You know we nearly didn’t go to Japan because there’s just so much to see that we thought we would come away disappointed having not seen everything we wanted to see. We also thought it would be too overwhelming to do the research and find out which are the best things to do, especially in Tokyo.
But, after spending days and days researching, we came up with the good which is why I’m putting it all in this post for you! So without a doubt, here’s the 13 things you absolutely must visit in Tokyo!
1. Bike Tour with Freewheeling
Freewheeling bike tour owners, Brad, Chad and Jacksan the dog.
As soon as we arrived into Japan we went on a bike tour with Freewheeling which we found on airbnb experiences. It was so cool to cycle around with the owners, Brad & Chad, two American guys who became friends whilst living in Tokyo. They had both lived in Japan for a long time and knew it like the back of their hands. Interestingly, their tour has done so well because they take you out in the cool suburbs of Tokyo, West of Shinjinku near Setagaya rather than in the city. One of the main highlights for me was being introduced to an amazing cheap sushi restaurant which brings me onto point 2.
The food at Midori Sushi is the best value for money you’ll get in Tokyo!
The sushi at chain restaurant Midori Sushi is so good, their lines can go on and on as there’s no booking service. We were lucky that day as we sat down for the best sushi we’ve ever had anywhere. As we were told by the guys at Freewheeling, it’s the best, cheapest sushi in Japan. Prices are around AU$10 for a sushi box. Other places we went to charged over $35. Before we left Japan we went to the one in Shibuya at around 3pm in the afternoon to have to wait over 30 minutes for a table, it was indeed worth it.
3. Shibuya Crossing best viewing platforms
The well known viewing platform at Starbucks to see the Shibuya Crossing in action.
We were surprised at how small Shibuya Crossing actually is, I mean Oxford Circus in London is bigger! But, when one wants to really get a good viewing platform of the crossing, most people head to Starbucks to view it like we did. It’s easy to find as it’s right opposite the crossing. Be prepared, it can get pretty busy in there to get a window seat. Just go straight up the escalators to get to the windows, I wouldn’t personally buy anything from there as we spent a fortune on a sandwich and a coffee.
But, there are other viewing platforms to consider. Beauty cosmetics chain, L’Occitane has a cafe on the third floor opposite Shibuya. In the same building a family restaurant called which has fantastic views. But the best viewing platform out them all is at Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu on the 25th floor. Best of all, it’s free!
4. Buy the perfect ice cream at Milk
Ever wanted to have the perfect Mr Whippy? Go to Milk in Shibuya for the ultimate ice cream around. It’s insanely good!
Steve absolutely loved Harry The Hedgehog Cafe!
When we went to Harajuku to see the famous street (which really isn’t anything to write home about), we were able to tick off the animal cafes from our list. We went to a cat cafe which had the most beautiful cats I’ve ever seen, to a freaky owl cafe we literally had to walk straight out of, to our favourite cafe which was the hedgehog one. We had the best 45 minutes you could ask for there at Harry The Hedgehog Cafe. All of the cafes mentioned were within a five minute walking distance of each other and all cost no more than AU$15 each.
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6. The insta mirror wall
You just have to go and see Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku
If you’re into instagram then you must walk down the street from Harry the Hedgehog cafe to the mirrored wall entrance to the shopping mall called Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku. It’s quite spectacular.
7. The Meiji Shrine
The Meiji Shrine is an absolute must visit when you first arrive into Tokyo!
A must see first temple complex to see when you land in Tokyo is the Meiji shrine complex. It’s located in a stunning park next to Harajuku. We loves the Saki bowls in this photograph above – they are just beautiful!
8. Ginza for shopping
Go check out the world’s largest Uniqlo Store in Ginza.
If you love shopping then Ginza is your place to visit. It also holds the largest Uniqlo in the world. Be prepared though, the sizing at Uniqlo in Japan is unsurprisingly tiny.
9. See the real Tokyo in Akihabara
You must experience the crazy loud pochinko gaming stations in Akihabara!
