Japan is a nation unlike any other. It is a perfect combination of old and new, tradition and 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, Tokyo.
Now that Japan has finally reopened after one of the strictest restrictions in the world, it’s time to start planning your trip. This list includes 10 unique things that can only be found in Tokyo.
10 Shop in Harajuku
If you’ve ever been fascinated by the colorful, eccentric clothing of Japanese youth, a visit to Takeshita Dori in Harajuku is a must.
The street (“Dori”) is lined with pastel-colored shops selling everything from traditional Japanese school uniforms to metallic epaulettes to shirts with random English expressions on them.
Everything is moderately priced and keep in mind that haggling is prohibited in Japan.
Takeshita Dori is not only full of clothing stores, but the quirky food options are endless. You can eat poop-shaped chocolate ice cream, rainbow cotton candy, “extra long fries,” pancakes, and more.
It’s worth dedicating at least a day to Harajuku, and after your senses are stimulated by the strong colors of Takeshita Dori, head to nearby Yoyogi Park to relax.
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 hailing right from Tokyo.
Head to Akihabara’s electric district and play some of your favorite games in one of the many arcades.
Once you get your Mario Kart fix, be sure to check out one of the many electronic stores in the area.
Games, consoles, camera equipment, SIM cards, figurines and anything else you can imagine is available for purchase in Akihabara.
8 Go to a themed cafe
Tokyo has a themed cafe for just about everything. One of the most unique cafes in Tokyo are the maid cafes, located mostly in Akihabara.
Walk into a maid cafe and you’ll have a host of young Japanese women all dressed as maids serving you, singing to you, dancing for you, and more. It’s definitely a unique experience, to say the least.
Many maid cafes do not allow photos to be taken.
If you are more into animals, Tokyo has several cat cafes, a pug cafe, a shiba inu cafe. If you’re into Sanrio characters, there’s both a Hello Kitty Cafe and even a Moomin Cafe where you can dine with life-sized Moomin plushies.
7 Visit to Gotokuji Temple
Tokyo has many temples and choosing which ones to see on your trip can feel overwhelming. Going to temples, although they are all beautiful in their own right, can sometimes seem redundant.
However, if you’re looking for one that’s truly unlike anywhere else in the world, head to Gotokuji, known as the Cat Temple.
This famous waving white kitten is often the welcoming statue/figurine that greets us when we enter Japanese restaurants, is called Maneki Nekyo, otherwise known as the “attractive cat”.
The story of the cat is that a lord of Hinoke passed by a temple and met a cat who beckoned him inside, so he followed suit.
As soon as the Lord followed this cat indoors, a thunderstorm broke out and he was able to take shelter in the temple thanks to the cat that led him there.
He rebuilds the temple after the storm and it becomes 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 worth the trek.
6 Visit Toyosu Fish Market
No trip to Tokyo is complete without eating some fresh sushi, and there’s no better place to indulge than Toyosu Market.
Although Tsukiji Market was the highest ranked fish market in the city, it closed in October 2018 and immediately moved to Toyosu.
Try to catch a tuna auction, where some of the rarest and most expensive tuna in the world are sold for sometimes astronomical prices.
The world’s most expensive tuna on record was sold in January 2021 at Toyosu for a whopping $3.1 million!
While walking around the market, you can try many different types of seafood and even sit in a sushi restaurant offering fresh sushi at affordable to medium and expensive prices.
It’s safe to say that after a visit to Toyosu, it will be hard to eat sushi again once you’ve had the real deal.
5 Take a ninja class
Have you ever wanted to be a ninja? Well, let your radical dreams come true when you visit Tokyo.
Often ranging from one to two hours, a ninja class will teach you skills like sneaking through a house with “explosives” while wearing a blindfold, how to properly hold a sword, and even how to throw a shuriken.
Superpowers such as invisibility, flight, and splitting multiple bodies are said to be real in the ninja world.
It’s a great workout for the mind, body and soul, and certainly something unique that can only be found in Japan.
4 Dine in a Michelin star restaurant
Dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant is certainly not unique to Tokyo, but dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the city that claims most of them is.
That’s right, Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in the world. You can find the full list here.
Three restaurants in Tokyo even made it to the prestigious list of the 50 best restaurants in the world. The restaurants are respectively Den at number 20, Florilège at number 30 and Narisawa at number 45.
It’s safe to say that fine dining should be on your to-do list while in Tokyo, but good luck with your reservation!
3 Eat 711 Sando Chased with coffee from a vending machine
If dining at Michelin-starred restaurants and the best in the world isn’t your thing, Tokyo also has plenty of casual options.
Tokyo’s 711s are unlike anywhere else in the world. They sell a lot of specialty items and a whole selection of 711 brand wines, but the best part is their sandos.
Sando is the nickname of the Japanese sandwich, and its distinguishing feature is the fluffy white bread used to make it.
While the most popular sando option is katsu sando or fried pork cutlet sando, 711 also offers insanely delicious tuna salad and egg salad sando.
Take the flavor you like best and wash it down with vending machine coffee.
Tokyo is full of vending machines where you can buy hot or cold coffee, as well as several other snacks and drinks.
2 Visit Robot Restaurant
Much less a restaurant than 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 lots of drum-filled music.
You’ll even see a Japanese “wedding” during the show. While they do serve food, which is technically a restaurant, entry requires a ticket, which can be purchased here.
Be sure to get there early to enjoy one of the many brightly colored and golden rooms.
A lot of detail went into the design of each room and it’s worth arriving at least 45 minutes before show time to marvel at its beauty.
1 Cross the world’s busiest footpath
Tokyo is the proverbial bustling city. With a population of 13.96 million and much of that attributed to the working class, it’s sometimes hard to take a break for some peace and quiet.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, as the saying goes. The extremely popular Shibuya district is home to the busiest pedestrian walkway in the world.
You’ll see people from all over the world mixed in with locals trying to go about their daily business, with an average of 3,000 pedestrians crossing at a time.