15 Things to Do in Tokyo: A Curated List for 2019

You can spend a lifetime getting to know a megalopolis like Tokyo, and there are such a lot of things you can do whenever you’re on holiday here. But you may like to attempt beginning with this record.

1. Visit a Depachika

A matcha eclair found at Patisserie Sadaharu AOKI, Tokyo, Japan (photograph by Metropolis Foodsters CC BY).

If the apocalypse ever comes to move, a depachika is the place I’d like to reside out the remainder of my days.

Depachika are basement meals halls in malls, they usually’re a number of the greatest locations in Japan to experience a variety of foods in a single place. All major foods in Japanese cuisine, from yakitori to tempura, are represented right here, but there are additionally sections for Chinese language, Korean, and Western cuisine — not to mention Japanese wagashi, Western-style confectionery, and the various rotating regional meals festivals throughout the year.

The whole lot is pure eye candy — an actual visual feast. Stacks of simmered meats and deep-fried croquettes, jewel-colored salads, and desserts as pleasant as Wayne Thiebaud paintings. The most effective half is sampling all the food on show.

There are too many fabulous depachika in town to advocate. Start with Shinjuku Isetan (eat Sadaharu Aoki’s superb matcha eclairs), Daimaru in Tokyo Station (get the butter Package Kats, or queue for the NYC Sand), or Ginza Mitsukoshi (just eat every part).

2. Stroll Round a Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo, JapanShinjuku Gyoen Nationwide Garden in Tokyo, Japan (photograph by NatalieTracy CC BY).

Tokyo is best recognized for its buildings than its bonsai. Nevertheless, it does have some beautiful green areas, whether in the Japanese type or in any other case. In case you are visiting Tokyo in the final week or so of March, into the primary week or two of April, cherry blossom season stays a coveted time to go to Japan.

Learn more in our submit on the perfect gardens in Tokyo, Kyoto, and beyond.

three. Splurge on an Omakase Sushi Meal

omakase sushi plate sampler at Sushi Aoki in tokyo, japanOmakase sushi made by an skilled chef at Sushi Aoki (photograph by City Foodsters CC BY).

High quality over amount: This is applicable to every little thing in life, however particularly sushi.

Overfishing is a compelling purpose for anyone to scale back their fish intake, so I not often eat sushi. But on the rare occasion that I do, I’d relatively have the great things, comprised of fish handled with the respect they deserved after being caught. One nice omakase is a rattling sight more memorable than a collection of average conveyor-belt sushi meals.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be Sukiyabashi Jiro or nothing. There are plenty of sushi joints in city that do above-average sushi at affordable worth factors, particularly when you go for lunch. Locations like Sushi Aoki or Sushi Takeuchi are good locations to start.

4. Recognize Some Artwork

Crystal universe exhibit at teamLab museum, tokyo, japanThe Crystal Universe exhibit at teamLAB Museum (photograph by Shelly Prevost CC BY).

Artwork lovers in Tokyo are really spoiled for selection. These pressed for time should whittle their choices down to the following: the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi, the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Kagurazaka, and the teamLab Museum in Odaiba.

Modern artwork exhibitions on the Mori Artwork Museum are eminently accessible and persistently wonderful, with the bonus of fabulous cityscape views from the 52nd flooring.

Visiting the Yayoi Kusama Museum requires advance tickets, nevertheless it’s properly well worth the problem. Even non-fans like myself have been transformed on visiting.

After which there’s the world’s first digital artwork museum — teamLab Museum. Unfastened your self in dozens of surreal, hyper-colourful areas filled with interactive installations. Wander via a room of glittering crystal strands that seem like LED waterfalls; watch flowers bloom in your teacup; climb by means of the Mild Forest; bounce on trampolines to delivery planets. It’s an expertise in contrast to anyplace else.

5. Drink Coffee at an Old style Kissaten

coffee at the kissaten Ginza's Cafe de L'Ambre in tokyo, japanOld style espresso at Ginza’s Cafe de L’Ambre.

Positive, Tokyo has no scarcity of stylish third-wave coffee bars helmed by baristas with rigorously trimmed goatees. (Actually.) However give me any day the kissaten, an old-school cafe that often seems to be prefer it got here straight out of a ’60s movie. Even higher if it’s a jazz kissa, populated by a number of cantankerous patrons puffing away on their cigarettes in the nook.

