June 23, 2017
Ten Activities to Do in Tokyo for a First Timer
I finally got to visit Tokyo for the first time last month and loved my trip. I was only in Tokyo for five nights but I was able to see most of the highlights in that time by exploring the city all day long! Here’s some of my main suggestions when visiting Japan’s capital.
Book a Free Premium Flight
It’s a long flight from the US to Japan. My flight from Chicago to Tokyo lasted 13 hours and flights from the West Coast run about 11 hours. That’s a long time to spend in Economy. Instead, I booked a free First Class flight on ANA using my airline miles. You can book roundtrip First Class flights to Japan for as low as 90,000 miles, and even less for Business Class.
The Meiji shrine is a Shinto monument built in 1920 to commemorate Emperor Meiji. If you’re lucky you’ll see Japanese wedding processions here.
There were three wedding parties that walked through the shrine while I was there. It was fascinating to see the bride and party dressed in traditional Japanese clothing.
Shibuya crossing is the largest crosswalk in the world. I stopped by since it’s a well known site, but it was really nothing special. It’s just a giant crosswalk packed with people and looks like a Japanese version of New York’s Times Square. That being said, there are lots of department stores and restaurants around Shibuya, so if you want to get some shopping done it’s worth checking out.
As you likely guessed, the Imperial family lives in the Imperial Palace. As such, the inner grounds of the palace aren’t open to the public. You can get the best view of the structure from the Nijubashi Bridge pictured above.
After you check out the Imperial Palace, head over to the Palace Gardens-which are open to the public. The entrance to the Gardens is about a ten-minute walk to the East of the Palace. You’ll find plenty of Japanese vegetation along with ponds full of beautiful Koi fish.
If you’re into anime or video games, Akihabara is the place to visit. It’s an entire district in Tokyo dedicated to anime and gaming. You’ll find comic book stores, arcades, electronics stores, people dressed in cosplay, cat cafes, maid cafes, and all sorts of gaming activities!
The path leading up to the temple, called Nakamise, is full of Japanese shops selling pretty much anything Japanese you can think of. The whole area was packed when I went. I particularly liked the wide assortment of Japanese sweets available.
Senso-ji temple is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple and a popular tourist destination-well worth a visit!
Try Kobe Beef
Kobe beef is a special breed of cattle raised in Japan’s Hyoga province and arguably has the most even fat marbling in the world. Very few restaurants in the US sell authentic Kobe beef even though they market it as such. If you want to splurge on a dining experience, I’d recommend Bifteck Kawamura. The six course steak dinner was incredible.
Tsukiju Fish Market
The Tsukiji fish market is the largest fish market in the world. Over 2,000 tons of fish are sold every day! The market has an inner area and an outer area. The inner area is closed to tourists till about 9AM, as that’s where restaurants buy fish at wholesale every morning. If you’re really interested in fish, they allow 120 visitors a day to visit the tuna auctions located in the inner area. They start allowing visitors to enter the tuna auction area around 5 AM. I’d recommend booking a tour ahead of time if that’s something you’re interested in. The outer market focuses on selling fish products to consumers.
The Robot Restaurant isn’t actually a restaurant. It’s the strangest robot show you’ll ever see. There’s Japanese singers, dancers, robots, and floats. You can checkout my full review here. It was a very fun experience and I’d highly recommend visiting.
Mount Fuji is a couple hours outside of Toyko. It’s the iconic mountain you see in most pictures depicting Japan. There isn’t a whoel lot to do there aside from seeing the mountain, but it’s a good way to see some of the Japanese countryside outside of bustling Tokyo. If you’re interested in going, I’d recommend waiting till you’re in Japan to book a tour. Check the weather forecast before you book, as the top of the mountain can often be cloudy and you don’t want to drive all that way to see a foggy mountain.