Over our 2-week trip to Japan we packed in a fun and full schedule in both Tokyo and Kyoto. We wanted to make the most of our trip by seeing as much as we could. Since our time and energy were limited, we did a lot of research in the months leading up to our trip.
Researching the best spots on travel blogs, Tiktok, Reddit, Instagram, and anywhere we could, we tried to hit all the major attractions, but also tailor the trip to our personal interests too. So here’s a list of what we found to be the best things to do in Tokyo!
See the exciting fish auction at Toyosu Market
Visiting Toyosu Fish Market has been on my list because I’ve been wanting to view the tuna auction. When I first visited Japan, I didn’t have the opportunity to see the original auction at Tsukiji in 2012 because, let’s be honest, I didn’t want to wake up super early. In 2018, Japan created a man-made island, Toyosu, and built a new fish market with a new observation deck to help tourists view the auction in a more sanitary and safe environment. And of course, to prep for the day’s sales, this auction was super early in the morning, but I powered through this time!
The Toyosu Fish Market is much larger than the original and can be a bit of a struggle to find the observation deck, so we recommend looking out for the signs on the bridge and open walkway. While viewing the auction through the Tuna Auction Observation windows is free, a closer lower deck requires a lottery and reservation system.
While it’s free to just go and watch, I recommend getting a vetted tour guide (check the reviews!) so you can get more context of what’s going on and potentially a live translation of what’s happening on the auction floor. We actually booked a guide from a company with only a few reviews, and it didn’t turn out well. However, the guides standing next to us seemed much better, so there’s hope!
Immerse yourself in Studio Ghibli Museum
If you’re an avid Studio Ghibli fan, visit the Studio Ghibli Museum. You will need to reserve a date and time for tickets, which are released one month ahead on the 10th of every month at 10:00 a.m. JST. Fair warning that booking tickets might be difficult, but if you plan ahead, you should be able to grab a few tickets. Getting tickets is a little tricky, so make sure you’re on the website at least 30-45 minutes before getting in the queue. I was able to get tickets for three people with a little planning. Each ticket is ¥ 1,000 per person (about $6 USD) for adults.
Located in the small city of Mitkaka, the museum is a one-hour metro ride from Tokyo station, so plan ahead, including a 15-20 minute walk from the JR station. We took an Uber from Ginza to get to the museum, which cost ¥ 7000 ($ 46.20 USD at the time). However, to return to Tokyo, we took a bus that dropped us off at the station and trained back.
You will receive a film strip ticket that you can exchange to see a 15-minute film on the lower level, but we kept it as a souvenir. The museum is part of a colorful house with lots of wooden design features and stained glass windows. Three floors feature a theater downstairs, a recreation of a sketch desk with tons of sketches, a reading room, and a souvenir shop on the top floor. If you get hungry, there’s a cafe outside with meals and tasty drinks.
Savor high end coffee & snacks at Starbucks Roastery Reserve
After visiting several Starbucks Roastery Reserves in Chicago and Seattle, we wanted to see the Japan location. The Starbucks Roastery Reserve location is in Meguro City and is similarly styled like the Chicago location. The building boasts four floors filled with different ways to drink coffee, which means an extensive menu for any customer.
Some of my favorite orders were the seasonal drinks and coffee flights, where you can choose the single-origin beans to brew. We also enjoyed various pastries and treats, like milk buns and squash tarts. They also offer tours for customers to learn about the roasting process. I was able to pick up some unique Tokyo beans specific to this location.
Snack and shop at Tsukiji Outer Market
Of course, we visited Tsukiji Outer Market after seeing the tuna auction at Toyosu. You must take the metro because it’s about a 20-minute ride and walk. I would recommend visiting the official Tsukiji Outer Market website to get some tips on making the best out of your visit to this very popular food and retail market. We visited around 8:30 a.m., and it wasn’t too busy; however, by the time 9:30 a.m. rolled around, it was bustling.