Although I don’t smoke, I’ve a smooth spot for the smoky locations. It’s all concerning the environment. Ginza’s Cafe de L’Ambre and Shibuya’s Chatei Hatou are each great places for a spot of nihilistic musing over espresso, cake, and a swirl of cigarette smoke.

6. Slurp Some Ramen

kikanbo ramen in ikebukuro tokyo japanKikanbo ramen in Ikebukuro, Tokyo (photograph courtesy of Brian MacDuckston).

No listing of issues to do in Tokyo can be complete with out mentioning Ramen. With literally hundreds of wonderful outlets and types to select from, it’s all about finding a bowl (or 10) you’re keen on.

For the quintessential Tokyo experience, make it an old-school bowl of shoyu ramen at Manpuku in Ginza, which has been kickin’ it since 1929 with their basic soy-flavored hen broth.

Alternatively, should you’re prepared to get up on the break of day for tickets, Michelin-starred Tsuta in Sugamo does an outstanding bowl of shoyu ramen.

7. Soak Up the Shitamachi Vibes

street in Ueno, Tokyo, JapanA busy road in Ueno (photograph by mdalmuld CC BY).

Someday in the late 20th century, individuals here decided that the working-class areas of Tokyo constituted the “real” Tokyo — and situated all their nostalgic longings in areas like Ueno, Asakusa, and Yanaka. I’d hesitate to endorse any ideas of “authenticity” identical to that — but there’s no denying that downtown Tokyo has a very local allure.

There’s a lot I really like about east Tokyo, whether or not it’s purchasing at the underground Asian market in Ueno or people-watching across the temple in Asakusa. I really like the skeezy bars, the neon lights of love inns down empty lanes at night time, izakaya where previous males begin consuming before midday, the sento full of gossipy local previous people. Take some time to wander around these areas, watching life go by.

eight. Eat Wagyu

Teppanyaki wagyu beefTeppanyaki wagyu beef (photograph by ultrakm CC BY).

Few experiences examine to the uncomplicated joys of eating good wagyu. I actually go into paroxysms of delight once I chew into a dice of seared, richly marbled beef.

Yakiniku is the apparent selection for a wagyu expertise, because you’ll attempt totally different cuts of the cow all through the entire meal. Gourmand favorites embrace Jumbo Hanare and Nakahara. For extra modestly priced meals, there’s Yakiniku Shimizu and Ichirin Saitemo Hana wa Hana.

For sukiyaki, any of the Ningyocho Imahan branches ship a persistently wonderful model, especially when you go for the “high quality” or ”high quality” options. Shima and Vesta are dependable places for superb steak.

In the event you’re wanting for a spectacular wagyu blowout, and you’ve got a membership or know somebody who does, a meal at Wagyumafia could be the approach to go. Good luck getting in.

9. Grasp Out at Jazz Joints

One of the many jazz lounges you’ll find in Tokyo (photograph by G.A.I.N CC BY).

Some may call this pretentious; we want “literary.” Fake you’re in a Murakami novel and hit up considered one of Tokyo’s quite a few jazz joints. For additional points, go to a vinyl-only bar.

For some strategies on the place to go, take a look at Tokyo Jazz Joints, a superb documentary challenge chronicling the town’s vanishing jazz tradition.

10. Fall in Love With Books

book display at tsutaya in tokyo, japanBooks chances are you’ll discover on the Tsutaya complicated in Tokyo, Japan (photograph by chinnian CC BY).

We’d reside in the period of the smartphone, however Japan retains a steadfast love for print. Bookshops giant and small proceed to thrive here, thanks to a robust culture of expertise and reading, and bibliophiles will find many places to indulge their e-book habits.

If in case you have time for just one e-book cease, make it ebook emporium Daikanyama T-Website Tsutaya — a sprawling, light-filled, three-building complicated of books, magazines, DVDs, and tasteful products focused at refined hobbyists. The Tsutaya bookstores in Ginza Six and Roppongi Hills are simply as lovely, if smaller, and price visiting in the event you’re in the world.

11. Hit Up the Bars

A small bar in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, JapanA small bar in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo (photograph by Ryosuke Yagi CC BY).

