you want to see all the stuff that’s not in the guidebooks. Here’s an overview of the places I take my friends when they come to town, so you can figure out what you want to do. Then you can dig deeper, where there are plenty of photos, tips & maps to help you plan a trip you’ll never forget.
Here are quick looks at the best stuff to do in every corner of Tokyo, to help you decide where you’d like to go.
The famous electronics district
Maid cafés • Electronics superstores • Comic book & anime stores (including fan fiction) • Handcrafted wooden keyboards • Robot & character model shops • Gundam & AKB48 Cafés • Cosplay costumes, wigs & makeup
AKI-OKA ARTISAN CO-OP
Artist workshops & stores where you can buy unusual stuff made with traditional craftsmanship
Unusual handmade artist goods • Many have workshops in back where goods are made • High quality, reasonable prices
Ninja restaurant • Best place to see & buy traditional goods from all over Japan • Amazing promenade of gingko trees in the fall
If you only have one day in Tokyo, this is where I’m going to take you.
Giant Buddhist temple (Senso-ji) • Asakusa Shrine (Shinto) • Rice crackers and taiyaki made while you wait • My favorite conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Tokyo
Beautiful sacred dolls
Handmade Girls’ Day doll sets • Carp banners & armor sets for Boys’ Day • Deluxe beading stores
CALICO CAT CAFE
Do the famous coffee & kitty thing • Lots of different kinds
Lively, fun part of town, with good streets for strolling and checking out the wide selection of eateries and drinkeries • Yebisu Beer Museum • The jellyfish & shark bar • Xmas Illuminations are excellent
Totally interesting exhibits about everyday life in Japan • Half is samurai era, half is modern era • Models you could look at for hours
The famous department store shopping district
My favorite department store food hall • 9-story stationery store • Mikimoto Pearl Museum • The best cup of coffee in the world
Home of the lucky cat temple!
HAMA-RIKYU TEIEN GARDEN
Sweeping vistas and a large pond with several bridges make for dramatic landscapes • A favorite spot for wedding photos • Especially good in mid-late Feb (plum blossoms), late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), mid-late Sep (cosmos) & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
Best free entertainment in Tokyo every Sunday afternoon in Yoyogi Park • The most important and elegant shrine in Tokyo • Best place to see weddings and festivals • Takeshita Street has brand boutiques for Lolita, Gothic Lolita and all kinds of cosplay • Harajuku-style crepes
Famous golden statue, thousands of Jizo figures, and an underground grott0…all set amid an amazing hydrangea garden
Spectacular thirty-foot-tall Kannon figure • Candle-lit underground grotto filled with tiny shrines • Giant prayer wheel • Buddha’s footprints • Incredible hydrangea garden (June)
One of the most fun eating experiences in all of Tokyo.
Dare your compadres to try some really crazy ice cream flavors: wasabi, curry and eel & more • The most famous dumplings from all over Japan • Toys from another planet at the LABI electronics superstore & the Loft store
A funeral goods district that’s anything but dreary.
Shinto household shrines • Buddhist altars • Heavenly incense • Buddhist rosaries • Hearses with elaborate shrines on the back
JAPAN TRADITIONAL CRAFT CENTER
The best place to buy handmade traditional goods from all over Japan
High quality, same price as if you went to the artist • Famous crafts from every prefecture
KAMAKURA DAY TRIP
Want to get out of Tokyo for the day and see the most entertaining shrines and temples in Japan?
Great photo ops • Biggest bronze Buddha in Japan • Money Washing Shrine • The Divorce Temple • Tea at the Bamboo Temple • Ten foot tall gold-leafed figure of Kannon • Catch your own noodles
Bring your camera or you’ll be sorry.
Tokyo Tower • Hundreds of stone Jizo figures at Zojo-ji Temple • Amazing tofu restaurant • My favorite Chinese restaurant in the world
Don’t miss the street where they sell plastic food!
