If you’re in the United States like I am, traveling to Tokyo isn’t just another vacation. It means traveling to the other end of the world to a culture completely different than the one you’re used to. For this reason, it’d be smart to let this article be a helpful guide to what I feel are the top 10 places to visit in Tokyo.
Even if this is your first trip to Tokyo, don’t be intimidated. The culture is a warm and very welcoming one. My trip to Tokyo was my first trip traveling alone, and trust me, in a city of over 35 million people, you’ll never feel lonely.
In this article (AND VIDEO), you’ll see my top 10 places to visit in Tokyo, all the best things to do, where to go, and what you can’t miss. Prepare for sensory overload as we take a virtual trip across the world to Tokyo, Japan. All pictures and video taken by me. Don’t drool too hard. You’re going to love the video.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Tokyo
Speaking of sensory overload, the world famous Shibuya Crossing
I’ve had really good experiences booking my excursions through Expedia.com. All you have to do is enter the city you’re visiting, the dates you’ll be there, and then click on “Things to Do". You’ll have a solid list of activities to choose from filled with descriptions, user reviews, photos, and more.
Here’s my list of top 10 places to visit in Tokyo. They’re listed in the order I did them, with what I feel is an award winning caliber video bringing them all to life as the grand finale. Seriously, go grab a bib or something so your drool doesn’t ruin your laptop or tablet. I’ll wait.
1) Sunamachi Ginza Food & Drink Walking Tour
I booked this excursion figuring a walking tour through a street market would be a great way to acclimate myself to my new surroundings. I was right. I met my tour guide around 11 am and to my surprise found out it was going to be just her an I on this tour. We had really good time. She was a sweet lady and her and I got to walk the Sunamachi Ginza strip amongst the locals and taste bite after bite of delicious Tokyo cuisine.
Bring your appetite! I can eat a lot and by the end of the 3 1/2 hours I was completely full. We made several stops and I think I ate at every one. We took our time walking and eating as she told of how the locals live while giving me a history lesson about the strip itself.
Along the walk I also got to check out a small shrine & go through a lesson on making green tea. By end of the tour I had a full stomach and a smile on my face. When it was all over she even helped me learn the subway which was priceless!
2) Robot Restaurant Show & REN American Bar & Cafe
Located in Shinjuku, a very popular spot for Tokyo nightlife, the Robot Restaurant Show is very popular & has had celebrities from all over the globe attend it. When I found this excursion on Expedia I knew I had to book it. This is a spectacular show! Filled with all the crazy spectacle of bright lights, outrageous costumes, and insane action, this did not disappoint.
When you walk in, you arrive at the lounge where a guy (or girl) is dressed head to toe as a robot playing guitar while you wait to be called into the main showroom. (He was jamming out to Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors" when I was there.)
When it’s showtime, you go downstairs several levels to the main showroom and find your seat. The middle of the room is where all the action happens and seating is on both sides.
Watch the video at the end of this article if only to see this show in live action. It’s unreal. Trust me.
Music, lights, singing, action, explosions, oh and plenty of robots, fill this incredible show that is well worth the price of admission. This is an absolute must-see if you’re in Tokyo!
Afterward I suggest you visit their sister bar REN which is an American style bar and cafe with live jazz. It’s only a couple blocks away and has a similar bright motif, but is laid back and a perfect compliment to the craziness of the Robot Restaurant.
I walked in and practically fell in love with the beautiful girl in white who I swore was singing those Whitney Houston 80’s hits just to me. (Tokyo apparently loves the 80s.) She was complimented by piano and stand up bass with a spectacularly lit cityscape behind her.
3) Tokyo Tower & 4) Happoen Garden
Definitely take the time on Expedia to look up the full day, 8 hour city tour to Tokyo. This is a must-add to your itinerary. You start at the Tokyo Tower. This bright red tower is modeled after the Eiffel Tower and is the world’s tallest self supporting steel structure. You have panoramic views of the entire city from 475 feet up. For those not scared of heights there’s also a cool view straight down as you stand over reinforced glass looking down to the ground below.
