Many of the popular places in Tokyo are often overlooked by tourists who are not familiar with Japan’s 47 prefectures, full of culture, history and stunning attractions.
- Recently Updated: April 2022
Rocked by earthquakes and scorched by war, this centuries old city has refused to kneel. Just like the sun, Tokyo has continued to rise, blending the old with the new and the new with tomorrow.
Tokyo is one of the best city to visit with spectacular matrix of villages, towns and neighborhoods, strung together by a subway and train system that never rest.
Tokyo is also the top entertainment capital of Asia and home to the nation’s largest and most renowned electronics and media companies.
Going to Tokyo was one of my best travel destinations in Asia. With 26 cities, towns and villages, how can you decide the best things to do and places to visit in Tokyo.
Brief Overview of Tokyo
Tokyo’s size and energy can intimidate any first time travelers. Yet despite the neon lights, noise and sheer volume of people, this vibrant city has tons of attractions and endless things to do.
Whenever you pop up from the subway, it can feel as though you’ve arrived in an entirely futuristic city.
Tradition, ritual and respect are the hallmarks of Japanese society. This is a place that cherishes its children, reveres its elderly, and treats travelers like honored guests.
Yet, Tokyo is an incredibly well-ordered society, everything has its place and purpose, and this is especially true of its neighborhoods.
So yeah, where do you begin when organizing your trip to Tokyo? Here are my recommendations for the top places in Tokyo, to see, visit and things to do beyond it’s fascinating cities and neighborhood.
Best Time To Visit Tokyo
Tokyo weather condition is temperate with pretty sunny winters. There are lots of winter days in Tokyo and the best months to travel is from December-February.
In the afternoon, the weather is nice and cool at approximately 12°C. It get colder from night-time to morning hovering at around 5°C.
The winters weather in Tokyo are warm and pleasant with minimal rain or snow. The air is dry and the humidity levels around this time are normally comfortable for any outings.
However, from January, the temperature drops to 10°C and it normally get totally chilly in the morning between 2°C-3°C The probability of snowfall cannot be ruled out at this time of the year.
Tips Upon Arrival In Tokyo
The capital of Japan is an amazing destination and tourism has increased rapidly over the last couple of years. However, places in Tokyo is not the easiest to navigate especially if you are a first-time traveler like myself.
I was super excited as I exited the custom clearance at the arrival hall but regrettably, I didn’t have much time to prepare for this trip with a ridiculously big suitcase in tow. Luckily, these days smartphones make things so much easier and accessible to tourists.
Let me explain to you how to make your trip go really smoothly. First, proceed to the tourist service booth and get yourself a SIM card, if you haven’t gotten one that works yet.
Fortunately, there are many counters providing tons of different Telco to choose, depending on which data plan you need.
You can also get them from vending machines located at the arrival hall as well. There are many different kind, from short-term to long-term use. Some have more data than others. So just pick whichever one suits you best.
What if you’re in a hurry…
What to do with heavy luggage if you want to explore Tokyo upon arrival with just your backpack? There is actually a “special luggage service” counter where you can sign up for your luggage to be sent directly to your hotel.
I want to go into Tokyo straight away because I wanted to make the most of my trip. So yeah, this is perfect as Japan is known for its excellent customer care service.
Luggage delivery time is different, so you will receive your luggage on the same day if you send before 10am within the Kanto region for example.
Make sure you check your hotel location first. If you can’t receive your luggage on the same day, ensure you take out your important belongings that you need and transfer to your backpack or hand-carry.
All you have to do now is proceed to the counter and show them the QR code that you received when you confirmed your flight booking reservation and that’s it.
If your phone is not working for some reason, ensure you have your flight booking reservation in hand as you can use that to check-in your luggage.
How to go places of interest in Tokyo from the airport…
So there are a few different ways; You can take the bus, taxi or train. There are tons of different buses that you can take just outside the airport.
They have buses for almost every single prefecture inside Tokyo. If you are on a budget, it is only a thousand yen and it stops at Tokyo or Ginza station.
If Tokyo or Ginza station is not convenient, there are buses you can take using the airport limousine buses. You can proceed to the booking counter and ask for help if you don’t know which bus to take.
Once you purchase the ticket, board the bus at the berth highlighted on your ticket and just relax and enjoy your ride.
The next option that you can do is take the taxi but I’m going to warn you guys, it is going to be pretty expensive. So yeah, I don’t recommend taking a taxi unless you are in a hurry or have a compelling need to do so.