My go-to garden for soul-restoring serenity • Cool, green and uncrowded in every season • Beautiful Japanese garden-style views around every turn • Stroll around gorgeous lake with awesome steppingstones • Especially good in iris season
A 17th century garden and a neighborhood filled with shops that have been in business for generations.
Rikugi-en garden is beautiful in every season • It’s open at night and lit up during cherry blossom and fall leaf seasons • There’s a stand selling miso dango in autumn and winter • There’s a shop where you can dye your own indigo handkerchief • Old-fashioned shopping street gives you a glimpse of real Japanese life
Stroll in a 17th century Japanese garden, cheer with the world’s craziest baseball fans, or ride a roller coaster that goes straight through a Tokyo skyscraper!
Koraku-en garden is my favorite garden in Tokyo, in every season • Lots of photo-worthy bridges, flowers & gorgeous views • The Yomiuri Giants play at the Tokyo Dome, but the fans are almost as fun to watch as the game • Tokyo Dome City amusement park has roller coasters, dancing fountains and excellent holiday illuminations (Nov-Jan)
KOSHINZUKA STREET MARKET
Let’s go to a market where they still sell goods from a bygone era!
Handmade bamboo ear cleaners • Crispy cricket drinking snacks • Poisonous dried snake tea • Togenuki Jizo healing temple • The Honorable Duck Butt of Sugamo • Big Red Underwear Store
Yasukuni Shrine has seasonal festivals with free demonstrations of traditional music and dance, an annual free amateur sumo tournament, a traditional Japanese garden & a fascinating WWII museum • Imperial Palace moat is amazing during cherry blossom season
This is my favorite place to see weddings, people in gorgeous kimonos and period costume.
Most reliable place to see weddings • Festivals • People wearing kimonos • Cedar buildings built without nails • If we’re lucky, a real live tanuki sighting!
The place to see red-hot fire ceremonies, with awesome taiko drums!
Fire ceremonies with drums, five times a day • Hall of 10,000 crystal figures of Fudo-san • Room with 108 glow-in-the-dark paintings of gods • Dragon fountain that grants wishes written on dissolving amulets • Giant wooden Fudo figure
Tokyo has its very own mountain, still within the city limits!
Less than an hour from Shinjuku station • Beautiful hiking • Monkey park and shrine at the top • Annual firewalking festival in march • Seasonal beer garden with views from the top from July-October
A geek heaven to rival Akihabara
Figure & model stores • Comic book shops • Rare and antique J-pop goods • Cosplay supplies • Grill-at-your-own-table restaurant
Let’s go to my favorite Tokyo shrine, then walk around the old-fashioned neighborhood.
Incredible azalea festival during the month of April at the Nezu Shrine • Tunnel of orange torii gates you can walk through • Festivals have lots of free traditional entertainment • Chiyogami paper store • Handmade wooden buckets • Calligraphy brushes • Air-conditioned pillows • Cat map store
Famous shopping district
The mother of all department stores • Best place to see kimonos and all the trimmings • Food hall can’t be beat • In cherry blossom season the buildings are lit up in pink • In the summertime you can go to Art Aquarium
NIHON MINKA-EN THATCH-ROOFED HOUSES
This village of restored thatch-roofed houses is just a short train ride from central Tokyo!
23 thatch-roofed houses • You can go inside • Visitor center showing how they are made • In a beautiful park
One stop shop for garden strolling and wart curing!
Famous peony gardens bloom in April • Wart-curing Jizo figure
I can’t let you leave before you do some of the most wacky things in Tokyo.
OEDO ONSEN HOT SPRINGS
An indoor hot spring theme park that’s built to be like a samurai-era village
Everyone wears yukata (cotton kimono) • Many different hot spring baths to try • Outdoor foot bath & hot sand bath • Game booths • Fish pedicure • Restaurants • Massage chairs
Origami art gallery & shop where you can buy all kinds of Japanese paper
Origami exhibits • Origami demonstrations • Paper art kits • Watch it being made on the top floor • Huge selection of origami & washi paper
17th century garden designed around 88 views from famous waka poems.