If you’re like me, you’ll get so caught up in the Tokyo Tower gift shop that the tour bus will leave you behind (it did) and you’ll have to somehow flag down a taxi (I did) to catch up to the tour bus and it’s next stop: Happoen Garden (true story).
When I caught up with the tour at Happoen Garden, I found myself in a much needed serene garden with beautiful koi filled ponds. The tour guide said I didn’t miss a thing, and I was just in time to be a part of a traditional tea making ceremony by women who have been doing this for generations. Happoen Garden is a really cool place.
After a traditional Japanese barbecue lunch grilled right in front of us, we made our way to the Imperial Palace Plaza which is home to the Japanese royal family. The actual residence is surrounded by trees, so you don’t get to see inside, but if you happen to be visiting on the couple of days a year they open the doors to the public for tours, you can walk right in.
From there we took a quick river cruise along the Sumida River to the Asakusa district and made our way to Senso-Ji Temple.
This temple is massive and beautiful. Every picture you take there is postcard worthy, so take plenty of them. You can also spend some time shopping for souvenirs in the popular Nakamise shopping district, but I was just fine taking in the sights in and around this huge temple.
5) Mount Fuji & Lake Ashi
The Mount Fuji part of this full day excursion got fogged out. These kinds of things you can’t control. We made our way up to what is called the 5th Station where you’d normally get a great view of the snow capped mountain, but all we saw was a wall of fog. Oh well.
Thankfully, the second half of the day more than made up for the first half. We got to Hakone National Park and stopped for lunch. Afterward, we took an incredible cruise on Lake Ashi. The skies cleared revealing the beautiful crater lake and jaw dropping sights.
We then hopped onto the Mount Komagatake Ropeway which takes you smoothly to its summit over 7 very scenic minutes. We spent an hour or so at the summit where I kept saying “Wow" over and over again as I took picture after picture.
I’ll never forget this day.
6) HUB English Pub in Shinjuku
This spot makes my list of top 10 places to visit in Tokyo purely because of the fun I had here on multiple nights out. You won’t see HUB English Pub on any other lists of top 10 places to visit in Tokyo. But the fact is, personally, I can’t think back on my Tokyo trip without remembering my nights at this pub.
If you find yourself in the Shinjuku area looking for a great spot to have some cold ones, this is your spot. Look it up, walk on in, order your beer from the designated spot at the bar, and tell them Eric sent you.
I first found this pub after my night at Robot Restaurant and REN. Guinness is my favorite beer, so when I saw the bright “Guinness" sign right by the big neon “English Pub" in the window, I couldn’t resist. Through the door and down the stairs I went to a pub full of patrons.
Plenty of beer, plenty of shots, and plenty of English speakers on top of that. I made many friends on both my nights hanging out there. I started a tequila party with a girl from London and her Chinese boyfriend (which almost got her thrown out for dancing on tables), drank sky high beers with two brothers from London, and had a great time with yet another Londoner and his Thai wife. Probably shouldn’t surprise me there are English patrons in an English pub, right? We all had a great time I won’t forget.
7) Day Trip to Kyoto via Bullet Train: Visit the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple
Putting a day trip to Kyoto in my top 10 places to visit in Tokyo may be a bit of a cheat. But the fact is, if you’ve gone this far, make the trip.
And do it in style on the bullet train. This is one of the most comfortable ways to travel. Watch the scenery fly by at 200 mph with plenty of leg room and hardly a bump along the way.
I had such a great time the night before at HUB that I actually missed my bullet train. I needed to wake up around 6:30 am, but instead I woke up after 9:30. (I may or may not have a history of waking up late for important things, but that’s neither here nor there.)
After a good half hour of screaming “Whyyyyyyyy?!?!" I took a closer look at the ticket. “This ticket is good for one full day." Whew! I could still make my day trip, I would just have to sit in the open seating cabin.
So there I went, alone in Kyoto. While I didn’t get to see Kyoto with a group and a tour guide, I got to explore the city on my own. It was peaceful, serene, and I LOVED it.
I took at look at the itinerary that would have been covered had I made the group tour. The biggest temple on the itinerary was walking distance from the train station. 25 minutes with a McDonalds along the way. I can do that.
