Follow the neon lights.
Tokyo tower skyline

Equipped with a dizzying array of twenty-six unique cities within its limits, Tokyo’s potential as a destination is boundless. Chaotic neon-laced sci-fi-scapes give way to the serenity of pagoda-dotted city gardens in a matter of blocks, seamlessly welding the past and future together with incomparable Japanese efficiency. 

Food, pop culture, and the arts take center stage across the metropolis’ dazzling neighborhoods, but without its inhabitants, Tokyo would be nothing. Polite to a fault, passionate beyond reason, and as welcoming as a bowl of ramen on a cold night, the residents of Tokyo are the ultimate hosts. Help is never far away, and trust us, you’ll need it when navigating this Godzilla of a city. 

It’s brilliant. It’s beautiful. It’s utterly bonkers.

Welcome to Tokyo.

5 things you can’t miss in Tokyo

Get Cultural

sensoji temple

Tokyo might be the city of the future, but it’s still firmly rooted in its colorful heritage. There are many ways to explore a more traditional Japan, none more so than a visit to Senso-Ji Temple. The stunning site is the oldest Buddhist Temple in the city, with its original structure built around 645AD, and offers a glimpse into the working of the religion in Japan.

For a more formal education, try hitting up the Edo Tokyo Museum. Edo was the Japanese capital’s former name, as well as the overarching name for the prosperous period of military control over Japan from the 17th century until the late 19th. It’s a fascinating trip into the country’s history. It’s closed for renovations until 2025, so maybe check out the Samurai Museum in the meantime.

Get animated in Akihabara

Akihabara electric town tokyo japan

Also known as Electric Town, Akihabara is an area in the Chiyoda district that has evolved into the de facto center of Japanese pop culture. Whether you’re a Manga-nut or think Pokémon is a type of sushi, you’re sure to get swept up in the frantic light and energy of the place.

Towering arcades ten stories high are frequented by young and old alike. It’s not uncommon for seasoned gamers to turn up with gloves on, coins at the ready, and bash buttons for hours at a time. It’s seriously impressive. New games and old classics are packed into the arcades and help unleash the inner child in everyone.

Once your thumbs are worn out, shop till you drop at some of the most comprehensive electronics stores in the world, as well as niche stores for literally anything you can think of. Seriously. Anything.

If you’re feeling extra weird, grab a snack at one of the maid cafes – establishments where guests are served by cosplaying waitresses sticking to themed characters. It may feel a bit unusual, but they’re hugely popular in the city.

Catch a sumo match

sumo wrestler statue japan

The art of Sumo is often passed over as a little odd for western tastes and even put in the same bracket as staged wrestling like Lucha libre in Mexico. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and the sport is one of Japan’s most revered.

Tokyo is the perfect place to see some of the best wrestlers in the world take the floor, and if you time your visit with a tournament, you could be in for a treat. During competitions, matches rage for as long as fifteen days, meaning you could spend a few days getting to grips with the finer details of Japan’s national sport. Tokyo has tournaments in January, May, and September.

If you’re super interested, you can even visit a “Sumo stable” in the Ryogoku District and watch the athletes training. Once you’re finished, load up on your calories, and try some Chanko Nabe, the staple food of Sumo wrestlers.

Find some peace in blooming gardens

shinjuku park tokyo japan

Spending some time in one of Tokyo’s immaculate parks should be at the top of any itinerary. The parks are astonishingly beautiful pieces of tranquility nestled amongst the city, but a little reading will tell you how painstakingly meticulous the Japanese are when creating them.

All the gardens, like those found in Shinjuku Park, have defined elements and even philosophical components to their design. Spend an afternoon or three strolling through your favorite. Try and be there while the blossoms are in bloom for a spectacular experience.

Another must-see park is the lush Yoyogi Park. There, you’re sure to find impromtu street performers while nestled beneath the branches of their famed gingko trees. 

Experience organized chaos

Shibuya crossing

A trademark of the Tokyo experience is witnessing and participating in the hustle and bustle of one of the most populated cities in the world.

Go people watching or simply cross the street on the Shibuya Crossing. As the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, you’ll see about 3,000 people bobbing and weaving at the same time. 

It’s safe to say you should be on high alert while walking here–cellphone distractions and jaywalking are not recommended.

Want to uncover the best of Tokyo?

Check out Next Stop: Tokyo for the best places to stay, eat, and explore in Tokyo!

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