Here’s a quick A-Z look at ALL the things I take my friends to see in Tokyo!
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
Surprisingly fascinating museum about everyday life in the Japanese countryside
Choice collection of artifacts and clothing items (like salmon skin boots and patchwork underwear!) that tell the story of country life in Japan • Excellent Ukiyo-e Theatre with a loop of short clips explaining the secret messages in woodblock prints • Bar with an amazing view of Senso-ji Temple • First class gift shop
Ninja restaurant • Best place to see & buy traditional goods from all over Japan • Amazing promenade of gingko trees in the fall
A delightful undiscovered park in a part of town more known for its nightlife and swanky living
A wonderful place to stroll before eating, drinking & clubbing in Roppongi, Nakameguro or Ebisu • Lovely and uncrowded in every season • Especially good in mid-late Feb (plum blossoms) & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
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) • Impressive festivals in every season • Traditional shopping • The most beautiful lollipops in the world • Good luck cats matchmaking shrine • Rice crackers and taiyaki made while you wait • River and temple beautifully lit up at night • Secret garden only open in the spring for cherry blossom season
Beautiful sacred dolls
Handmade Girls’ Day doll sets • Carp banners & armor sets for Boys’ Day • Deluxe beading stores • Eight-story packaging store with great only-in-Japan wrappings
BORDERLESS (TeamLab Digital Museum)
An astounding, immersive experience that you can’t experience anywhere else in the world
Morphing, changing, 360° projection-mapping world • Artworks that wander from room to room • Interactive artworks • Room filled with resonating lanterns • Crystal Universe LED environment • En Tea Room
CALICO CAT CAFE
Excellent cat café
Do the famous coffee & kitty thing • Lots of different kinds
DAIBUTSU in Kamakura
The giant Buddha in Kamakura not only makes for spectacular pix, you can go inside!
• Classic Japan photo op • Biggest bronze Buddha figure in the country • You can go inside the hollow statue and see how it was made
DENPO-IN SECRET GARDEN at Senso-ji Temple
Open only a few times a year, this secret garden in the middle of Senso-ji temple in Asakusa is usually reserved for priestly meditation
Amazing view of the Senso-ji pagoda, reflected in two different pools • Open during cherry blossom season for viewing the two famous weeping cherry trees • Entry is through a museum featuring rare giant prayer plaques • Especially good in late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria) & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
Lively, fun part of town, with good streets for strolling and checking out the wide selection of eateries and drinkeries
EBISU BEER MUSEUM
Satisfy your thirst for beer knowledge, then learn how to pour a perfect beer and sample Ebisu’s wares.
Open: Six days a week, closed on Mondays, on the day after national holidays, and from December 29 – January 3. Open on other holidays.
Hours: 11:00 – 19:00 (Last entry 18:30)
My favorite museum in Tokyo
Totally interesting exhibits about everyday life in Japan • Half is samurai era, half is modern era • Models you could look at for hours
Home of the infamous and endlessly entertaining Smile Fight, the Sony Explorascience Museum is small, but has really fun stuff to play with. Highlights include a “city” of sounds you can walk through, a 3D theatre (beautiful, although the productions are in Japanese only) and fun, interactive, light illusions.
Open: Every day except closed on 2nd and 4th Tuesday, on the day after national holidays, and from December 29 – January 3. Open on other holidays.
Hours: 11:00 – 19:00 (Last entrance 18:30)
Admission: Adult: ¥500, Children (3-15): ¥300
Walk around inside a beautifully recreated samurai-era village
Life-sized furnished rooms you can go inside • English-speaking volunteers can answer questions about daily life in Edo-era Japan
FUKUGAWA FUDO TEMPLE
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
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
Tell me more!
Home of the lucky cat temple!