Market rules request that professional restaurants and industry folks have priority for shopping before 9:00 a.m., so please kindly keep out of the way. There are also a few rules like asking before taking photos, not eating while you walk, not bringing large luggage, refrain from touching food, no bargaining, only smoking in designated areas, and moving in small numbers to account for packed aisles.
You can buy and eat many different things: sushi, tamago, tea, fresh fruit, bonito, and retail for knives, kitchen supplies, and souvenirs. My favorite stops were trying out bonito, dried squid, the tamagoyaki stand, and eating fresh sushi from Sushi Itadori Bekkan.
Experience the magic of Tokyo Disneyland
If you are a Disney fan, then you should definitely check out Tokyo Disneyland. Not only are there different rides and merch you can buy, their admission is also significantly cheaper than the Disneyland Resort. This means you won’t have to break the bank to visit. One Tokyo Disneyland ticket was ¥ 8,800 ($60 USD). We purchased our tickets through Klook, where they sent us PDFs, and we had to scan them through our apps.
However, I will warn you that fast passes (or premier passes) can get pricey very quickly since you pay per ride, show, or parade. Rides on the premier pass ranged from ¥ 1,000 ($6 USD) to ¥ 2,500 ($17 USD). Our favorite rides were Beauty and the Beast, Winnie the Pooh, and Baymax. Try to get to the park at least 30-45 minutes before the park opens so you have access to the Premier Pass and can reserve the popular rides to lessen your wait time. The Premier Passes for these popular rides can and will run out on busy days.
Don’t skimp out on meals either. There are fine-dining restaurants at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea that book out at least one month in advance. Don’t fret if you can’t book because there are tasty snacks and quick meal options like the many themed popcorn stands. We tried milk tea-flavored popcorn and soy sauce butter popcorn–we loved both.
The Tokyo Disneyland Resort is located in Urasayu in the Chiba prefecture, and you can quickly get there by JR train or taxi. Once at the resort, you may need to take the special Disney metro to reach Disneyland, a Hotel, or Disney Sea. It was the cutest train car because they are Mickey-themed.
Set sail for Tokyo DisneySea
Tokyo DisneySea is unique to Japan, and I recommend visiting this park over Tokyo Disneyland if you can only choose one park. Like Tokyo Disneyland, the admission price ¥ 8,800 ($60 USD) is the same and more affordable than Disneyland Resort parks in California.
DisneySea was much larger than I expected, so make sure to bring walking shoes! Its nautical-themed park includes many oceanic movies and characters in Disney, like The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo, but also includes recreations of famous seaside coasts like the Mediterranean, Venice, and American Harbors. My favorite rides were 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth. They also have Sinbad’s Forest and Indiana Jones here too.
Like Tokyo Disneyland, there’s also good eats. I liked the green alien mochi from Toy Story and the lifesaver ukiyawa with chicken filling. If you’ve got kids, Ariel’s playground has a lot of rides for little kids, a cafeteria with pizza and fries, and retail shops. It’s great for a rainy day because it’s indoors, but be warned, it can be busy inside.
Visit one of 160 Don Quijote shops
Don Quijote is a chain store that sells almost everything you need for a trip, especially when buying souvenirs. There are 160 locations in Japan, and you can find a store in nearly every city. Depending on the location, there are multiple levels to sift through skincare, toys, snacks, luggage, diapers, alcohol, and more. If you visit a Don Quijote Mega store, be prepared to spend hours there if you can stand it. Be wary if you get easily overstimulated because this store will push you with its multi-colored lights and sounds.
Some stores can be open 24 hours, so I recommend coming here late or early to get away from the bustling crowds looking for gifts to bring home. Make sure to bring your passport or QR code from Visit Japan Web to get a tax refund for purchases over ¥ 5,000 ($34 USD). You will need to check out at the tax refund cashier, so make sure you go to the appropriate line; there will be signs that tell you. Also, consumables given a tax refund will be wrapped in a sealed plastic bag, so you won’t be able to use or eat them during your stay. Use the other regular line to pay if you want to use the items. Some of my favorite items for purchase are Kit Kats, Japanese beauty items, Japanese skincare and haircare, and socks for gifts.