Tokyo nightlife has a bar for every mood and every vibe potential. Fancy your self in a film? Watch the solar set over Tokyo at one of many sky-high lodge bars, just like the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar or the Conrad Lodge’s TwentyEight. Alternatively, drink a film at The Whales of August, where they serve cinema-inspired cocktails.

Critical about your drinks? Turn to the specialists. World-acclaimed mixologist Gen Yamamoto and his cocktail omakase can be the apparent selection. Whisky drinkers would do properly at the Tokyo Whisky Library, or at Zoetrope where the Japanese whiskies are nearly as good as the movies screened. Tequila followers have around 400 varieties to choose from at Agave. Dive into Tokyo’s booming craft beer bar scene, or take a look at the craft sake offerings as an alternative.

At the reverse finish of this consuming spectrum lies the sort of expertise that requires you to forgo any sense of private area for a number of hours. Squeeze yourself into a ramshackle bar in Golden Gai or Nonbei Yokocho, both consuming districts that’ll transport you back to postwar Tokyo. Hit up a standing izakaya in Ueno or Shinbashi. Nothing loosens tongues and ties like good meals washed down with loads of beer.

12. Store for Traditional Crafts

plates found on Kappabashi Street kitchenware heaven tokyo, japanA number of plates you’ll find on Kappabashi Road (photograph by RachelH_ CC BY).

As with sushi, so with conventional crafts: Quality trumps amount anytime. Tokyo has all method of specialist outlets catering to specific tastes — the next places are simply those I like.

There’s Blue & White in Azabu-Juban, which gathers in one place a set of lovely handicrafts which might be, unsurprisingly, principally blue and white. Assume indigo-dyed tenugui (printed hand towels) in quite a lot of patterns, porcelain and ceramics, tote luggage, and lovely cotton yukata (summer time kimonos). The tenugui make splendidly sensible souvenirs. The employees is beautiful, too.

Aoyama Sq. showcases high-quality traditional crafts from across Japan, with the added criterion that each one merchandise have to be used in everyday life. They’re not low cost, but you get what you pay for, and the whole lot is priced accordingly. You’ll find the whole lot from ceramics and lacquerware to paper and wood merchandise.

Then there’s Kappabashi Road, also referred to as “kitchenware heaven.” This road supplies restaurant operators with their tools, however anyone can store here. It’s a great place to decide up a top quality Japanese knife.

13. Cycle Around Tokyo

Bikes parked in front of a small shop front in Tokyo, JapanBikes parked in front of a small shop front in Tokyo, Japan.

Getting around Japan is famously clear, protected, trendy, and efficient. Tokyo’s practice system is a marvel, but driving crowded carriages day-after-day shortly grows previous. Exploring the town on bike, then again, is a incredible method to discover Tokyo neighborhoods and work up an appetite at the similar time.

Lease a bicycle or be a part of a biking tour; stay inside the metropolitan space or discover some forests and mountains on the outskirts of Tokyo. Whatever you select, it’ll be a enjoyable and totally different expertise of the town. Wear a helmet and experience responsibly.

14. Go to the Ghibli Museum

The forgotten robot soldier statue at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, JapanThe forgotten robotic soldier statue at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo (photograph by Wei-Te Wonga CC BY)

Anybody who has enjoyed a Ghibli film — similar to Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, or Princess Mononoke — even in the slightest ought to make time to visit Tokyo’s Studio Ghibli Museum.

15. Explore the World of Sumo

Sumo Tournament, JapanSumo wrestlers get ready to start the match (photograph by Edward Dalmulder CC BY).

Time your trip appropriately and you can be in city to catch a sumo event. Watching a video doesn’t examine to a reside match — the environment in the stadium is actually electrical.

If sumo tournaments aren’t occurring when you’re in city, organize a go to to one of the sumo stables in the Ryogoku area for a glimpse into wrestlers’ training periods. That is sometimes attainable at most occasions of the yr.

Comply with it with a sumo-style meal of chanko nabe, a protein-rich scorching pot containing anything and every little thing from hen and fish to tofu, beef, and greens. You won’t find a way to down sumo-sized parts, nevertheless it’s delicious anyway.

There’s little question that sumo is a deeply traditional and sexist sport (see the current debacles over permitting ladies into the sumo ring), however it stays a captivating glimpse into sure features of Japanese tradition.