If you were expecting Tokyo to be really futuristic then you must go and visit Akihabara, also known as Electric Town. It’s famous for hosting plenty of gaming centres to play pikora, to many maid cafes. Steve dragged me into a maid cafe which was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done, so Japan yet so bizarre.
10. Go up to the top of Roppongi Hills
If you want to see a great view point of Tokyo then you must go up to the top of the Roppongi Hills building for fantastic views. It’s also free to go up to the top and there’s a bar to catch some sunset drinks!
11. Art in Tokyo
The incredible restaurants at the National Art Centre, Tokyo
If you’re into art, then you must go and visit the famous Yayoi Kusama museum. Be warned, it sells out fast so you must book ahead. We on the other hand went to check out the National Art Centre which was incredible and free. The restaurants alone were amazing!
12. The Ninja Restaurant is a must!
Our Ninja chef made most of the delicious meals right in front of us at the Ninja Restaurant.
The Ninja Restaurant in Tokyo is so incredibly brilliant, you absolutely must go and visit. The restaurant itself has been made into a village set underground which is honestly the best restaurant I’ve ever been to. We were led to our own private room, had a ninja waiter who karate chopped up the spinach for one of our dishes for us and brought in a ninja magician to do some tricks. It was on the pricey side (20,000 Yen = AU$246 for a 5 course tasting menu for two) but totally worth it because the food was also some of the best we had in Japan. This place is perfect for adults and parents with kids. You’d be mad to miss out on this awesome experience!
13. Robot Restaurant
We knew as first timers in Japan we had to tick that Robot Restaurant box off our list. This bizarre show is something you’ll probably never see anywhere else in the world and needs to be witnessed to be understood! But is it really worth the money? See below for details.
14. Kagaya Restaurant aka Frog Is Stranger Than Fiction
Kagaya restaurant is an absolute gem of a place to visit.
I have absolutely no idea how I found this restaurant hidden deep within the net but my god, I’m glad I did. Kagaya Restaurant which is also known as Frog Is Stranger Than Fiction is a one of a kind that is so authentically wacky Japanese, it would be hard to find anywhere else that competes with this dinner experience. It’s ran by one man who entertains and serves you food whilst an old lady cooks it. It’s a set menu (the food isn’t anything to write home about but it’s about the experience not the menu) and all the guests join in to create the show each evening. Honestly we’ve never laughed so much in our lives! You must pre-book by phone and make this a definite must do!
15. Piss Alley and Golden Gai
You must walk down Piss Alley and Golden Gai one night to see tourists and locals hanging out in tiny bars and restaurants!
If there’s one thing you must do in the evening in Tokyo is go to Piss Alley and Golden Gai alley. These two alleyways are the hub to Tokyo nightlife. Tiny bars and restaurants line the alleyways to fit just a handful of people in but you’ll meet so many locals and tourists, it’s brilliant. If you think Piss Alley is small, go over to Golden Gai alley where the bars and restaurants get even smaller! Both alley ways are fantastic photography spots so bring your camera!
16. Gotokuji Cat Temple
The Gotokuji cat temple is brilliant and worth a visit!
If you haven’t maxed out on the temples in Japan yet, make sure you go and visit the Goktokuji cat temple in Tokyo. It’s based in a quiet suburb of Setagaya near to the bike tour we went on in a beautiful garden. When you reach the temple, you’ll find hundreds of white cats. It’s something I doubt you’ll see anywhere else in the world!
We didn’t manage to go to the fish markets which is why I can’t write about them and we didn’t get to see a sumo show purely because we ran out of time but we did go to see the sumo guys in their practice which was totally weird, like we had to stand outside the window and peer in. They had finished their practice when we arrived which is a good thing as it felt quite wrong.
Other than that, I’m pleased with the amount we were able to see in Tokyo! It’s such an amazing city, it would be hard not to love it!
What else should you see in Tokyo? Let me know in the comments below!
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Have you seen my other posts on Japan yet?