HAMA-RIKYU TEIEN GARDEN
A grand garden with something for everyone
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)
Where all things young & fashionable meet classic traditions
Yoyogi Park dishes up the best free entertainment in Tokyo every Sunday afternoon • The Meiji Shrine – the most important and elegant shrine in Tokyo • Best place to see weddings and festivals • Lolita, Gothic Lolita and all kinds of cosplay boutiques on Takeshita Street • Harajuku-style crepes
HARRY HEDGEHOG CAFÉ
Like a cat café, only prickly
Play with the adorable hedgehog of your choice
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)
HISTORY GARAGE at Toyota Megaweb
Crazy vintage car collection displayed in a historical town setting
Wander among this extensive collection of fast, old, rare & famous cars (both international and Japanese) • Race cars • Famous vintage cars • Movie cars (like the Back to the Future DeLorean)
Open: Every day, 11:00 – 21:00
HOKOKU-JI BAMBOO TEMPLE
This temple has a magnificent forest of giant bamboo and extensive walking paths through the cool & shady grounds
Paths take you through bamboo forest and area of lush greenery, studded with caves • Nice teahouse where you can have a bowl of mattcha (tea ceremony-style green tea) and traditional sweets
Crazy experiences galore
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 • J-World comic book & anime theme park
IKEGAMI HONMON-JI TEMPLE
Gorgeous red pagoda, and home of the festival of 10,000 lanterns
Famous monk Nichiren’s final home before he died • Spectacular Oeshiki parade (Festival of 10,000 Lanterns) in October • Splendid five story pagoda
A lucky cat temple devoted to matchmaking
Come here to wish for the ideal mate • Shrine shop sells adorable cat merchandise
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
Famous crafts from every prefecture • Highest quality, guaranteed to have been made by hand, in the traditional way • Same price as if you bought from the artists at their studios
JINDAI BOTANICAL GARDENS
Amazing flower displays in every season
A must-see in azalea season • Spacious and not crowded • Beautiful forest stream walk with steppingstone bridges • Famous for plum blossoms (Feb), cherry blossoms (Mar-Apr), azaleas (Apr), wisteria (May), chrysanthemums (Nov)
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
KANDA MYŌJIN SHRINE
Where anime and manga artists come to pray for success
Don’t miss the street where they sell plastic food!
An undiscovered gem of a neighborhood, where you can feel what it was like to live in a slower and gentler age
Shitamachi museum with a life-sized samurai-era town you can walk around in • Serene Japanese garden with a large lake, gorgeous steppingstones, trickling water basins & exquisite views
KIYOSUMI TEIEN GARDEN
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 • Kyu Furukawa’s Japanese garden is beautiful all year, and its formal rose garden blooms in the summer • There’s a shop where you can dye your own indigo handkerchief
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)
In this beautiful garden, you’ll forget you’re in the middle of the world’s largest city
Lots of bridges and ponds • Walk through many styles of gardens, each more beautiful than the last • Especially good in mid-late Feb (plum blossoms), late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), late Sep (native red amaryllis), mid-late Nov (autumn leaves) & if it snows
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
The most controversial Imperial shrine in Japan and a killer place to see cherry blossoms
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
KYU SHIBA RIKYU GARDEN
This formal stroll garden is a secret surprise amid the skyscrapers of Shimbashi
Large pond reflects meticulously pruned pine trees • Late-blooming double cherries give late-April visitors an extra treat • This garden is so undiscovered, you will probably have the place to yourself • Especially good in early-mid 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
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!
MIRAIKAN (National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation)
Excellent interactive special exhibitions for kids & adults
Special exhibits are always worth seeing • Interactive robots • Permanent hands-on exhibits demonstrate how the internet works, crime lab science, nanotechnology, space science and more
Check their current and future offerings here.
Open: 6 days a week, closed on Tuesdays, on the day after national holidays, and from December 29 – January 3. Open on other holidays.
Hours: 10:00 – 17:00 (Last entry 16:30)
Admission: Adults: ¥620, Children: (18 & younger): ¥210, (plus there may be extra charges for special exhibits)
Red-hot fire ceremonies and a lantern-lit, secret, cherry blossom stroll
Fukugawa Fudo-san temple has fire ceremonies with taiko drums, a hall with 10,000 crystal figures of Fudo-san, a room full of glow-in-the-dark saints, and a dragon fountain that grants wishes written on dissolving amulets • Nearby canal is lined with cherry trees and lit up with lanterns during cherry blossom season
MORI ART MUSEUM
Showcasing modern artists and designers who have interesting (and sometimes controversial) messages
Exhibits often explore the blurred lines between art and design and fashion • Exhibition schedule here
Open: Seven days a week, (closes early on Tuesdays), on the day after national holidays, during exhibition installation, and from December 29 – January 3. Open on other holidays.
