking part in a Japanese Tea Ceremony is truly an experience not to be missed when in Japan. It is the ceremonial preparation and enjoyment of matcha and a Japanese sweet, and is the ultimate way to appreciate tea. The calm simplicity and beauty of the ceremony itself is a feast for the eyes. Although there are many different places to witness a Tea Ceremony in Tokyo, the very private and inviting Tatami Tea Room at the New Otani is the ideal setting. The New Otani also has a magnificent traditional garden with vibrant red bridges, koi fish, and a small rock garden. Make sure to also take a stroll.
6. Sushi SEIZAN at Roppongi Hills
Although the Roppongi Hills Mall has about 200 stores and restaurants (and even a multiplex), the authentic Sushi SEIZAN is a standout in terms of unbelievably fresh and delicious sushi. The fish is brought every day from the Tsukiji market in Tokyo. Although Sushi SEIZAN has two western options – one of which is the California Roll – try to opt for the more traditional Nigiri-style sushi. (the Salmon and Japanese Shrimp are especially good) Although there are tables available, make sure to sit at the bar to be able to order à la carte and watch them make your sushi skillfully (www.tsukijisushisay.co.jp/store/seizan.html - website unfortunately not available in English).
7. Yokohama Day Trip
Although Tokyo is a wonderfully fast paced city, Yokohama is the perfect getaway destination to enjoy a relaxing day trip. A prefecture of Tokyo, Japan’s second largest city and its largest port, there is an abundance of entertaining places to visit/things to do such as Yokohama’s Cosmoworld amusement park with 27 rides in total, purikura photo booths and one of the largest Ferris Wheels in the world, the CupNoodles Museum, boat/ferry rides, and the biggest Chinatown in Japan. About 40 minutes by train and 15 minutes by Bullet train (Shinkansen), Yokohama is an easily accessible and charming port-city. The train station doubles as a huge mall, and the seaside is only a short walk away.
Other Things to Experience/See if Time-Permitting
- Shop at Kiddyland
- Find Japanese souvenirs at the Oriental Bazaar
- Travel with the Bullet Train/Shinkansen
- Stay overnight at a Capsule Hotel
- See the Pachinko Parlors
- Take a stroll or visit the museums in Ueno Park
- See a performance at the NHK Theater
- Take the Tokyo Subway (safe, clean, quiet, and you can find your way by numbers and colors of the subway lines)
- Visit the Imperial Gardens
- Take a small trip to the Ghibli Museum (buy your ticket at a Lawson convenience store)
By Aimée Auguin