14 Awesome Things to See and Do in Tokyo

Grant and I recently got back from a 9-day sightseeing trip to Japan and we had such a wonderful time in that amazing country. Those of you who have been to Japan will know just how marvellous that place is, and to those of you who haven't been - add it to your list! Seriously, there is so much to see and do there, and the food is so delicious!

I thought I'd put together a list of awesome things to see and do in the three cities we visited while we were there - so that you can see what we did and experienced and also as a reference for those who might be putting together an itinerary in future.

First up: Tokyo. I've always thought of this city as ├╝ber-cool - particularly their fashions, but also the seamless way their old temples and shrines live within their modern cities.

We spent four days in Tokyo and although we tried hard to see as much as we could during that short time, there were so many other places we would love to have seen, but just didn't have the time on this trip. Travelling around cities in Japan takes a bit of time. Although we used the metro trains and buses extensively, there is still quite a lot of walking to and fro and in between. In my opinion, the local travelling and walking is an exciting part of the travel experience, though (albeit rather tiring at times) - that's always the best time to soak up the atmosphere and people-watch (which is one of my favourite pastimes).

Right, let's go:

1. Walk around the Imperial Palace East Gardens

We visited these beautiful gardens on our first morning in Tokyo - to see the blossom trees in bloom. And we were rewarded with some beautiful trees and a sprinkling of falling blossoms too! (See a video of that on my Instagram - mobile version only - Japan highlights stories. It was awesome!)

A former site of Edo Castle, the gardens are no longer home to any of the main buildings, but you can still see the moat, some remaining walls, the foundation of the castle tower, majestic entrance gates and some impressive guardhouses. Worth a visit.

2. Visit the Imperial Palace

If you want to take a tour of the palace grounds (one cannot enter the buildings as Japan's Imperial Family actually live here), be sure to book online beforehand (although apparently you can book at the gate too, but, your timing might be off). However, if that's not a priority for you, walking around the East Gardens and then along the moat around the outside of the palace, is also very enjoyable and you get pretty good views of the buildings.

3. Take in the Meiji Shrine

Torii (traditional Japanese gates) are most commonly found at Shrines - so if you see one of these beauties, it means that you're either entering a Shrine area, or you're at a Shrine. Such a huge Japanese symbol, this. (It even has its own emoji!)

I photographed the one below at the entrance to the forest where the Meiji Shrine is located. The walk through the forest is beautiful and we were enthralled by the leaf sweepers who keep those paths meticulous. Such skill. And a full-time job at certain times of the year! (I got some great video footage of those guys - see my Instagram Japan highlight stories.)

On your way through the forest, make time to stop and take in the beauty that is these barrels of sake.

And then go on to enjoy the actual Shrine. So beautiful.

Sorry, I couldn't get enough of these amazing structures! And just look at all of the people about. So. Many. Tourists.

4. Experience a Sukiyaki meal

Sukiyaki is basically a Japanese stew that's cooked in a hot pot at your table as you dine. We found a great little restaurant after doing a spot of shopping one day, were brought up to speed on what to do and off we went. While your hotpot warms up at your table, you go off to choose your vegetables, noodles and tofu, and on your return, your broth should be boiling and your thinly cut slices of (raw) meat should have arrived. You throw all of your ingredients into your broth and cook. As simple as that. There are also some dipping sauces (or raw egg, if you'd like) and we had some tasty side salads too. 

This was such a lovely lunch experience, one we won't forget - and very welcome on a cold day like it was on the day that we went. 

5. Go to the Ginza district

And enjoy some fun shopping - you'll find both high-end shops and also many other more affordable stores. And if your timing is great, you might get to hear the clock strike the hour - always a good experience, in my book.

6. Enjoy a cocktail and some jazz at the New York Bar

If you enjoyed the movie, Lost in Translation (with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) or you simply enjoy great views, cocktails and jazz - stop in at the Park Hyatt and head up to the 52nd floor New York Bar. You won't be disappointed.

We ordered a lobster roll and a Wagyu burger from their snack menu and both were delicious and sufficient for dinner that night. Also, their cocktails are sublime. New York vibe at its best.

7. Go up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

It's free. And has spectacular views from up there! On a clear day, you can even see Mt Fuji apparently. You could also go up the Tokyo Skytree or the Tokyo Tower, but we found ourselves in Shinjuku with some time to spare and so we chose the Government Building to take in the views. 

Saw these cute ladybirds outside the building when we exited. (Tourists take photos of ALL the things, it's true. Hahahaha.)

8. Experience the Shibuya Crossing

It's got to be done. And in my case, more than once. ;) I loved being part of the craziness of crossing that intersection. We bought coffees at the Starbucks on the crossing and headed to their upstairs seating area to watch all the hundreds of people (Starbucks has a seating area that overlooks the crossing). Such fun.

9. Go to the Robot Restaurant

Now here's a show like nothing we've ever seen before - bright, loud, a little tacky and very entertaining. It's got to be experienced once, I reckon. Just seeing these (sometimes) huge floats and robots being manoeuvred around a relatively small area, is phenomenal. And the costumes are out of the future!

Pro-tip: Book before you get to the country so that you're assured seats as this is a popular attraction. We booked online and although the ticket confirmation email took a while to come through, it all worked out in the end. There is the option to include dinner with your ticket entry, but we chose the ticket and 1 drink option and went for dinner elsewhere after the show.

10. Get to the Tsukiji Nippon Fish Market

And try a warm, just made Tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette - made by cooking together layers of egg in a rectangular pan) - they're so good. I also had some melon (I know, at a fish market) that was the sweetest melon I'd tasted in a long time.

We did try some fishy morsels in the Tsukiji Outer Market as well, but it was too early for me to really get into the whole sushi breakfast thing. This market is definitely worth a visit because there's so much to see and so many interesting foods and stores to wander around.

11. Pop in at the Kawaii Monster Cafe

You will be amazed. It's a rainbow paradise. It's loud. It's bright. And it's crazy.

We had just had a big lunch at a sushi restaurant in the area so we popped into the Monster Cafe for dessert. I would have been interested to taste the rainbow spaghetti or the rainbow burger, but I was very happy with my chihuahua treat! (I love that husband of mine who indulged my crazy desire to go to this wacky place! Thanks, babe!)

12. Visit Akihabara and soak up Electric Town

You'll see enormous shops and lots of lights - living up to it's "Electric Town" name. This shopping district specialises in computer games, anime and computer goods. We picked up a mobile charger here as our phone batteries were taking a hammering from all the google maps searching (Grant) and photo taking (me). Hahaha.

13. Explore the Harajuku shopping area

It's a must-see. The rainbow candyfloss in a big cone shape, the crazy fashions and the fascinating stores. It's heaven for any shopaholics.

We entered at Takeshita Street:

14. Eat all the ramen

Honestly, that won't be difficult because you can find ramen restaurants everywhere! But let me tell you - search TripAdvisor when you're looking for a restaurant in the area you find yourself and pick one of the top rated ones. You'll know you're in for some delicious ramen when you get to the restaurant and there's a long queue of locals outside. We waited in a queue for an hour for lunch one day - but boy was it worth it!

We had such a great time in Japan and were amazed on many occasions by the kindness of the people - from the Metro staff, hotel staff, to the guy who took out his earphones and walked with us around the block in search of a restaurant we were looking for and to the Adidas saleswoman who left her store to show us another store we were looking for down the road! They were so helpful, respectful and sweet. What a great way to live.

Have you been to Tokyo? What other places or experiences would you add to this list? I'd love to hear your comments.

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