Hours: 10:00 – 22:00 (Last entry 21:30), Tuesdays: 10:00 – 17:00 (Last entry 16:30)
Admission: Adults: ¥1500, High school & college students: ¥1000, Children (4 – Middle school): ¥500
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
MUKOJIMA HYAKKA-EN BOTANICAL GARDEN
This is not an especially scenic garden but it’s full of fascinating Japanese specimens you won’t see anywhere else.
Bush clover tunnel is well worth seeing in late September – early October • Plants mentioned in haiku and literature are well represented • Has some really strange plants you won’t see anywhere else
NAI-EN GARDEN at the Meiji shrine
The Emperor and Empress Meiji’s garden, beautiful any time of year
Famous iris gardens • I saw a live tanuki (raccoon dog) here in May!
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
Home of the Shibarare Jizo, a tied-up saint famous for getting people out of tight spots
There’s a great story behind this statue • Tie your own rope around the Shibarare Jizo and make a wish • Lovely grounds with appealing animal sculptures
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURE & SCIENCE
The evolution of all things Japanese & the REAL Hachiko
Delightful Japan Gallery traces this natural history of roosters, rice, goldfish, chrysanthemums and dogs • The actual Hachiko is stuffed and ready to pose with you • Highly amusing dioramas of olden days Japanese culture
Choice exhibits of traditional Japanese art surrounded by a nice garden
Nicely curated special exhibitions of traditional Japanese art & craft • Famous painted iris screen and iris garden exhibition (May) • Garden is lovely all year round
Beautiful red & gold shrine with a tunnel of orange torii gates you can walk through
Torii gate tunnel • Beautiful red & gold buildings • Must-see azalea festival (Apr) • Fine fall leaves (Nov) • Excellent surrounding neighborhood with traditional shops
Famous shopping district & home to the best summertime event ever
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
NI-NO-MARU IMPERIAL GARDEN
This tiny gem is inside the Imperial Palace moat, and most people don’t realize it’s one of the most incredible places to see azaleas in all of Japan
Features blooming cherries, wisteria, and iris, but it’s the azaleas that will take your breath away • This small garden is more beautiful than the Imperial Palace East Garden, and a shorter walk from the entrance • Especially good in late-Mar to early-Apr (cherry blossoms), mid-late Apr (azaleas), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
One stop shop for garden strolling and wart curing
I can’t let you leave before you do some of the most memorable things in Tokyo
OEDO ONSEN HOT SPRINGS THEME PARK
An indoor hot spring theme park that’s built 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
Famous for plum blossoms in mid-late February • Well worth the trip!
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 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 illuminations (Nov-Dec) • Cherry blossom tunnel in Ark Hills (Mar-Apr) • Mori Art Museum and the Tokyo National Art Center put on provocative exhibitions year-round • Roppongi Art Night all-night art event
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
Magnificent stroll garden with a mix of natural areas and interesting historical buildings
Meandering paths with lots of bridges • Thatch-roofed farmhouse you can go inside • Pagoda and teahouses galore • Lots of great birds, including kingfishers and herons • In Yokohama, an hour outside Tokyo
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
The biggest, most famous, Buddhist temple in Tokyo
Giant Buddhist temple (Senso-ji) • Famous gate with huge lantern • Shopping street lined with shops selling traditional goods • Five-story pagoda • Great place to see festivals & weddings • Rare festivals like the memorial for needles & pins and the white heron dance • Theatrically lit up at night • Secret garden only open in the spring for cherry blossom season
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
SHINJUKU GYŌ-EN NATIONAL GARDEN
A stunning garden, right in the heart of 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)
TSURUGAOKA HACHIMAN-GU SHRINE in Kamakura
A magnificent red & gold shrine, built by the shogun when Kamakura was the capitol of Japan
Red & white lotus ponds represent the two warring families who were united under the shogun • Excellent traditional events & festivals
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
YOKOHAMA DAY TRIP
A venerable garden that’s lovely in every season and filled with interesting historical buildings
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
ZENI-ARAI BENTEN SHRINE in Kamakura
Wash your money in this grotto-like shrine to double it within the year
Enter through a tunnel cut through the surrounding cliffs • Shrine is set in a grotto with beautiful waterfalls • Wash your money in the stream running through the shrine’s cave, and pray for it to double within the year
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