Japan is a nation unlike no other. It's a perfect blend of old meets new, tradition meets modern. From its friendly locals to its fresh seafood to its kawaii culture, Japan is a unique destination, but some of the country's best offerings can be found right in the capital of Tokyo.
Now that Japan has finally reopened after one of the world's strictest lock-downs, it's time to start planning your trip. This list features 10 unique things that can only be found in Tokyo.
10 Shop In Harajuku
If you’ve ever been fascinated by the colorful, eccentric outfitting of Japanese youth, a visit to Takeshita Dori in the neighborhood of Harajuku is a requirement.
The street (“Dori”) is lined with pastel-colored shops, selling anything from traditional Japanese schoolgirl outfits to metallic shoulder blades to shirts with random English expressions.
Everything is moderately priced, and keep in mind, bargaining is a no-go in Japan.
Not only is Takeshita Dori full of clothing shops, but quirky food options are endless as well. You can eat chocolate poop-shaped ice cream, rainbow cotton candy, “extra long French fries,” crêpes, and so much more.
It is worth dedicating at least a day to Harajuku, and after your senses have been stimulated by the loud colors of Takeshita Dori, head over to nearby Yoyogi Park to decompress.
9 Play Video Games In Akihabara
Many of the most beloved video games come from genius creators in Japan. Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Pokeman, Pikachu, and more, all originated right in Tokyo.
Head to the electric neighborhood of Akihabara, and play some of your favorite games in one of the many arcades.
After getting your Mario Kart fix, make sure to check out one of the many electronic stores in the area.
Games, consoles, camera gear, SIM cards, figurines, and any other thing imaginable is available for purchase in Akihabara.
8 Go To A Themed Café
Tokyo has a themed café for nearly everything. One of the most unique-to-Tokyo cafés are maid cafés, primarily located in Akihabara.
Enter a maid café and have a plethora of young Japanese women, all dressed as maids, serve you, sing to you, dance for you, and more. It’s certainly a unique experience, to say the least.
Many maid cafes don’t allow any photos to be taken.
If you’re more into animals, Tokyo has several cat cafés, a pug café, a Shiba Inu café. If you’re into Sanrio characters, there is both a Hello Kitty café and even a Moomin cafe, where you can dine with human-sized stuffed Moomins.
7 Visit Gotokuji Temple
Tokyo has plenty of temples, and choosing which ones to see on your trip can feel overwhelming. Temple hopping, despite all being beautiful in their own right, can sometimes feel redundant.
However, if you’re looking for one that’s truly unlike anywhere else in the world, head to the Gotokuji, famously known as the cat temple.
That famous white kitty waving that is often the welcoming statue/figurine greeting us as we enter Japanese restaurants is named Maneki Nekio, otherwise known as "the beckoning cat."
The story of the cat is that a Lord from Hinoke had passed by a temple, and met a cat that beckoned him to come inside, so he followed its lead.
As soon as the Lord followed this cat indoors, a thunderstorm broke out, and he was able to take shelter at the temple thanks to the cat that led him there.
He rebuilt the temple after the storm, and it became Gotokuji, where it is now filled with these adorable little cat statues.
The temple is located in a remote part on the outskirts of Tokyo, but it is well worth the trek.
6 Visit Toyosu Fish Market
No trip to Tokyo is complete without eating some fresh sushi, and there's no place better to indulge than Toyosu Market.
Though Tsukiji Market used to be the top-ranked fish market in town, it closed in October 2018 and promptly relocated to Toyosu.
Try to catch a tuna auction, where some of the world's rarest and most expensive tuna is sold for sometimes astronomical prices.
- The world's recorded most expensive tuna was sold in January 2021 at Toyosu at a whopping $3.1 million!
While walking around the market, you can try plenty of different seafood varieties, and even sit down at a sushi restaurant, offering affordable to mid-range to expensive fresh sushi.
It's safe to say, after a visit to Toyosu, it'll be difficult to ever eat sushi again after having the real deal.
5 Take A Ninja Class
Have you ever wanted to be a ninja? Well, let your radical dreams come true on a visit to Tokyo.
Often ranging from one to two hours, a ninja class will teach you skills such as sneaking through a house with "explosives" while wearing a blindfold, how to properly hold a sword, and even how to throw a shuriken.
It is said that in the ninja world, superpowers such as invisibility, flight, and splitting into multiple bodies are real.
It's a great workout for the mind, body, and soul, and certainly, a unique thing that can only be found in Japan.
4 Dine At A Michelin-Star Restaurant
Dining at a Michelin-star restaurant is certainly not unique to Tokyo, but dining at a Michelin-star restaurant in the city that has claimed most of them is.
That’s right, Tokyo has more Michelin-star restaurants than anywhere else in the world. You can find the full list here.
Three restaurants in Tokyo have even landed a spot on the prestigious world's best 50 restaurant list. The restaurants are Den at number 20, Florilège at number 30, and Narisawa at number 45, respectively.
It's safe to say fine dining should be on your to-do list while in Tokyo, but good luck snagging a reservation!
3 Eat A 711 Sando Chased With Vending Machine Coffee
If dining at Michelin-star restaurants and the world's best is not particularly appealing to you, Tokyo has plenty of casual options as well.
The 711s in Tokyo are unlike anywhere else in the world. They sell plenty of specialty items, and an entire selection of 711-branded wines, but the best part is their sandos.
Sando is the nickname for a Japanese sandwich, and its signature feature is the fluffy white bread used to make it.
While the most popular sando option is the katsu sando, or a fried pork cutlet sando, 711 also offers insanely delicious tuna salad and egg salad sandos.
Grab whichever flavor appeals to you the most, and wash it down with a vending machine coffee.
Tokyo is filled with vending machines, where hot or iced coffees can be purchased, along with several other snacks and drinks.
2 Visit Robot Restaurant
Much less of a restaurant than it is an experience, a visit to Robot restaurant in Shinjuku is an event for the senses.
Expect flashing lights, showgirls, giant robots fighting each other, an appearance by Godzilla, and a lot of drum-heavy music.
You’ll even see a Japanese “wedding” during the show. While they do serve food, which is how it’s technically a restaurant, a ticket is required for admission which can be purchased here.
Make sure to get there early to enjoy one of the many brightly colored and gold-laced rooms.
A lot of intricacies went into the design of each room, and it’s well worth it to arrive at least 45 minutes prior to show time to marvel at its beauty.
1 Cross The World’s Busiest Pedestrian Crosswalk
Tokyo is a notoriously busy city. With a population of 13.96 million and a large amount of that attributed to the working class, it’s sometimes hard to ever catch a break for peace and quiet.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, as they say. In the extremely popular neighborhood of Shibuya lives the world's busiest pedestrian crosswalk.
You’ll see people from all over the world mixed in with the locals trying to get on with their daily business, with an average of 3000 pedestrians crossing at once.