Grab a snack at a konbini
Japanese konbini (or convenience stores) are well-known worldwide. We’ve all seen infinite videos on YouTube about people trying all the delicious treats and full-on meals you can get in a konbini, so it wasn’t surprising that dropping by a nearby konbini was a daily ritual during our trip. The most popular stores are 7/11, Lawson, and Family Mart, but there are also smaller stores throughout Japan. There are even more niche types of konbini, like Natural Lawson, where items are geared towards organic and healthy food products.
Since many shops and restaurants don’t open very early, and we had some rather early starts, we often stopped by Family Mart to pick up breakfast that consisted of Spam Musubi, Japanese egg sandwiches, coffee, and pastries. They’re also known for delicious instant ramen bowls, onigiri, bento, fried chicken, and desserts. Some konbini also had a seating area where you could eat your food.
Other things you can do at a konbini are take out cash at an international ATM, buy entertainment or activity tickets (like Tokyo Disneyland), or mail items. The ease and good quality food at these stores is something I miss so much.
Restock your kitchen on Kappabashi Dougu Street かっぱ橋道具街
If you love to cook and collect kitchen items like we do, you must visit Kappabashi for some unique souvenirs. From the train station, you will need to walk about 15 minutes to reach Kappabashi street, but you’ll know you’re there when you see a never-ending road full of kitchen and cooking products.
I’ve seen multiple videos on TikTok and YouTube talking about Kappabashi Dori, but I have rarely seen people name specific stores. We purchased a carbon steel sashimi knife from Kamata if you want a custom knife. This store had excellent service and made knives for one hundred years. They offer knife engravings, sharpenings, and lots of help choosing the best knife for your home.
For great options in dishware, stop by Dengama (for unique dishes upstairs) or Komatsuya (for more affordable options). If you’re a cat lover, stop by FU WA RI. If you have an interest in coffee and espresso, visit 喫茶・厨房器具の総合商社 ユニオン, where they have lots of refurbished and new machines and utensils.
Take a cocktail break at The SG Club
SG Club is a popular bar in Tokyo and is ranked #14 on Asia’s 50 Best World’s Bars list (and #36 on the 50 Best World’s Bar list, respectively). The name SG Club stands for multiple things: the owner’s name, Shinko Gohan, and Sip and Guzzle–what the bartenders expect you to do with their tasty beverages.
The bar has three floors, each with a different theme. The main floor is named Guzzle, the basement is Sip, and the top floor is a member-only club called Savor. With a reservation in hand, we were able to sit at Sip. This floor was themed like an old-timey gangster club that was dimly lit and intimate.
My favorite drinks are the pina colada Japonesa, which was a clarified milk punch, and grandma’s apple pie, which was insanely realistic in taste and smell. They also have a snack menu with popcorn, yakitori, and cheesy cauliflower. Like many Japanese restaurants and bars, the service was impeccable, and the staff spoke English.
Price: $$ (¥ 5,800 / $40 USD pp)
What to order: piña colada Japonesa, Grandma’s apple pie
Address: The SG Club
1 Chome-7-8 Jinnan, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0041, Japan
Google Maps | Website | Tabelog
Vintage shop in Shimokitazawa 下北沢
If you’re a vintage shopper and thrifter, you should stop by Shimokitazawa. This neighborhood, known as Shimokita, is known for its plentiful, stylish second-hand shops. There are dozens and dozens of shops on every foot. What’s great is that the train station stops right in the hub of popular stores like 2nd Street Clothing, where you can find trendy thrifted clothes at an affordable price. I found a wool Millie coat for $30 USD, originally $100.
If you’re into vintage Burberry trench coats, there’s plenty to see in many stores; however, I saw the best pieces at Ocean BLVD, where they also sold vintage Levi’s. Florido Joe’s is a good stop for men and women who prefer more Western clothing. I swear some of these second hand items were sold from America because I even ran into merch from UCSD.