Don’t miss the opportunity to take the day trip to Kyoto and fully enjoy the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. It’s filled with incredible sights you can only see in Tokyo and you’ll want to take pictures of every last bit of it.
Even he walk down when you’re leaving is one to remember. In fact, on the walk there from the train station I even saw some tiny shrines in the middle of neighborhoods. They were everywhere! But once I got to this big temple, I realized why it’s the most popular one in Kyoto. Definitely worth the 25 minute walk.
8) Godzilla Road in Shibuya
I went to Shibuya for my last day in Tokyo with no real plan for what to see. I had no excursion planned for the day, just a chill day of sightseeing. I think my great day in Kyoto the day before had me in a chill, exploring mood.
As I walked the streets of Shibuya I came across a sight you’d only see in Tokyo. Here was Godzilla Road, and at the end of the block, in all his glory, was Godzilla himself peering over the top of the Toho building.
When you watch the video at the end of this article you’ll see why it’s such a sight to see. I decided to make my way up to the roof of this hotel to take a closer look. While access to the balcony is supposedly restricted to hotel guests, it’s not enforced. So be a rebel and get to the balcony, it’s worth it!
As I was up there taking pictures I noticed a sign that said that every hour on the hour Godzilla lets out his ferocious roar. I looked at my watch and it was 11:50 am. The first roar of the day according to the sign: 12 noon. Perfect! He let out his awesome roar accompanied by lights and smoke right on time and I got the perfect shot. (Now that I think about it, go grab another drool bib.) Don’t leave this out of your agenda when you visit Tokyo. It’s awesome.
9) Shibuya Crossing
Chances are, that if you’ve ever seen Tokyo depicted in a movie or on tv, you’ve seen Shibuya Crossing. This is the busiest street crossing you’ll ever see in your life. According to Wikipedia, Tokyo-based architecture professor Julian Worrall has said Shibuya Crossing is “a great example of what Tokyo does best when it’s not trying."
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Every few minutes the traffic stops and this scramble crossing is inundated with around 2,500 people all crossing at once from every direction.
I literally spent a full hour going back and forth on Shibuya crossing taking picture after picture and video after video. You’ll never get bored of seeing this. If you’re lucky you can grab one of the very popular window seats at the Starbucks that’s overlooking the mad scramble. You’ll be hypnotized by the mass movement of people every few minutes.
Shibuya Crossing is Tokyo in a nutshell: a crazy, busy, perfect spectacle.
10) New York Bar at Park Hyatt Tokyo
There is no better way to close out your trip than from the 52nd floor high atop the Park Hyatt Tokyo at New York Bar. Overlooking the cityscape through huge windows stretching from floor to ceiling I sat back and felt like a million bucks while listening to smooth jazz.
The best part of this whole experience is that this is the bar heavily featured in the movie “Lost In Translation" starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. 10 years or so before I made this trip I watched that movie and fell in love with the city.
That movie is the entire reason I made my way to Tokyo, and here I was sitting in that very bar 10 years later.
If you haven’t watched this movie, go buy it NOW. You’ll want to leave for Tokyo tomorrow.
New York Bar is pricey, but you won’t regret it. They charge 2400 yen ($24 USD) as a cover charge if you’re not staying at the hotel. I sat back and enjoyed the ambiance for several hours. I didn’t want to leave. I was so happy. My Tokyo trip was complete and I got in everything I wanted.
So if that wasn’t enough to get you to want to take a trip to Tokyo, how about bringing all that to life in video? I’ve built it up enough haven’t I?
This video is worth the watch just to see the spectacle of the Robot Restaurant in live action alone. The beauty of Kyoto, Godzilla’s roar, the tequila party at HUB, and the views from atop New York Bar aren’t too bad either.
So grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy. I really think you’ll like this.
So when are we leaving? Have I succeeded in giving you major wanderlust? What part did you like most in the video? How badly did you drool? Be honest. Leave your comments and questions below and don’t hesitate to share this to your social media platforms.
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Here’s to wanderlust!