Tokyo MUST Do List

There is no shortage of fun and new things for you to do in Tokyo, here is a list of the musts.

Shrines

Nothing evokes the feeling of authentic Japanese culture than going to a shrine and making an offering to the deities. There are many shrines in Tokyo, however for the sake of brevity visit and make an offering at the following: Meiji, Togo, Kanda Myojin

How do you do it? Step right up to the alter, throw in some yen, clap your hands twice, make your prayer and then bow and step back.

Museums

Catch a glimpse of ancient relics of years past, or the most modern paintings from the world’s most modern city, whether its art or history Tokyo has a plethora of museums with which you can stimulate your senses:

1) Tokyo National Museum

2) Edo-Tokyo Museum

3) The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

4) Studio Ghibli Museum (http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/)

Haunted Tour

For those who want something a little less banal, consider Haunted Tokyo Tours – Historic Ghost Walks of Old Japan. This company offers a variety of walks in haunted parts of Tokyo; they even offer a night tour. Learn the history of Japan and scare yourself witless!

http://www.hauntedtokyotours.com/

Hanayashiki Amusement Park

Taking great pride in the fact that it is Tokyo’s oldest amusement park (1853), the Hanayashiki offers quite a bit of fun, despite its relatively small size.  

The park is a marriage of old and new, with modern rides and Disney-fied traditional Japanese décor. You’ll find Haunted houses, merry-go-rounds, roller coasters and a ‘space shot’ which shoots you straight up in the air at a nauseating 3 Gs.

http://www.hanayashiki.net/e/index.html
http://www.hanayashiki.net/e/map.pdf

Its all happening at the Ueno Zoo

The Ueno Zoo has the standard fauna that you would expect to find at any zoo in the world. Features such as: Animals of Africa Okapis, The Children’s Zoo Goats, Aye-aye Forest (Pop-aye?) Monkey Mountain Sea Lions, Bear Hill, Elephant Forest, Gorilla Woods and Tiger Forest Birds. And for something more domestic and perhaps more enjoyable the Japanese Animals & Birds feature.

http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ueno/

Outdoor Hot Springs Bath

No Japanese experience is complete without nude outdoor bathing, or ‘onsen’ as it is called. Far from mountain spring resorts you can still find suitable environs at the Oedo Onsen Monogatari.

Highlights are the “Doctor Fish” foot bath, where small albeit piranic fish nibble away at the dead skin on your feet.

http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/venue/144/Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari

Bang a Gong

Well not really, but you can bang a taiko, the Japanese Drum, and do it for free too. The good people at Miyake Taiko in Tokyo offer a free trial class to any interested person.

At last you’ll be able to make background music for epic samurai battles.  

http://www.miyaketaiko.com/en/

Rice Planting

If your timing is right (June) you’ll be able to watch professionals from the Rice Planting Preservation Society plant rice and sing at the beautiful Korakuen gardens. They’ll even have taiko drum performers. If you’ve taken your free taiko lesson at Miyake Taiko, you might be able to convince them to let you give it a go!

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Ranking with the hot springs and visiting shrines, partaking in Japanese Tea Ceremony is a must-do for any visitor in Japan. You’ll get to dress up in traditional Japanese clothing, and enjoy freshly made green tea, whilst commenting on the beauty of the art in your tea room. An elegant and peaceful experience. 

http://www.okura.com/tokyo/info/teaceremony.html

Viewing

There are easily a dozen observatories in Tokyo, from Shinjuku to Roppongi to Tokyo Tower and the newly built Sky Tree from which you can look out and take in the magic of the city. The obvious pick is the world famous Tokyo Tower, which resembles the Eiffle Tower, (however in bright orange and white stripes)

The Tokyo Tower has two observatories: the main (1000 yen), and then the upper (1500 yen). Either one you choose you’ll be impressed.

http://www.tokyotower.co.jp/english/

Touring

Two recommended tours of Tokyo are the Himiko Ferry Tour, where you splash through Tokyo via its water ways in a boat which seems like it was stolen off the set for a Bond film.

http://www.suijobus.co.jp/

Another and much more humble tour would be the Asakusa Rickshaw tour, where an energetic young man will wheel you around all the fascinating spots in one of Tokyo’s oldest and culturally rich areas. Rides can be either 20,30,40,50 or over an hour. And range between 2,000-3,000 yen.

http://www.asakusa-e.com/jinriki/jinriki_e.htm

Japanese Puppet Show (bunraku)

These puppet shows bare little similarity to their western counterparts, for there are no strings, and the dolls are almost life sized, AND they are operated by two individuals dressed completely in black. In order to be truly appreciated it has to be seen in person.

http://www.ntj.jac.go.jp/english/schedule/national-bunraku-theatre.html

Kabuki

Enjoy a taste of traditional Japanese theater, with plays covering the whole gamut, comedy, love, drama etc. Performances contain music, dancing, and monotone narration. Interesting to note is there are no female actors in Kabuki, all females are played by men.

http://www.tokyokabukiguide.com/

Sumo Wrestling

Arguably Japan’s most well worn cliché (aside from sushi) is Sumo wrestling. Nearly anyone in the civilized world has heard of it, but few have seen it in person. Now you can! Tokyo’s Ryogoku district is the center for everything Sumo, with museums, shows and more.

http://www.sumo.or.jp/eng/

Hanami (cherry blossom viewing)

If you come to Japan between late March and mid April you’ll be able to witness the breathtaking beauty of Hanami. (which means flower gazing) Every year tourists from all over the world come to Japan to view the majesty of the blooming cherry trees. Best part of all is it costs nothing! Downside is plane tickets are the most expensive at this time of year.

http://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/18-best-hanami-spots-in-Tokyo

Stand up Comedy

Japan has no shortage of comedy clubs, however its going to be hard to get the jokes if you don’t speak Japanese and don’t have an able interpreter, despite that its still an exciting experience worth exploring. You will find occasionally that there are some foreigners who do English comedy.

http://www.tokyocomedy.com/

Maid Café

No tour of Tokyo or let alone Japan is complete without embarrassing yourself at a local Maid Café. Where overly cute Japanese girls in overly embellished maid costumes treat you like you’re their master and serve you cakes and treats.

Meat Theme Park

How is it that America does NOT have a Meat Theme Park and Japan does? Truly mind boggling. Be that as it may, every westerner will rejoice and find great pleasure in gorging themselves stupid at the Tokyo Meatrea.

More than just restaurants that focus on meat, there is a whole meat museum to boot. Possibly the most exciting aspect of the park are the featured regional meat dishes from all over Japan.

http://www.tokyo-meatrea.com/
http://www.bento.com/phgal-meatrea.html

Jpop

For those who like hyper sugary Japanese pop music you’ll be pleased to know that in Akihabara you can visit Asian sensation AKB48 at their home venue and watch them perform live for a small and intimate audience. Getting in is difficult however, visit the following link to see how you can do it:

http://www.akb48.co.jp/english/overseas/index.html