Large pond • Teahouse • Open at night and lit up during cherry blossom and autumn leaf seasons • Stand selling miso dango in autumn and winter • Especially good in late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), mid-late Apr (azaleas), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), late Sep (native red amaryllis), mid-late Nov (autumn leaves) & if it snows
If you’re in Tokyo in November-December and don’t go see the holiday lights in Roppongi, you will regret it.
Holiday light displays in November-December • Roppongi Hills & Tokyo Midtown shopping malls • Mori Art Museum and the Tokyo National Art Center put on provocative exhibitions year-round
Sumo wrestlers & the Edo-Tokyo Museum – two must-see Tokyo experiences!
You can get tickets to a sumo tournament in Ryogoku every January, May & September • The Edo-Tokyo Museum is all about everyday life in samurai times vs. how it changed after Japan opened to the West • Incredible detailed models of cities and towns • Full-scale rooms showing how people lived
SASUKE INARI SHRINE
The fox shrine to end all fox shrines
Enter through a gorgeous tunnel of orange torii gates • Mysterious little moss-covered fox “villages” line a footpath that wends its way up a shady mountainside
Truth is stranger than fiction – let’s go see the actual burial place of the 47 ronin!
Graves of the 47 ronin • Their signed confession • The well where they washed Lord Kira’s severed head • Statue portaits of the 47 ronin
Weird, wild, unforgettable.
Famous 5-way intersection: 1,000 people cross every minute • Love Hotel Hill • Extreme pancake café • Butler café • Trendy fashion for men and women at 109, Men’s 109, Parco & Marui • Everything-under-the-sun at Tokyu Hands, Loft and Don Kihote
This is my favorite neighborhood for barhopping, trying out eateries that don’t break the bank, and playing with the bunnies at the rabbit café.
Quirky, inexpensive bars & restaurants, many with live music • Vinegar bar & café • Village Vanguard store for wacky only-in-Japan gifts • Ohisama Rabbit Café
The biggest and wildest entertainment district in Tokyo
Less than forty minutes by train from Shinjuku Station, this huge park has it all, and is amazing in every season
Promenade of gingko trees with a beautiful fountain • Lovely Japanese garden • Excellent playgrounds for kids • Giant lawns for picknicking & large dedicated BBQ area • Miles of bike trails • Boats • Especially good mid-late Feb (plum blossoms), late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), mid-late Apr (azaleas), mid-Sep to mid-Oct (cosmos) & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
$25 million worth of seafood sold every morning. Let’s see it all.
Giant tuna • 24-hour sushi bars • Seafood so weird you never even saw it in a science book • Godzilla-sized ice cubes • Workshop where you can learn to make sushi from a master
A grand public park, art and history museums, and my favorite Tokyo toy store
Large public park, famous for cherry blossoms and museums • Five-story toy store with many toys you’ll never see outside Japan
Famous Imperial shrine does everything in grand style
Impressive Imperial shrine that hosts many lively festivals throughout the year • Extensive WWII museum • Japanese garden with koi pond • Sumo amphitheatre where amateur events take place • Controversial because the souls of all Japanese war dead are enshrined here
The venerable Sankei-en garden is beautiful in every season and filled with interesting historical buildings • Okurayama Park is famous for plum blossoms (Feb) • Excellent Pokemon Center • Art lights up the night at the Yokohama Smart Illuminations every year
The best free entertainment in Tokyo, every Sunday afternoon!
A gorgeous shrine, seldom visited by tourists
Jewel-like example of a cedar wood and gold shrine • Plum blossom festival in February • Musical water garden
Stately temple favored by the shoguns
Thousands of Jizo figures • Seven Tokugawa shōguns are buried here • Holiday ceremonies with Japanese celebrities
Read a novel set in Tokyo