Shop and dine in Ginza 銀座
Ginza is the luxury shopping district, and you’ll find many high-end shops like the shopping mall Ginza Six. This mall features seven floors and two basement levels full of designer shops like Celine, Theory, Dior, and Saint Laurent. The top two floors include restaurants and cafes to take a break during your shopping.
Ginza also has other mid-level stores, like a four-story Uniqlo that features an embroidery section or Muji’s flagship store that sells everything from stationary to food to apparel. On the weekends, parts of Ginza’s streets turn into pedestrian sidewalks where you can explore the area without the bustle of cars around. You can also find many Michelin-starred restaurants and art galleries in Ginza too.
Experience Shibuya 渋谷区 & Shibuya Scramble Crossing 渋谷スクランブル交差点
Shibuya is one of Japan’s well-known areas and is great for people-watching, shopping, and nightlife. It’s also one of Japan’s largest regions and includes other neighborhoods, like Ometasando, Harajuku, and Ebisu. Shibuya Station is a great hub for getting into the city, but it’s also home to many metro and JR trains, and it also features underground arcades (or shopping malls) and restaurants.
Once you leave the station through the Hachikō Plaza exit, you’ll find yourself at Shibuya Scramble Crossing. At this famous pedestrian crossing, many people get photos of the chaos of Shibuya. Shibuya is very popular among young adults and is full of many popular shops like Tower Records, Mega Don Quijote, and shopping malls like Shibuya Hikarie or Seibu. There’s also Shibuya Sky, an observation deck where you can see Tokyo’s skyline.
Visit Harajuku 原宿
While it’s technically part of Shibuya, Harajuku is well-known for its own cultural style of youthful, urban fashion and cosplay culture. One of Harajuku’s most popular areas is right outside the Harakuju station on Takeshita Dori. This street is filled with trendy shops, cafes, crepes, and fashion boutiques. One of my favorite stores is Graniph, which sells streetwear collaborations with popular brands like Tom and Jerry, McDonald’s, and Miffy.
Harajuku is also a great place to see people dressed in cosplay, and it’s fun to walk around during Halloween or even day-to-day. If you want to see kawaii culture in Japan, Harajuku is where you visit.
Have a cocktail at A10 Ebisu
Speakeasies are always fun, no matter where we visit, and A10 Ebisu is no different. This bar happened to front as a vending machine kiosk, and as you descended (almost unfavorably into a warm, humid environment), you started to hear the sounds of old-school R&B and hip-hop.
This record bar was dimly lit and designed with a cool bartending backdrop of vinyl, almost like it was a music library. Next to bartenders, there’s a DJ playing old-school sounds and a bar full of people. While we didn’t have a reservation, we luckily got seated within 10 minutes. My favorite drink of the night was Kekko-na Ote-mae-de, a matcha-based drink with gin and grape juice that was refreshing and light. I wouldn’t recommend Ben Fiddich Style Green Achar because of its smoothie consistency and robust flavor.
Price: $$ (¥ 4,400 / $30 USD pp)
What to order: Kekko-na Ote-mae-de
Address: A10 Ebisu
Japan, 〒150-0021 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Ebisunishi, 1 Chome−12−11 地下1階 Biosビル
Google Maps | Website | Tabelog
Shop and dine at Tokyo Station & Marunouchi
Tokyo Station is one of Japan’s biggest metro stations; over one million travelers pass by every day. It’s one of the main JR train hubs to get on a shinkansen to take you beyond Tokyo’s borders. It’s also one of the largest mazes I’ve experienced, filled with small convenience stores, restaurants in the basement level, souvenir shops, luggage kiosks, gachapon machines, and tunnels that lead elsewhere in Marunouchi, like Yaesu Chikagai.
Across the street into Marunouchi, you can expand your shopping experience at KITTE. This six-floor retail and office building has plenty of stores like Snow Peak and Muji To-Go, a conference hall, and a rooftop garden. Marunouchi is a business and finance district with many clean and sleek commercial spaces.