The last option is the train. Proceed onto the platform, purchase a ticket at the automatic ticketing kiosk and then you can board the train. I find that trains are pretty clean, quickest and most efficient way to get into Tokyo.
Depending on which train you take. From Narita Airport, you can get to the middle of Tokyo in 30 minutes. I decided to go to Shibuya. So, I took the Narita Express straight to Shibuya station and start my day tour without any hassle.
After a long day of exploring Tokyo, I head to Shinjuku to check into my hotel and also pick up my luggage, which had already been delivered. It was very quick and easy, just provide your receipt to the front desk and you will be reunited with your belongings.
So now that I have my luggage and tired after exploring the entire day, all I need is to relax and sleep well for the night and then continue exploring the rest of Tokyo the next day.
After a couple of days of exploring Tokyo and beyond, I’m now checking out of my hotel and heading to Osaka. But I don’t wish to take my luggage with me once again.
This time, I have already reserved the luggage service in advance. Provide the front desk with the QR code and the receptionist will issue a ticket for your luggage to be sent to Osaka hotel.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to receive my luggage on the same day in Osaka hotel due to late check out at the Tokyo hotel.
So, I packed away everything I need for the night in my backpack. With the backpack, I’m able to explore Shinjuku a little bit before I head to Tokyo Station to take the bullet train to Osaka.
The good thing is because I’m traveling luggage-free, I can go explore interesting places before checking into my hotel. I head to Namba and Dotonbori to experience and enjoy some Authentic Japanese street food.
The next day I proceed to the hotel lobby, show the receipt to the front desk and I am reunited with my luggage. This had really made my travel plans stress-free and I was able to enjoy my trip a lot more easier.
Lastly, it was totally so efficient as I was able to travel wiser and affordably by using the bus and train system without worrying about the burden of carrying my heavy suitcase around especially in the hot season.
A variety of inexpensive bus, train, and ferry fares are available to link visitors to every places in Tokyo and whole of Japan.
Using a night bus service from Tokyo for long-distance travel is a cost-effective alternative.
Places To Visit In Tokyo
Traditional Asakusa is an old temple town. At the city’s oldest Sensoji temple, pay your respects to Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.
The temple was built to house a golden statue of the goddess, retrieved from the nearby river by two fishermen in the 7th century.
Make an offering at the neighboring shrine, built to honor the brothers who founded the statue, and you too might receive some heavenly good fortune.
Rides and cafes can be found at Hanayashiki Amusement Park, while at the riverbank, Kuritsu Sumida Park organizes festivals and fireworks displays on a regular basis for locals and tourists.
When you’re ready to brave the streets of Tokyo, head to Asakusa’s, Thunder Gate and explore Nakamise Dori, a market street where tourists have been buying religious charms for centuries.
After the experience, re-center yourself in Ueno Park, before delving into the cultural treasures of the Tokyo National Museum.
While conformity and tradition are two of the glues that bind Japanese society, Tokyo’s youth love to express themselves at this neighborhood.
And nowhere is this more evident than the suburb of Harajuku, renowned throughout the world as a center of youth culture and fashion. Harajuku is also home to one of Tokyo’s largest green spaces, Yoyogi Park.
On Sunday’s, locals gather to relax, rehearse and just hang out, making it the happiest 134 acres of greenery in Tokyo.
Just to the north of Yoyogi Park, stroll along the towering Torii gate and into a forest of 100,000 trees, originally sent here as saplings from all over Japan.
And finally, pass through the main gates to Meiji Shrine. Here, millions come each year to pay their respects to Emperor Meiji, the beloved 19th century ruler who helped Japan throw off its feudal cloak and grow into to the dynamic country it is today.
On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the main street is closed to traffic, giving Ginza a relaxed and slightly surreal atmosphere.
Ginza has a grittier side too. Be sure to check out the tiny Yakitori joints and watering hole tucked away beneath the railway arches around Yurakucho Station.
Local Food To Try
Set on the western banks of Tokyo Bay, the city of Yokohama is only a half hour train ride from central Tokyo. This historic port became the first gateway to Japan when the country opened itself to the West in 1854.
Compared to hyperactive Tokyo, life moves a little slower here, making it the perfect place to catch your breath. Narita is the gateway to Japan. When most people think of Narita, they think of its international airport.
However, this small city of winding streets, ancient temples and gardens are a fascinating window into the old Japan. Follow the Omotesando to the Naritasan Temple, dedicated to the Buddhist god of fire. And before you depart, be sure to leave a wish on the prayer wall.
Few cities on the planet feel as futuristic as Tokyo, but the rigorous etiquette that rules everyday life and the outline of old temples glimpsed between soaring skyscrapers, reveal the city thousands of years of history.
When you add in excellent food and a vibrant cultural environment, it’s easy to see why this is a romantic location.
The Japanese have a saying, “dumplings are better than flowers”, so yeah, no matter how much nature is revered, food comes first, Tokyo is one of the culinary capitals of the world to impress your love ones.
The city’s Japanese restaurants have been awarded more Michelin stars than any other cities in Japan. And when the local cuisines are this good, head to the Tsukiji Fish Markets for the freshest sushi and sashimi, then after your meal, pick up some Japan grade sushi knives to take home.
When it’s time to rise above Tokyo’s never-ending canyons of glass and steel, ride the elevator to the observatories of Tokyo Tower.
For even higher views, head to Roppongi Hills. From the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower, Tokyo spreads out beneath you, all the way to Mt Fuji, Tokyo Bay and beyond.
Places To Go For Family With Kids
Located around the northwestern corner of the Yamanote line, Ikebukuro is one of Tokyo’s many city centers, with over million passengers commuting daily via its main station.
Stuck between two of Japan’s biggest store franchises, Tobu and Seibu, Ikebukuro has many things to offer, ranging from shopping, entertainment and restaurants to other activities for family with kids.
While not as popular as Akihabara for example, Ikebukuro is an important hub for Japan’s famous Otaku culture. Ikebukuro also known as Otaku town for it’s ton of stores dedicated to the anime manga and cosplay scenes.
Sunshine city shopping mall is super packed with Japanese pop culture, food, shopping, and entertainment that will keep you and your family occupied for the entire day.
A 240-meter building with an observatory overlooking the cityscape is at its heart of this awesome city.
There’s a humongous aquarium, a planetarium and indoor theme parks, in addition to all the anime and manga elements, great for family with kids.
The shopping center is open from 10am to 8:00pm. One of Sunshine City’s indoor theme parks, Namjatown, is a must-go.
This theme park stands out for its two individually designed food zones, in addition to its wacky attractions. It boasts a promenade lined with artistically designed desserts as well as an indoor stadium that serves various authentic Japanese dumplings from all over the cities.
Acos is a paradise for fans who are into Cosplay. There’s so much to choose from in terms of RTW licensed costumes, wigs, accessories, makeup, shoes and more that will totally make you go bonkers.
Best Day Trip itinerary with kids I would suggest…
With a 1-day special discount rail pass for tourist, you may plan entertaining day trips from Tokyo. SEIBU 1 Day Passes are available at the SEIBU Tourist Information Centre in Ikebukuro.
The hours are 8:00 a.m. to 15:00 p.m., and they are open all year. Or you can purchase it cheaper online.
It is not easy to maneuver this buzzling neighborhood especially for visitors with kids. Sometimes, you may get lost if you are not familiar with so many places to visit.
Best suggestion is to engage a local guide and get all the information while on a guided tour.
Just south of Yoyogi Park is Shibuya, home to one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. Every suburb in Tokyo dances to it’s own distinctive beat, and in Shibuya, the beat is shopping.
In nearby Ginza, huge department stores like the historic Wako Store await any shopaholic.
For a change of pace, explore the downtown business district of Marunouchi, whose wide tree-lined avenues and boutique stores lend Tokyo a certain New York touch.
If you’re into anime, manga, or gaming, you’ll feel right at home in Akihabara Electric Town.
As its name suggests, this area really lights up after dark. As the sky glows in blaze of neon, head to the restaurants and pubs in Shinjuku, one of the city’s main dining and entertainment areas.
Stay up late, and let the magical lights and amazing performances at robot restaurant Tokyo, melt into your memory forever.
After exploring Tokyo’s neon forest, greet the new day at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Tokyo’s youth may take center stage at Yoyogi Park, but at this quiet and tranquil garden, it is mother nature’s beauty that is honored.
Whether you’re young at heart, or prefer things the old fashioned way, everything has it’s place in Japan, and there will always be some wishful places in Tokyo waiting for tourists just like you and me.